Lighter side

Happy Holidays, One and All!

Mark D. White

On this, the occasion of our 200th post at Economics and Ethics, I would like to wish a happy holiday season to all of our readers, our partners in the blogging community, and my co-bloggers Jonathan, Irene, and Sandy. Next year we hope to bring you more insights in ethics and economics, share our perspectives on goings-on in both the real world and academia, and highlight new and interesting articles, books, journals, and calls for papers. We also hope to welcome some guest bloggers, as well as expand the pages on the blog to provide more resources for people interested in the intersection of ethics and economics.

We hope to see you often, and let us all have a happy and healthy new year!

Blondie, health care, and Nudge

Mark D. White

Yesterday's Blondie strip was enlightening, albeit (likely) unintentionally so:


I imagine Dagwood's response to the incentives provided by having to deal with some of the expenses of one's own health insurance is supposed to elicit disgruntled agreement among readers. But it really highlights an unintended consequence of the alternative: if individuals aren't responsible for any of the costs of their own health care, they have less incentive to pay attention to their own health and adjust their behavior accordingly. (The more cynical among us would recognize that the Nudgers will happily regulate people's behavior for them--how convenient.)

Call for papers: Economics Made Fun

Mark D. White

Symposium: Economics made fun in the face of the economic crisis
10-11 December 2010
Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Organized by
Jack Vromen (Erasmus University Rotterdam,
[email protected]
N. Emrah Aydinonat (Ankara University & Bogazici University,
[email protected]

Call for papers

Best-selling books such as Freakonomics and The Undercover Economist have paved the way to a flourishing economics-made-fun genre. The economics-made-fun genre first and foremost  wants  to enlighten   the   general   public   about   the   breadth   and   power   of economic analysis in an accessible and entertaining way. It aims at boosting the public image of economics. Economics-made-fun books mostly focus on “outlandish” or “freakish” subjects, rather than the traditional subjects of economics. Given their popularity and success, these books not only reflect but also influence how young economists approach economics. The economics-made-fun genre has no monopoly on shaping the public image of economics, however. While the economics-made-fun books present economics as a strong and explanatory science, the latest economic crisis exposed the shortcomings of economics to the general public. In the face of the crisis, many people, including well-known economists such as Paul Krugman, started expressing their doubts concerning the success of economics as a science. Newspaper columns as well as academic papers discussed the predictive and explanatory failures of economics. The emerging picture is somewhat confusing: Economics is presented as a way of thinking that is successful in explaining everyday and “freaky” phenomena, but on the other hand it seems to fail in addressing and explaining the most pressing economic matters. Could a science that cannot answer its core questions explain the logic of life?

The aim of the present symposium is to get a handle on this confusing picture of economics. We invite papers that appraise, criticize, or evaluate the economics-made-fun genre from the perspective of the nature, scope and success (or failure) of economics as a science. Papers that focus on the methodology, philosophy and ideology behind the economics-made-fun genre, its impact on research and public image of economics, as well as papers that put the genre in a historical perspective are welcome. We are also open to papers that focus on yet other aspects of the economics-made-fun-genre.

Keynote speakers (confirmed) are:
•    Robert H. Frank
•    Ariel Rubinstein 
•    Diana Coyle

There will be room for six more paper presentations. These will be selected from Abstracts submitted. The symposium will be held at Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands on 10-11 December 2010. The papers presented at the symposium will be published in a special issue of Journal of Economic Methodology and will eventually turn into a book.

Extended abstracts (500-1000 words) have to be sent to
[email protected]
before 15 June 2010.

Important dates:
•    15 June 2010 deadline  for abstract submissions
•    15 July 2010 notification of accepted/rejected abstracts
•    1 December 2010 deadline for sending the first draft of symposium papers
•    10-11 December 2010 Symposium

Additional information:

Some of the books that belong to the economics-made-fun genre may be listed as follows:

Freakonomics & Superfreakeconomics by Levitt  & Dubner (2005, 2009)
The Undercover Economist & The Logic of Life by Harford (2005, 2008)
More sex is safer sex by Landsburg (2007)
Discover  Your  Inner  Economist by Cowen (2007)
The  Economic Naturalist by Frank (2007)
The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters by Coyle (2007/2010)

Background paper:
Vromen, J. J. (2009) “The booming economics-made-fun genre: more than having fun, but less than economics imperialism”, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 2 (1): 70-99. Online:

Jack Vromen
Professor in Philosophy of Science and Methodology,
in particular of Economics
Dean of International Affairs
Academic Director of EIPE
(Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics)
Faculty of Philosophy
Erasmus University Rotterdam
3000 DR Rotterdam

Follow me on Twitter

Mark D. White

While I'm staying far away from Facebook, I have signed on to Twitter--you can follow me here. No frequent updates on my moods or meals, but I do tweet occasionally on new posts here and my blog at Psychology Today, as well as news about my publications and notable news items and cartoons.

Several recent tweets:

(The background is to promote one of my recent books: