Homo Economicus

Meet Homo Economicus

4 days ago

Economics has long had a reputation for intellectual arrogance. But few of economics’ conceits raise the ire of its critics more than Homo economicus, the rationally self-interested actor lurking at the core of mainstream economic theory. Indeed, Homo economicus has become a favorite whipping boy for critics of the dismal science. In taking over this column from the superb stewardship of Jonathan Zhou, I thought it would be appropriate to examine its controversial namesake.

Our subject is a selfish, single-minded creature: her sole concern is the minimization of cost and the maximization of her own utility. Economists assume that she is fully informed at all times, makes no mistakes, and is able to instantaneously make complex optimization decisions.

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On Luck

May 14, 2014

There is this joke about Goldman Sachs. An assistant hands a Managing Director at Goldman a thick pile of resumes. The Managing Director shuffles the pile, throws half into the shredder, and says "I don't hire unlucky people."

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Choose Harvard

April 28, 2014

If you received an acceptance letter from Harvard a month ago, congratulations! If you have offers from more than one school, even more congratulations! This is a privilege that the vast majority of high school graduates do not have. I have an important piece of advice for the most privileged among you—choose Harvard. It is the best school.

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In Defense of High Frequency Trading

April 14, 2014

In his new book “Flash Boys,” Michael Lewis explains how high frequency traders are rigging the American stock market. It was an instantaneous hit; according to Malcolm Gladwell “in the hands of Michael Lewis, anything is possible.” Indeed, Lewis has accomplished the impossible task of mistaking the great financial revolution’s protagonist for its antagonist.

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Cash Madness

March 31, 2014

This week, dozens of young basketball players enjoyed their first appearance in the national spotlight, courtesy of “March Madness.”  Good performance in the tournament could lead to the NBA draft and win them seven digit paychecks and endorsement deals. But for now, they are not allowed to receive compensation for their moves on court. The no-pay rule is a great distortion in the labor market for basketball talents, and should be changed to make the college sport more entertaining.

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