Over at the Upshot, Dean Karlan, an economics professor at Yale and the founder of Innovations for Poverty Action, offers a utilitarian's guide to the World Cup. "The basic principle is simple," he says. "Root for the outcome that will produce the largest aggregate increase in happiness."
In practice, this means taking into account three things: How much a country cares about soccer. How poor it is. And how populous it is.
The methodology, which Karlan describes in detail, can be quibbled with. It uses Google searches as a rough measure of passion for the sport, for instance — but there are obvious problems with comparing Google searches in the United States, where Google is dominant and broadband is widespread, with Google searches in countries where broadband access is rarer, internet usage is monitored, and local search engines are more prevalent.
Still, the basic conclusion seems sound: Nigeria deserves your support because they're so much poorer, and so much more soccer obsessed, than any other country that comes even close to them in population. "Simply put, the Nigerians have a lot of very passionate, low-income people who are ready to celebrate Nigerian success. Nigeria finishes with a far higher score than any other country," Karlan writes.
What? You don't want people to be happy?
The whole post is a fascinating way to think about the World Cup, but the analysis, as Karlan shows, makes profound points beyond the World Cup, too. Read it.