Amazon and monopoly: encore (updated)

still don't need it

The debate that won't die. I've posted on whether Amazon is a monopoly (it isn't) here and here. Today Joe Nocera joins Matt Yglesias and Annie Lowrey in his critique of Franklin Foer's New Republic article that tries to claim dangerous monopoly powers at Amazon. blog neighbor Scott Timberg addresses Nocera: But on the larger question of whether Amazon is literally and technically a monopoly: Probably not, but the distinction is not all that important. It’s a bully, it’s destroying important institutions, and it’s getting more … [Read more...]

Culture and urban growth: we still don’t know much

a safer photo choice...

A few years ago I came across a paper by Oliver Falck, Michael Fritsch and Stephan Heblich, 'The Phantom of the Opera: Cultural Amenities, Human Capital, and Regional Economic Growth' that used a rather unique data set to try to get around the knotty problem of finding whether cultural amenities generated urban economic development, or followed urban economic development: We analyze the extent to which endogenous cultural amenities affect the spatial equilibrium share of high-human-capital employees. To overcome endogeneity, we draw on a … [Read more...]

Jean Tirole, theory and application

not an easy read, but a great book

Jean Tirole has won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economics. Because he works in microeconomic theory that is not easy going for those without advanced training in mathematics or economics, his is not a well-known name outside the discipline (even econ undergrad students may not have heard of him, though all graduate students will have). But that doesn't make his work any less important. His work in economic theory on incentives, principal-agent problems, and 'industrial organization' (the term that in practice means the analysis of sectors of the … [Read more...]

Art and the estate tax (updated, again)

'cause I'm the taxman...

The New York Times reports on the Elkins case, involving a victory for a wealthy family in a legal fight with the IRS on estate tax owing on a valuable art collection. This is the quote that caught my attention: “My genuine view is this is a great result for taxpayers, but I don’t think everything is clear,” said Diana Wierbicki, a partner and head of the global art practice at Withers Bergman, a law firm. “The I.R.S. dropped the ball. The I.R.S. pushed this idea that you should get zero.” The latter part of the quote concerns the discount … [Read more...]

Tax deductions for artists (updated)

operates at a loss

The New York Times reports on a court case involving whether an artist working for salary as teaching faculty can claim tax deductions of artist's expenses (for supplies, travel, meals, etc) in excess of profits earned on sales of art. My understanding of this (tax people please correct me if I have this wrong) is that these net losses can be applied against salary and other earnings, thus lowering the tax owing: The I.R.S., which accused Ms. Crile of underpaying her taxes by more than $81,000 from 2004 to 2009, argued that based on several … [Read more...]

Is a monopoly? (updated October 10)

still don't need it

In a comment on my previous post, on Amazon and what I saw as overheated rhetoric regarding censorship, BobG wrote: Arguing over a definition of censorship is avoiding the actual issue. Amazon IS making it difficult to get certain books (that’s their announced strategy) and they are poised to become the single biggest (if not the only) source for books in the U.S. If Amazon becomes the primary supplier of books as well as the conduit through which we get books (and hence the ability to prevent us from getting books), that gives them an … [Read more...]

This is not censorship (updated, again)

this is censored

The New York Times reports on authors forming a group to back publisher Hachette in its quest to have charge consumers higher prices for books. A literary agent is quoted: “It’s very clear to me, and to those I represent, that what Amazon is doing is very detrimental to the publishing industry and the interests of authors,” the agent said. “If Amazon is not stopped, we are facing the end of literary culture in America.” And author Ursula Le Guin: “We’re talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to … [Read more...]

What have the Romans ever done for us?

stones were so much better then

Think of your cultural consumption in your late teens. It was pretty great, wasn't it? Favorite bands, and getting their new LP within days of release, favorite magazines about music and films and books, lining up to get tickets for the movie everyone in the papers was talking about. I have my own list of memorable moments, I think we all do. And we remember what was best - the great concert, the cover of an issue of Rolling Stone you kept lying around for years after, the movie you talked about with your friends for hours following the … [Read more...]

How should we subsidize charitable giving to the arts?

the state really ought to pay for this

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn write: Moms in poverty often live in stressful homes while juggling a thousand challenges, and they are disproportionately likely to be teenagers, without a partner to help out. A baby in such an environment is more likely to grow up with a brain bathed in cortisol. Fortunately, a scholar named David Olds has shown that there are ways to snap this poverty cycle. Mr. Olds began his career working with 4-year-olds, but then decided that many children were already traumatized and … [Read more...]

Night at the museum


Back in February, Business Week reported: When Maxwell Anderson took over as director of the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) two years ago, he told the board he wanted to offer free memberships to anyone willing to share some data—even when it’s just their name and e-mail address. Anderson’s idea is novel in the staid world of art museums, but it echoes what companies such as Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB) have long understood: Learning as much as you can about your customers’ behavior can be more valuable than the price of admission. “We’re … [Read more...]