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Small businesses - a bakery in the desert

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This video report from BBC Global Business looks at the success of a very small scale bakery located in an isolated mountain our region of Spain. 

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New series of short films on Economics

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Below are links to a number of recent films about economic research and policy debates - our thanks to Romesh Vaitilingam for collating them.

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IMF 2014 Review of the UK Economy

Here is a link to a video report produced by the IMF as part of their annual assessment of the UK economy. Overall, the IMF is considerably more optimistic than it was in 2013 about prospects for near term recovery of output and continued reductions in unemployment.

Risks to macro stability are also considered, namely weak productivity growth and high housing prices

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Measuring a minimum income standard

How much money do you need for an 'adequate' standard of living? This short video from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation considers the levels of income needed to sustain a modest but adequate life-style in the UK in 2014.

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Should there be a maximum wage?

In this blog, Professor Simon Wren-Lewis from Oxford University bemoans the absence of debate over the notion of a maximum wage - with specific reference to the pay of senior executives. 

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In Praise of Inequality in Science

Does inequality in the output of scientists matter? Inequality is a fashionable topic these days, and evidence for its existence is keenly sought in all sorts of places. John Ioannidis, a health policy researcher at Stanford, and his colleagues have found it in the research outputs of their fellow academics. In a paper published in the prestigious journal PLoS ONE, they searched the entire published scientific literature in academic journals over the period 1996-2011.

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Paths to development - Adding value to natural resources

Monday, July 28, 2014

This is an absolutely outstanding article to use when introducing development economics to a level students. The work of Hausmann and Hidalgo on complexity and economic development is becoming more widely recognised and used in schools. Hausmann's article here in Project Syndicate emphasises the importance of building capabilities within an economy to promote the growth of higher value added industries. Here is the link to the article: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/ricar...

Russia increases policy interest rates to 8%

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Russian central bank has raised their main policy interest rate by 0.5% to a new level of 8% in a bid to control inflationary pressures in the Russian economy. 

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Greece - Nudging towards Macro Stability?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Three years on from the riots and deep economic, financial and political crisis, is the reforming Greek economy turning a corner and improving outcomes for the key macroeconomic indicators. Professor Paul Collier labelled Greece as a "sub-merging economy" a little while ago but there are now some positive signs reflected in this highly relevant news report from the Financial Times. I have added some key macro data on Greece and other troubled Euro Area countries using data from the IMF World Economic Outlook.

Further reading:

Guardian: Greece forges template for economic recovery as tourists pour in: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/03/greec...

BBC video: Pain in paradise for struggling Greeks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28012089

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July 2014 - UK Economy back to Pre Crisis Level

An important landmark for the UK economy? Britain’s economy is finally larger than it was before the financial crisis six years ago. FT economics editor Chris Giles analyses the data and warns that continuing weak productivity means output growth will be slower than before the crisis - an excellent analysis of the key macro indicators suitable for all A level economics students. 

I have added some charts on the UK drawn from the latest IMF world economic outlook.

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Reduction in UK consumption of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes by young people - numerical example

Friday, July 25, 2014

A report out yesterday from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows a dramatic fall in the consumption by young people (aged 11 to 15) of our favourite demerit goods – alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. The report suggests that over the last decade regular smoking fell from 9% to 3% of 11- to 15-year-olds. Regular alcohol drinking dropped from 25% to 9%. Drug use has halved from 12% to 6% over this 10 year period.

This, of course, is very good news with regards to the relative health of our youth. As an economics teacher the first question I would ask my students is how this downturn has been achieved? What has happened either within the market or with government intervention to shift consumption in this way? It could be argued that this represents the most successful example of government intervention into markets to change behaviour and can be attributed to regulation, restriction of use and good old education! Information failure does not appear to have had an impact and the political will to succeed has been fairly uniform among the major parties in power.

For me, of course, it also offers the opportunity to do the next in my series of numerical activities in preparation for the arrival of the new specifications in 2015!

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Externalities of Waste - Do we throw too much stuff away?

This is a super report from BBC Newsnight on the issue of our throwaway society and the externalities of waste. How can the link between consumption and the discarding of unwanted and broken products be weakened? What role can innovation play - for example the rise of modular phones where parts can be replaced when broken. The fundamental problem is that traditional manufacturing business models are based on mass production and sales. How are increasing world commodity prices affecting this model?

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Lindau Nobel Economics Talks - The Labour Market

Thursday, July 24, 2014

This Mini Lecture discusses issues of labour productivity, low-wage work and economic growth of emerging markets.

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2014 HDI Report focuses on Vulnerability

Each year the Human Development Report published by the United Nations gives a special focus on a particular issue related to development. In 2014 that issue is vulnerability.

To quote from the opening of the report:

"Real progress on human development, then, is not only a matter of enlarging people’s critical choices and their ability to be educated, be healthy, have a reasonable standard of living and feel safe. It is also a matter of how secure these achievements are and whether conditions are sufficient for sustained human development. An account of progress in human development is incomplete without exploring and assessing vulnerability."

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United Queendom Scottish Independence as a Romantic Comedy

A new online comedy series launches on Thursday 24th July! 

The series tells the story of Scott and Adrian, two lovers on the verge of break up. Scott runs an oil company – bath oils that is – and Adrian spends their money as if it’s his own. Will they work things out or will Scott go it alone? All will be revealed when the series launches this August in time for the Scottish independence referendum.

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The Economics of Pay What You Want

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

People do care about fairness, social norms and not just about a cold calculation of marginal cost and marginal benefit. In this excellent short interview on BBC World, Joe Gladstone, Behavioural Scientist at the University of Cambridge, discusses the new form of "Pay What You Want" pricing. This means consumers can decide themselves how much they want to pay for a good or service. The catalyst is that several French hotels are experimenting with a pay what you like approach for their guests.

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Open Data:  Britain leads the world

The UK economy is doing well. Even so, it is not often that we are placed unequivocally at the top of a world ranking of any kind. But a team of economists led by Nicholas Gruen of Lateral Economics in Melbourne has done just that. In their recent report on the economic potential created by the concept of open data, it turns out that the UK government has been leading the world. On the Open Data Index, we score 100 compared to America’s 93. There is then a big gap to the next group, Australia, Canada and Germany, placed in the high 60s.

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Ed Miliband dismisses Keynes, but the Laffer Curve takes centre stage

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ed Miliband has told his party's national policy forum that the party must change policy from their traditional approach of raising spending and taxes, saying ''Higher spending is not actually the answer to the long-term economic crisis''. Some members of the forum wanted to force a vote for an immediate increase in public spending should Labour win the next election, but proposals committing Labour to new spending on housing and school meals were withdrawn at the forum in Milton Keynes.

So that's one economic theory cast aside.

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War and Sanctions

Violence is obviously the worst element of conflict, but the economic devastation can also be huge. Economists should be reflexively anti-war. Jeffrey Sachs discusses the waste of war on Project Syndicate. You can use the topic of war to introduce economic ideas like opportunity cost, fiscal stimulus and supply side shocks.

I was reading about sanctions and trying to think how they affect economies. They are obviously intended to reduce the benefits of specialisation and international trade for their target.  And like almost all trade restrictions, they hurt the economies implementing such policies too.

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More ideas like HS3 are needed to solve our regional problems

In London and much of the South East, the recovery has been well under way for a considerable time. House prices boom and restaurants are packed. The economic data for the UK as a whole looks just as encouraging, with employment being at its highest ever level.

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MTR wins London CrossRail Operating Franchise

Monday, July 21, 2014

An important part of the CrossRail project has been decided with the news that the £1.4bn contract to run the new Crossrail service through London from 2018 has been awarded to Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation.

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Siemens Boss on possible redindustrialisation of the UK economy

Sunday, July 20, 2014

This interview with Jurgen Maier of Siemens is well worth reading on several different levels. It challenges the conventional wisdom that UK will always lag behind Germany in terms of high value added manufacturing; it refers to the economics risks of Brexit (Britain leaving the EU) and it also stresses the importance to the UK of foreign investment from German businesses many of which have been in the Uk since well before the first World War - Siemens and Bosch are two well-known examples.

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Shareholder activism at the Royal Mail

Shareholder activism regarding executive pay is covered in this article from the Guardian. Note too the emergence of TNT Post as a competitor in the cities for final mile delivery of business and household mail - the mail market is becoming more contestable.

The Royal Mail's latest market report is an interesting read for those who want to study market dynamics in more details - for example the continued growth (but high contestability) in parcels contrasted with a trend decline in the volume of letters sent through the post - click here for the 2014 market overview: http://ar2013-14.royalmailgroup.com/overview/marke...

Calculation time! CMA recommends banks provision of current accounts should be investigated

Friday, July 18, 2014

Today’s announcement that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are recommending that the High Street Banks’ provision of current accounts should be investigated for lack of competition may not surprise many. The case study may be valuable when looking at competition in oligopolistic markets and a report can be found from this link.  The BBC take on the story can be found from this link.

I also thought it offered a chance to do some calculations! Given my current theme of bringing the new levels of assessment of numeracy and quantitative methods in the 2015 specifications of A level economics ever increasingly to the attention of our teaching community, where better to do some number work than when looking at market share in the banking industry!

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Price Cap introduced for the UK Payday Loans Market

The UK Financial Conduct Authority has announced direct interventions in the market for payday loans - the high cost short term loans market which has expanded rapidly in recent years led by businesses such as Wonga. The decision is the result of a detailed assessment of the industry which had flagged up a number of market failures.

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Universities, Business and the UK Economy

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Here is a short video featuring Mike Kitson from Cambridge University explaining the role universities play in knowledge exchange with businesses

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A Video Introduction to Behavioural Insights

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

For students and teachers interested in behavioural insights this short video from the behavioural insights team in New South Wales provides a good introduction to some of the behavioural nudges employed to influence choices. 

Behavioural insights draws on research into behavioural economics and psychology to influence choices in decision-making. By focusing on the social, cognitive and emotional behaviour of individuals and institutions.

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Shifting Terms of Trade for Latin America

According to The Economist, the great commodity boom caused by the industrialisation of China and India provided an unprecedented boost to the terms of trade (defined as the ratio of the price of its exports to that of its imports). Yet now the commodities boom may be running out of steam, these countries face a challenge.

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Two sides to the Philippine economy

The Philippines has enjoyed a period of rapid economic growth in recent years and attracted increasing attention as one of the fast-growing economies of South East Asia. Can this growth be sustained? What are the risks, challenges and the constraints facing the country? And how can the benefits of growth contribution to a transformation of economic and human development? This blog provides links to some useful resources:

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tutor2u Exam Coaching & Revision Workshops - The Movie!

Introducing tutor2u's hugely popular intensive one-day exam coaching & revision workshops. Over 20,000 students attend these highly effective exam preparations days every year. In 2014/15 our programme of workshops is extended to include A Level Psychology in addition to Economics and Business Studies.

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Dropbox and the failures behind it

According to some sources, Dropbox was the 37th online storage solution to be developed for the web - but despite early failures and late entry it has emerged as the cloud storage product of choice for over 300 million people. The firm is now estimated to be worth about £5.9bn.

This BBC article looks at the background to the story. Article can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27579790

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UCAS Guide for Economics (Summer 2014 Edition)

Here is the download link for the latest version of my advice guide for students wanting to apply for an economics related degree at UK and overseas universities.

Download tutor2u UCAS Guide for Economics (Summer 2014 Edition)

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BRIC countries - key data compared

Sunday, July 13, 2014

In this blog we compare the key macro data for the BRIC countries - China, India, Russia and Brazil drawing on data published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in their regular World Economic Outlook

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RES Competition Shortlisted and Commended Essays

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Here is the losing of shortlisted and highly commended essays following the work of the teacher judging panel for the 2014 Royal Economic Society competition. Congratulations to all of the students  mentioned below and to their teachers. Details of the final prize-winners will be posted as soon as we have them!

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Falling iron ore prices hit Australian miners

A 30 per cent drop in the iron ore price is causing concern among Australia's miners who have invested heavily in greater production facilities on the expectation of continued rising demand from China. China accounts for around 60 per cent of global demand for iron ore, used to create steel for industries like manufacturing and construction.

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Exam Coaching & Revision Workshops for AQA AS/A2 Economics in 2015

Friday, July 11, 2014

The dates and locations for our programme of intensive exam coaching & revision days for AS & A2 Economics in Spring 2015 are now available. Details below. We'll add details of how to book online to this blog entry shortly.

To see what is involved in our exam coaching & revision days, watch this brief video from a recent event:

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Lesson Activity: The World’s Biggest (Tri-dominoes)

We're all familiar with the concept of economies of scale, and many firms seek global market leadership to generate the kind of scale economies that might sustain a competitive advantage. But, who are these businesses?

  • Which business is the world's biggest manufacturer of heavy machinery?
  • Can you name the retailer that sells more laundry detergent than any other world wide?
  • Who makes the most cement?

This version of Tri-dominoes (our popular learning activity) is all about the "world's biggest!". Simply print out this A3-sized pdf file and cut out the triangles. Just add students, a little time (10-15 minutes) and off you go.

Download Lesson Activity: The World's Biggest (Tri-dominoes)

Economists are not impressed by Piketty’s views on inequality

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The financial crisis has undoubtedly created a demand in popular culture for works which portray capitalism in a bad light, such as the recent best seller by Thomas Piketty. Piketty’s writing has gathered increasing attention from economists, and his arguments do not really bear scrutiny.

The focus of Piketty’s work is the long-run evolution of the ratio of capital to income. He claims that this is now high by historical standards, and will rise even further as the 21st century unfolds. Wealth will become more concentrated and inequality will rise inexorably even more.

The message that capitalism inevitably leads to greater inequality is one that many people want to hear. Unfortunately for them, it is wrong. Piketty assembles an impressively large amount of empirical evidence. This shows clearly that from around 1910 to 1970, inequality actually declined sharply across the West.  

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Teaching / Mentoring Opportunity at Morpeth School London

Morpeth School has been one of the drivers of the rapid improvement in education in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in recent years. Rated by OFSTED as outstanding last year, a major focus over the next 3 years is improving its 6th form. Economics was introduced for the first time at the school in 2013 and Business Studies has also been re-established at A-level. 

The school is looking to appoint a well qualified honours graduates to become an academic mentors. You will support and challenge our sixth form students, helping them to become excellent independent learners at AS and A2, joining the rapidly growing department.

If you're interested, please do drop the Head of Economics, Stuart Block, an email with your CV at sblock@morpeth.towerhamlets.sch.uk

 

​Supermarket inflation since 1988

This Yahoo Finance story shows the historical extent of inflation in our supermarkets since 1988. A pensioner in England found an old Sainsbury’s shopping receipt from 1988 that shows all but one item, cat food, has increased in price over the last 26 years. The total bill of £17.16 would today cost more than twice as much at £42.67, a 148.6% increase.

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Export Complexity - Hidalgo and Hausmann

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Data on export patterns for goods from countries around the world provide a fascinating window on the degrees of complexity that nations have achieved. There is growing interest in the significance of knowledge capital or know-how in lifting productivity, competitiveness and improving trade performance for economies at different stages of development. Below is my selection of countries.

There then follows links to videos from Cesar Hidalgo and Riccardo Hausman on their theory of productive knowledge - and in particular how it is acquired at the level of the individual, the level of organizations, and cities, regions, countries and societies.

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Numeracy and Quantitative methods in the new Economics specifications

You will probably be aware that assessment in the new AS and A level in Economics (starting in September 2015) will have a much greater emphasis on numeracy and quantitative methods. 20% of marks will be awarded to answers based upon number work and interpretation of graphs, charts and tables.

Whatever your view on the merits of this change, there is no doubt that it brings one of the biggest challenges to teachers of economics since the year 2000. Tutor2u have put together a team of experienced teachers with different awarding body knowledge to create resources and give advice through a series of CPD events during the 2014-2015 academic year.

If you look through any of the specimen papers from the three main awarding bodies you won’t be surprised to see a huge emphasis on calculation of percentages, use of index numbers and the need to understanding fractions and ratios. You can already imagine the increased use of elasticity calculations and having to work out costs and revenues.

Did you know however (depending on your exam board choice) that your students may have to calculate opportunity cost ratios for comparative advantage, dependency ratios, quantity theory of money, terms of trade index, national income multiplier and marginal propensity to consume? Imagine a marginal social cost/benefit diagram with figures included! Have you ever asked students to convert money in real terms? How do you think they will cope with medians and quartiles?

Our team are working on resources and advice to hand out to teachers for our ‘New to A level Economics – Quantitative Methods’ CPD days. Details about times, dates and locations to follow soon.

RES Public Lecture 2014

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The 2014 RES Public lecture will be given on 25 November 2014 at the Royal Institution, London by Stephanie Flanders, former BBC Economics Editor and now J.P. Morgan Asset Management's chief market strategist for the UK and Europe. We will publish more details on this blog entry once they become available including the links for ticket applications from schools and colleges.

Contestable Markets - A New Retail Landscape

Monday, July 07, 2014

Here is a short FT background video on the challenges facing established food retailers in the UK. The supermarket is under pressure. They face competition from both hard discounters and upmarket retailers. The FT's Andrea Felsted visits Romford, on the outskirts of London, to examine how supermarkets are adapting to their new retail landscape. The Guardian's articles in changing competition in the food retail sector provide some excellent background pieces - click here to access: http://www.theguardian.com/business/supermarkets

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The Psychology of Scarcity

Sendhil Mullainathan (Harvard) summarises his keynote lecture at the RES conference 2014

Harvard Professor Sendhil Mullainathan, one of the leading economists in the field of behavioral economics, has recently released a new book with Princeton cognitive psychologist Professor Eldar Shafir entitled Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.

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University Economics: Changing how we teach Economics

There has been huge debate in recent months about possible reforms to the university core curriculum in economics. I myself spoke at a conference about this organised by Diane Coyle and held at the Bank of England in the spring of 2012. The book arising from that conference is available here from London Publishing Partnership: http://londonpublishingpartnership.co.uk/whats-the...

In this new video from the Royal Economic Society, Professor Wendy Carlin from UCL London describes Institute of New Economic Thinking CORE project (Curriculum in Open-access Resources in Economics) project, which aims to make the study of economics in universities more relevant to modern day economic issues. The video also features Tim Harford, the best-selling Undercover Economist!

You can explore more about the reformed curriculum by clicking this link: http://core-econ.org

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Financial Fair Play in Football

Stefan Szymanski (University of Michigan) discusses the economics of financial fair plan in football at the RES conference 2014. Stefan Szymanski is Stephen J. Galetti professor of sport management at the University of Michigan. He has written five books, including the bestseller Soccernomics (with Simon Kuper). Check out his articles for the Guardian here: http://www.theguardian.com/profile/stefan-szymansk... He is also tweeting here: https://twitter.com/sszy

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Antidote to Macro Pessimism - Gerard Lyons on Consolations of Economics

Friday, July 04, 2014

In these short interviews with the Financial Times, economist Gerard Lyons highlights some of the key drivers of the global economy and he paints a fairly positive picture of the prospects for developed countries in an ever-changing world economy. In the second interview, Gerard Lyons, 'The Consolations of Economics' author, discusses with John Authers whether the system is safely retuned, and whether it can boldly go into a universe of greater growth opportunities.

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Transport: competition in the cross channel market

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

When the Channel Tunnel opened in May 1994 bosses of many ferry companies were glum. But it was the backers of the channel tunnel who lost a fortune: according to The Economist (the source of the graph above), the train through the tunnel was meant to carry 28m passengers a year by 2010. Ferries were expected to lose foot passengers, cars and lorries. Like many predictions in business, this soon came to seem wrong; now it seems wrong only in the timing. Now it looks like competition in the market may be about to collapse, with ferries coming under increasing pressure.

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World Cup version of the Happiness Index

Monday, June 30, 2014

Now that England have made their rationally-predicted (but irrationally-disappointing) exit from the World Cup, who else are we to support? As economists, we need a rational basis on which to make that choice, from a rapidly declining set of options. Help is at hand, in the form of a new index supplied by an economist at Yale University. In a paper published last week in the New York Times, Dean Karlan suggests that we should root for the outcome that will produce the largest aggregate increase in happiness.

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