Economics lessons from history: Don’t expect a post-Covid boom

Just over 200 years ago, the finances of the British government looked even more parlous than they do today. Since the mid-1790s, the country had been engaged in a titanic struggle with Napoleon’s France. To pay for the conflict, the government had borrowed on a massive scale. The cumulative financial deficit — the difference between […]

A (virtual) warm welcome to our new starters…

Virtual hello

A now all-too familiar way of say hello to new colleagues, a relaxed way to do it, nonetheless… We look forward to working with new Volterra starters Anna Rumsey and Sofia Kaur, in a more cohesive way!

Want people to get the Covid vaccine? Pay them

The vaccines seem to be coming thick and fast. The task now is to ensure that enough people get them to keep the virus under control. The first issue is one of logistics. The track record of the UK’s health bureaucracy during the crisis has not been good. But the NHS does have experience of […]

It is science, not lockdowns, that will save the world

The various new vaccines announced over the past two weeks give real hope of a return to normal life. Of course, many practical questions remain. How will these vaccines be delivered? Do they stop the transmission or simply the symptoms of the virus? Exactly how effective will they be outside a controlled trial environment? But […]

The public are not to blame for the second lockdown

Justice secretary Robert Buckland last week blamed the public for England’s new lockdown. In particular, the fault was with people failing to self-isolate properly. Of course, in a purely technical sense Buckland is right. The virus spreads by contact with an infected person. If people do not self-isolate, Covid-19 will continue to percolate across the […]

Lockdown 2.0: A creative destruction revolution, or the death knell of innovation?

So Boris Johnson has failed to follow his own government’s guidelines on cost-benefit appraisal. Study after study by economists show that the costs of lockdown far exceed the benefits. The NHS — the “envy of the world” — has conspicuously failed to develop sufficient capacity to deal with a second wave, despite having had months […]

Forget the polls endorsing lockdowns and look at how people actually behave

Economics is at long last storming the bastions of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). This citadel of epidemiologists and health professionals has for many months resisted the lessons which the so-called gloomy science can bring. In the context of Covid-19, economics is in fact a beacon of hope. This week, news broke of […]

The government must take back control of the Covid narrative

The word “narrative” is usually seen as being a posh way of saying “story”. But the idea of narratives is one which is gaining traction in economics. Last year, for example, Nobel laureate Robert Shiller of Yale published a book entitled “Narrative Economics”.  He argued that it is the perception of events and the stories […]