Class Notes

Category: Class Notes

McOutsourcing in Moscow

Solid New York Times piece on McDonald’s in Russia. To wit:

The company celebrated a different milestone earlier this year by outsourcing the last product — hamburger buns — it had made at a proprietary factory outside Moscow called McComplex. It was built before the chain opened its first restaurant. Nearly everywhere else, McDonald’s buys ingredients, rather than making its own. But in the Soviet Union, there simply were no private businesses to supply the 300 or so distinct ingredients needed by a McDonald’s outlet.

Everything — from frozen French fries to pie filling — had to be made from scratch at a sprawling factory.

McDonald’s is always a good lens through which to view the 118 or so countries where it operates. In the 20 years since McDonald’s arrived in Russia, enough private enterprises have sprung up to supply nearly every ingredient needed to operate one of its restaurants.

Today, private businesses in Russia supply 80 percent of the ingredients in a McDonald’s, a reversal from the ratio when it opened in 1990 and 80 percent of ingredients were imported.

Fascinating stuff. I could probably write an entire final exam around that passage.

Savings = Investment, Ebenezer Scrooge Edition

Before The Accidental Theorist, before Freakonomics, there was The Armchair Economist, and that’s Steven Landsburg.

In this Slate piece, Landsburg makes the case that Scrooge wasn’t such a bad guy, and that savings, in fact, might just be more virtuous than spending. To wit:

In this whole world, there is nobody more generous than the miser–the man who could deplete the world’s resources but chooses not to. The only difference between miserliness and philanthropy is that the philanthropist serves a favored few while the miser spreads his largess far and wide.

If you build a house and refuse to buy a house, the rest of the world is one house richer. If you earn a dollar and refuse to spend a dollar, the rest of the world is one dollar richer–because you produced a dollar’s worth of goods and didn’t consume them.

You will know you’ve arrived as an economist when you can annoy your brethren by expounding on the virtues of Scrooge over the holiday season. For more pithy advice from Landsburg, we’ll be using his text in Economics 300 next term.

See you there.