Epistemology and Synthetic Market Design: Examples from Ecosystem Services

Some of the most illuminating work in market design lately has been in payment for ecosystem services (PES). These projects provide examples of the continuing relevance of institutions to economic and policy outcomes, and the importance of Elinor Ostrom’s work on the diversity of governance institutions in common-pool resources; despite criticisms leveled at synthetic markets, … More Epistemology and Synthetic Market Design: Examples from Ecosystem Services

Energy Literacy, Innovation, and Economic History: a Recent Talk

The Illinois Science & Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF) is a foundation that uses its grantmaking to “create a more energy-literate society that’s ready for the smart grid“. Working through local community organizations including educational and religious organizations, ISEIF provides grants to promote understanding of and use of markets and technology to promote behavior change in … More Energy Literacy, Innovation, and Economic History: a Recent Talk

John Neufeld’s Selling Power: Economics, Policy, and Electric Utilities Before 1940

At the fantastic economic history website EH.net, I recently reviewed John Neufeld’s new book,┬áSelling Power: Economics, Policy, and Electric Utilities Before 1940. TL;DR: if you’re interested in the electricity industry you should read this book, even if you aren’t an academic. You’ll gain an important historical perspective on how we got to where we are, … More John Neufeld’s Selling Power: Economics, Policy, and Electric Utilities Before 1940

Economies of Scope Are Underappreciated

Today in my antitrust and regulation class we talked about natural monopoly theory and what drives the natural monopoly cost structure. A lot of times in practical conversation with regulators and industry we talk about economies of scale, the decrease in average cost of production as the quantity produced increases, as being the main factor … More Economies of Scope Are Underappreciated

2015 Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton

Angus Deaton is the worthy and deserving winner of this year’s economics Nobel. The arc of his work, from theory to data to empirical application, has been consumption, measuring consumption, and consumption as an indicator of well-being, poverty, and inequality. His analyses also incorporate political economy as a factor influencing those relationships and incentives. If … More 2015 Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton

Platform Economics and “Unscaling” the Electricity Industry

A few weeks ago I mused over the question of whether there would ever be an Uber or AirBnB for the electricity grid. This question is a platform question — both Uber and AirBnB have business models in which they bring together two parties for mutual benefit, and the platform provider’s revenue stream can come … More Platform Economics and “Unscaling” the Electricity Industry

Online Library of Liberty Forum on Mccloskey’s Bourgeois Era

At its Online Library of Liberty, Liberty Fund hosts a monthly “Liberty Matters” forum in which a set of scholars discusses a particular set of ideas. This month’s forum features Deirdre McCloskey‘s Bourgeois Era series of books, two of which have been published (Bourgeois Virtues, Bourgeois Dignity). McCloskey’s main argument is that the various material … More Online Library of Liberty Forum on Mccloskey’s Bourgeois Era

Joel Mokyr on Growth, Stagnation, and Technological Progress

My friend and colleague Joel Mokyr talked recently with Russ Roberts in an EconTalk podcast that I cannot recommend highly enough (and the links on the show notes are great too). The general topic is this back-and-forth that’s been going on over the past year involving Joel, Bob Gordon, Tyler Cowen, and Erik Brynjolfsson, among … More Joel Mokyr on Growth, Stagnation, and Technological Progress

Continuing Debate over the Economic Origins of Electric Utility Regulation

State regulation of electric utilities began in earnest about 1907 and by around 1920 almost all states had begun state regulation. Prior to state regulation, most electric utilities were regulated through city-issued franchise agreements. Was state regulation of privately-owned electric utilities efficiency enhancing relative to the municipal franchise regulation of electric utilities that preceded it? … More Continuing Debate over the Economic Origins of Electric Utility Regulation

Politicized Implementation of U.s. Oil Import Quotas, 1959-1973

The oil import quota system in place from 1959 to 1973 restricted imports to an amount equal to the difference between the federal government’s estimate of domestic oil demand and the estimate of domestic oil supply. But, of course, nothing in industry-protection policy can be easy, so the policy contained a number of adjustments and … More Politicized Implementation of U.s. Oil Import Quotas, 1959-1973