While I agree with Frank’s policy recommendation and how he arrived at his conclusion I cannot honestly say I have enjoyed his recent Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy.

The primary goal is not to tell a story about Success and the role of Luck it in, it is an argument for a progressive consumption tax and maybe also a reaction to earlier critique on Frank’s 2011 The Darwin Economy that argued for the progressive consumption tax, too.

While The Darwin’s Economy main rationale for the introduction of a progressive consumption tax was the reduction of…


Post-scarcity is not just a recent idea, predicted in such work like The 2nd Machine Age as a result of the imminent and highly anticipated singularity, and it is not just the necessary condition for implementing the communist dream, it is the world of Star Trek (after the Original Series). Manu Saadia tries to analyze this science fiction utopia in Trekonomics from an economic perspective.

It’s all there and, still, it also seems lacking.

Saadia clearly identifies Star Trek (of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager) as a post-scarcity society. The Replicator, the technological offspring of the Transporter…


Altruism is usually defined as social behavior that decreases the fitness of the altruist and increases the fitness of the recipient (Hamilton 1964). If you are an economist you will likely prefer utility in lieu of fitness. A society of pure altruists can be successfully invaded by a non-altruist and with enough time the pure altruists would die out. Pure altruism (without any additional assumptions) is not evolutionary stable. Therefore, the question whether altruism exists does not have an obvious answer despite all the kind actions that we may observe in our society.

In “Does Altruism Exist?”, David Sloan Wilson’s…


The Praise. What happens when a practitioner writes about behavioral sciences’ insights and their applications? You get a refreshingly different perspective, refreshingly new examples for behavior change strategies that work, and in this particular case a refreshingly balanced discussion of the underlying ethical principles.

In contrast to many other authors in the popular behavioral science genre Bob Nease does not write about human irrationality. That is already a reason to recommend his book: The term irrationality is often misunderstood as stupidity, and some authors seem to emphasize this interpretation, pushing the need for paternalistic advice and guidance. Nease, on the…


Phishing for Phools leaves me with a rather ambivalent feeling. Some parts I like and found interesting, in other parts Akerlof and Shiller seem to just state the obvious, and in the remaining parts they offer interpretations that I cannot agree with. The particular mix that equates legal and illegal actions, welfare enhancing activities and plain fraud seriously subtract from the (entertaining) value of their little book.

I like their discussion of finance and fraud. (They are not the first to offer such an account.) And I agree that “greed” (that is not really a bad thing in it self)…


Seemingly irrational behavior or rather bounded rationality is the result of bounded cognitive abilities, bounded willpower, bounded self-interest, and — yes — bounded knowledge. Russell Hardin offers an account of the consequences of — fully rational — limited knowledge, an economics of ordinary knowledge. The question is what extent of knowledge in terms of quantity and quality can we expect from an ordinary person.

Rational ignorance permeates all domains of our daily lives and not just public policy and politics. To illustrate his point, maybe even delineating an extreme, Hardin singles out religious belief. Believes are just one instance of…

Dennis A.V. Dittrich

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