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In 1922, famed etiquette writer Emily Post advised her readers that 10% is the standard for tipping your waiter. Since then, “gratuity creep” has been so steady that tip jars are now ubiquitous and 25-30% is considered the rule in New York City. Uber once resisted this trend, but recently added a tipping feature to its app. What is the economic rationale behind tipping? Does the usefulness of tipping diminish the more that a certain rate becomes an expectation? At a certain point, would it be better to do without the fuss involved and simply include that portion of a service-provider’s compensation in the wages paid by the employer? Our valiant hosts, Antony Davies and James Harrigan explore these questions and more!
A viewer recently asked us what Words & Numbers thought of Universal Basic Income. Antony Davies likes the idea of it, provided it’s done well, but doesn’t think it could ever possibly be done well. But what about a theoretical UBI? If we could actually figure out how to implement that well, would that work? And why wouldn’t that work in the real world? This week on Words and Numbers, Antony and James R. Harrigan tackle the issue that’s getting a lot of attention in Silicon Valley.
Income inequality has been in the news more and more, and it doesn’t look good. It’s aggravating to see people making more money than you, and we’re told all the time that income inequality is on the rise. But is it? And even if it is, is it actually a bad thing? This week on Words and Numbers, Antony Davies​ and James R. Harrigan​talk about how income inequality plays out in the real world. Learn more: https://fee.org/articles/is-income-inequality-real/
This week on Words & Numbers, James R. Harrigan and Antony Davies tackle the issue of airline pricing. Why do they charge what they do? What do those prices mean? Is it too much and are passengers being ripped off? Find out here.
Amazon’s offer to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion sounds pretty great to both parties, but it seems that isn’t good enough. The proposal has a lot of people worried about Amazon becoming an indestructible monopoly, and the government is all too happy to step in and settle the issue. But this concern ignores consumers’ own preferences as well as business and entrepreneurial history. This week in Words and Numbers, Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan discuss the probable future of the Amazon-Whole Foods merger, what it could mean for us, and what it could mean for another once-equally feared corporation: Wal-Mart.
Ted Cruz recently asserted that the United States military needs to be sent to Mexico to attack the drug cartels head-on. This is a bad idea. But so is the drug war itself, both constitutionally and logically. Forty-six years and one trillion dollars after its start, President Richard Nixon's War on Drugs is still going, with 300,000 people currently in jail on drug charges. Meanwhile, 26 times as many people suffer from alcoholism as do heroin abuse, and eight times as many die from alcohol abuse as do heroin. Many who support the war do so with the best of intentions, but has it really helped? Or has it done more harm than good, like the Prohibition of the 1920s? Is this war even legal in the first place? James Harrigan and Antony Davies discuss these questions in this week's Words and Numbers. Watch the conversation below or on our YouTube channel, or listen to it on SoundCloud.
In 1798, 95 percent of the world lived in poverty. Today, less than 10 percent do, in spite of the world’s population growing by 700 percent in that same time. The common thought among young people is that this 700 percent population growth is going to overpopulate the earth. But given the number of people in poverty, it looks like population growth is actually good for poverty – more people means more brains, which means more ideas, inventions, and innovations. This week on Words and Numbers, Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan talk about how and why the world is improving despite widespread negativity towards the idea of a growing world population, and why that negativity persists regardless of the prosperity we see every day.
Poverty is a big deal – it affects about 41 million people in the United States every year – yet the federal government spends a huge amount of money to end poverty. So much of the government’s welfare spending gets eaten up by bureaucracy, conflicting programs, and politicians presuming they know how people should spend their own money. Obviously, this isn’t working. This week on Words and Numbers, Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan delve into how people can really become less poor and what that means for society and the government. Learn more: https://fee.org/articles/what-you-should-know-about-poverty-in-america/
We tend to demonize people who make money – how dare they have more than us? But that negative reaction forgets the voluntary role we play in profit-making every day. This week in Words and Numbers, Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan discuss just how good it is to earn a profit, and the vital difference between that and forcing money from people.
A lot of people assume that any degree increases your income over the course of your life, but it actually seriously depends on what major you choose and what career you go into. This week on Words & Numbers, Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan breakdown the numbers on what your college degree is actually worth. Check their numbers and learn more about this topic here: https://fee.org/articles/is-your-college-major-worthless/
Technology doesn’t just change things, it utterly destroys things. And that’s just fine. It happens so often that people barely even notice when it does. Think about all the new services that have come to market just over the past few years: Uber, Airbnb, Redbox … the list goes on and on. But that’s only half the story. In turn, the list of services replaced by these new ones is similarly long: taxis, hotels, Blockbuster, etc. And workers in these industries often lose their jobs in the line of creative destruction. We generally accept this as the price of innovation, but many people try to use the government to stop this by blocking the new services. Today we’re seeing this with more politically well-connected industries like taxis and hotels. Pressure is put on Uber and Airbnb, respectively, to “protect” the established industries they are upending. This week, Ant and James talk about why this is always a mistake. Learn More: https://fee.org/articles/government-cant-stop-creative-destruction/ --Edited by-- Pavel Rusakov
There is no truly good way to measure unemployment, which makes it pretty easy for successive administrations to claim that unemployment is consistently improving. But when we do our level best to include all of the unemployed in the numbers, what we learn is that unemployment levels now are higher than they were at the beginning of the Great Recession. That’s the bad news. The good news is that things actually have been getting better over time. In this week’s episode, James and Antony take a look at the actual unemployment numbers to get to the bottom of what they really mean. Get the facts here: https://fee.org/articles/you-cant-trust-unemployment-statistics/
This week, James & Antony tackle minimum wage laws and present some hard facts that might surprise a lot of people. See below for links to all the data and ideas they're talking about in this episode. -- Raw Data -- https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/minimum-wage/2016/home.htm http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat08.htm https://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm http://www.governing.com/gov-data/economy-finance/youth-employment-unemployment-rate-data-by-state.html -- Research -- http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/001979399204600105 https://www.mercatus.org/system/files/Davies-minimum-wage-PIC.pdf http://jhr.uwpress.org/content/XXXIX/2/425.short http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/00197939140670S307 https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=CC_FCgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=%22minimum+wage%22&ots=bMKtfq8dOr&sig=acUFMHlHCDLr2Jo5F6scbDXX4-A#v=onepage&q=%22minimum%20wage%22&f=false -- Op-eds -- https://fee.org/articles/the-minimum-wage-conspiracy/ https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/economic-intelligence/2013/10/21/raising-the-minimum-wage-kills-jobs-for-low-skill-workers http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/for-the-maximally-vulnerable-the-minimum-wage-is-always_us_58eea085e4b04cae050dc45d http://triblive.com/opinion/featuredcommentary/7003069-74/federal-wage-workers http://triblive.com/opinion/featuredcommentary/10183883-74/wage-minimum-workers http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/commentary/20170409_Minimum-wage_hikes_a_way_to_buying_union_votes.html http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2015/06/03/what_a_pittsburgh_college_could_teach_seattle_los_angeles__chicago_101690.html -- Related Videos -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct1Moeaa-W8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQUdnnGLVJk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAwf-JdIr0o https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aCpaON5NyE
This week on Words & Numbers James and Ant talk about the “safe spaces” movement on college campuses. Spoiler Alert: they don’t think campuses should be all that safe…at least not for ideas. College is the one time in a person’s life when just about every idea is on the table, and we do no one a service by declaring certain topics settled or off limits in the name of making people feel “safe.” Check out at their recent column on the topic: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5905d8ade4b03b105b44b95c
This week, James and Antony take a brief departure from talking about the growing national debt, and our absurd tax system to discuss the numerous ways in which more economic and personal freedom has made people wealthier, more equal, and better off all over the world. We're actually living in pretty amazing times. Read more: https://fee.org/articles/actually-life-is-pretty-awesome/
This week, Antony and James are equal-opportunity offenders, discussing the way power not only changes hands from one party to another, but support for political ideas flips back and forth as well. Neither the right nor the left is immune to this kind of hypocrisy. Editor's note: According to James, "All the other political philosophers will point at me and laugh, but I said Paine when I meant Madison." This heinous error is about 5 minutes in, and we apologize. Learn more: https://fee.org/articles/hypocritical-partisans-pass-political-power/
In honor of Tax Day, Antony Davies & James R. Harrigan talk about the absurdity of the US tax code. If your tax situation is more complicated or more uncomfortable than you like dealing with, you can pay another human being to do your taxes so you don’t have to. There are dependents, mortgages, deductions from energy-efficient household additions, charity, student loan interest ... even with a Ph.D. in economics, it’s hard to understand! Learn more: https://fee.org/articles/even-economists-cant-do-their-own-taxes/ https://www.usnews.com/opinion/economic-intelligence/articles/2017-02-01/the-cbo-federal-budget-predictions-are-dangerously-optimistic
This week, Antony and James break down Bill Gates' recent suggestion that companies that use robots instead of human workers pay employment taxes in order to fund new welfare programs. Learn more: https://fee.org/articles/taxing-robots-does-not-compute/
This week, James & Antony experiment with a slightly longer format, and get into the issue of government funding for the arts. Read more at FEE: https://fee.org/articles/the-arts-will-survive-without-your-taxes/
This week, Antony & James take on the idea of "victimless crimes" and discuss the odd and growing trend of governments regulating some private activities such as pornography, while others like smoking marijuana are increasingly allowed. People imposing their values on others seems to boil down to an inability to appreciate that others have different preferences, but it all results in Americans losing freedom and instead becoming a nation of pets. Learn more here: https://fee.org/articles/were-becoming-a-nation-of-pets/
Comments (10)

Blaze Bullock

Love the Randy Simmons mention. I went to church with him growing up. He told me the same thing about being mayor!

Jul 8th
Reply

Susan Baker

A week and a half after the election, and it has still not been certified. Biden is not president-elect until the election is certified. Stop with the never-Trump outlook and stick to words and numbers.

Nov 14th
Reply

Jimmer 1123

What are your sources that document the poor data collection re: coronavirus?

Apr 15th
Reply

Jack Netek

Trump referred to the Fake News portion of the media as the enemy of the people. Understanding the differentiation is critical.

Jun 18th
Reply

Dasol Jung

I love this podcast. Free market and liberty is being seriously jeopardized in South Korea.

Mar 30th
Reply

James Ryan

I'd like to hear the pros and cons of flat, reciprocal tariffs. what's wrong with "We'll charge 'China' 10%; China charges 'The USA' 10%"?

Oct 17th
Reply

Minjong Kim

Good explanation of international trade!

Oct 11th
Reply

Chuck Rawlinson

Great podcast.

Aug 12th
Reply

Caleb Barker

Great weekly podcast about economic principles and liberty.

Aug 3rd
Reply

Jesse Plummer

The Executive Order Trump signed for the border wall is not the same as the EO Obama signed for DACA. Daca never passed in Congress and the border wall has passed but never funded. Every amnesty was met with a border wall promise from the democrats but never fulfilled.

Oct 13th
Reply
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