Tonight on ABC’s 20/20 program, the entire show will be devoted to SuperFreakonomics (subtitled “Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance”).  SuperFreakonomics is the recently released sequel to Freakonomics (subtitled “A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything”) which appeared in 2005.  The authors of both books are Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  Levitt is an economics professor at the University of Chicago and the 2003 winner of the John Bates Clark medal (“awarded biennially … to that American economist under the age of forty who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge”; for what it’s worth, roughly 40% of the Clark medalists have subsequently received the Nobel Prize in economics).  Dubner is an award-winning author and journalist who lives in New York.

Anyway, tonight’s 20/20 program will air five segments, all of which can be previewed online: handwashing in hospitals, the effectiveness of car seats, how practice trumps talent, the dirty truth about altruism, and the problems with global warming.  If you’re interested in following the Freakonomics blog, it is located at

Assorted Links (10/23/2009)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading today (organized by topic):

The Economy

This webpage features an interactive chart, based upon the 2008 CIA World Factbook, of per capita GDP for the vast majority of countries in the world.  According to this webpage, the average per capita GDP worldwide during 2008 was $15,162; in America, it was $47,000.  Liechtenstein was the highest, clocking in at $118,000, and Zimbabwe was the lowest, at $200.

Financial Crisis

  • Preventing the Next Financial Crisis, by Allan Meltzer

“Don’t be fooled by the bond market. Banks are holding prices down because they can buy Treasurys with free money from the Fed.”

Health Care Reform

  • Obama’s Doctor Shortage, by Allysia Finley

 “All of the president’s “fixes” will just create new problems.”

“In the Wrangle Over Health Care, a Low Rating for the U.S. System Keeps Emerging Despite Evident Shortcomings in Study”. Also see Mr. Bialik’s blog posting entitled “The Trouble With Ranking National Health-Care Systems” for a more technical version of this article.

Highly Recommended

I completely agree with Mr. Frakt’s enthusiastic endorsement of EconTalk, Econtalk podcasts follow a “talk show” format; here is a very accurate self-description of Econtalk:

“The talk show features one-on-one discussions with an eclectic mix of authors, professors, Nobel Laureates, entrepreneurs, leaders of charities and businesses, and people on the street. The emphases are on using topical books and the news to illustrate economic principles. Exploring how economics emerges in practice is a primary theme.”


  • The Chicago Way, by Kim Strassel

“The Chamber of Commerce is only the latest target of the Chicago Gang in the White House.”

“And the American people want him to fix it.”

  • White House vs. Fox News, by Charles Krauthammer

“Rahm Emanuel once sent a dead fish to a live pollster. Now he’s put a horse’s head in Roger Ailes’s bed.”

Executive Compensation Debate

I would like to call everyone’s attention to a formal online debate concerning executive compensation which began on Tuesday, October 20 and is scheduled to conclude on October 30th.  Later in the semester, we’ll discuss how to structure compensation to align incentives between owners and managers of firms.  However, this debate, which is sponsored by The Economistaddresses the ongoing public controversy concerning whether senior executives are worth what they are paid. 

Specifically, the motion reads as follows: “This house believes that on the whole, senior executives are worth what they are paid.”  The person defending the motion is Steven N. Kaplan, who is the Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship & Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.  Professor Kaplan may very well be one of the most widely published and prolific scholars on the topic of executive compensation.  The person who is against the motion is Nell Minow, who is Editor and Co-founder of The Corporate Library, which is an organization that bills itself as “…the leading independent source for U.S. and Canadian corporate governance and executive & director compensation information and analysis”.  Anyway, this debate should certainly be interesting to follow!