The Economic Naturalist – By Robert H Frank


In yesterday ST, there was an article examining ‘How green is an e-reader?’ (by Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris from NYT). They did a thorough investigation, from materials (making of a book vs making of e-book), transportation (buying book online, driving to the bookshop etc), reading habits (books are greener for day time readers) and disposal, they concluded that to be truely green is to ‘start walking to your local library.’  This is in agreement to another article I read, which state that to be truely green, it is no use buying green products. The only green thing to do is to not buy or buy less.
 
Last Saturday, despite telling myself that I’m going green and not buying anymore books, I got Mike to drive Aaron and I to the MPH warehouse sale at expo. (Imagine the amount of carbon emitted driving from the west to the east.) In the end, we bought slightly more $200 worth of books. Aaron was pleased and so was I. He managed to get books at $7 average which would have cost me $30 at Borders. He also bought a few Agatha Christie’s Omnibus.
 
Me? I found a few non fiction books which sounded really interesting.  One of which is The Economic Naturalist – Why Economics Explains Almost Everything, by Robert H Frank, a university lecturer teaching Basic Econs. Robert Frank claims that Economics can explain many strange situations we encounter in everyday life, from product designs to sex appeal. The book is sectioned into many questions and answers are given based on economics principle.
 
Some interesting enigmas posed in the books are;
 
Why is there a light in your fridge but not in your freezer?
Why did Kamikaze wear helmets? (Since they are in a suicide mission)
Why is milk sold in a rectangular container and soft drinks in cylindrical cans?
Why is it easier to find a partner when you already have one?
Why are whales in danger of extinction but not chickens?
 
There is even one reference to Singapore.
Why do new luxury cars account for a higher proportion of cars sold in Singapore than in the US? (despite the fact that the average income in S’pore is 1/3 smaller than US).
 
And one often seen in Singapore, as in the recent news of the $900K HDB penthouse sold in Bishan.
Why are cost of apartments at higher floors more expensive than lower floor’s?
 
I shan’t explain the answers here. Truthfully, a few of the answers I can’t quite understand myself, me being an economic idiot. (Hint: Many answers rely on the cost-benefit principle, and others on arm-race principle.)
 
Still, the book proves a very interesting read. After asking my kids the questions above, they are all waiting in line to read it next.
 
 
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About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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3 Responses to The Economic Naturalist – By Robert H Frank

  1. Nabueh says:

    "Why no light in freezer?" When I turn on my garage lights in weather below the freezer temperature (below 10 F), the light doesn’t seem to go on or flickers a lot. So I think (with my limited science knowledge) it is very expensive to get a light that works in that temperature. OR maybe if it works (say with strong incandescent), it will heat up the freezer, thus bringing the cost of freezing the freezer up. That probably means the technology for cool light (light that emits no heat) has not existed yet.

  2. Nabueh says:

    "Why soft drink cylindrical and milk carton not?" This one is easy. Soft drink got gas right? So there’s pressure, right? So must use something round, lah! ( I even forced my students to calculate the cylindrical can with the cheapest material of a given fixed volume and they turned out to be the same exact size as a commercial coke can!) But the milk has no pressure (neither does natural orange juice), so optimal space is rectangle lah. But milk hor, is more complicated lah. If they design the gallon milk, it will not be so rectangular any more. The top has to be so that it’s easy to carry! :-)

  3. Vicky says:

    Prof Ong, your marks – 0/2. Hahaha

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