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No economic model can describe “the world as it really is”.
Big data can help us understand the past and the present but it can help us understand the future only to the extent that the future is, in some relevant way, contained in the present.
The dispersion of productivity among already rich countries has increased. Norway and Switzerland have surged ahead but laggards such as Italy – and indeed Britain – have struggled to keep up with the pack.
Politicians, like gang bosses and football fans, routinely attempt to establish or reinforce their leadership by inciting hostility to other groups.
Economics is not a method but a subject – one defined by the problems it sets out to tackle not the techniques it uses.
The Olympiad was a good party, which cost the British population about £200 per head.
British technological failures have been compounded by a political phenomenon I have come to think of as “great leap forward syndrome”. The idea is that the best way to compensate for stumbles and missteps is to move, at one bound, ahead of the field.
If we engineered the financial system with the same care and competence as the electricity network, financial crises would be less common.
President Nicolas Sarkozy was reported to have told aides “if France loses its triple A rating, I’m dead”. A few days later France lost that status; a few months later, Mr Sarkozy was out of office.
The further one moves from mechanisms that are well understood and events that are frequently repeated, the less appropriate is the use of probabilistic language.