Category Archives: Tim Harford

Tim Harford

Keyhole surgery techniques allow surgeons to operate without making large incisions, minimizing the risk of complications and side effects. Economists often advocate a similar strategy when trying to fix a policy problem: target the problem as closely as possible rather than attempting something a little more drastic.

Tim Harford, The Undercover Economist, London, 2006, p. 138

Tim Harford

[S]ome companies have scarcity power and can set prices that are far above their true cost, which is where they would be in a competitive market. This is why economists believe there’s an important difference between being in favour of markets and being in favour of business, especially particular businesses. A politician who is in favour of markets believes in the importance of competition and wants to prevent businesses from getting too much scarcity power. A politician who’s too influenced by corporate lobbyists will do exactly the opposite.

Tim Harford, The Undercover Economist, London, 2006, p. 78

Tim Harford

On the African Savannah […] our rational male forebears wanted young and beautiful partners while our rational ancestors down the maternal line would have preferred high-status males. Have these preferences, like attitudes to sex, survived to the present day? Folk wisdom would certainly say so. In the song ‘Summertime’ from Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess, there’s a reason why Bess soothes the baby with the line ‘Your daddy’s rich and your momma’s good looking’ rather than the other way round. And how often do you hear of a twenty-six-year-old Chippendale marrying an eighty-nine-year-old heiress?

Tim Harford, The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World, London, 2008, pp. 78-79

Tim Harford

[Y]ou will often hear so-called experts complaining that taxes on driving or on pollution would be bad for the economy. That sounds worrying. But what is ‘the economy’? If you spend enough time watching Bloomberg television or reading the Wall Street Journal you may come to the mistaken impression that ‘the economy’ is a bunch of rather dull statistics with names like GDP (gross domestic product). GDP measures the total cost of producing everything in the economy in one year—for instance, one extra cappuccino would add £1.85 to GDP, or a little less if some of the ingredients were imported. And if you think this is ‘the economy’, then the experts may be right. A pollution tax might well make a number like GDP smaller. But who cares? Certainly not economists. We know that GDP measures lots of things that are harmful (sales of weapons, shoddy building work with subsequent expensive repairs, expenditures on commuting) and misses lots of things that are important, such as looking after your children or going for a walk in the mountains.

Most economics has very little to do with GDP. Economics is about who gets what and why.

Tim Harford, The Undercover Economist, London, 2006, p. 109