You Are Richer Than You Think (2 min read)

Occupy_Wall_Street_Together

Another excerpt from my book:

Even savvy people who see through the above forms of advertising may succumb to more subtle versions. The most prevalent one is the nexus of news, media and advertising. Headlines are taken up by fear-inducing stories of murders, wars in far-off lands and the “despicable” lives of politically-weak sections of society.

As a relief to these stories, a colourful and exciting palate of celebrity, sports and product stories are offered up. Continue reading “You Are Richer Than You Think (2 min read)”

In the beginning, there was the Word…

Zampieri_St_John_Evangelist

Another excerpt from my upcoming book:

Words in their various guises have been thought to be the primal force of humanity for thousands of years:

“In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God”  (Gospel of John, 1:1)

“The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” ( Genesis 11:6)

“And He taught Adam all the names…And (remember) when We said to the angels: “Prostrate yourselves before Adam.”(Quran 2:31)

In essence, words create a reality of their own; they set the context to which all will act within. Think about how “freedom-fighter”(eg Mandela) sounds compared to “terrorist” (eg Mandela), or how “entrepreneur” sounds  compared to “wheeler-dealer”. Who decides which of the pair is used sets the tone of any subsequent discussion.  Continue reading “In the beginning, there was the Word…”

11 Commandments For Predicting the Future (2min read)

Superforecasting

The talking heads on TV give such a convincing story about what the future holds that its hard not to believe them. But pinning them down to a time-frame and discrete future event is often next to impossible, so you can never determine whether they were right or wrong. When such talking heads are pinned down, their track-record turns out to be very poor,  according to Philip Tetlock in his latest book “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction“. This makes sense as they are picked more for their entertainment value, than their track-records.

The real super-forecasters are people like Doug Lorch (ex-IBM, retired, lives in Santa Barbara), Mary Simpson  (independent financial consultant, formerly regulatory affairs at utility Southern California Edison) and Devyn Duffy (welfare case worker, Pittsburgh). Continue reading “11 Commandments For Predicting the Future (2min read)”

What To Do In A Complex World? (2 min read)

German Federal Archive
German Federal Archive

Another excerpt from my book. Any feedback welcome! This bit is about derivatives:

What these examples [Great Depression, breakdown of Bretton Woods, the creation of the euro and 2008 crisis] show is that systems work for a while, but never endure. There is a constant need to reform, tinker and experiment. And with the world becoming ever more complex, institutions need  a way to lock in some form of certainty. Derivatives can provide that. By far, the most common derivative is the interest rate swap, which allows one to switch from floating interest rates to a fixed interest rate (or vice versa). Your mortgage uses this! Continue reading “What To Do In A Complex World? (2 min read)”

What’s Wrong With Buying An Adopted Child? (2min read)

Merlijn Doomernik
Merlijn Doomernik

With the dominance of market thinking, it is hard to argue against the exchange of some good or service between two consenting adults of money. However, Michael Sandel, Harvard Professor of Government, argues in “What Money Can’t Buy” that there are limits.

To give a sense of how pervasive markets are, he outlines the types of things that can now be bought and sold:

  • A prison cell upgrade  ($82 a night)
  • The services of an Indian surrogate mother to carry a pregnancy ($6,250).
  • The right to immigrate the US ($500,000)
  • The right to shoot endangered rhinos ($150,000)
  • Stand in line overnight in Capitol Hill to hold a place for a lobbyist to attend  congressional hearing ($15-$20 per hour)
  • Buy the life insurance policy for an elderly person, pay the premiums and then receive the death benefit when they die.

Continue reading “What’s Wrong With Buying An Adopted Child? (2min read)”

4 Things I Learnt About Women Recently (2min read)

Woman-power_emblem

I attended the annual Power Shift conference at Oxford’s Said business school earlier this week. It’s led by the excellent Professor Linda Scott and focuses on women and the world economy. While there was so much great content, here are the 4 things that stood out for me:

 1)  There’s an app to tell you how women-friendly a business is! Amy-Willard Cross has come up with an awesome app called the “Buy Up Index“(available on iPhone and Android). You type in a company and it grades the company across four categories: employees, ads, leadership and other. I typed in “Nike” and found that they score an “A” overall. They got “A”s for all categories except ads, where they got a “B” (let down by their Hurley brand, which mainly shows male surfers). Check it out. Continue reading “4 Things I Learnt About Women Recently (2min read)”

The 3 Type Of Individuals That Transform Economies

Max Weber (1864-1920), Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950), Frank Knight (1885-1972)
Max Weber,  Joseph Schumpeter, , Frank Knight

In economics, there has always been a big debate about what drives economic growth. In the end, economists have assumed that positive “shocks” to an economy just kind of happen. However, there have been some thinkers who looked inside the black-box and focused on entrepreneurship. Continue reading “The 3 Type Of Individuals That Transform Economies”

Writers and Traders Are More Similar Than You Think

Wizard_title_page

(excerpt from my book-in-progress)

It’s easy to separate the “real” economy from the financial world. One makes real things like cars and fridges, while the other manufactures money from money.

This has been a rich theme for authors for centuries. Take the 1900 L.Frank Baum classic the “Wonderful Wizard of Oz”.  The yellow-brick road represented something real, gold. It was the path to follow. Continue reading “Writers and Traders Are More Similar Than You Think”

What Money Cannot Buy

Human red blood cells magnified 1000 times
Human red blood cells magnified 1000 times

I recently came across the work of Richard Titmuss (1907-1973). He was the father of social policy and was known as the ‘high priest of the welfare state’.

His most famous book was his last one called “The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy”In it, he studied what was the most effective method for people to give blood – the market (i.e. paying them) or altruism (i.e. goodness of their own heart). Luckily for him, he had both systems in place in the real world with the US using the market and the UK using voluntary donations.  Continue reading “What Money Cannot Buy”

Dealing With Success And Loss

Crying-girl

One thing is clear in life: there will times of success and there will be times of loss. When I think of the economy, I think of market bubbles and their collapse. When I think of my personal life, I think of times of being “in the zone” and times when I feel I have lost something or someone dear to me. So how to get one’s head around all of this? Continue reading “Dealing With Success And Loss”