Thursday, June 28, 2018

econlife - The U.S. Army’s War Against the Vegas Golden Knights by Elaine Schwartz

A college and the U.S. Army are trying to prevent the Vegas Golden Knights from getting a trademark. About much more than a hockey team, the dispute involves how much we control our name.

The Three Golden Knights

As an expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights just played their first year and astoundingly made it to the Stanley Cup finals. You can see below that the pre-game excitement and pageantry are connected to their name:

The Vegas Golden Knights’s trademark application at the USPTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) has been opposed by the College of Saint Rose whose Division II NCAA teams are called Golden Knights. Similarly, the U.S. Army’s Parachute team says it would be harmed if a hockey team had the trademark rights. They remind us that they have been known as the Golden Knights for close to 50 years.

The college teams’ logo:

Responding, the Vegas Golden Knights point out, “we are not aware of a single complaint from anyone attending our games that they were expecting to see the parachute team and not a professional hockey game.”

You can get a sense of what will unfold during the next year from these deadlines:

Our Bottom Line: Intellectual Property
We can say that a trademark dispute is a battle over intellectual property. Just like a bond or a house, you can own your name. And just like all property in a market economy, the government has to be willing to guarantee those ownership rights.

The debate over intellectual property rights dates way back to Alexander Hamilton during the 1790s. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton hoped to foster invention and protect infant industries through a patent system. The tough part though is identifying the boundaries of your intellectual property. Deliberations at the USPTO reputedly will relate to the potential for confusion and name dilution. They also will consider whether people will mistakenly perceive a connection between the Vegas team and the others.

So where are we? We can imagine a boundary line around some intellectual property. If the U.S. Army and the College of Saint Rose get a favorable resolution, that property line will be much larger than what the Vegas Golden Knights believe it should be.

My sources and more: Thanks to Michael Katz for alerting me to the Golden Knights case. If you just want more of the facts, SBNation and sportslogos have the perfect summary and some fascinating details. Meanwhile, the Washington Post has the basics about the team.

Do note that tonight is Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final between the Knights and the Capitals.

Ideal for the classroom, reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Media Literacy by Jim Triplett

I was out with my family at a restaurant recently and could not help notice how many people were glued to their smartphones rather than engaging in conversation with those seated at their table.  I see this in my classrooms as students enter, find their seats, and wait for class to begin.  Students use their smartphones to connect with others, and they increasingly use them for learning activities; however, just because they are skilled at using their phones to stay connected, they should be careful to not assume this skill applies to information and media literacy. 

Media literacy is one's ability to utilize, examine, and analyze the media. This requires that he or she conduct research and compare information found with different sources using a critical lens. As part of the examination, it is important to evaluate bias within the media and explore how these views impact the information that is reported (Paul & Elder, 2008).  
Media literacy is also important because a good portion of our decision-making today is based on current information typically delivered by social media, among others.

Since social media is a significant source of current events for many, one within which confirmation bias is present, there exists a need for a critical lens for everyday decision-making by those who use it regularly. Confirmation bias is when people look for information that coincides with their established opinion, which can prevent a person from considering plausible views others hold.   Confirmation bias is also referred to as a form of self-deception, as noted in this Psychology Today article.

Media literacy involves knowing how to sort information into what is and is not valid and reliable, and it also involves being aware of the potential for confirmation bias (it can be very subtle).  Actively seeking opposing views is one strategy to address this form of bias.  Another involves creating a process by which information is assessed for validity and reliability, such as whether or not the messenger is credible and if he or she has a vested interest in advancing the information.

Consider who is on your friends list with one or more social media applications to which you subscribe.  Ask yourself where confirmation bias may be present in information you receive and how you may develop effective media literacy skills.

Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2008). The thinker's guide for conscientious citizens on how to detect media bias & propaganda in national and world news. Dillon Beach: CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking Press.

Jim Triplett is an author, instructional designer, and instructor in the areas of finance, economics, ethics, and critical thinking. Jim holds Masters Degrees in Finance, Organizational Leadership, and Instructional Design Technology, is ABD / PhD in Organization and Management, and is currently completing a doctoral degree, Ed.D, in Educational Leadership with a focus on Educational Technology.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

econlife - All You Need to Know About Doughnuts by Elaine Schwartz

Last Friday you could have gotten a free doughnut at Walmart, Krispy Kreme, and Dunkin’ Donuts. The reason? Since 1938, the first Friday in June has been National Doughnut Day.

At Dunkin’ Donuts you had to buy a beverage to get a “free” donut:


Krispy Kreme gave one per customer:


If only I had known.

But there is more to find out about the doughnut.

Donut Economics

We could call the 1920s the era of the consumer. For the first time, people could buy affordable nylon stockings, canned pineapple, and radios. They could also get a mass produced doughnut because of a Bulgarian immigrant.

Adolph Levitt’s story starts with the small batches of doughnuts he was making in his Manhattan bakery shop window on 125th Street. Although the doughnuts were popular, people complained about the fumes. So, with help from an engineer, he devised what he called the Wonderful Almost Human Automatic Doughnut Machine. Pictured below, it formed, plopped, and fried rings of dough that could become 1,000 identical doughnuts in one hour.

This is a 1922 advertisement for Levitt’s Display Doughnut Machine Corporation. (I’ve added the notes in pink.):


Some describe Levitt’s machine as the first while others say there were many when his was created. Whichever story is accurate, our key is that Levitt helped to speed doughnut mass production. Selling the machines and donut mix, he soon had a multi-million dollar business.

In 1934, doughnuts played a role in the Clark Gable/Claudette Colbert classic, “It Happened One Night.” Do take a look at this twenty-eight second clip. You can see why Gable is a legend:

Our Bottom Line: Mass Production

To end with doughnuts, we need to start with Adam Smith. In his Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith described the benefits of mass production. Focusing on one pin factory, he showed how a division of labor saved time, elevated production, and diminished each item’s cost. Smith told us that one worker, alone, might not even produce a single pin. But when 10 workers divide 18 different tasks and each one specializes, output soars to a whopping 48,000 pins a day. Then, once you have all of those pins, trade and regional specialization develop. But we will save that story for another day.

For now, we can return to doughnuts. Krispy Kreme tells us that one of their larger stores can produce 12,000 doughnuts an hour–quite enough for National Doughnut Day.

This is how we mass produce doughnuts today:

My sources and more: Happily, there exists more doughnut research than I ever imagined, but sadly, it was not academically rigorous. Still, if you want some interesting doughnut reading, the best is on the shrinking size of the doughnut hole from Vox.


From there, you could continue with this Smithsonian history, this Marketplace podcast, and Adolph Levitt’s granddaughter’s NY Times article. Meanwhile, here is more about one of the first doughnut machines.

Please note that today’s featured image is from

Ideal for the classroom, reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

econlife - Do Mandatory Calorie Labels Matter? by Elaine Schwartz

Through the calorie count labels required by the Affordable Care Act, regulators hope we will consume less fattening food.

But before we consider the impact of the mandate, let’s look at an alternative…

Activity Equivalent Labels

Some say activity equivalent labels are more meaningful then calories.

To burn the calories in five chicken wings, you would need to jog for an hour:

One serving of pasta salad would necessitate 30 minutes of situps:

And, you could offset the calories in three chocolate chip cookies with a long power yoga session:

Instead of exercise, though, larger U.S. restaurant chains are posting their calorie count equivalents.

The Calorie Label Mandate

According to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, 2011 was the year that specified food vendors and restaurant chains with more than 20 locations had to post calorie counts. One reason for the delay was “Big Pizza’s” resistance. Domino’s even said that their custom pizzas could have 34 million calorie permutations. (Is that possible?)

But still, the regulators persisted and yesterday, the mandate began. The FDA summarized what we can expect from them:

However, no one is quite sure about the impact.

Our Bottom Line: Supply and Demand


On the supply side, we do know how some firms have responded to mandatory calorie labels in the past. Eater tells us that a Johns Hopkins study found more lower calorie food options were offered. Similarly, NPR reported that Starbucks was offering smaller pastries with lower calorie counts.

However, Domino’s cal-o-meter was most interesting. Do note that their serving metric for a meal is a single slice. Consequently, a hand-tossed Ultimate Pepperoni 10″ pizza has just 250 calories…if you eat one-sixth of it.


As for demand, I wonder if our response to calorie counts echoes how we usually compare short term benefit and long term cost. The pleasure from chicken wings, pasta salad, and chocolate chip cookies makes it easy to ignore future health problems.

So, returning to where we began, perhaps an “activity equivalent” would not meaningfully change our preference for short term pleasure.

Here are more activity equivalents:

My sources and more: Perfect calorie focused overviews, this Vox article and MarketWatch have it all. But if you want to read more, Eater and CNN and the Washington Post each had a different perspective.

Our featured image is from Ed Ou/AP through an NPR story.

Ideal for the classroom, reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

From the Homeschool Front … How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Seventeen years ago, I left a career as a research analyst at a local public policy think tank to stay home with my first child. Our plan was that I would return to work once our youngest child was in school. When we started homeschooling, this plan fell by the wayside. Since my children are getting more independent in their schooling, I would like to get back into policy research part time from home. However, my time at home with them left me with a tremendous gap in my resume. This summer I had the opportunity to bridge that gap.

I worked as a Research Fellow at the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank. This involved moving across the state for the summer, which I was able to do since my husband works from home and my oldest daughter has her license. It is a very strange experience to go from being a homeschooling mother of four to being single and childless and working full time. As you can imagine, it was a learning experience for us all.

For my part, I had a chance to immerse myself in research and writing, which I love to do. I also learned about various public policies, networking, social media, and more. Most participants in the program were recent graduates, so it was interesting to see their perspective on different topics. Much of what I learned will help my kids, too, as they prepare for college and beyond. In the coming months, I’ll share on this blog some of the resources that I discovered.

My summer away was also a great learning experience for my children, who range in age from 11 – 17. They were responsible for their own laundry and were largely in charge of meals and grocery shopping. They coordinated their own schedules (with approval from my husband or me) and had to stay on top of their activities and outings. While they enjoyed the Independence at first, by the end of the summer they were ready to have me running the show again. (Although I think I’ll let them continue doing their own laundry. I’ve enjoyed laundry for one instead of six this summer!)

While the practical lessons we learned this summer were important, the biggest benefits were perhaps less tangible. I gained a new appreciation for being able to stay home and raise my children. It wasn’t the best financial move, but the time I’ve had with them has been worth the struggles. My Research Fellow participation also set a good example for them. It can be scary to try something new, such as moving away for the summer and being the only “old” person in the program. It was beneficial for my kids to see me overcome my trepidation and successfully complete the program.

A common theme among most homeschoolers is that education isn’t confined to what our society thinks of as “school.” Last summer was certainly evidence of that for my family.   

Colleen Hroncich loves that homeschooling allows her to learn right alongside her children. A published author and former policy analyst, Colleen’s favorite subjects are economics/public policy and history. She has been active in several homeschool co-ops and is a speech and debate coach.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

That's a wrap on the izzit-Quizzit Contest....

WOW!!! You guys are awesome! 30,000 online quizzes taken for the izzit-Quizzit Contest!!🤩

Congratulations to all our winners! We hope you all have a fantastic summer and we'll see you next year!!!😎

Check out the winners here.

econlife - Why We Need Holey Cow and Other Cheesy Names by Elaine Schwartz

More than 30 years ago, an Italian family and two master cheesemakers moved to the United States. Preserving their great grandfather’s legacy in Wisconsin, the family produced traditional Italian cheeses like Parmesan.

The brand was BelGioioso:

But now, they might have to stop calling it Parmesan.

EU Cheese Naming Rights

Our story starts in an EU (European Union) book of regulations. Including Parma ham, Dutch Gouda and Champagne, each product in a 1000+ list has the exclusive right to its name. The privileges are called PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), and TSG (Traditional Specialties Guaranteed). But let’s just call it GIs (Geographical Indications).

The battle over GIs has been raging for decades. In 2005, a fight about feta ended with Greek cheesemakers winning. From then onward, in the EU, no one could place the feta label on an identical cheese that wasn’t Greek. Instead, a Danish dairy cooperative resorted to calling its feta “salad cheese” or “white cheese.”

U.S. Cheese Naming Rights

Of course, a Wisconsin cheesemaker can call its cheese Parmesan in the U.S.

The problem starts when they want to sell it elsewhere. Ranging from Mexico to Japan and South Korea, a host of nations are signing free trade agreements with the EU that exclude the U.S. Because many of those agreements extend the reach of GI restrictions to each signatory, our cheesemakers suffer. A U.S. producer saw sales plunge when he had to call his Asiago cheese, “Sartiago.”

Others though have been a bit more creative. A California cheesemaker called its Emmenthaler-like cheese Holey Cow:

Our Bottom Line: Competitive Market Structures

Looking through an economic lens, we can see the benefit of the GI designation. From monopolistic competition among many small producers, the EU trademark protection moves the product to the right along a competitive market structure continuum.

And, like the monopoly that it is nearing, the firm with name protection has more price making power:

My sources and more: This WSJ article and Modern Farmer reminded me that it was time for an update on cheese names. Meanwhile, the feta story came from Reuters and I learned about BelGioioso from their website. However, if you just visit one mouthwatering link, do go to Cowgirl Creamery for great cheese names and taste. I recommend Mt. Tam and reading the Cowgirl story.

Ideal for the classroom, reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.