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The Undercover Economist

Tim Harford

Top 10 Best Quotes

“There is much more to life than what gets measured in accounts. Even economists know that.”

“The dictator has to keep the economy functioning in order to keep stealing from it.”

“Hours are long. Wages are pitiful. But sweatshops are the symptom, not the cause, of shocking global poverty. Workers go there voluntarily, which means—hard as it is to believe—that whatever their alternatives are, they are worse. They stay there, too; turnover rates of multinational-owned factories are low, because conditions and pay, while bad, are better than those in factories run by local firms. And even a local company is likely to pay better than trying to earn money without a job: running an illegal street stall, working as a prostitute, or combing reeking landfills in cities like Manila to find recyclable goods.”

“if there’s a profitable deal to be done between somebody who has something unique and someone who has something which can be replaced, then the profits will go to the owner of the unique resource.”

“Someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Oscar Wilde’s definition of a cynic, now commonly applied to economists Imagine”

“Fight scarcity power and corruption; correct externalities; try to maximise information; get the incentives right; engage with other countries; and most of all embrace markets, which do most of these jobs at the same time.”

“We should aim to make ours a world where people feel free to do things they enjoy, even if others are mildly inconvenienced, but also one where we all refrain from harming other people if the effort involved to avoid harming them is small.”

“Taxes are often higher when price-sensitivity is low. For example, the government charges high taxes on petrol and cigarettes, not for environmental and health reasons but because people who buy these products need to drive and are addicted to smoking; they won’t change their behaviour much even in the face of large taxes. (If you think that taxes on petrol are motivated by environmental concerns, think again: despite the environmental impacts of air travel, electricity and domestic heating, 90 per cent of all ‘environmental’ taxes in the UK in 2009 were paid by motorists.)”

“It is not polite to say so, but it is obvious that paying people to be unemployed encourages unemployment. Yet, if a government scrapped unemployment benefit, there would still be jobless people, and supporting the jobless is something that every civilised society should do. The truth is that we have a trade-off: it is bad to encourage unemployment but good to support those without incomes.”

“Consider the situation: Money that was provided because of social networks rather than need; a project designed for prestige rather than to be used; a lack of monitoring and accountability; and an architect appointed for show by somebody with little interest in the quality of the work. The outcome is hardly surprising: a project that should never have been built was built, and built badly.”

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Book Keywords:

development, need, sweatshops, accountability, prestige, monitoring, project, project-management, outcomes, money-management, global-poverty, quality-of-work

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