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20 Invaluable Tim Harford Quotes

Tim Harford is an English economist and journalist currently residing in London. As the author of four economic books, he has his own financial column and has even appeared on a BBC television series. With several awards under his belt, here is a look at some of the best Tim Harford quotes ever.

“Accepting trial and error means accepting error. It means taking problems in our stride when a decision doesn’t work out, whether through luck or misjudgment.”

“According to one story, Von Neumann was asked to assist with the design of a new supercomputer, required to solve a new and important mathematical problem which was beyond the capacities of existing supercomputers.”

“Although the rig’s crew had, in principle, shut down the flow of oil and gas to the platform, so much.”

“And the fundamental point of all these massively parallel experiments is the same: when a problem reaches a certain level of complexity, formal theory won’t get you nearly as far as an incredibly rapid, systematic process of trial and error.”

“Hours are long. Wages are pitiful. But sweatshops are the symptom, not the cause, of shocking global poverty. Workers go there voluntarily, which means—hard as it is to believe—that whatever their alternatives are, they are worse.”

“If there’s a profitable deal to be done between somebody who has something unique and someone who has something which can be replaced, then the profits will go to the owner of the unique resource.”

“It is not polite to say so, but it is obvious that paying people to be unemployed encourages unemployment.”

“It may be satisfying to castigate the likes of Geithner and the heads of Lehman Brothers and AIG, but safety experts like Perrow know it is far more productive to design better systems than to hope for better people.”

“No plan survives first contact with the enemy. What matters is how quickly the leader is able to adapt.”

“Pluralism matters because life is not worth living without new experiences – new people, new places, new challenges. But discipline matters too; we cannot simply treat life as a psychedelic trip through a series of novel sensations.”

“Since we decided a few weeks ago to adopt leaves as legal tender, we have of course all become immensely rich. . . . But, we have also run into a small inflation problem on account of the high level of leaf availability.”

“Someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Oscar Wilde’s definition of a cynic, now commonly applied to economists Imagine.”

“The evolutionary algorithm–of variation and selection, repeated–searches for solutions in a world where the problems keep changing, trying all sorts of variants and doing more of what works.”

“The more grotesque your boss’s pay and the less he has do to earn it, the bigger the motivation for you to work with the aim of being promoted to what he has.”

“The Most successful industry of the last forty years has been built on failure after failure after failure.”

“The scale of the trouble, the economist John Kay was pointing out the similarities between the crunch.”

“The truth is that we have a trade-off: it is bad to encourage unemployment but good to support those without incomes.”

“There is much more to life than what gets measured in accounts. Even economists know that.”

“What, then, should you do? With an excellent hand, you should bet: You lose nothing if your opponent folds, while giving yourself a good chance of winning a big pot if he calls.”

“Whatever some Prius fans may believe, it turns out that Priuses do have a corporeal form, and a Prius in congested traffic will cause more emissions indirectly by slowing other cars down than it will emit directly.”

Here is a talk with Tim Harford with the Oxford Union as he discusses how to see into the future.

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