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Lauren Bryant
Editor, Research & Creative Activity magazine

Last modified: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring issue of IU research magazine focuses on money

April 14, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Just in time for tax day, the spring 2010 issue of Indiana University's Research & Creative Activity magazine delves into the many facets of money. Who has it? Who doesn't? Why do we horde it? Why do we give it away? What is money, anyway? Does virtual money count? And of course, what about taxes?

In "Once and Future Taxes," nationally recognized sales-tax expert John Mikesell says the impact of the present recession has been grim. States budgets rely heavily on taxes from income and sales, the very sources hit hardest when the economy is struggling. "The major state taxes have all been devastated by the recession," says Mikesell. "Across the country, there are virtually no bright spots."

Although there may be rays of hope in regulation and stimulus money, economist Eric Leeper points to dire circumstances, too. "The longer we persist in living the fantasy that government offers a free lunch, that we can get government services without raising the taxes to pay for them, the bigger the adjustment must be," he says in "Econ 101, And Then Some."

Utpal Bhattacharya studies the kinds of "inexplicable" behavior behind much of the recent economic crisis. In "Inside Insider Trading," Bhattacharya discusses research findings that overturn standard economic assumptions about why people illegally buy and sell shares based on company-owned information. "Insider trading is a narrow thing, but it encapsulates all the tensions of the financial system," he says.

Not all IU researchers look at the down sides of money, though. In "The Migration of Generosity," Una Osili, of the Center on Philanthropy at IU, discusses international giving, especially how the world's many cultures of giving are changing under the influence of technology such as mobile phones. According to Osili and the center's research team, Americans made $518 million in charitable donations during the first two weeks following the January earthquake in Haiti, including approximately $24 million donated to the American Red Cross in just one week through cell-phone texting.

If the world's economy seems precarious, that's not the case online, says virtual-worlds expert Edward Castronova in "Play Money." Gamers buying and selling virtual goods in a make-believe worlds online constitute an economy that's "as 'real' as the economy in the flesh-and-blood world," Castronova says. "The currency and goods and services may exist only in the game world, but within that universe, there's an economy that functions pretty much like ours."

Inside a virtual world or not, online commerce is a world of "buyer beware," says commercial law expert Sara Jane Hughes in "Keeping up with E-Commerce." "Consumers need to educate themselves about the benefits and pitfalls of doing business online," she says. "You wouldn't sell your car with no way of knowing if the check will clear. It's the same thing online -- you have to be cautious."

Elsewhere in the issue, recent Nobel Prize-winner Elinor Ostrom shares her thoughts in Q&A on climate change, governance, trust and how to solve the office "refrigerator problem." Composer Erich Stem shares his thinking on how making money in the music industry has changed, while statistics and decision sciences expert Wayne Winston talks about money in the world of sports. Information technology professor and entrepreneur Ali Jafari reflects on the $100-million-dollar success story behind start-up company ANGEL Learning Inc.; cultural historian Rebecca Spang talks about money's material side; and consumer ethics specialist David Craig offers thoughts on how we can spend our money well.

The "Money" issue and back issues of R&CA magazine are available online at

About Research & Creative Activity magazine

Research & Creative Activity magazine, published by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Indiana University, is intended to stimulate greater awareness of and appreciation for the diverse scholarly and creative activities of conducted by IU faculty across the campuses of Indiana University.