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I have written articles, op-eds, and book reviews for many publications, including the New York Review of Books, Wired, the Financial Times, The Observer, and for several years I wrote an economics column for the New Statesman.

For an archive of my articles, columns, and op-eds, click here

For an archive of my book reviews, meanwhile, click here.

A couple of recent pieces are below.

Bettering Humanomics
by Deidre Nansen McCloskey

Financial Times |  27 May 2021

It is no secret that the glory days of the kind of economics many of us learned at university are long gone.

The mighty edifice of neoclassical micro erected by Samuelson, Becker, and Stigler – with its hyper-rational homo economicus operating within a crystalline architecture of preferences, incentives, and constraints – went first.   It disintegrated following sustained assault by the behavioural school of Kahnemann, Thaler, and Sunstein.  By the turn of the millennium, it was out with the hard-nosed regulatory economists of the 80s and 90s, and in with behavioural insights and Nudge Units.

As for traditional macro – whether of the Saltwater Neo-Keynesian or the Freshwater New Classical flavours – that flamed out in spectacular fashion in 2008 when, as the Queen herself famously observed, it failed to predict the biggest economic crisis in history.  It took a decade for policy-makers to desert the old doctrines explicitly, but there is little doubt today that the Biden administration’s lodestar is more MMT than JMK or RBC.

Yet are these revolutions really the answer to the shortcomings of Old School Econ 101?  For more than four decades, Deidre Nansen McCloskey – professor emerita of no fewer than six separate disciplines at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a truly unclassifiable scholar who has made major contributions to economic theory, history, methodology, and statistics – has been arguing that the problems run deeper.  What economics needs to fulfil its unparalleled potential as the premier science of human progress, she insists, is the rediscovery of its origins as the discipline which successfully marries the methods of the sciences and the humanities.

Professor McCloskey explains why in her new book, Bettering Humanomics: A New, and Old, Approach to Economic Science. I reviewed it in the Financial Times on May 27, 2021.

The World for Sale
by Javier Blas and Jack Farchy

Financial Times |  2 March 2021

With the reflation trade suddenly ripping through the exchanges, a $1.9tn stimulus bill steaming through the US Congress, and “Dr Copper” bursting through $9,000 a tonne to prices not seen since the heady days of 2011, the commodity markets are headline news again.  Could there be a better moment for Javier Blas and Jack Farchy’s rollicking new account of those markets’ recent history to land on investors’ desks?

It’s as if the Bloomberg News reporters (and former FT journalists) have picked up not just a rich archive of ripping yarns from their years interviewing the industry’s leading traders — but some of their uncanny sense of timing too.

Commodities have not always been a hot topic. In 1998, I landed my first proper job, as bag-carrier to the head of the energy and mining department at the World Bank.  Back then, commodity markets seemed in terminal decline. The oil price had plummeted by 45 per cent over the previous 18 months. The mood in commodity-producing developing countries was apocalyptic.  

The Bank was on a mission to convince its clients that the good old days were not coming back: privatisation and reform were the only ways forward. At every meeting, we would pull out a chart of the real-terms price of oil over the previous nine decades. The boom times of the last two decades were a historical aberration, we would explain. Oil at $10 a barrel was here to stay.

We were of course spectacularly wrong. In December 1998, the oil price bounced, and then more than doubled in the next 12 months. It was just getting started. The 2000s witnessed a supercycle the like of which the world had never seen before — with the oil price topping out at $145 a barrel in June 2008. We had bottom-ticked the biggest commodity bull market in history.

At the core of The World For Sale: Money, Power, and The Traders Who Barter The Earth’s Resources is the story of how this historic boom catapulted a group of previously low-key international commodity trading houses — the likes of Cargill, Vitol, Trafigura, and Glencore — to extraordinary financial wealth and political power.

My review of the book was published in the Financial Times on March 2, 2021.