Saturday , October 21 2017
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Tim Harford: Undercover Economist

Fatal Attraction of Fake Facts Sours Political Debate

Fatal Attraction of Fake Facts Sours Political Debate He did it again: Boris Johnson, UK foreign secretary, exhumed the old referendum-campaign lie that leaving the EU would free up £350m a week for the National Health Service. I think we can skip the well-worn details, because while the claim is misleading, its main purpose is not to mislead but to distract. The growing popularity of this tactic should alarm anyone who thinks that the truth still matters. You don’t need to take...

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Echoes of a bygone age show Britain losing its sense of direction

Echoes of a bygone age show Britain losing its sense of direction “It’s that 1970s vibe again,” a senior colleague tells me. This being the Financial Times I presume he is picking up echoes of a bygone economic and political milieu, rather than gleefully anticipating the re-emergence of flares or X-rated movie theatres. Either way, it is hard to venture a firm opinion on the matter: as late as the 1990s, I was still at school. My recollection of James Callaghan is pretty hazy,...

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Why Thaler’s Nobel is a well-deserved nudge for behavioural economics

Why Thaler’s Nobel is a well-deserved nudge for behavioural economics Richard Thaler has won the Nobel memorial prize in economics, an award that had been anticipated for some time. Mr Thaler is a behavioural economist, one of the group of economists who applies insights from psychology, or perhaps plain common sense, into the idealised world of economic modelling. One trivial behavioural insight that Mr Thaler is fond of mentioning concerns a large bowl of cashew nuts he once...

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Behavioural economics books to enjoy

Behavioural economics books to enjoy Congratulations to Richard Thaler, who has been awarded the Nobel memorial prize in economics “for his contributions to behavioural economics”. Thaler is a worthy winner. In addition to his academic contributions, alongside the likes of Daniel Kahneman and Robert Shiller, he has been the leading evangelist in the profession for behavioural realism in economics. Thaler’s influence on policymakers has been unparalleled, in part thanks to his...

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True diversity means looking for the knife in a drawer of spoons

True diversity means looking for the knife in a drawer of spoons Forget the new year’s resolution: September, not January, is the time for new starts. College freshers are preparing to leave home, graduates are ironing shirts and blouses and dressing up for their first day in the office. Recruiters and admissions tutors are hoping they made the right choices. So how do we select the best people for a course or a job? It seems like a sensible question, yet it contains a trap. In...

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Messy – paperback publication day US

Messy – paperback publication day US The paperback of Messy is out in the US! You can order from Amazon here or find out more about the book and other places to buy here – or if you have a good local bookshop then please support it by picking up the book there. I had a lot of fun – and no small amount of heartache – writing the book. Tyler Cowen says it is my “best and deepest”; Brian Eno comments, “It’s a very very good book, full of wise counterintuitions and clever...

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When doing nothing is the best option

When doing nothing is the best option The leaders of the free world are returning from their holidays. Must they? Surely no good can come of this. While on vacation Donald Trump managed to eject most of his advisers, threaten a nuclear war with an unabashed North Korea, and display an unnerving willingness to see things from the Nazi point of view. Goodness knows what he will do now he’s fully back on the job. Theresa May returned from her Easter holiday with the splendid idea...

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Books about how to see into the future

Books about how to see into the future (One prediction I’m willing to make is that the US paperback edition of Messy is out on Wednesday. Buy buy buy! More about the book here.) Walter Friedman has a fascinating history of economic forecasting in the early 20th century: Fortune Tellers (UK) (US). Well researched, full of interesting detail, and some of these guys (Irving Fisher, Roger Babson) were remarkable characters. For an insight into Fisher’s rival as an economist and...

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Hunting for the 51st thing – suggestions for further reading or listening

Hunting for the 51st thing – suggestions for further reading or listening Loyal listeners and readers will know that Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy  is turning into Fifty-One Things, at least in radio form. We have a short-list of six candidates to be made into a special final episode. Please vote here before noon GMT on Friday 6 October 2017. But the loyal-of-loyal listeners might want some suggestions for further reading and/or listening. If you’d like to know more...

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Trump, Bannon, and the terrible lure of zero-sum thinking

Trump, Bannon, and the terrible lure of zero-sum thinking As visual metaphors go, it wasn’t bad: Donald Trump ignoring expert advice and risking calamity by staring up at the sun as the moon’s shadow passed across America. Self-destructiveness has become a habit for this president — and for his advisers. A recent example: former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called Robert Kuttner, a prominent progressive journalist, to declare that his internal foes in the...

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