Here are eight fascinating things I read this week. 


South Korea got sick of companies hoarding cash, so it found a penalty

Starting next year, companies with paid-in capital exceeding 50 billion won ($48.6 million) -- about 4,000 large firms, or roughly 1% of all businesses -- will have to pay an additional 10% tax on their net profit after payments for investments, salaries and dividends, unless 60% to 80% of profit has been spent on those three items, or 20% to 40% of profit has been spent on salaries and dividends. 


AOL has a money factory: people paying for stuff they don't need:

The most amazing thing about AOL's business is the thing that drives AOL's business: Millions of people, who started paying the company a monthly fee for Internet access more than a decade ago, who continue to pay the company a monthly fee for Internet access, even though they likely aren't getting Internet access from AOL anymore. ... Here's how it makes that money: Getting a shrinking number of subscribers -- 2.34 million this quarter, down from 3.62 million at the beginning of 2011 -- to pay an increasing amount -- the average AOL subscriber now pays $20.86 per month, up from around $18 a few years ago.

First impressions

Investor Peter Thiel says never invest in someone wearing a suit:

"Maybe we still would have avoided these bad investments if we had taken the time to evaluate each company's technology in detail," Thiel says in his book. "But the team insight -- never invest in a tech CEO that wears a suit -- got us to the truth a lot faster."


The number of babies born in the United States declined each year from 2008 to 2012. It just last year started to rise again:


Americans still have a debt problem:

An estimated 1 in 3 adults with a credit history -- or 77 million people -- are so far behind on some of their debt payments that their account has been put "in collections." ... Among the states, Nevada had the highest percentage of residents with debt in collections -- 47%-as well as the highest average amount owed-$7,198. That was helped in part by the Las Vegas metro area, where 49% of residents had debt in collections.


Pre-industrial workers didn't work that hard:

There is considerable evidence of what economists call the backward-bending supply curve of labor -- the idea that when wages rise, workers supply less labor. During one period of unusually high wages (the late fourteenth century), many laborers refused to work "by the year or the half year or by any of the usual terms but only by the day." And they worked only as many days as were necessary to earn their customary income -- which in this case amounted to about 120 days a year, for a probable total of only 1,440 hours annually (this estimate assumes a 12-hour day because the days worked were probably during spring, summer and fall). A thirteenth-century estime finds that whole peasant families did not put in more than 150 days per year on their land. Manorial records from fourteenth-century England indicate an extremely short working year -- 175 days -- for servile laborers. Later evidence for farmer-miners, a group with control over their worktime, indicates they worked only 180 days a year.


For the first time since 2009, more than half of Americans don't think the economy is in recession: 

Half of those polled said the economy is improving, and 49% think the U.S. is still in a recession, down from 58% last summer and 77% in 2008. Sixty-four percent of those polled said they are still feeling some impact from the recession, down from the 71% who said they initially felt effects from the downturn when it began more than six years ago. Forty percent said someone in their household had lost a job over the last five years, and one of three said someone they live with was forced to take a job with a significantly lower income.


Ten-year-old Facebook is now a larger company than 104-year-old IBM:

Have a good weekend.