Coronavirus: Fake news that an elderly lockdown is remainer revenge could spread

The attention of policy makers has been focused on the science of how viruses either spread or are contained in social networks. Just as crucial in the current circumstances is the spread of beliefs and behaviour. Will people continue to observe social distancing once the lockdown is eased, or will they revert to pre-lockdown patterns […]

Once we reach a social distancing tipping point, more restrictions won’t help at all

How long should the lockdown last? Should it be tightened or relaxed? An abstract concept from both epidemiology and network theory can give a powerful insight into these highly practical problems. This is the concept known as the “threshold”, sometimes called the critical point or the tipping point. The basic idea is a very familiar […]

Puzzled over Australia’s shock election result? Economics can help explain

The surprise of the week was the re-election of the centre-right Coalition government in the Australian General Election. The Labor opposition had led every major opinion poll for the past two years. But Scott Morrison of the Coalition is still Prime Minister – and it is his Labor opponent who is resigning as leader. Economists, […]

Why can’t we confront climate change? Behavioural economics explains

The devastating storms in America have kept the issue of climate change firmly in the public mind. But so far, it has proved very difficult for politicians to persuade electorates to change consumption patterns in ways which many scientists would like to see. More expensive air travel, steeper energy bills – these are not very […]

Was Michael Gove right? Have we had enough of experts?

Michael Gove

Experts are finding it harder to be heard. But is that because of how they communicate? And how solid is their much-vaunted evidence base anyway? Using evidence to assess the outcomes of policies is a vital part of good governance. Whether it is examining how a Budget will affect those on low incomes, or how […]

Forward guidance is just another delusion foisted on us by mainstream macro

The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, was on good form last week when he appeared at the Treasury Committee of the House of Commons. Asked what “forward guidance” meant, he answered smoothly: “The thing about forward guidance is that it is guidance that is forward. Which is not to say it is meant to […]

How Stalin’s right-hand man could help the UK in EU exit negotiations

The topic of behavioural economics is very fashionable. But many economists remain rather sniffy about it, arguing that it often does not really add to what the discipline already knows. But one of its most distinctive and strongest results from a policy perspective is its emphasis on what is called the “architecture of choice”. Economists […]

‘Good Enough’ evidence?

We all want evidence based policy and decisions.  However, deciding what constitutes evidence and what standard of proof is required is another matter.  And of course this is especially challenging when we need to explore what will happen, rather than what has happened.  Will this policy work?  Will this investment pay back?  It’s not clear […]

Don’t give in to Twitter mob: Social media is just an echo chamber

Greater Manchester Police staged a simulated terror attack in the massive Trafford Park retail complex last week.  As with many real life atrocities, the carnage began with the cry “Allahu Akbar!”   Following a storm of protest on Twitter, the police felt forced to apologise.  Almost at the same time, a frenzied chorus rose up demanding […]

Surviving the pensions crisis means encouraging work

The Queen’s 90th birthday has quite rightly dominated the media over the past week.  Her Majesty continues to break all sorts of records, spending longer on the throne than Queen Victoria and being our oldest ever reigning monarch.  But longevity should no longer give cause for surprise.  The oldest participant in the London Marathon was […]