Hurrah for a vaccine — but was lockdown actually worth it?

The development of the vaccines has changed many things. It has even influenced the opinion of the Prince of Lockdown himself, health secretary Matt Hancock. Life, he pronounced at the weekend, would be back to normal by the spring and the “blasted regulations” abolished. But one thing has remained constant: the government’s continued refusal to […]

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 […]

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 […]

And this week’s winner for the Stupid Scientist award is…

Scepticism about the advice given by government scientists about Covid-19 is rising sharply. In areas like Bolton infections are high. Interviews with the locals reveal that so, too, is disbelief in the veracity of the statements made by members of SAGE, the government science advisory group. The scientists, rational beings themselves, may ascribe this to […]

Incentives are a better way to tackle Covid-19 than blanket lockdowns

A great deal of government policy during the Covid crisis has involved regulation. Given a choice, economists usually prefer to use incentives. Altering the relative costs and benefits of an action is a well-established way to alter behaviour. Perhaps the government has been listening. A big stick will now be waved at people who fail […]

The national productivity recovery depends on getting people back to the office

Office workers continue to display reluctance to return to their workplaces, despite encouragement from the government for them to head back. The immediate consequences for the service jobs in cities which depend on people commuting into the office are apparent, hence the government drive. But is office work a good thing for the workers themselves? […]

Office clusters are as crucial to productivity as they ever were

The Prime Minister is now demanding that offices reopen to revive economic activity in the centres of towns and cities. But there is not much sign of a return to work. The preferences of the workforce are an important factor in the very slow pace of return. Fears expressed about the safety of public transport […]

History shows us that slavery is an economic catastrophe as well as a moral one

Slavery has certainly been in the headlines in the past couple of weeks. Given this sudden interest in this area of history, it is worth considering the economic lessons it can teach us, as well as the moral ones. Slavery was abolished in England itself in the twelfth century. Then in 1772, Lord Mansfield gave […]