The influencer economy: online ranking systems are a purveyor of inequality

To the victor the spoils.  This well-known phrase might be thought to relate to the recent Olympics. Except that it is not a really accurate description of the Games themselves. True, the gold medallist gains more kudos than the silver or bronze. But at future athletics meets, for example, all three can expect an increase […]

Beware those who’d lock us down and throw away the key

Rather like dedicated Remainers, pro-lockdown enthusiasts never seem to give up. Their ardour will have been fuelled by leaks over the weekend of results from the epidemiological models. Apparently, even though quite soon all the over-70s will have been jabbed, lifting restrictions before the summer would lead to a massive third wave of the virus.  […]

Cash for Covid? Cash for jabs makes far more sense

As the snow fell on Sunday, I almost expected a Cabinet minister to address the nation that very evening: “Don’t go out in the snow. Don’t slip and sprain an ankle. Save the NHS!” It could have been backed up by a scientist brandishing a chart and a “model” to demonstrate that icy weather led to […]

The Government scientists’ credibility is shot to pieces

Imagine.  No, not the silly childish song by John Lennon.  Imagine there were no vaccines available.  What would Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health, do? He might ask people to pay more attention to the scientific advice. But the plain fact is that the credibility of Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, and […]

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 […]

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 […]

On coronavirus, governments have been the most irrational of us all

Decisions, whether by individuals, companies or governments, are often made with imperfect and incomplete information. This is so obvious as to hardly seem worth stating. But for well over a century economic theory assumed that decisions were made with complete information. Economists knew full well that this was not always the case. The problem was […]

A tip for Dominic Cummings: Don’t hire anyone who fails to grasp the power of incentives

The job advert issued by Dominic Cummings for people to work in government has attracted a wide range of comments. One particular focus has been on the sorts of skills he is looking for. Computer science, forecasting, artificial intelligence, causality theory — all these topics excite his interest. Cummings advocates a small selection of scientific […]