Talk needn't be cheap

"Everyone is practicing Oratory on others thro the whole of his life" Adam Smith Economists can be a gloomy bunch. Humans, they say, are simple units of consumption whose behaviour can be manipulated by the application of incentives and disincentives. And then there’s Deirdre McCloskey. Until 2015, she was a professor of economics at the University of Chicago Illinois where she also taught history, English, and rhetoric. One of her great contributions to economic theory was her description of something called The Great Enrichment, “the most important secular event since the invention of agriculture”. In sum, the last 200 years was a period in which the number of goods and services avai

The one thing you need to know...

In 1980, while the smoke was still settling on the Vietnam War, the US Military Academy at West Point founded a behavioural science unit dedicated to unpacking the operational failures of that conflict. It was headed up by Colonel Tom Colditz, a decorated veteran who’d seen a lifetime of great plans wither in the face of enemy fire. Wrote Colditz: “In war, unpredictable things happen—the weather changes, a key asset is destroyed, the enemy responds in a way you don’t expect. Many armies fail because they put all their emphasis into creating a plan that becomes useless ten minutes into the battle.” In short, no plan survives contact with the enemy. It’s not that the plan is “wrong”, ju

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