Burnley and Asda are unlikely warnings of debt-driven troubles

It has been a week of mixed messages. Not just on the release from lockdown, but on the economy. The Bank of England indicated that banks have been given six months to prepare for negative interest rates. The Monetary Policy Committee was quick to clarify that this did not mean that they would necessarily cut […]

Beware those who’d lock us down and throw away the key

Rather like dedicated Remainers, pro-lockdown enthusiasts never seem to give up. Their ardour will have been fuelled by leaks over the weekend of results from the epidemiological models. Apparently, even though quite soon all the over-70s will have been jabbed, lifting restrictions before the summer would lead to a massive third wave of the virus.  […]

Hurrah for a vaccine — but was lockdown actually worth it?

The development of the vaccines has changed many things. It has even influenced the opinion of the Prince of Lockdown himself, health secretary Matt Hancock. Life, he pronounced at the weekend, would be back to normal by the spring and the “blasted regulations” abolished. But one thing has remained constant: the government’s continued refusal to […]

Economics lessons from history: Don’t expect a post-Covid boom

Just over 200 years ago, the finances of the British government looked even more parlous than they do today. Since the mid-1790s, the country had been engaged in a titanic struggle with Napoleon’s France. To pay for the conflict, the government had borrowed on a massive scale. The cumulative financial deficit — the difference between […]

It is science, not lockdowns, that will save the world

The various new vaccines announced over the past two weeks give real hope of a return to normal life. Of course, many practical questions remain. How will these vaccines be delivered? Do they stop the transmission or simply the symptoms of the virus? Exactly how effective will they be outside a controlled trial environment? But […]

Lockdown 2.0: A creative destruction revolution, or the death knell of innovation?

So Boris Johnson has failed to follow his own government’s guidelines on cost-benefit appraisal. Study after study by economists show that the costs of lockdown far exceed the benefits. The NHS — the “envy of the world” — has conspicuously failed to develop sufficient capacity to deal with a second wave, despite having had months […]

Forget the polls endorsing lockdowns and look at how people actually behave

Economics is at long last storming the bastions of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). This citadel of epidemiologists and health professionals has for many months resisted the lessons which the so-called gloomy science can bring. In the context of Covid-19, economics is in fact a beacon of hope. This week, news broke of […]

The government must take back control of the Covid narrative

The word “narrative” is usually seen as being a posh way of saying “story”. But the idea of narratives is one which is gaining traction in economics. Last year, for example, Nobel laureate Robert Shiller of Yale published a book entitled “Narrative Economics”.  He argued that it is the perception of events and the stories […]