Dear Economist

You may be surprised to receive a question from a 13-year-old reader of the FT, but I always steal the weekend paper from my father, who is an economics professor.

Everyone in my family is well educated, which is why simple dinner chit-chat usually segues into an exuberant discussion chock full of sarcasm, wit and the occasional clash of opinions. Being the youngest gives me some leeway if I happen to be misinformed. But it also makes it hard to express my opinion on the topics being discussed.

Is there any way I could let myself be heard without having to throw a teenage tantrum?

Abisha Dowla

The answer to this question can be read here. Please post comments below.

My daily journey requires a change of train at Mumbai station, which is extremely crowded. One day I was in a hurry and jumped into first class without a ticket.

As luck would have it, the inspector arrived. I admitted I did not have a ticket and paid Rs258 (£3.60) as a fine – hefty compared with an Rs8 one-way ticket.

I have always been a risk taker – I’m an economics student – and now I do not fear the inspector or the fine. I decided I would travel ticket-less for a further 15 days, by which time I would have received all the journeys which I could have bought for Rs258. Should I continue to travel in this way? Do fines work as a deterrent?

Ela Bodas

The answer to this question can be read here. Please post comments below.

For the past year I’ve been looking for a new job in banking. No matter what I did or to whom I talked, there were no opportunities and I received nothing but rejections.

One month ago, it began to turn. As of this week, I have five job offers – as well as one internal opportunity. How could this happen? Yes, the economic situation has improved, but can that explain the leap from zero to six offers? If so, aren’t employers completely irrational in their hiring policies? As my supply is completely inelastic, their increased demand means that they now have to pay a significant mark-up compared with six months ago. Are employers just bad at planning or is there another reason why my dry spell has come to such a sudden and inflationary end?

In Demand

The answer to this question can be read here. Please post comments below.

I announce the General Theory of Affection Monopoly, and, like Keynes, I place the emphasis on the prefix “general”. Individual producers can collude and earn monopoly profits; Opec is the popular example. On a microeconomic level, individuals can collude to enhance “profits”. The General Theory of Affection Monopoly explains that women collude in an attempt to maximise profits.

In a monopoly, the producer restricts supply to maximise profit. By far, women in aggregate are the largest producers of affection for men. Therefore, women collude and restrict the supply of their affection to extract profit.

Are men hopeless consumers, like the western world with its oil requirement? How do we engage in a productive counter-policy to mitigate this threat?

Mike, New York

The answer to this question can be read here. Please post comments below.

With yet another one of my relationships in the toilet, I find myself back on the internet dating websites. I have long been confused by the strategy of women on these sites. As a man, I am seeking to convey, modestly, that I have a good, stable job and that I am not a weirdo.

I have no idea what most of the women are on about on the site – most of them have paragraphs of drivel, punctuated with statements such as: “I like going to the theatre and for walks in museums” or “I want a creative man”.

Do the women not realise that most men look at their photos and get in touch with the fit ones? I have a reasonable level of success, so I must be on to something. Why do they waste so much time with their reams of gibberish?

Digital Lover

The answer to this question can be read here. Please post comments below.

I am a diligent worker and an avid reader of your column. I have, however, become a victim of imperfect information. I am about to do my first-year exams and have just found out that not only should I have been reading your articles, but the whole of the FT and The Economist as well. I may not have substituted enough leisure for work and fear I am about to pay the price. What should I do? And would it be right for a journalist of high calibre to use his perfect information to suggest articles on macro and micro economics over the past year?

Will, Cambridge

The answer to this question can be read here. Please post comments below.

I am an Indian but my country never qualifies for the World Cup. I usually support the Netherlands because I am a fan of Dutch football. But this year is different, because I work in England, pay my taxes here and feel that if England wins the World Cup it will lead to positive externalities for me. My boss may go easy on me, the general mood of the country will lift and even the looming spending cuts may feel more bearable. But should I sacrifice my love of Dutch football for the sake of my stake in the British economy?

Deepan Banati, London

The answer to this question can be read here. Please post comments below.

Just a note to all loyal readers that “Dear Undercover Economist” is now available in paperback in the UK, with a hefty chunk of new material including almost a year’s worth of extra columns and a “readers answer back” section. If you like the column do please consider buying dozens of copies…

I consider myself a good documentary photographer, but my full-time job is in another field. I want to start a career in wedding photography, so I need to build a portfolio. But how?

I tried to offer a cut-rate service that basically covers the production cost. No luck.

My theory is: this is a glamorous business, like Hollywood. If you are the client, you probably won’t worry about cost unless you’re on a shoestring. You won’t trust a new start-up on a unique event. If you are on a shoestring, you probably won’t look at a professional photographer’s price list.

I have considered offering myself as a free assistant or second shooter. But as you may notice, wedding photographers are like plumbers – they have quite a local base. I doubt they would want to help out a competitor in their own back yard. So how do I get started?

Camera for hire

The answer to this question can be read here. Please post comments below.

While on a brief break in Devon, I was sitting in a coffee shop that provides free wireless internet access. As the lunch hour approached, the proprietor asked me to vacate the table for four because he wanted it to be free for a lunch party. This made me feel as though he didn’t really appreciate my being there – even as a paying customer.

Should the coffee shop offer wireless internet access if it isn’t willing to accept the opportunity cost associated with it?

Jon Upton, Paris, France

The answer to this question can be read here. Please post comments below.

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Publishing schedule: Excerpts from "The Undercover Economist" and "Dear Economist", Tim's weekly columns for the FT Magazine, are published on this blog on Saturday mornings.
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