In recent years, we’ve seen a resurgence of marketing campaigns targeted at children — Coles’ “Little Shop ”, Woolworths’ “Mr Squiggle”, and Commonwealth Bank’s Dollarmites. Each tries to get children to interact with the company in some way and to engage with its product or service. This is fascinating from a behavioural economics perspective because you can take one of two approaches to such campaigns: the boring take, and the interesting take.

The boring take is that these programs exploit parents’ affection for their children by having the children nag their parents to engage more with the company’s product. …

So the CEO of Muffin Break has discovered over the weekend that there’s muffin so offensive to millennials on social media as her comments about how their self-importance harms their attitude toward doing unpaid work.

Sorry. I had to try the pun. But still, rather heartless of her, no?

Who cares? There’s a vastly more important point here.

It looks as if, once again, the commentariat and the Twitterati have utterly missed the core point here. These comments point to a near textbook example of the distortions created by the price controls we call minimum wages.

If we want to…

It may seem paradoxical — even insane in polite society. But with a surge of new technologies emerging, which could provide competition for traditional banking, the government would do well to consider responding to the Hayne Royal Commission by deregulating the banking sector.

The news of the month has been the Hayne Royal Commission into financial services, which contained damning reports of dastardly misdeeds by big bad bankers, who presumably smoked cigars lit with $20 bills while they charged fees for no service and committed other iniquities. …

Could free units of a new digital currency end up being worth thousands of dollars?

Initiative Q, which is aggressively marketing itself on social media, wants you to think so. It urges you to sign up now, and get your friends to do so as well, to maximise the value of your free “Q” currency. This has invited comparisons to pyramid schemes and suspicions about its legitimacy.

It’s not a scam. It also won’t make you fabulously wealthy. It is, nonetheless, an interesting idea.

I want to use institutional cryptoeconomics — the study of the basic rules governing emerging economic…

“person holding Business newspaper near gray laptop” by rawpixel on Unsplash

The latest data out of the ABS reveal that we’re spending ever more money on dining out and takeaway. Indeed, it’s up to A$1 in A$5 of the average food budget, and it’s growing. The traditionalist might lament this apparent turn away from the principles of household economy. But the behavioural economist takes a different view.

I think this is fantastic news and a case study in markets working well to make our lives easier. …

At the end of another week of chaos in Canberra, we’re all asking why this keeps happening. Why are our leaders playing politics instead of governing?

A somewhat esoteric sub-field of economics known as Public Choice Theory suggests it really does come down to two things. First, the technological advances that have given politicians feedback in real time. Second, Australia’s comparatively small parliament.

Politicians aren’t mad or bad, they have an incentive to do what is necessary to hold their seat in parliament. They have no incentive to govern except insofar as it helps them keep their seat.

The trouble…

A recent study claims a core idea in behavioural economics — loss aversionis a fallacy. Loss aversion is the theory that the pain of losing something is greater than the pleasure we feel by gaining something equivalent.

Loss aversion forms the basis of a lot of behavioural economics, including analysis on The Conversation. It’s used to inform very important decisions made in the halls of power. …

The standard economic response to high and rising obesity is to levy what’s known as a “sin tax”. The thinking is simple — add a tax to the price of the undesirable food, this increases its price, and the demand for it goes away.

However, there are both theoretical and empirical reasons to think the end of the obesity epidemic lies not in sin taxes but innovation.

Behavioural economics teaches us that people don’t tend to make decisions by making fairly involved trade-offs between costs and benefits, as the theory of sin taxes assumes. …

That new technologies could actually be bad for us, by sapping our attention or ruining our memories, is an argument that goes back to Socrates. It’s tempting to summarily dismiss these concerns, but such tech-doomsaying is actually an important part of economic discovery.

Our societies are organised by rules, embedded in our collective knowledge, about the proper way to behave and interact with each other. These rules are worked out over a long, often bitter process of debate and competition between rival ideas about society.

Some of the most important rules we need to discover are about how to use…

Senator Pauline Hanson is considered something of a dangerous joke in polite Australian society — an Australian Nigel Farage to placate the “deplorables”. Public Choice theory on the other hand suggests that Senator Hanson’s latest backflip on tax reveals her to be a fairly astute politican.

Senator Pauline Hanson of the One Nation Party — the party of the “forgotten” and the disgruntled — has recently changed her mind on tax policy. Initially, in response to the plan outlined in the Federal Budget to significantly decrease corporate tax in Australia, she changed her mind on and promised she would not…

Brendan Markey-Towler

Researcher in psychological and technological economics at the School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia

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