Archive for the ‘Written assignment prompt’ Category

North Korea’s Capitalists   Leave a comment

This photo taken on July 28, 2013 shows customers shopping at a supermarket in Pyongyang. Chinese yuan, US dollars, euros and tea bags. Money can come in many forms in North Korea, but as a foreign visitor you'll probably never even see a local banknote, let alone use one. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)Link: http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2017/10/13/557645729/episode-800-north-koreas-capitalists?utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=bufferffd48&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Summary: Learn about a little group in North Korea, called the ‘donju.’ The economic prosperity that they developed went on to support the country’s nuclear program and contributed to the growth of their economy. This was all made possible when Kim Jong Un began allowing consultants from overseas to educate  North Korean entrepreneurs on accounting, trade, and management. They did this without daring to actually call it a spread of capitalism, as North Korea still remains a strict socialist country.

Original Air Date: October 13, 2017

Length: 24 minutes 25 seconds

Discussion prompt (1): Having listened to this podcast, what type of economic system do you think North Korea has? What impact do you think this system has on people, businesses and the government. Use specific examples from the podcast to support your answer.

Discussion Prompt (2): The podcast points out that in N Korea’s economic system “the state technically owns everything.” How does this impact the ‘Donju’?  Think particularly how it impacts the incentives they face to start and grow a business (contributing to economic development).

Discussion Prompt (3): Why would entrepreneurship not be something typically observed in a Centrally Planned/Socialist country? How are the economic incentives of this system related to this lack of entrepreneurship? According to this podcast, how did the economic actions of the Donju contribute to economic growth in N. Korea?

 

Why Textbook Prices Keep Climbing   Leave a comment

textbooksLink: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/10/03/353300404/episode-573-why-textbook-prices-keep-climbing

Summary: Something strange is going on in the textbook market. The price has steeply increased over the past decade–and they’re only getting higher. There is a disconnect between the chooser (the professors) and the buyers (the students). Technically, the professor is the consumer, and they’re spending their students’ money. The podcast offers the opposite: high school textbooks, where costs are kept low because the books are paid for by the schools.

Original Air Date: October 3, 2014

Length: 14 minutes 56 seconds

Discussion Question/ Prompt: Propose a solution to the rising textbook price problem. (Example: a price ceiling? professor awareness of prices? incentives for lower prices?)

How To Steal A Million Barrels Of Oil   Leave a comment

nigerian stolen oilLink: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/10/29/359624435/episode-578-how-to-steal-a-million-barrels-of-oil

Summary: The Nigerian Internet hosts many ads for stolen oil, inspiring the question: how? Why?  Nigeria has one of the top oil reserves, and it is controlled by the government. They lose about $10 million a day from oil theft. This podcast dissects how they get away with it.

Original Air Date: October 29, 2014

Length: 19 minutes 30 seconds

Discussion Question: The podcasts says that this problem is for the Nigerian government to solve. Should it be an international issue?

Prompt: The podcast does not reflect on the legally sold oil, and the effect the stolen oil has on that market. Write how you think the stolen oil would change the market for legal crude oil in the international arena, paying specific attention to the quantity and the prices.

Outsiders By Design   Leave a comment

Outsiders-by-Design-Photoroll-300x186Link: http://freakonomics.com/2014/09/18/outsiders-by-design-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast-2/

Summary: This podcast was inspired by the death of Gary Becker, an economist who’s work was inspired by the idea of discrimination. His approach was called ‘rational choice’–that people will make rational decisions to maximize their own utility and wealth. In the end, a lot of people strongly disagreed with his research. The program then goes on to illustrate two more examples of medical researchers who were outcast by their fields of study. By the end, however, Gary Becker won a Nobel Prize.

Original Air Date: September 18, 2014

Length: 41 minutes 40 seconds

Prompt / Discussion: Sometimes people will not agree with your research conclusions or ideas, such is the case with Gary Becker. Why do you think Becker’s ideas were/are so controversial?

Fixing the World, Bang-For-The-Buck Edition: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast   Leave a comment

Fixing-the-World-300x200Link: http://freakonomics.com/2014/10/02/fixing-the-world-bang-for-the-buck-edition-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

Summary: Return on Investment (ROI) analyzes at the most efficient way to spend money. An example given is the difference between curing malaria and HIV/AIDS. To cure malaria, it would cost about $1,000 per person, while it would cost ten times that to cure HIV/AIDS, and it is decided that they would rather save 10 people from malaria before they save one from HIV/AIDS.  The United Nations, with their Millennium Development Goals coming to a close, will be looking to set new goals in 2015, to be completed by 2030. One of the issued they will focus on is how they are setting goals, and how to be more efficient with the help of the Return on Investment analysis.

Original Air Date: October 2, 2014

Length: 43 minutes 34 seconds

Prompt / Discussion: You are a member of the United Nations, and are put in charge of coming up with new development goals for 2015. You have $100 billion to invest in various development aid. Discuss how you would prioritize between an important, expensive goal (such as getting all kids into school, which was one of the Millennium Development Goals), and something that might not be seen as highly important, but cost effective.

When A $65 Cab Ride Costs $192   Leave a comment

Update: Several readers commented on the route shown in the map above. Lisa Chow took the car for purposes of this story, and chose a route that began and ended near NPR's New York offices.

Link: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/01/24/265396928/when-a-65-cab-ride-costs-192

Summary: This podcast sheds light on supply and demand as well as elasticity using the well know car service Uber.

Original Air Date: January 24, 2014

Length: 4 minutes 9 seconds Note there is a longer version that addresses issues of fairness, rationing by time v. money, different profit maximizing strategies by firms 

Discussion Prompt (1) for short or long  version: Think about yourself as a consumer of Uber/Lyft services– how elastic is your demand for uber? How do you know? What factors do you think make your demand for an Uber ride more or less elastic? You can think about specific times, or you can think about comparing yourself to other people whose elasticity of demand might be different.

Discussion Prompt (2) for short or long  version: This podcast focuses on the topic of ‘surge pricing’: how does this relate to price elasticity of supply? Is the supply of Uber drivers price elastic or inelastic? What factors might impact that?

Discussion Prompt (1) for long version: Planet Money asks this question: If this is how markets generally work (ex.  Stock market, copper market), why is what Uber’s doing considered so strange?  This podcast is from 2014 (useful to us because it explains Uber in detail because it was new). In the time that has passed, do you think people have come around to this ‘economic way of thinking’ about surge pricing? Why, why not?

Discussion Prompt (2) for long version: The podcast compares the pricing strategy of Home Depot with ‘ice salt/melt,’ where they don’t change the price but they do run out, to the strategy of Uber where they raise the price rather than ‘run out’.   Economist Richard Thaler notes that these choices represent different profit maximizing strategies by firms focusing on long-run vs. short-run strategies.  What does he mean here? How do these actions represent different profit-maximizing strategies by these firms? Do you think one is ‘more fair’?

Written Prompt: Read this related article: Cohen, P., Hahn, R., Hall, J., Levitt, S., & Metcalfe, R. (2016). Using big data to estimate consumer surplus: The case of uber (No. w22627). National Bureau of Economic Research. Part of what makes this article innovative, is that it provided a ‘real-life’ consumer surplus estimate drawn from actual consumer data.  Why do you think that it might have been hard to determine consumer surplus in real life before Uber (and similar apps/services)? Can you make any other links between this article and the podcast?

How Stuff Gets Cheaper   Leave a comment

stuff cheaperLink: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/11/28/366793693/episode-586-how-stuff-gets-cheaper

Summary: The Planet Money team looks at how some things get cheaper over time. The podcast hosts visit a company called Monoprice, whose job it is to find out ways to make things cheaper–in other words, a lot of detective work.

Original Air Date: November 28, 2014

Length: 14 minutes 11 seconds

Prompt: Write a brief letter to Monoprice with your thoughts on their job. Is it efficient? Is it cost-productive?