23 October 2020

Free Exchange: Tim Harford on how to make the world add up


‘Now, what I want is stats! Stats alone are wanted in life!’

If Dickens’ hard-nosed utilitarian, Thomas Gradgrind, was around today he’d probably be knee-deep in SAGE briefings and ONS data bulletins, trying to work out what the heck is going on with this virus.


In the absence of a fictional Victorian schoolmaster, who better to lead us through the numerical mire than Tim Harford – the economist, author, broadcaster and TED-talker – whose new book ‘How To Make The World Add Up’ is an invaluable guide to seeing through the statistical fog.

It’s much more than just a handy Spark Notes for numeracy though, as Tim delves into the deeply held psychological biases that lead us down the wrong path.

This was a great discussion about a book packed with insights and wonderful nuggets, such as: what do the inner workings of a toilet tell us about political polarisation?

John Ashmore is Editor of CapX.