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Want people to get the Covid vaccine? Pay them

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

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It is science, not lockdowns, that will save the world

It is science, not lockdowns, that will save the world

The various new vaccines announced over the past two weeks give real hope of a return to normal life. Of course, many practical questions remain. How will these vaccines be delivered? Do they stop the transmission or simply the symptoms of the virus? Exactly how effective will

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The public are not to blame for the second lockdown

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

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Lockdown 2.0: A creative destruction revolution, or the death knell of innovation?

Lockdown 2.0: A creative destruction revolution, or the death knell of innovation?

So Boris Johnson has failed to follow his own government’s guidelines on cost-benefit appraisal. Study after study by economists show that the costs of lockdown far exceed the benefits. The NHS — the “envy of the world” — has conspicuously failed to develop sufficient capacity to deal

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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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