Mafia: Strength in Numbers

When you manage to gather a group of seven or more friends for an afternoon of idle amusement, the first thing that comes to mind, naturally, is to uncover old rivalries, trade loud barbs, and destroy the remaining fragile pretenses of camaraderie. Only that, perhaps, explicates the popularity of the party game Mafia; but knowledge of probability and social psychology …

The New Sociology of Economic Life

What Embeddedness Is ‘Economics,’ said Robert Lucas once, ‘cannot tell us much about the human character. It can, however, tell us about the choices we make given a particular set of preferences.’ This article tells the story of how a group of sociologists and anthropologists found the Lucas position untenable. Isn’t the point of social science to tell us about …

Making Money off the Poor: Business Models in the Developing World

In the heart of rural India, local farmers plow their land with the help of oxen, abide by tradition, and follow a local ‘sarpanch’ who arbitrates law and order. The villagers do not earn much selling their produce and are distanced from infrastructure where they might spend their earnings. Yet businesses such as Healthpoint and for-profit lenders thrive in this …

Fractal Finance: A Rogue Mathematician’s Search for Answers

How do you measure the rough and jagged coastline of the United Kingdom? Or the sharp, seemingly arbitrary rise and fall of a stock-price? To the layperson, the answer to the first question might seem a straightforward matter of getting on a boat and making a trip. 1 The answer to the second question might be observing the markets for …

The Financial Literacy Movement

According to the 2011 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey Final Report, most Americans do not have financial plans or clear financial goals. Thirty-three percent of US adults, for instance, do not have any non-retirement savings. More than half of US adults do not maintain a budget or track expenditures. With 3.8 million foreclosures in 20106, an average of $25,250 of student …

Kellogg Under Fire: Have Advertisements Gone Too Far?

This year’s outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu has triggered various controversies, especially with respect to the necessity and safety of the vaccine recently made available to the general public. Although such health concerns are understandable and valid, a less rational argument has also surfaced. At the center of this debate is the Kellogg Company, the nation’s largest cereal maker …