Adam Smith Blog

Undercover Economist

William Golding explains Brexit

Undercover Economist
For educational reading, the British political establishment might pick up something by William Golding, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1983. Lord of the Flies (UK) (US) is his most famous work, with its grim suggestion that the line between innocent children and murderers is thin. For an insight into Brexit Britain’s current […]

Could we run the economy with an app?

Undercover Economist
The control room is hexagonal, containing a circle of white fibreglass swivel-chairs with red-brown cushions and inbuilt push-button panels. The room is reminiscent of Star Trek, but it is no film set. Project Cybersyn was an attempt in the early 1970s to algorithmically manage the Chilean economy in accordance with democratic socialist principles under President […]

Economicky words are just plain icky

Undercover Economist
Why can’t economists just speak plainly and clearly? The dismal science has had an image problem for a long time — long enough for most people to forget that the “dismal science” insult was hurled by the despicably eloquent racist Thomas Carlyle, in an argument over whether black plantation workers should be paid for their […]

Why the robot boost is yet to arrive

Undercover Economist
To adapt a 30-year-old quip from the great economist Robert Solow: you can see the robots everywhere except in the productivity statistics. This fact has been puzzling me for a few years now. Productivity growth is disappointing — especially but not only in the UK — and it has been for years. Unemployment is near […]

The dangers of dark nudging

Undercover Economist
“If you want people to do the right thing, make it easy.” That is the simplest possible summary of Nudge (UK) (US) by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler. We are all fallible creatures, and so benevolent policymakers need to make sure that the path of least resistance goes to a happy destination. It is a simple […]