Chair Chats

  • Hoverboards, Roll-Aboards, and the Obesity 'Epidemic'

    Posting Date: Wed, January 13, 2016

    As I returned from an out-of-town trip recently, some of the frantic hustle and bustle of human activity in the concourses of Atlanta's airport suddenly clicked in with particular focus. Fellow travelers hurried by, many with luggage. What caught my attention was how many individuals with luggage were rolling one (or more) bags, rather than physically lifting and carrying them. You can see quite small individuals easily moving quite large pieces of luggage merely by guiding them along by their handles - they roll smoothly on four rollers. What a wonderful thing, I thought to myself. Just think of the improvement in our well-being from the invention of what has come to be known as 'roll-aboard' luggage! A scant two generations ago - fifty years - there was no rolling luggage to make traveling easier. Back then, moving luggage was work that required lifting and carrying. You had to burn some calories in order to move luggage; not so today, thanks to whoever invented luggage with …
  • In Favor of Raising the Minimum Wage? Georgia Tech Students Are!

    Posting Date: Wed, July 2, 2014

    This is a friendly letter to Governor Jerry Brown and the California state legislators who voted for the $9.00 per hour minimum wage that went into effect on July 1st and that increases to $10.00 per hour on January 1, 2016. Dear Governor Brown: I’m sure that you and members of the California state legislature who voted to increase your state minimum wage to $9.00 starting July 1 have taken some heat from economists and business owners who have suggested that this may lead to increased unemployment among low-skilled workers. Well, I have a different, but related, message for you: here at Georgia Tech, we love ya, baby! We also love the socially-conscious legislators in Seattle and their $15.00 per hour minimum wage that kicks in next April, the Massachusetts legislators who are negotiating out an increase in their minimum wage to $10.50 per hour over two years or $11.00 per hour over three years, and, especially, our beloved President who is cheerleading an increase in the …
  • An Economics Lesson at the Baggage Carousel

    Posting Date: Fri, January 10, 2014

    This is a simple lesson in free-market economics, provided courtesy of the harsh winter weather of recent days in the eastern half of the U.S.  Coincidentally, the annual meetings of the American Economic Association were scheduled to take place in Philadelphia, from January 3rd through the 6th.  My friend and colleague, Haizheng Li, flew in to Philadelphia late in the evening of Thursday, January 2, landing around 10:45.  As he later told me, by then it was snowing heavily.  Because of backed-up air traffic, the pilot was not able to park at their arrival gate for forty minutes.  After de-planing, Haizheng waited for another forty minutes to retrieve his luggage. The AEA conference is huge, with several thousand attendees.  Under ordinary circumstances, the participating conference hotels are constantly running shuttles to and from the airport to pick up guests.  Taxis are running nonstop.  Not on this night. While waiting to collect his …
  • Some Simple Economics of Going "Nucelar" in the U.S. Senate

    Posting Date: Thu, November 21, 2013

    Earlier today (11/21/2013), Harry Reid and the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate used their political majority to change longstanding institutional procedure in that legislative chamber.  Colloquially, what they did was ‘go nuclear’ – the term used to express how unusual (and radical) their rules change really is.  Officially, they reduced the voting requirement to break a filibuster from 60 votes to 51 votes.  This now gives Democrats, who currently have a majority of seats in the Senate, but not 60, the ability to confirm the President’s judicial appointments (for all federal judgeships excepting the U.S. Supreme Court) when under the old, long-established and adhered-to rules, they have had to convince at least a few Republicans to support the President’s nominees.  From an economic perspective, what this does is raise enormously the value of being the majority party in the U.S. Senate, because being able to stack the federal courts with radical …
  • Message to the Alumni

    Posting Date: Fri, November 15, 2013

    Greetings to All: Today I want to specifically address our (nearly 800!) alumni.  As some of you will know, one of my top priorities is to build bridges between the School of Economics and our alumni.  To this end, I have started hosting occasional alumni lunches at GT and, for that matter, in selected cities where we have concentrations of alumni.  We just hosted an alumni social at the Georgian Terrace Hotel that coincided with Homecoming – it was a terrific success, with over thirty SOE alumni in attendance.  Events like these will be a regular part of our activities in the future.  It is highly gratifying to me personally and to our faculty, to connect with you, meet your partner, and learn about how life is treating you.  These events also serve as an opportunity for you to re-connect with former classmates and network with other alumni and your former professors.  To use the language of economics, you are an under-utilized asset – for our …
  • Obamacare and the Smart Investor

    Posting Date: Tue, November 5, 2013

    One of the truly funny, if utterly misguided, news stories about Obamacare to emerge this past week was the headline charging the Obama administration with lobbying (also known as ‘advising’ and more realistically known as strong-arming) insurance companies to keep quiet about the twin ugly realities of the Affordable Care Act.  Reality (1): millions of Americans are going to have their current insurance policies cancelled, making President Obama, who repeatedly promised otherwise, a liar.  Reality (2): forcing these millions of Americans to purchase so-called ‘cadillac’ policies (containing coverage that is much more than the policyholders demand) is going to raise monthly premiums paid by these individuals hundreds of dollars – that’s thousands of dollars per year. This story was laughable precisely because of how misguided it was.  Do you really think that executives working for private health insurance companies have to be told to keep quiet?  Are …
  • Why So Little Political Choice? Blame the Republicrat Oligopoly

    Posting Date: Sun, November 3, 2013

    One of the stories featured on today’s (11/3/13) TIME.com website is titled: Why So Little Candy Variety? Blame the Chocolate Oligopoly.  A fairly normal reaction to such a headline is some degree of outrage that consumers, the so-called ‘little guys’, also known as the 99%, are, once again, being ‘screwed’ by rich, unscrupulous businessmen, also known as the 1% in the class-warfare rhetoric of President Obama.  What I find surprising is the lack of outrage, indeed the widespread public acceptance, of the lack of political choice engineered specifically by the political oligopoly consisting of the Democratic and Republican parties. These two major political parties have conspired at both the state and national levels to restrict competition not only for themselves but also between themselves.  Ballot access laws that require a candidate who is not a registered Democrat or Republican to demonstrate an arbitrarily-set level of public support stifle political …
  • President Obama and the Economic Betrayal of America's Youth

    Posting Date: Tue, September 10, 2013

    I wonder whether America’s young people who voted in such large numbers for Barack Obama in 2008 and again in 2012 understand how thoroughly they’ve been betrayed by our 44th President.  By virtually every economic measure, our recovery from what has been termed the Great Recession of 2008-2009 has been perhaps the weakest on record.  In my opinion, President Obama bears significant responsibility for this.  He has been a relentless critic of the business community and the most blatant class warfare president in my lifetime.  Entrepreneurs who invent new products and processes that enrich millions of lives are cast by this President as greedy, socially irresponsible villains who do not do their ‘fair share’ for America.  Economics is a very straightforward science.  As such, it provides an utterly crystal-clear lens for examining the impact of such a President. Economic theory, common sense, and hundreds of generations of human history, testify …
  • The Wedding is Off! Who Gets the Engagement Ring?

    Posting Date: Fri, March 22, 2013

    The issue of who gets “custody” of the engagement ring when a relationship goes bad periodically gets widespread media attention.  The latest interesting and entertaining take on this theme appeared on the CNNMoney website today (3/22/13).  But couples have been calling off engagements throughout the history of mankind, although pundits only recently have had mass media to highlight this fact.  In honor of the inauguration of the Chair Chats blog, I’m reproducing a column I co-wrote with John Sophocleus, published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, on December 22, 1999.  As usual, economics offers compelling guidance about how to decide who gets the ring when one party calls off an engagement. “Pennsylvania Court Rings It Up Wrong” By David N. Laband and John P. Sophocleus A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision required a woman to return an engagement ring–even though her fiancé broke off the engagement. It’s a striking example of why …