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A Nice Complement

Jim Wasserman

Jim is a former business litigation attorney who taught economics and humanities for 20 years. He's the author of a three-book series on how to teach elementary, middle and high school students about behavioral economics and media literacy. He has authored several educational children's books, including "Summa," a children's story for multiracial, multi-ethnic and multicultural families. Jim lives in Texas with his wife and fellow HumbleDollar contributor, Jiab. Together, they are currently working on a book, “Your Third Life: Reflections on Finding Our Way by Taking the Long Route.”

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A Nice Complement

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 12, 2021

THE RIGHT PARTNER is not one whose outlook is the same as yours, but rather one whose outlook complements you. For me and my wife Jiab, we agree on shopping decisions most of the time. When we disagree, however, it’s due to each of our “leans.” I lean toward spending a bit more money to save time. To be finished with shopping, I’ll say at some point that what we’ve found is good enough.

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Shared Spaces

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 10, 2021

WHEN YOU’RE STUCK in traffic, have you ever idly wished for another lane to ease the congestion?
Not long ago, I listened to a podcast about the eternal problem of highway congestion in Texas, especially in the Dallas-Houston-San Antonio triangle. The expert said that our fundamental problem is that planners think of traffic as a liquid, so their answer to flow problems is always to “build a bigger pipeline”—meaning more highways.
Traffic, however, behaves less like a liquid and more like a gas.

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No Point Shouting

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 5, 2021

TEACHERS SHARE space with people who aren’t as knowledgeable or understanding of a subject as they are. Sometimes, students will display incredible depths of ignorance. Most students try, but there are some who are unwilling to meet a teacher even halfway. Worst of all are the insolent ones. Proud of their ignorance, they dismiss the subject—and the teacher—with not-so-veiled disrespect.
You know what a good teacher does in the face of all this? She takes a moment,

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Let’s Be Honest

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 3, 2021

THE GREEN KNIGHT is a new, Arthurian-age fantasy film that was released at the end of July. The crux of the story: The Green Knight offers a challenge at King Arthur’s court. He will allow any knight to take a swing at him with his great axe, as long as that knight agrees to receive a blow a year and a day later. Sir Gawain, one of the youngest of the Round Table,

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YouTube, Your Child

Jim Wasserman  |  Aug 28, 2021

I’VE HEARD SOME parents say that, while they don’t like their kids watching online videos, at least they aren’t being exposed to the ads that inundate kids on regular TV.
Nope. Advertising is at least as pervasive, and definitely more insidious, on the web. Kids have shifted from network television to web-viewing, and advertisers have trailed right behind them with Willie Sutton logic—because that’s where the money is.
YouTube is the most popular video streaming site in the world.

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Catastrophic Care

Jim Wasserman  |  Aug 17, 2021

YOUR PETS CAN’T TELL you when they don’t feel well, and yet somehow they do.
One of our cats, Sangria, seemed to have no energy for several days. Part Siamese, she’s usually a loud crier. But lately she’d taken to quietly hiding in a closet. My wife Jiab—the cat attendant responsible for intake—reported her eating as normal. I, in charge of the litter box, noticed that outflow was a bit irregular. We thought it would pass.

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Fear Some

Jim Wasserman  |  Aug 14, 2021

FEAR GETS A BAD RAP. From the old No Fear apparel line to mantras such as “only bad decisions come from fear,” our society seems to say that fear is always the creator of regrettable decisions.
I disagree. I think we need to distinguish between irrational and rational fear. Irrational fear is worrying that all strangers are a threat or believing that stepping out of your comfort zone is too fraught with peril to make it worthwhile.

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Not a Capital Idea

Jim Wasserman  |  Aug 11, 2021

THE AMERICAN DREAM. Rags to riches. The self-made man—or woman.
Everyone growing up in the U.S. is told of these ideals. We are sharks who must keep moving to survive. The only acceptable direction is up. We do it for ourselves, believing happiness is just over the next hill of “more.” We do it for our family because providing is an act of caring.
If there’s a least-debated rule in economics, however, it’s that everything comes at a cost.

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Cold Comfort

Jim Wasserman  |  Jul 31, 2021

IT HAD BEEN A WHILE since we’d last shopped for a refrigerator. There was a time when such an appliance merely kept things cold and, for me, fancy meant the fridge could deliver crushed ice for my iced tea.
But today, there are all kinds of features. French-door style. Sub-area climate controls. The big new thing: see-through doors so you can choose without staring into an open fridge—a favorite pastime of my youth on hot Texas days.

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Wooden Spoons

Jim Wasserman  |  Apr 16, 2021

WE ARE STARTING from scratch. After living in Spain for three years, Jiab and I have returned to Dallas to be closer to family. We still have a home here, but—when we left three years ago—we sold all our furniture, cars and many other possessions to reduce storage costs. Now we have to reacquire those things that make living possible.
Fortunately, Jiab and I share a similar outlook as we reaccumulate. That outlook is inspired by Thorstein Veblen,

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Chews Wisely

Jim Wasserman  |  Feb 26, 2021

THIS IS AN ARTICLE about not writing an article. It started with a Vox piece about the changes in society wrought by the 2007 introduction of the iPhone. One graph that caught my eye showed chewing gum sales steadily declining from 2007 to 2017, which was when the Vox article was published.
No economist would ever tie an economic trend to any one factor, but the article proffered an interesting hypothesis. It suggested that,

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Sinking Feeling

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 11, 2020

HOW MUCH WOULD you pay for $10? Taking my cues from a game developed by economist Martin Shubik, I’d offer to auction off a $10 bill to my high school students. There were three rules:

Students could only offer bids. No commentary, cooperation or deal-making were allowed.
The highest bidder paid me the money and received the $10.
The second-highest bidder had to pay me their final bid but got nothing.

I ran such auctions for 20 years and it almost always had three stages.

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Choice Words

Jim Wasserman  |  Jun 22, 2020

AS WE MAKE financial, political and other decisions, we’re bombarded with messages that supposedly offer helpful information. But as savvy consumers of news and advertising, we need to realize that we aren’t nudged just by the content of these messages. It’s also the packaging that can have a huge influence.
Below are 21 ways that information is packaged to make it more enticing. Think of this list as a follow-up to my earlier article,

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A Poisoned Chalice

Jim Wasserman  |  May 19, 2020

DUTCH DISEASE. Sound like something that might devastate your garden? In truth, it’s an economic term coined in by The Economist magazine in 1977—and it refers to the economic fallout that followed the 1959 discovery in the Netherlands of Europe’s largest natural gas field.
The natural resource was initially a great boon to the economy, causing the value of the Dutch currency—then the guilder—to rise sharply in the foreign exchange market. All good?

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Falling for Flattery

Jim Wasserman  |  Apr 13, 2020

ARE YOU WORTH IT? According to many sellers, you are—even if they have no idea who you are.
Economics generally divides consumed goods into necessities and luxuries. But behavioral economists understand that we need luxuries, at least psychologically. Purchasing things for ourselves is a way to self-validate, to say we are more than our base needs.
Who hasn’t felt good about an accomplishment and used that as a reason to splurge,

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