How to keep your gym habit

‘Might a commitment strategy allow you to pay yourself to go to the gym?’

Hidden truths behind China’s smoke screen

‘When countries become richer, do they pollute their environment more or less?’

How fighting for a prize knocks down its value

‘If many people have patience to queue for scarce (and underpriced) tickets, the value on offer will be consumed by the race to grab it’

The price of being female

‘Gender-based mark-ups may not be an economy-wide phenomenon. But they seem to exist for certain products’

Why predictions are a lot like Pringles

‘Nobody thinks that there’s any great virtue in forecasts but we find them hard to resist’

The cost of overconfidence

‘Some companies base their business models on our tendency to overestimate our willpower’

In praise of Scrooge

‘Scrooge didn’t waste his money on extravagances for people whose desires he didn’t really understand’

Economics: still a job for the boys?

‘There are two or three male undergraduate economists for every female undergraduate economist in the US. That is not good’

The window tax — an open and shut case

‘People respond in profound ways to tax incentives. They adjust their behaviour to avoid tax’

Eyes on the innovation prize

‘Coming up with something new is for suckers; smart people sit back and rip off the idea later’

The pillars of tax wisdom

‘The Budget bears not even a passing resemblance to how we economists were taught that taxes should work’

Nothing to fear but fear itself?

‘It is not clear that the US economy has suffered much from terrorism, even from the enormity of 9/11’

When wishful thinking becomes wasteful

‘The simplest explanation for lengthy disputes? That people misperceive their chances of winning’

The robot takeover: not so fast . . . 

‘It is one thing to imagine such a future . . . It is another to have confidence that it is approaching’

The real benefits of migration

‘The supposed costs or benefits of immigration always omit one crucial group: the migrants themselves’

Development needed? Just give cash

‘A stack of research papers concludes that an excellent cure for poverty is simply to give poor people money’

Should we trust the young Turkers?

‘MTurk may be something of an unknown quantity but it is more diverse than the traditional study pool’

Copyrights and wrongs

‘Why don’t we see a more sensible system of copyright? Two words: Mickey Mouse’

Peer-to-peer pressure

‘Are these new players providing a valuable new service or are they merely an arbitrage play?’

What cities tell us about the economy

‘In 1667 the Dutch ceded Manhattan to the British, thinking sugar-rich Suriname was a better bet’


Tim HarfordTim Harford is economics leader writer for the Financial Times and writes the “Undercover Economist” columns on Saturdays. He first joined the FT as Peter Martin Fellow in 2003 and after a spell at the World Bank in Washington DC he rejoined the FT’s leader writing team in 2006.

Tim’s book, The Undercover Economist, is a Business Week bestseller and a Sunday Times bestseller, and was number one on It has been translated into sixteen languages. He is now working on a sequel.

Tim is also the presenter of the BBC2 series, Trust Me, I’m an Economist.

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