Tim Harford The Undercover Economist


If it doesn’t fit anywhere else, it’s here.


Some upcoming talks

A few talks coming up – please contact event organisers for details if you would like to come:

3 Feb 2015: PPE Society, Oxford

5 Feb 2015: London School of Economics: “How to See Into The Future”

25 Feb 2015: I interview Alastair Campbell and Lord Browne: http://event.ft-live.com/ehome/index.php?eventid=116062&

10 March 2015: Queen Mary University of London (tbc)

17 March 2015: Kings College London Economics and Finance Society

23 March 2015 (subject to confirmation): Oxford Literary Festival

27th of January, 2015MarginaliaSpeechesComments off

Economics commentator of the Year

Yesterday I was named Economics Commentator of the Year. That feels jolly grown up, especially given the splendid people on the short-list and the list of previous winners. I’ll enjoy it, though! (A list of other comment award winners is here.)

26th of November, 2014MarginaliaComments off

“An evening with Tim Harford”

…sounds like the world’s worst date, but in fact I’ll be talking about my book “The Undercover Economist Strikes Back”, which I hope will be a lot more fun.

It’s on 24 April, 6.30pm in central London – full details here.

Prospect Magazine is organising and I am afraid there is a ticket price, but it’s a small venue and there will be drinks laid on. Come along if you like that sort of thing!

If you don’t fancy paying money, here’s a FREE video of me speaking about “How to Prevent Financial Meltdowns”.

10th of April, 2014MarginaliaSpeechesVideoComments off

The economics of love

If you’re looking for Valentine’s Day inspiration, you could try:

“Everything I ever needed to know about Economics I learned from online dating” – Paul Oyer (Buy in UK; Buy in US) – A guide to economic ideas pegged on the author’s experience trying to get a date online. It’s fun without being revelatory.

“Marriage: A History” – Stephanie Coontz. (Buy in UK; Buy in US) – A weighty but fascinating history.

“Dear Undercover Economist” – My favourite letters from the “Dear Economist” column (Buy in UKBuy in US). Obviously this book is absolutely marvelous in every way.




The WSJ reviews The Undercover Economist Strikes Back

“A chatty, witty guide to inflation, gross domestic product and the rest of the economic big picture.” says Roger Lowenstein:

Tim Harford is a brave man to write a book about macroeconomics for the lay person; luckily, he is also a funny man. It is faintly embarrassing to reveal that I giggled in bed while reading “The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run—or Ruin—an Economy.” But though his perky style and chatty asides keep us grinning, it would be wrong to call him a pop economics writer. His quarry isn’t the freakish or bizarre—it is stuff you will see in textbooks.

His hope is to explain what makes the economy tick. He isn’t out to identify villains in the financial crisis (a welcome respite), and he doesn’t fault economists for failing to predict it. We should think of economists like dentists, he says: When something is wrong, they try to fix it.

Mr. Harford, a columnist for the Financial Times, has a knack for posing questions the average reader will have wondered about. (In fact, he frames the book as a dialogue between himself and a policy-curious bureaucrat.) Why couldn’t government solve unemployment by creating useless work? Why is money that is merely paper valued?

The full review is here; you can read other reviews and buy the book here.

17th of January, 2014MarginaliaComments off

The New Statesman (@felixsalmon) reviews The Undercover Economist Strikes Back

I think the review will go online in due course. [Update: The full review is here.] These extracts are from the print edition:

Tim Harford is perhaps the best popular economics writer in the world… He has a breezy writing style and an infectious sense of humour – but he doesn’t let himself go further than a sober, conservative economist would be comfortable going. He’s trustworthy in a way that most other commentators on economics aren’t. He is not particularly interested in political arguments or in imposing his views on others – instead, he just wants to explain, as simply and clearly as possible, the way in which the economics profession as a whole usually looks at the workings of the world… No one is going to come away from reading this book convinced that they know how to run an economy. Instead, what Harford has achieved with his new book is nothing less than the holy grail of popular economics. While retaining the accessible style of popular microeconomics, he has managed to explain, with clarity and good humour, the knottiest and most important problems facing the world’s biggest economies today. He is no fatalist when it comes to macro: it is important; there are things we know are true; there are things we know are false; what we do can and does make a tangible difference to how wealthy and happy we become. He explains these things in an unprecedentedly accessible way, making liberal use of quotations from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dr Strangelove. By the end of it all, you will understand everything from liquidity traps to the Lucas critique – and your eyes won’t glaze over when reading about such things. Harford has written the “macroeconomics for beginners” book we have all been waiting for…

Felix Salmon blogs at Reuters. If the full review goes online I’ll post a link.


More or Less wins the Royal Statistical Society award for excellence in broadcast journalism

I’m delighted about this:

The winners of the 2013 awards for statistical excellence in journalism have been announced. Journalists at The Times, The Detail and BBC Radio 4 have been commended for their work. The awards, now in their seventh year, are made in three categories – print, broadcast and online – and recognise work first published or broadcast in the preceding calendar year.

…In the broadcast category, BBC Radio 4’s “More or Less” programme presented by Tim Harford is the winner. The judges considered this to be a really informative exploration of the contentious issue of waiting times at UK borders during the Olympics and the contrasting estimates of different agencies. They particularly highlighted how choice of data can have a big impact on the story that is told.

It’s the fourth year in succession that the More or Less team has been commended by the Royal Statistical Society for its excellence in journalism. We won outright this year and in 2010. Very chuffed for the team.


The Financial Times reviews The Undercover Economist Strikes Back

The full review, by Pietra Rivoli, is here. Here’s the introduction:

For years economics professors had little competition in their own market, and shamelessly bored generations of students with dusty graphs of wine and cloth. Thankfully, the past decade or so has brought some variety and colour to the enterprise… if there is an undisputed leader in this spoonful-of-sugar approach, it must be the Financial Times columnist Tim Harford. His 2005 book The Undercover Economist cleared the muddy windshield of microeconomics for more than a million readers. Now, in The Undercover Economist Strikes Back, Harford’s target is macroeconomic policy. He tackles this using, well, a gimmick: putting a hypothetical reader in the driver’s seat of the economy and offering guidance in a book-long series of Q&As.

And the conclusion:

So should I buy the book?

Without question. Reading Harford is like finding yourself next to the funniest, smartest fellow at the party. It is such fun that readers will hardly notice that, by the end, they’ve mastered macroeconomics through perhaps the intermediate level. Economics professors everywhere should be very afraid.

You can buy the book, or find out more, here.



The Undercover Economist Strikes Back is out tomorrow

My new book, “The Undercover Economist Strikes Back”, is out tomorrow in the UK – a very exciting moment for me. Trying to make sense of macroeconomics turned out to be far more fun than I feared when I first decided to work on the book. For all its shortcomings, macroeconomics is a rich and fascinating subject. The early reviewers seem to agree.

You can find out more about the book here, and pre-order it online. Or pop to your local bookshop and see if it is in stock already – since I’m not J.K. Rowling, launch dates don’t tend to be rigorously observed and you may well find that it’s in the bookshops a day early. Enjoy!


The man who gives geeks a good name

The Independent on Sunday had a big interview with me, penned by Susie Mesure. Here’s a short extract (quote from me):

“People today don’t become economists to make the world a better place. Maybe that’s going to change because we’re facing this crisis. We may get a new generation of economists whose mindset has been shaped by this and they want to make the banking system safer and the world more equitable and, dare I say it, more efficient. After all, this stuff really matters, so there should be some room for some idealism and for people who want to make it work better because they think it matters.”

You can read the whole thing here  – including photograph of me gazing at the Manchester skyline as if in need of divine inspiration.



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