Trade and the Zero-Sum Fallacy


Economics is Fun Series – Part 4 – Trade

Another great video from the Adam Smith Institute. This week Madsen Pirie looks at trade and also dispatches the zero-sum fallacy (the “big cake” argument which says that trade must leave someone worse off). He also recommends a way to make poorer nations richer – “buy their stuff”! Watch and learn.

Want more? Watch the previous episode on specialisation.


Steven Pinker on why life is no longer nasty, brutish and short


The Peace Dividend

A great Ted Talk here by Steven Pinker on the ongoing decline in violence. Not only does he present the hard data to show that the decline of violence is a fact, but he also gives several plausible explanations as to why the decline is happening.

Two points in particular that stand out for me. First, as technology and economic efficiency make life longer and more pleasant, we are clearly putting a higher value on life in general. Second, Peter Singer’s thesis that our “circle of empathy” has evolved well beyond encompassing only family and friends (in part because technology is making it ever easier to “trade places” with other people’s feelings and emotions). Powerful stuff and well worth your time. Hat tip to Oliver Sycamore for this one.

The Pin Factory


Economics is Fun Series – Part 3 – Specialisation

More great stuff from the Adam Smith Institute. This week Madsen Pirie looks at specialisation and mass production, picking up on both the Wealth of Nations and the genius of Eli Whitney in the process.

Here’s Adam Smith himself on the benefits of specialisation:

This great increase in the quantity of work, which, in consequence of the division of labour, the same number of people are capable of performing, is owing to three different circumstances; first, to the increase of dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, to the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another; and, lastly, to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labour, and enable one man to do the work of many.

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Want more? Watch the previous episode on price.

On yer bike – Sky News tries and fails to uncover economic woe


Poor Dermot Murnagham. He’s clearly fallen for the world’s worst programme idea. “Dermot, we’re going to do a programme about the downturn in the economy. We’ll call it the ‘Economic Cycle’. And here’s the twist. Dermot, we want you to do the tour on an actual bicycle”. Brilliant!

Except it isn’t. The people poor Dermot meets have little but stories of hope to give, and no woe. Skip the start about the Pope and begin at around 1:20. Hilarious! Thanks Charlie Brooker. More of this kind of thing!

Are fossil fuels greening the planet?


More provocative, disruptive and thought-provoking stuff from Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist. Are fossil fuels actually helping to green the planet? Are species really going extinct on the scale we presume? Are bio-fuels causing more harm than good? Is intensive farming the answer to better conservation of natural habitats?

Whether you find yourself enraged or enlightened, this video is well worth 20 mins of your time.