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Beware “mathiness”: The use of algebra and data to reinforce ideological preconceptions

It is characteristic of science to give precise meaning to concepts and the basis of their measurement. Economics is genuinely harder. Yet it is all too easy to write a mathematical symbol without giving thought to what observable fact in the real world corresponds to that symbol.

Take care with summary statistics when the underlying population is changing

Since 2008, UK employment has risen substantially and working hours have increased but output has barely grown. To explain this productivity puzzle we must dig into the detail of how aggregate statistics are built up.

We can reform the economics curriculum without creating new disciplines

Following the global financial crisis there has been much discussion of curriculum reform in university economics teaching. More pluralism is required, but there is no need for “two communities within the same discipline”.

Why worry about deflation?

Our perception that inflation is the normal condition is no more than a reflection of the experience of people alive today. And there is no qualitative difference between an economy in which prices are rising slightly and one in which prices are falling slightly.

If “capital is back” it’s in a different sense

The days when economic power was acquired by inheriting the mill are long gone. Mr Buffett began his business career as a mill owner, but closed the mills and went into insurance. That is the reality of capital in modern economics.

Precise inflation figures ignore evolutions in product quality and consumer choice

Price indices are compiled by measuring the changes in the cost of buying a fixed bundle of goods chosen to represent the consumption of an average household. But what the average household buys changes with the arrival of new goods; and with changes in relative prices; as well as with variations – good and bad – in quality

GDP is flawed – just not the way most people think

It is a poor criticism of a thermometer that it does not tell us how comfortable we feel.

A stealthy step towards abolishing income tax

The man who “laboureth much, and sparing the fruits of his labour, consumeth little” should not, Hobbes argued, pay more “than he that liveth idlely, getteth little, and spendeth all he gets”.

Economic abstractions conceal the true contours of human life

No economic model can describe “the world as it really is”.

The startling human progress that economists fail to see

The most important source of economic advance comes not from doing the same things better, but from achieving the same objective in a completely different way.