Friday, September 30, 2011

Fat Tax

They have been discussed, but thus far seldom implemented. I'm talking about Fat Taxes. Although there are many proposed forms, from taxing high caloric foods to high fat foods, Denmark looks to be the first to tax foods with saturated fat. Denmark taxes fatty products - Telegraph
Starting from this Saturday, Danes will pay an extra 30p on each pack of butter, 8p on a pack of crisps, and an extra 13p on a pound of mince, as a result of the tax. The tax is expected to raise about 2.2bn Danish Krone (£140m), and cut consumption of saturated fat by close to 10pc, and butter consumption by 15pc. "It's the first ever fat-tax," said Mike Rayner, Director of Oxford University's Health Promotion Research Group, who has long campaigned for taxes on unhealthy foods. "It's very interesting. We haven't had any practical examples before. Now we will be able to see the effects for real." The tax will be levied at 2.5 per Kg of saturated fat and will be levied at the point of sale from wholesalers to retailers.
Apparently Hungary already has a version of the fat tax where they tax "unhealthy" levels of certain things.
Hungary at the start of this month imposed a tax is on all packaged foods containing unhealthy levels of sugar, salt, and carbohydrates, as well as products containing more than 20 milligrams of caffeine per 100 milliliters of the product.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Seminar: Jeff Williamson

The economics department will sponsor its first seminar speaker of the 2011-12 season on Friday, October 7th. Jeff Williamson, Laird Bell Professor emeritus, Harvard University, and Professor of Economics, University of Wisconsin - Madison, will be here to discuss his latest book, "Trade and Poverty: When the Third World Fell Behind." We will meet in room 122 Wimberly Hall at 3:30 pm.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I have - on many occasions - commented on how philanthropy, or altruism can have negative consequences for the recipient. I'm not quite Ayn Randian on this, but I do think its important to understand that often the philanthropy is about making the philanthropist feel good, instead of making the recipients life better off. Here is a great example in a short TED talk on condoms in the Congo. Note the difference in marketing strategy between the for profit condom sellers and the NGOs. You know it can't be good for the Congolese when the NGOs are using the condoms to advertise to donors, rather than potential condom users.

Placebo Effect Video

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Me Write Pretty One Day

Want to write better, or rather be a better writer? Just do it. A Lot. So says Seth.

Taxi Cartel

Here is a nice piece on the Milwaukee Taxi Cartel. Who is helped and who is hurt by the fact that no new taxi permits have been issued since 1992?
The city of Milwaukee capped the number of taxi permits at 321 way back in 1992, and consequently the price of a permit on the secondary market has risen to $150,000. That’s excellent news for people who made well-timed investments in Milwaukee taxis, but obviously it’s bad news for would-be taxi entrepreneurs who’d like to get into the market. Fewer permits means fewer jobs for cab drivers, and it means less access to taxis in the city. Dynamics of who uses taxis, what they cost, and where they’re available differ a lot from city to city and I’m not familiar with Milwaukee so I can’t say who in particular is disadvantaged by taxi scarcity but it’s not the sort of thing that helps a city’s quality of life or economy. Apparently the Institute of Justice, a libertarian law firm, thinks they have a chance of winning a legal argument that this is unconstitutional which I actually would find pretty surprising, but there’s no doubt that it’s bad policy. As I’ve noted before, when it comes to taxi cartels the proponents normally don’t even bother to make a public interest argument:

Monday, September 26, 2011


We don't need no stinking code of ethics! We are ethical. Well, maybe we aren't any more or less ethical than anyone else, but you know that a priori, and a "code" of ethics merely leads to the moral hazard problem. Here is an excellent break down.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Deficit and Stimulus

Here is a very useful graphic on the budget deficit and its history. And here is a useful collection of papers on the effectiveness of the previous stimulus.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

How to Study

Welcome to the Fall 2011 semester. Want to know how to do a better job of studying this semester? Check out this quick series of videos from a cognitive psychologist.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Reasoning in Economics

Here is a discussion about behavioral econ, psych, and inductive versus deductive reasoning. It is wonderful throughout.