How Intelligence Agencies Really Work (3 min read)

CIA

Whenever there are politically motivated mass murders (like the Brussels attacks) or an impending war, there are calls for more funding for intelligence services. Yet, there is a limit to what they can achieve in their current configurations. The image of slick omniscient intelligence agencies in movies and echoed by conspiracy theorists is likely way off the mark.

Indeed, the failure of US intelligence bodies on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction allowed a rare insight Continue reading “How Intelligence Agencies Really Work (3 min read)”

The Unexpected History Of Capitalism (4 min read)

Genizah Solomon_Schechter

(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)”

Am I Racist?

no blacks sign

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?”

Are You Drunk While Working (Without Realising It)?!

Dog sleeping

(excerpt from my book…)

As for working all hours of the day or excess travel, this can seriously affect our sleep. This in turn has a major impact on our general health and decision-making abilities. Lack of sleep leads to greater pangs of hunger, more inclination to diabetes, higher blood pressure, poorer immune systems and higher stress levels.  Not a great starting point for good decision making.

Then there is the startling similar effects of sleep deprivation and being drunk. Continue reading “Are You Drunk While Working (Without Realising It)?!”

Banking On War And Peace (2 min read)

US military

(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)”

FinTech Won’t Revolutionise Banking

Bitcoin_logo

(excerpt from my book)

In my experience technology has always overpromised and underdelivered. At work, the IT projects I’ve been part of have almost always over-run and not delivered the promised functionality. Outside of work, my smartphone’s battery dies too soon and voice recognition comes up with the strangest answers.

In a move reminiscent of the dot-com frenzy of the late 1990s, many bankers have left to enter the financial technology (fin-tech) sector Continue reading “FinTech Won’t Revolutionise Banking”

Does Work Have Any Morality? (2 min)

Jane_Jacobs

(An excerpt from upcoming book)

Jane Jacobs (1916-1996) was an expert on urban planning and the economics of cities. She was an activist who helped protect Greenwich Village in New York from being overhauled by an expressway running through Little Italy and SoHo and was arrested in the process. Through her work, she became an expert on the intersection between regulation and business and developed a framework to think about the moral dimensions of each. These were outlined in her excellent book “Systems of Survival”

She argued that there were some universal values such as cooperation, courage, patience and competence. But after these, two types of “moral syndromes” Continue reading “Does Work Have Any Morality? (2 min)”

How the Media Changes Our Minds

"Extreme Rendition" -- Jonas (Dennis Haysbert) and his team are sent to Bulgaria on a complicated mission to arrange for the dangerous prison escape of a rogue former Unit operator who can help them track down an arms dealer on THE UNIT, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Dennis Haysbert. Source:CBS

(another excerpt from my upcoming book)

This marketing of products is perhaps one of the biggest reasons many feel uneasy about the modern economy and by extension finance. Are we being induced into buying something we do not want or need? Continue reading “How the Media Changes Our Minds”

Can China Innovate? (2min read)

Mo Yan

(An excerpt from my book)

The US is the oft-cited innovator. But  upon closer inspection, it seems it is only the technology sector, and more specifically Silicon Valley, where the US is the undisputed innovator. So could China create the equivalent of Silicon Valley? To answer this, we need to understand the roots of Silicon Valley. Continue reading “Can China Innovate? (2min read)”

Who’s To Blame For the 2008 Crisis? (2min read)

Commision report

Another excerpt from my book:

The official verdict on the 2008 crisis in the US-government commissioned 663-page “The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report” was :

“ While the vulnerabilities that created the potential for crisis were years in the making, it was the collapse of the housing bubble—fueled by low interest rates, easy and available credit, scant regulation, and toxic mortgages— that was the spark that ignited a string of events, which led to a full-blown crisis in the fall of 2008.”

And it’s nine main conclusions were: Continue reading “Who’s To Blame For the 2008 Crisis? (2min read)”