Undercover Economist

My weekly column in the Financial Times on Saturdays, explaining the economic ideas around us every day. This column was inspired by my book and began in 2005.

The inconvenient truth about productivity

I didn’t ask to become a personal productivity guru, but somehow my colleagues keep volunteering me for the role — most recently for Isabel Berwick’s Working It podcast, in the recording of which I blushed and generally felt like an imposter. This is partly because...

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What I’d put in my museum of the economy

Above the Viking swords and skeletons, across from the enchanting display of vintage dollhouses, Denmark’s National Museum contains a human-scale hamster wheel. Visitors may climb inside, grab the controls and slowly, arduously, start to walk and jog. A digital screen...

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The eternal Google search for truth

What colour is the sky? The ocean? You might think the answer is obvious: they’re blue. Maybe not, though. Homer’s seas were “wine-dark”, and he never referred to the colour blue. He wasn’t unusual in this; most ancient texts don’t use the word. Exactly why this might...

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Is it even possible to prepare for a pandemic?

Be prepared! It’s the scout’s motto. But prepared for what? In The Lion King, the song “Be Prepared” is a rousing celebration of fratricide, while Tom Lehrer’s song of the same title advised boy scouts: “Don’t solicit for your sister, that’s not nice / unless you get...

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