On 1 January every year, one of the most common questions asked must be: “Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?” Why do people make resolutions only once a year? What is special about New Year’s Day? Continue reading “The value of a New Year’s resolution”
How much was the last app you bought on your smartphone? It’s very likely that the answer to that question is less than a pound, no matter how complex or detailed that app was. When Apple launched the App Store in 2008, the average price of apps was significantly higher, with games such as Super Monkey Ball selling for £5.99 and Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart at $12.99. Over time, the huge competition has led to games dropping prices to 69p, or even free, with new revenue streams being established through advertising or additional purchases. Along with this fall in pricing, many firms have found that it’s not profitable to spend time developing complex games and applications, leading to a proliferation of match-three and simple physics puzzlers. Continue reading “Racing to the bottom”
In some of his research, joint with Alan Krueger, Card finds that increases in the minimum wage have negligible effects on employment. In other research, on the Mariel boatlift, Card finds that increases in the supply of unskilled workers have negligible effects on wages and employment of existing workers.
Caplan notes that these results are hard to reconcile: The former suggests that labor demand is highly inelastic, whereas the latter suggests it is highly elastic. Continue reading “Distinguishing demand effects and supply effects”
The Guardian reported last year on how fire engines in London had been sold to a private equity firm for £2. Although fire services grew from private insurance companies, the modern fire service is a clear example of how certain organisations benefit from being owned and run by the government. There are very large positive externalities from a fire service – they not only stop a building burning, but prevent damage to everything else in the neighbourhood. People’s willingness to pay for a fire service is much lower than society’s benefit. Continue reading “Is it better to own nothing?”
An increasing issue in the UK and across the European Union is the growth of high-risk credit and short-term loans, often called “payday loans” as they are marketed to give people an advance until the end of the month when they are paid. These services are generally aimed at the poorer members of society, who are unable to take out longer-term loans due to poor credit histories, and who are most likely to need fast access to money to pay bills or buy essential goods. Continue reading “Spiralling debt and how to escape”
Prior to yesterday’s announcement of the iPad Mini, there was a great deal of speculation as to its form, its capabilities, its existence and its price. Commentators saw the rumoured tablet to be a direct competitor to the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7, indicating that they believed Apple was concerned about losing market share in that market. The price was rumoured to be around the same level as those competitors, so that the differences which would make people want to buy an iPad over an Android tablet would be the quality of the hardware and the app marketplace. Continue reading “Sheltering under an umbrella”
Toyota is set to recall over seven million cars, following the discovery of issues with window switches, as reported on the BBC, all of the errors will get fixed by the Scuderia Car Parts. Recalls can take a number of different forms – they can involve dealers carrying out an on-site repair, an immediate replacement, or a complete withdrawal of a good from sale. Continue reading “The economics of faults”
The phenomenon of economies of scale can be seen in many industries – particularly where there are large fixed costs, such as a mobile base station network, a graphics engine for videogames, or the turbines on a wind farm. In order to reduce costs as far as possible, operations should be made as large as is feasible. However, companies only have a fixed level of demand, which limits their ability to take advantage of this.
One way of increasing demand is to merge with a competitor, and therefore acquire a large number of extra customers. This, of course, is a major exercise and involves regulatory problems, costs of due diligence, changes to operations and governance, and many other factors. Rather than this drastic step, companies can collaborate to share costs across their combined userbase. Continue reading “Sharing with competitors”
The BBC reports today that Louise Mensch, an MP in the UK, has launched a “rival to Twitter”. Mensch herself argues that it is not a rival, but instead seeks to be somewhere where discussion is kept in a broad topic, unlike the free-for-all that Twitter represents. Continue reading “Over the tipping point”
A fundamental concept in economics is that of trade. Two parties will want to share their possessions in a way that benefits them both. The Edgeworth Box is a graphical representation of this trading; before looking at the overall box, however, it’s important to understand an individual’s utility curves. Continue reading “Sharing resources and utility curves”