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From A&E waiting times to the Windrush scandal, beware bureaucratic targets

From A&E waiting times to the Windrush scandal, beware bureaucratic targets

Last week, health secretary Matt Hancock signalled an important change of strategy. Accident and Emergency Departments have a target that 95 per cent of patients should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours. Hancock suggested that the target will be scrapped. Instead, wait times will be

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A tip for Dominic Cummings: Don’t hire anyone who fails to grasp the power of incentives

A tip for Dominic Cummings: Don’t hire anyone who fails to grasp the power of incentives

The job advert issued by Dominic Cummings for people to work in government has attracted a wide range of comments. One particular focus has been on the sorts of skills he is looking for. Computer science, forecasting, artificial intelligence, causality theory — all these topics excite his

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Creepy micromanagement won’t drive productivity — try trusting staff instead

Creepy micromanagement won’t drive productivity — try trusting staff instead

Calling all employers: what was in your Christmas stocking? Did you find the latest gadget designed to enhance productivity? The innovative device, featured in the media during the festive season, is a toilet with a downward sloping seat. The company which makes it, StandardToilet, has conducted extensive

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A lesson in cognitive dissonance for the Corbynites

A lesson in cognitive dissonance for the Corbynites

Behavioural economics — which extends the ability of economics to explain the world — has become very fashionable. Richard Thaler, Nobel Prize winner for his work in this area, observed that most of the time, the rational choice model of standard economics works well. People gather information

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Pension reform is political dynamite, but Macron’s attempt should be commended

Pension reform is political dynamite, but Macron’s attempt should be commended

It would take a heart of stone not to be amused by Emmanuel Macron’s current predicament. The French President is trying to position himself as the leader of Europe. But at the same time, the streets of the major cities in France are, quite literally, ablaze. France’s

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For richer or for poorer? The economic case for marriage is worth remembering

For richer or for poorer? The economic case for marriage is worth remembering

An important piece of social news emerged last week. According to the Office for National Statistics, the divorce rate in 2018 fell to its lowest level for nearly 50 years. The overall trend is clear and well-established. The divorce rate rose steadily from the late 1950s, with

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Labour’s rejection of conventional economic theory ignores important insights

Labour's rejection of conventional economic theory ignores important insights

One of the first tasks facing whoever becomes chancellor after the General Election will be choosing the next governor of the Bank of England. Getting to make this choice would be a key step in the plans of Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell to shake up the

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Celebrating Germany’s recession dodge? The data isn’t quite as solid as you think

Celebrating Germany’s recession dodge? The data isn’t quite as solid as you think

Ardent Remainers had a rare bit of good news at the end of last week. The latest statistics for the German economy showed that, contrary to expectations, it had not fallen into recession in the July-September period. Economists have come to define a recession as a period

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Today’s apologists for socialism still won’t acknowledge the lessons of the Berlin Wall

Today’s apologists for socialism still won’t acknowledge the lessons of the Berlin Wall

The media has been awash over the past week with stories about the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. My favourite vignette concerns a couple living in East Berlin who were delighted to have a telephone installed in their apartment only weeks before the

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From World War II to the financial crisis, our institutional memory is fading fast

From World War II to the financial crisis, our institutional memory is fading fast

The young contestants on Lord Sugar’s reality TV show The Apprentice sparked outrage last week. They appeared to have virtually no knowledge about the Second World War. The online clips of the sequence capture to perfection their expressions of bovine outrage at even being expected to know

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