January 21, 2018

Yet more notes from a grumpy traveller

I have an affliction which strikes many academics.  I read things indiscriminately if they are put before me, whether they are the conditions of sale for a theatre ticket, the ingredients on a tin of baked beans, or the small print on a train timetable even if I don’t intend to catch that train. The […]

More Notes from a Grumpy Traveller

If there is one thing that frustrates a traveller, it is the signage traps that are laid out to ready to catch them at their most tired and weary, from road signs in Brisbane that would only be seen as you were just passing them, and anyway they were mostly obscured by rainforest  foliage… or […]

The student who caught out the Harvard professors

You are an economics student (Thomas Herndon) who has been asked by your professor to take one well-known paper in economics and replicate its results as homework. You decide to take one of the most famous papers in economics in recent years (“Growth in a Time of Debt”) by two eminent Harvard professors (Reinhart and […]


Recently I described how the English language keyboard format QWERTY had been wrongly maligned as an “accident of history” and was instead a brilliant engineering solution to a particularly tricky technical problem of its day.  But is it also really seriously “inefficient” and “inferior” as the Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman argues in his first […]

The QWERTY Problem

“The QWERTY problem” has been defined in economics textbooks as “an inferior industry standard that has prevailed possibly because of historical accident”.  QWERTY is not just the first six letters of the standard English language keyboard, today it has also become the focal point for debates as to whether markets should be left to develop […]

Tying up the Oil Price Watch

This is just a tail piece on the Oil Price Watch run we have done over the past few weeks and which we shall put to bed for the moment.  As they say, our work here has been done – for now. So what remains that might be useful to review at this point? Well, first […]

The Business of Queues

Queues are boring and a nuisance, yes? But to entrepreneurs and academics they can also be interesting and contain useful information. Of course, like all of us I try to choose the till at a supermarket that I think involves least queueing. But there was a village near where I used to live that had two fish […]

Copper-bottomed Forecasting

 Who do you think would make the better economic forecaster?  Him? Or this? The reason I raise this question is because of an interesting article about copper, “Red Bull”, in the Economist (September 24, 2011) subtitled “the world’s most informative metal”. Now “informative” is guaranteed to attract an economist’s attention, because economics in general and the […]