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.

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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Will ChatGPT be Homer Simpson’s salvation?

Imagine a person whose desire for the easy life is stronger than their sense of ethics. And imagine that this person gets hold of a cutting-edge computer app that can produce fast answers to hard questions. Then imagine that person is given a hard question. Instead of...

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When Wizz Air wrecked the immigration stats

You’d think it would be hard to miss half a million people, but the Office for National Statistics (ONS) managed it nevertheless. Realisation of this problem dawned just over a decade ago, when the results of the 2011 census were published. The census revealed that...

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What Rishi Sunak got wrong about maths

As a professional nerd, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been asked what I think of Rishi Sunak’s enthusiasm for maths. It’s hard to know quite what to say. I agree with much of what Sunak said in his speech last month singing the praises of numeracy. Yet...

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Why we shouldn’t hold referendums

Citizens of democracies can be ill-informed and inconsistent, and this often feels like a tragedy or even a crisis. Occasionally, however, one reads something so absurd that it would take a heart of stone not to laugh. Consider a recent survey conducted by the...

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