Since You Asked

My column ran in the Financial Times comment section on Saturdays between 2011 and 2014.

Have prisoners learned not to snitch?

“They finally tested the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ on actual prisoners – and the results were not what you would expect”, July 21 It is amazing that it has taken six decades to get around to testing out the prisoner’s dilemma on real prisoners. Is it?...

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Welfare and the Tinker Bell policy

The UK benefits cap is a stunt policy designed to win attention, writes Tim Harford ‘The benefit cap starts being introduced across the country today, restoring fairness to the welfare state . . . with the amount of benefits working-age households can claim limited to...

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Popular perceptions exposed by numbers

What the public believes can be very far from reality, writes Tim Harford ‘A new survey by Ipsos Mori for the Royal Statistical Society and King’s College London highlights how wrong the British public can be . . . ’ Press release, July 9 That seems a bit harsh. In...

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A statistical needle in a bureaucratic haystack

The data aren’t useful because they’re spread across a gazillion spreadsheets, says Tim Harford ‘Finding government statistics is not easy. Both expert users and occasional users struggle to navigate their way through the multiple places in which statistics are...

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Why weird science is all in a day’s work

Stories of the formula for the perfect penalty kick are cheaper than an ads, writes Tim Harford ‘People who have surgery towards the end of the week are more likely to die than those who have procedures earlier on, researchers say’, May 29 This is presumably...

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Loose money in all that spare change

The disappearance of small coins will be little noticed, writes Tim Harford ‘There is a wish among the German population to keep hold of the small coins. can personally only join that opinion.’ Jens Weidmann, Bundesbank president, quoted in the German newspaper Bild...

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Mile-high bid to step up to a better class

Auctions seem a fine way of assessing willingness to pay, writes Tim Harford ‘For those seeking a way out of the economy cabin, a number of airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, Etihad, Austrian Airlines and Tap Portugal offer a facility whereby you tell them what you...

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Proof that leaders need to look the part

We expect successful people to be attractive, writes Tim Harford ‘Governor Chris Christie, who once famously called himself “the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen”, disclosed Tuesday he had secretly undergone weight-loss surgery, a major new step by the potential...

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Boycotts will not help Bangladesh’s poor

Human cost of an embargo would be higher than the recent factory collapse, says Tim Harford ‘The EU is considering moves against Bangladesh, including restricting trade access to the European single market, in an attempt to press the country to improve its labour...

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