Greg Spanner

Baumol’s cost disease and the benefits of baldness

5 April 2019|

Bruce Willis, Jeff Bezos, Stanley Tucci, Homer Simpson, Matt Lucas…the list of famous men with infamous hairlines is (ironically) long and growing. The psychological literature has plenty to say on the benefits accruing to them because of their baldness. A Wharton study found that men with shaved heads are perceived as more dominant, taller and stronger than their natural selves.[1] But the economics profession also has something to say on the matter via the late William Baumol — who also

Tobias Sturmhoefel

Winners and losers of the fast food game

29 March 2019|

The annual phenomenon of the McDonald’s Monopoly promotion is once again in full swing, and has fast-food enthusiasts up and down the country excited. For a few weeks each year, customers get coupons with their food purchases which give them a chance to win free menu items, or they can collect game tokens, based on the Monopoly board game, for the chance to win large cash prizes. Ever since the promotion started in 1987 in the US, it has spread

Andrew Harris

The Great British Bike Off

22 March 2019|

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing. That's a fact, It's a thing we can't deny Katie Melua, 2005 Let’s be clear, there are not nine million bicycles in London. That would imply almost one bike for every person in London. But there are a lot. What’s more, spurred on by Britain’s quartet of Grand Tour winners (Wiggins, Froome, Thomas and Yates) and Britons’ growing desire to keep fit, bike usage seems to be on the up. Indeed, a quarter

Florian Baier

The Wild Rover

15 March 2019|

Sunday marks the anniversary of St Patrick’s death, the foremost patron saint of Ireland, now better known as St Patrick’s Day. While some still use the occasion to commemorate the missionary St Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, it has become a celebration of Irish culture and heritage. The holiday’s popularity has spread far past the Emerald Isle and even beyond the Earth — St Patrick’s Day is also celebrated on the International Space Station. It’s not just

Andrea Zazzarelli

What do Messi and David Brent have in common?

8 March 2019|

More than you might imagine according to a 2006 study entitled ‘Sabotage in Tournaments: Making the Beautiful Game a Bit Less Beautiful’. The authors analyse football games in the Spanish La Liga to investigate the incentives for players to engage in brazen sabotage activities similar to those portrayed in the hit TV series The Office. Sabotage activities are as old as humankind: just ask Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus, Julius Caesar or the Miliband brothers. I’m sure that most

Erik Britton

What’s in a name?

1 March 2019|

The word Fathom ([n] a measure of depth; [v] to measure, to understand) conveys a lot of ideas that capture important aspects of our brand. Hundreds if not thousands of possible names were floated among the founding partners of the company and most were rejected in less than a second. The names ran out. None of them worked. (Or if they did, they had already been taken.) In the end, a paid third party was required to propose a name

Joanna Davies

Social media, and fear of failing to ‘keep up with the Joneses’

22 February 2019|

Spending money to flaunt one’s success is nothing new. Indeed, the phrase “conspicuous consumption” was coined over one hundred years ago by economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen. Nowadays, these overt displays of wealth and exuberance tend to be referred to as ‘peacocking’. Although a term originally coined to describe the act of attracting a mate with tactics to distinguish oneself from the crowd, it’s now used more generally to describe overt, attention-grabbing behaviour. But the terminology isn’t the only aspect

Andrew Harris

Okun’s Law ― the good, the bad, and the ugly of economics

15 February 2019|

As an economist, Arthur Okun undoubtedly had a talent for making the extremely obvious seem just that. His two most famous contributions to the field are prime examples of this. Indeed, it was Arthur Okun who took two indicators (inflation and unemployment), combined them, and created the Misery Index. Hardly groundbreaking, but it’s still in common use today. Likewise, the eponymous Okun’s Law, which simply regresses changes in the unemployment rate on economic growth, remains a mainstay of 21st-century macroeconomics,

Kevin Loane

Make art, not manufacture

8 February 2019|

Last week, at a conference about the prospects for Africa in 2019, Namibian multimedia activist and poet, Patrick Sam, argued that the continent’s politicians needed to focus on art to help their people succeed. At this stage, I’ll make the obligatory point that #Africaisnotacountry, making it facile to recommend a one-size-fits-all approach, and quickly move on. An audience member, who was doing a PhD on how art can support the development process, chimed in to say that the biggest pushback

Andrew Brigden

The economist who cried wolf?

1 February 2019|

Writing in 1966, Paul Samuelson famously observed that “the [US] stock market has forecast nine of the last five recessions”. Like Aesop’s fabled Boy Who Cried Wolf, equity investors have a tendency to panic too often. That was true back in 1966, and it has remained true subsequently, as our chart shows. Recessions tend to be non-linear events. Outright economic contractions are rarely preceded by a gradual slowdown; rather growth is often close to trend the year before the crisis

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