How Big Tobacco invented Donald Trump and Brexit (and what to do about it)

Economist Tim Harford (previously) traces the history of denialism and "fake news" back to Big Tobacco's cancer denial playbook, which invented the tactics used by both the Brexit and Trump campaigns to ride to victory — a playbook that dismisses individual harms as "anaecdotal" and wide-ranging evidence as "statistical," and works in concert with peoples' biases (smokers don't want cigarettes to cause cancer, Brexiteers want the UK to be viable without the EU, Trump supporters want simple, cruel policies to punish others and help them) to make emprically wrong things feel right.

Bank fraud and Dieselgate: how do we design regulations that are harder to cheat?

Tim Harford points out that Dieselgate — when VW designed cars that tried to guess when they were undergoing emissions test and dial back their pollution — wasn't the first time an industry designed its products to cheat when regulators were looking; the big banks did the same thing to beat the "stress tests" that finance regulators used to check whether they would collapse during economic downturns (the banks "made very specific, narrow bets designed to pay off gloriously in specific stress-test scenarios" so that they looked like they'd do better than they actually would).

Dissipation of Economic Rents: when money is wasted chasing money

Much of economics is both esoteric and vital, meaning you need to understand it, but it's hard sledding. Today, economist Tim Harford does us the service of explaining "dissipation of economic rents" — inefficient systems in which the effort expended by everyone chasing value wipes out the value they're chasing.

Bowie, Eno and serendipity

Tim Harford (previously) writes, "My TED talk just went live – among other things it's about Bowie and Eno's creative process on the Berlin albums. It's rather sadly timed but I hope you like it."

We treat terrorism as more costly than it truly is

The deaths from terrorism are unspeakable tragedies. It goes without saying. But the mortality due to terrorism — total deaths per capita — are very low, lower than car-wrecks or traditional murder. Likewise, the costs from terrorism — damage to physical structures, damage to economies — are high, but, when you look at the numbers, you find they're just not that high.