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

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

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The government must take back control of the Covid narrative

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

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Heavy-handed Westminster diktats have eroded trust — now only localised Covid policy can restore it

Heavy-handed Westminster diktats have eroded trust — now only localised Covid policy can restore it

Last month, the official group of scientific advisers — SAGE — warned the government that only a quarter of those who need to self-isolate due to coronavirus symptoms were in fact doing so. This illustrates a concept which is of great practical importance: namely the conflict between

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Following the science? This government lacks a basic grasp of the scientific method

Following the science? This government lacks a basic grasp of the scientific method

Verification and validation. It is hard to imagine a more nerdy phrase. But it is, in essence, how science makes progress. It is what we have to do to check whether a scientific claim or theory is correct. And it has been seriously neglected during the Covid-19

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

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

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

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

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Coronavirus fatality rates are way down – why has the government not taken this on board?

Coronavirus fatality rates are way down – why has the government not taken this on board?

King Canute has had a bad press. The monarch sat on the beach on his throne with the deliberate intention of demonstrating to his courtiers that he could not stop the waves from coming in. But in popular thinking, he is the deranged king who believed he

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

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

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

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

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Sweden shows us whether lockdown was worth the economic cost

Sweden shows us whether lockdown was worth the economic cost

Did Sweden get it right in its response to Covid? There is increasing interest in this question. Contrary to widespread belief, the Swedes did introduce a few legally enforceable restrictions on behaviour. For example, public gatherings of more than 50 people were forbidden in March. Private ones

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