Tim Harford’s Undercover Economist has long been a favourite of mine in the Financial Times. So when I discovered BBC Radio 4’s More or less, which he hosts, I hastened to subscribe to the podcast, and I have not been disappointed. I’m only now catching up, though, and am delighted to share with you something from the 12 December 2008 episode.

An item on Britain’s barmy house numbers, as some might put it, featured a totally inane justification for omitting the “unlucky” number 13, from local councillor Stephen Clee.1 He actually admits pandering to local prejudices:

“We have to listen to what the people say ... The local community were saying to us, ‘we don't like living at number 13, so can we do something about it.’ ... That’s why we introduced a policy to not use that particular number.”

Listen for yourself

So, if the local community said, instead, we don’t like living next to Pakis, or gay people, or people who use wheelchairs, would it be OK to have an official policy listening to that too?

Kudos then to the few local authorities that, like Edinburgh City Council, state that “in all instances, the number 13 is never omitted’.

  1. Who has been so busy “serving Wyre Forest” that he hasn’t had time to update his personal web site since May 2008. 

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