Shakespeare. You cannot get more British than that. His works are taught in schools across the country, revered by the guardians of British culture and promoted as the quintessential British cultural icon abroad. With the UK’s referendum to leave the European Union, it may be time to fall back on such an icon to help forge a new path for Britishness. Continue reading “From Greek Drama To Shakespearean Tragedy (5 min read)”
With the events in Orlando, the world today looks unstable and dangerous. What doesn’t help is the tendency for political leaders to score political points over such events. It is therefore worth looking back to another time to see how leaders can behave.
For me, the “peace speech” given by John F Kennedy in June 1963 is a template of what true leadership looks like. The backdrop was the Cold War where at any time the US and the Soviet Union could trigger nuclear armageddon. Continue reading “One Of the Greatest Political Speeches”
Utopia: noun uto·pia \yu̇-ˈtō-pē-ə\; an imaginary and indefinitely remote place; an impractical scheme for social improvement
There is a common belief today that a coming technology utopia will solve all our problems with the financial system. This type of belief is not new – take a look at these quotes from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s:
“The hottest item in the stock market these days is not a security but an automated quotations system called NASDAQ that is speedily revolutionizing the over-the-counter market…The new electronic system gives bid and asked prices on about 2,500 counter stocks” (“The Counter Revolution: NASDAQ Bringing Competition To Wall St”, New York Times, April 4, 1971) Continue reading “Is the FinTech Utopia Just Around The Corner?”
(An excerpt from my upcoming book)
In any conventional history of capitalism, we are taught that the Dutch were one of earliest innovators in financial markets (before the baton was passed to the Brits, then the Americans). Indeed, they appear to have invented securitisation in the 1600s. And if we wanted to look even further back, we are told that the 12th century financiers in the Italian cities of Genoa and Venice were the earliest capitalists.
But what is less well known is that it was the Italian interaction with the Muslim world that likely transferred to Europe many of these financial techniques. We now know much of this from the ancient Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo. Continue reading “The Unexpected History Of Capitalism (4 min read)”
Of course I’m not, but surely others are. Hang on, if the “other” is me twenty years ago – were the attitudes I had back then bigoted? (hmm, no comment). Or twenty years hence, will I look back at my perspectives today, and think how regressive they were?!
I’m tempted to think that I’ll always have the perfect attitudes, but I’m not so sure when I look at the views of some of the past greats like Gandhi, Lincoln, and Churchill: Continue reading “Am I Racist?”
(excerpt from my upcoming book)
The retaliatory use of US and EU financial sanctions on Russian individuals show the importance of finance in geo-political relations. It shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise as the largest increases in government debt tend to occur around wars. The financial system, then, is critical to raise these funds, and later find ways of paying it down.
Indeed, after the Second World War, most involved countries saw their government debt levels shoot higher. One way to pay the down down was to use financial repression, which is the most direct link between the state, war and the banking system. Continue reading “Banking On War And Peace (2 min read)”
The excellent British historian, Arnold Toybee (1889-1975), studied the rise and fall of great empires in his 12-volume “A Study Of History“. He couldn’t find many common drivers for them. That’s why no-one could easily have predicted that the British would have the largest land empire of all time,the Mongols the second largest, and the Umayyads the fifth largest. But he did find Continue reading “What Causes Great Civilisations To Fail?”
(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”
I finished reading Robert Harris’ “The Dictator” about the rise and fall of Caesar as told from the perspective of the statesman-philosopher Cicero. While it wasn’t as fun as the first two in the trilogy, it still had many gems of insight:
“How easy is it for those who play no part in public affairs to sneer at the compromises required of those who do” (Cicero had stuck to his principles and been banished from Rome).
We took our pet Chow, Sherlock, to visit Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. The place has a sordid history, which includes the Profumo Affair, which eventually brought down the Conservative government in the early 1960s. Sherlock wasn’t too aware of the history, but did enjoy the grounds: Continue reading “Our Pet Chow, Sherlock, On Holiday”