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.

Two cheers for the Christmas newsletter

In these polarised times, one truth can be relied upon to unite the British commentariat: Christmas letters are ghastly. Writing in Country Life magazine, Kit Hesketh-Harvey advised being “alert enough to shake the card out directly over the recycling bin”. The late...

read more

Why carbon taxes really work

A friend recently wrote to me agonising over an ethical question. He was pondering a long-haul trip to see his family but was all too aware that the flight would have a huge carbon footprint. Could the journey possibly be justified? I suggested that my friend find out...

read more

Notes on a statistical scandal

Even a spreadsheet can become a victim of its own success. Just ask the World Bank’s Doing Business report. While many worthy publications from the World Bank are never downloaded, Doing Business has been a smash hit for years. No longer. Amid an ugly scandal about...

read more

Christmas? I had it wrapped up weeks ago

Christmas is coming early this year! Christmas shopping is anyway — or such is my plan. I’ve seen too many queues and empty shelves over the past couple of years to leave things to chance. (Supply chains, people!) I’ve been making a list, I’ve been checking it twice,...

read more

Why scrambling back to 2019 is not progress

Loyal readers will know my fascination with Keith Jarrett’s unplayable piano. In 1975, the jazz pianist was prevailed upon — against his better judgment — to take the stage in front of a large audience at the Cologne opera house. Thanks to a mix-up, Jarrett was forced...

read more

How to tackle vaccine hesitancy

In rich countries there are plenty of vaccines, but we seem to be running out of people who want them. This is frustrating. The vaccines are a medical miracle — safe, more effective than we dared to hope and produced with unprecedented speed. They are the way out of...

read more

How to spot scientists who peddle bad data

I never planned to fake my data. My project involved interviewing the customers visiting a games shop in central London, then analysing the distance they had travelled. Arriving at the location with a clipboard, I realised that I didn’t have the nerve. I slunk home...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest