After last week’s top 10 by the statistics, I went back through the archives. And I was a bit surprised: some of the posts that I still talk about in general conversation have been floating around since May! Clearly, I’ve been boring a lot of people with mindless repetition.

But that said, for many reasons (bad timing, late sharing on facebook, boring titles, etc), some of the posts that I’m most pleased with don’t get the kind of attention that a rant might have on a good day. So this is a list of the posts that I would most like people to read (in no particular order).

20. The Law of Unintended Consequences: A Greek Civil Service


In 1911, Greece made ongoing employment in the public sector a constitutional right, making it almost impossible for you to get fired once hired by the government. In this post, I prepared a thought experiment of how the right to permanent employment might play out over time. As it turns out: not well.

19. Affirmative Action

When I wrote this post, I didn’t actually share it too publicly for fear of having to spend my morning responding to, and editing, facebook wall hatred.

The basic summary: in life, we have friends and acquaintances. Or, rather, social relationships and economic relationships. The best businesses are not built on economic relationships – they’re built on social ones. Affirmative Action attempts to correct social relationships by enforcing economic ones. And unfortunately, that doesn’t really play out well in practice.

18. The Value VS Price Paradigm

This was actually a series of posts on the topic:

There is a difference between value (which is intrinsic) and price (which is a negotiation). The classic example is the worker that feels underpaid for the value of work that he/she delivers. “Salary” is not a question of value – it’s a question of demand, supply, substitutability and persuasion.

17. Insuring Yourself Against Aliens

When I wrote this post, I was trying to demonstrate why it’s so important to have health and disability cover. Instead, I got completely distracted, and wrote about the alien abduction and immaculate conception insurance.

16. Headhunting as practiced by recruiters

shrunken head

I’m not the biggest fan of recruiters – I think that they have a strong incentive to make you feel terrible about yourself. But I did get to give a step-by-step guide to how the head-hunting tribes of Latin America turn a human head into a shrunken head talisman necklace.

15. The Economic Theory of Relativity

We’re all blind. And I have the optical illusions to prove it.

14. The Poverty Posts

There were two that I think are worthy of mention:

One of the big themes in my blogging year has been our inability to understand the economic decisions of people in different economic classes to our own. Because what’s rational for the hungry poor man (“I’ll use extra money to buy a television, not more food”) doesn’t at all seem rational to the academic economists in their well-supplied ivory towers.

13. China’s Counterfeit Condoms: Not Such A Bad Thing

I love to be contrarian. And in this post, I got to explain how counterfeit products are actually a good thing for the brands that they rip off.

12. Uruguay and the legalisation of pot

In still more contrarianism, this post explains why legalising the production, distribution and sale of the Mary J makes so much economic sense…

11. The GDP Spiral: Contraction, Recession, Depression

The GDP number is something that we generally just seem to hear about on the news. However, it’s actually not that excellent a number.

I wrote this post just as the news of Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy was breaking (re-reading that post now, it’s clear that the closing comment is a little dated…).

10. What’s All This About Banks And Basel?

Despite the somewhat boring-sounding title, I had a lot of fun writing about the banks, and how they were once goldsmiths that stored people’s gold, and how the first bank run came about.

There are diagrams.

9. Trade Unions, The Bastards

I feel like the title speaks for itself.

8. The Shareholder Value Maximisation Fallacy

Another blog series:

We take it as a kind of gospel-truth that companies should be run by their shareholders, and that the rights of the shareholders are all important.

But shareholders are just a source of financing. And in some industries, like the banking industry, they’re only a tiny component in the way that the company finances itself. In retail banking, by far the largest providers of capital are actually debt-holders – being you and me, the bank’s depositors. Why, in that example, should a bank be run to maximise shareholder value?

At the same time, I show how the push toward shareholder-value maximisation could actually be destroying company value.

And it’s probably time for a paradigm shift.

7. The US Inequality Myth. Sort Of. 

An inflammatory video clip that inflamed my response…

What the do-gooders ignore in their rush to be outraged.

6. How Ryanair Makes Money Off Delusions

We all have biases and weaknesses – where we expect ourselves to be more organised than we actually are, and where we don’t like to miss out on a bargain.

For the most part, they’re relatively harmless. But unfortunately, they do leave you vulnerable to exploitation…

5. It’s All About Savings

It’s all about the way that we think:

It sounds like these topics won’t be particularly interesting. After all – savings are plain old grandmotherly-styling wisdom.


The reason that I like these posts is because they’re both about counterintuitive facts.

The first features an Amazonian tribe that have no words for numbers larger than 5, schoolchildren that lose their natural sense of magnitude in a haze of arithmetic, and how it impacts the way that we deal with life (and savings).

The second is based on a study by Richard Thaler, where he demonstrates how we can turn our laziness and procrastination to our advantage.

4. Dear Top 1%. It’s Time To Panic.


The concerning thing about inequality is not really the moral issue – the trouble is that it’s bad for the rich as well.

What happens when one man has all the money, and everyone else has nothing? It’s the end of the monopoly game: there’s no one else to play with, and you realise that all you’re holding is pieces of paper and plastic hotels with no one to stay in them.

Either that, or revolution.

3. The Economics of Faith: Once Bitten, Tithe Shy

Why Mr Hubbard was convinced that starting a religion would make you wealthy…

When pastors pray prey on fear and guilt, and turn it into gold. A how-to guide.

2. The Economics of Online Dating: A Market For Lemons

Why online dating makes so much sense.

1. Procreative Finance. Actually: Contraceptive Finance.


The cost of the unprotected orgasm: a reason to love your parents.

And a reason to plan your own parenthood…

It’s one of my all-time favourite posts.