Andrew Harris

Okun’s Law ― the good, the bad, and the ugly of economics

15 February 2019|

As an economist, Arthur Okun undoubtedly had a talent for making the extremely obvious seem just that. His two most famous contributions to the field are prime examples of this. Indeed, it was Arthur Okun who took two indicators (inflation and unemployment), combined them, and created the Misery Index. Hardly groundbreaking, but it’s still in common use today. Likewise, the eponymous Okun’s Law, which simply regresses changes in the unemployment rate on economic growth, remains a mainstay of 21st-century macroeconomics,

Kevin Loane

Make art, not manufacture

8 February 2019|

Last week, at a conference about the prospects for Africa in 2019, Namibian multimedia activist and poet, Patrick Sam, argued that the continent’s politicians needed to focus on art to help their people succeed. At this stage, I’ll make the obligatory point that #Africaisnotacountry, making it facile to recommend a one-size-fits-all approach, and quickly move on. An audience member, who was doing a PhD on how art can support the development process, chimed in to say that the biggest pushback

Andrew Brigden

The economist who cried wolf?

1 February 2019|

Writing in 1966, Paul Samuelson famously observed that “the [US] stock market has forecast nine of the last five recessions”. Like Aesop’s fabled Boy Who Cried Wolf, equity investors have a tendency to panic too often. That was true back in 1966, and it has remained true subsequently, as our chart shows. Recessions tend to be non-linear events. Outright economic contractions are rarely preceded by a gradual slowdown; rather growth is often close to trend the year before the crisis

Brian Davidson, CFA


25 January 2019|

In a project in 2017, I recorded how often my neighbours in the office offered to make drinks, and how often they accepted drinks made by others. I found that not everybody was pulling their weight. Laura was a drinks-making machine. Kevin and Jo less so. Apart from, perhaps, offering some amusement, I had hoped that, in carrying out my study and publishing the results, I might pressure some of my colleagues to make more drinks. It didn’t really work. That’s

Tobias Sturmhoefel

Don’t expect much from your New Year’s resolutions

18 January 2019|

Many readers will have kicked off 2019 with an optimistic New Year’s resolution, whether that be dry January, more exercise or a healthier diet. Now that we’re halfway through the first month of the year, how many of those resolutions have already fallen by the wayside? After all, we’re approaching ‘Blue Monday’ — by which time most of us will have apparently failed to keep up our NY resolutions — conspiring with other factors, such as a maximum post-Christmas squeeze

Florian Baier

Mexico: tacos, tequila and life on the treadmill

11 January 2019|

When I think about Mexico I think of its rich culture, great people, delicious food, mezcal, and Germany’s disillusioning defeat during last year’s football World Cup. Mexico has a lot going for it economically, too — it’s one of the richest economies in Latin America. In terms of economic growth, Mexico has outpaced the rest of Latin America for the past five years. Inflation has been stable since the early 2000s (at least until recently, but that’s more to do

Joanna Davies

Top of the Blogs: the best of Thank Fathom it’s Friday

4 January 2019|

A cartoon in the FT over the Christmas period featured the phrase “we’ve opened all the presents, eaten all the food and argued about Brexit — now what?” With great foresight, and keen to avoid the latter, my brother-in-law tacked a sign to the lounge door, pointing, as each family member made their way in, to the words “This is a Brexit-free zone! Non-compliance will result in a forfeit”. Lacking much new to say, and faced with the threat of

Andrea Zazzarelli

Secret Santa is coming to Fathom

21 December 2018|

In the classic 1924 cornerstone of modern social science, The Gift, the French sociologist Marcel Mauss formally distinguished for the first time a gift from other types of consumer behaviour to which they are inexorably linked. Economic theory says that a good should bring utility to a consumer and have an intrinsic value that can be used as a means of exchange. Mauss argued that a gift adds reciprocity as an important third social dimension. Gifts provide a link between

Kevin Loane

The most wonderful country in the world

14 December 2018|

For some this is the most wonderful time of the year. While I’m not usually one to shy away from overindulgence and mindless consumerism, I struggle with London in December. It’s cold. It’s dark. Mariah Carey’s voice permeates. The winter solstice is next Friday, and I can’t wait. Indeed, during weak moments, the combination of short days and poor weather makes me question whether I’m getting tired of London. No, I’m not tired of life. But maybe I’m getting fed

Andrew Brigden

Working longer than you’d like? Blame near-zero interest rates…

7 December 2018|

Ever since I was introduced to the idea as a student of A-level economics, I have long been intrigued by the clear, inverse relationship between the hours worked by an individual, and the amount that he or she produces per hour. As someone interested in his own work/life balance, as well as that of the company more broadly, I've often wondered: can we work less, yet produce more? The past ten years have seen a growing interest in the production

Thank Fathom it's Friday

Our free, weekly blog taking a sideways look at economics