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 […]

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 […]

Busting the myth of the selfless bureaucrat

There seems to be a fundamental problem with quangos. Hardly a day seems to go by without some new story of incompetence and mismanagement emerging. Public Health England (PHE) is at least going to be put out of its misery by health secretary Matt Hancock, and replaced with a new agency specifically focused on pandemics. […]