36 Days To Go: The Universal Message of Christmas

This series has spent a lot of time on the true meaning of Christmas. In that spirit, we present the following videos. Since 2005, the famous TED conference has announced three annual prize winners, each of whom is given $100,000 and asked to deliver “one wish to change the world.” 2008 winner Karen Armstrong is one of my favorite theologians. She is a former Catholic nun who rose to prominence by comparing the Abrahamic religions with an engaging writing style. I haven’t yet read her latest book, The Case for God, but as Tyler Cowen says, it’s self-recommending. Her wish to change the world was for diverse religious leaders to agree on a “Charter of Compassion,” a set of universal morals that we can all live by. It’s hard to imagine a better way to continue our meditation on the true meaning of Christmas.

In response to this wish, TED asked six speakers from very different backgrounds to address compassion from their philosophy. You should carve out some time this weekend to listen to all six, but if you can only listen to one or two, step out of your comfort zone by listening to the ones that are most distant from your own philosophy or religion.   Continue reading “36 Days To Go: The Universal Message of Christmas”

37 Days To Go: What’s in a Name?

We’re a little behind on the Trading 8s Christmas Countdown, but maybe we shouldn’t be calling it that at all. Heck, I’m not even sure if a majority of our contributors are Christian!

Nothing rankles Christian Americans like the suggestion that “Merry Christmas!” is an offensive phrase. But the implications are even bigger than that. According to my favorite business school, the word has inserted itself into the wild world of capitalism too:   Continue reading “37 Days To Go: What’s in a Name?”

38 Days To Go: In the Spirit of Giving…

This is the most important post in our entire Christmas series, so please give it your time and attention.

We at Trading 8s are asking you to join us in lending a helping hand during this charitable season. Below you will find three donation buttons. Each is for a different nonprofit organization. Please click one of the buttons and give whatever you can.

To repeat, we are asking you to give anything. $1 is an acceptable donation. For those of us who are blessed to have a roof over our heads and loved ones to share the holidays with, there is no excuse not to take 60 seconds to give so little of ourselves.   Continue reading “38 Days To Go: In the Spirit of Giving…”

39 Days To Go: The Economics of Christmas

(I unintentionally buried the lede on this one, so before you read anything, buy this book as a Christmas present for the economics buffs in your life.)

j8972Economists have nightmares about deadweight loss. To anyone else, it sounds like something FedEx screwed up or maybe an unfortunate bridge construction, but in the world of supply and demand, it means a loss of economic efficiency.

Let’s not get into how to define efficiency.* All you need to know is when the market is providing anything less than the optimal output at the optimal price, there is deadweight loss, and somewhere an economist is weeping.

You can see how an economist might want to measure deadweight loss when taxes are imposed on a market or when a monopolist charges sky-high prices. Yawn.

In 1993, Wharton economist Joel Waldfogel published a paper in the American Economic Review titled “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas.” I mention the journal because AER is in the top tier of economic research. This was no silly academic exercise. Waldfogel calculated just how bad we are at gift-giving, and how much it costs the economy. Are you ready for this? The final bill in 1992 came to $4 to $13 billion. That’s not how much we spend. That’s how much we waste.   Continue reading “39 Days To Go: The Economics of Christmas”

40 Days To Go: What Should You Buy for the Art-Lover in Your Life?

51+U+y09CwL._SL500_AA240_Answer: Umberto Eco‘s new book The Vertigo of Lists.

Eco was ranked #2 on the famous “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” list. He has recently been invited to serve as Guest Curator at the Louvre, where he has chosen as his theme “the phenomenon of cataloging and collecting.” Provocatively, he has claimed, “We make lists because we don’t want to die.” Click here to find out what he means.

Eco is an Italian philosopher, novelist, semiotician, and medievalist whose 1988 book Foucault’s Pendulum has been called “the thinking man’s Da Vinci Code.” Naturally, when Dan Brown took the writing world by storm, Eco was called upon to give his opinion. The resulting essay (one of my favorites) is good food for thought as we count down toward Christmas:   Continue reading “40 Days To Go: What Should You Buy for the Art-Lover in Your Life?”