I am a diligent worker and
an avid reader of your column. I have, however, become a victim of
imperfect information. I am about to do my first-year exams and have
just found out that not only should I have been reading your articles,
but the whole of the FT and The Economist as well. I may not have
substituted enough leisure for work and fear I am about to pay the
price. What should I do? And would it be right for a journalist of high
calibre to use his perfect information to suggest articles on macro and
micro economics over the past year?

Will, Cambridge


Nice try, but your story doesn’t stack up.

The Financial Times and The Economist are
invaluable sources of information about the real world. You, on the
other hand, are about to sit economics exams at Cambridge. If you have
not yet learnt to appreciate the difference between reality and
Cambridge economics, I really am worried about you.

This is
especially true if your ignorance has survived your professed diligence.
But I rather doubt that you have worked as carefully as you claim. You
say that you are a victim of imperfect information, but surely previous
exam papers are available for all to see.

A more likely
interpretation is that you’re a victim of hyperbolic discounting, where
you irrationally regard revision as a chore that fails any cost-benefit
test, right up to the last few days before your exam. It’s a subject you
may encounter in your third year, if you get there.

It’s not too
late. Memorise your Taylor series and a couple of variants of the
prisoner’s dilemma, and you’ll be fine. As for articles, I’m proud of a
column I wrote for this magazine on November 6 last year on the
economics of Jamie Oliver. It won’t get you through your exams but at
least you’ll be able to whip up a fresh garden salad for summer.


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