Since late January I have been traveling almost weekly to present papers at colleges and universities or attend conferences where I am giving a talk. This non-stop tour of the US will not come to an end until July. I actually don't think I have ever traveled as much in such a short span of time in my career.
I love meeting with new people and also talking to older friends during these travels, but I do not like traveling in the least bit. Don't like airports and certainly find all the hassles of traveling and security to be annoying. But as I am traveling this winter/spring, I have become obsessed with an observation and doing some counting in my head to perform some rough and ready "test" of my hypothesis.
Before I go into my observation, allow me a short detour in time. One of the most important courses I ever took was not even a class I took for credit. I sat in on the lectures of Sheila Kirby of Rand, who was teaching Intermediate Microeconomics using Hirschleifer's texts. She was an outstanding teacher, and for whatever reason she actually would stay after lectures and talk to this student who was not even registered in her class about economics and its power to explain human behavior. And in addition to the text and lectures, I read two journal articles that had a huge impact on me and the way I thought about market theory and the price system. The first was R. A. Radford's The Economic Organization of P.O.W. Camp, and the second was Fred Bell's The Pope and the Price of Fish. The take away -- spontaneous order guided by relative price adjustments and profit and loss accounting.
So now back to my travels. Most of my flights originate during the week, so I am traveling with businessmen (and business women but for this observation they don't enter the analysis). Many of these men are making trips for meetings that day, so they are dressed for business as they travel. The traditional footwear of businessmen in suits is the Oxford wing-tips. Such shoes, however, require the shoe-laces to be tied. Since Richard Reid's failed efforts at shoe-bombing, airline security measures have tightened and travelers are now required to take off their shoes before walking through the scanner. This has raised the price of wearing shoes that have laces. So I have noticed that businessmen have shifted out of the traditional wing-tip and moved to dress loafers. My calculations actually have this at 3/4 businessmen are wearing shoes that don't require laces. This has led me to think a Pope and the Price of Fish type study could be done on shoe wear and changes in TSA requirements after Richard Reid. I hope an enterprising graduate student will pick this up and see if my observation has any validity --- you know what do I think, what do I know, what can I prove.
If it turns out that my observation is backed up by economic analysis, then I might start thinking about the potential effects of the failed underwear bomber on traveler behavior!