Is It Time to End Tipping?

Today’s Wall Street Journal (Feb. 29, 2016, page R7; online version is here) printed  an article I wrote.  They asked me to be part of a debate on “Should tipping be eliminated in restaurants?”  I took the “yes” side.  This is a follow on article from the piece I wrote a year earlier in February 2015 (see the original piece here) that advocated the same idea. Continue reading

How do we know the Zika virus will cost the world $3.5 billion?

The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been declared a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” by the World Health Organization.  The virus not only appears to severely harm unborn children but is also hurting the economies of many Latin American and Caribbean countries. The World Bank estimates Zika will cost the world US$3.5 billion in 2016.

Three and a half billion dollars is a huge amount of money. How did the World Bank calculate this figure? How do we put a price tag on Zika and other health catastrophes like Ebola, dengue fever or even more common problems like the flu? Can we even trust these figures? Continue reading

How do we know if the world is in a global recession?

Since the start of this year, stock markets around the world have fallen as panicked investors have begun believing that the world is slipping into economic malaise.  This fear has also driven down prices of commodities like oil and copper and impelled some central banks, like Japan’s, to make dramatic efforts to boost growth. The concerns are being magnified by memories of the worldwide recession of 2008 and 2009, when many countries experienced widespread joblessness, business bankruptcies and homelessness.

While national and international leaders cannot prevent worldwide economic downturns, a coordinated response among them can mitigate some of the impact. But it’s hard to rally government resources to this cause without the ability to determine whether we are actually in a recession or not.

So how do we know when the world is in a recession and such a response is needed? Continue reading