Articles

Let’s challenge our fixation on the principle of one share, one vote

The Savoy Group and Google both adopted share structures that give individuals disproprtionately greater voting rights than their diverse set of shareholders. It has worked well for these companies and their investors over the long run. Perhaps we should reopen the debate over share structures?

The move towards a cashless society is bad news for criminal activity

Andrew Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, speculated last week about a cashless future in the hope that it might enable central banks to reduce interest rates below even their current near-zero levels. But this also has important implications for the fight against crime.

The rich and powerful obstruct criticism of their actions through ‘Maxwellisation’

Sir John Chilcot recently explained that the delay to his Iraq war inquiry is in part due to “the ‘Maxwellisation’ process, in which individuals are given the opportunity to respond to provisional criticism of themselves in the inquiry’s draft report”. This is, perhaps, an appropriate legacy for one of the most flamboyant and litigious crooks of recent times.

Limited liability led to limited care for other people’s money

The financial sector in the 1980s and 1990s was characterised by a rush to incorporation. The mantra of “shareholder value” restored the nexus between finance and business that Smith had feared and Brandeis denounced. And the stage was set for negligence and profusion to prevail once again.

We were better served by old-fashioned relationship-focused bank managers

The bank manager used to be a community figure who would base his (they were all men) lending decisions as much on his local knowledge and the character of the borrower as on figures. He did rather better than his modern-day, intellectually-superior equivalent.

A liberal education is now more useful than job-specific skills

Technology has made it less important to know, and more important to know what is known. That is why the widespread belief that education should be focused more on the acquisition of job-specific knowledge is especially misconceived in the 21st century.

Rail privatisation has delivered improvements through accountability and autonomy

Both the leading candidates for the leadership of Britain’s opposition Labour party have now committed themselves to renationalising the country’s railways. But the state-owned British Rail was one if the most reviled institutions in the UK, and privatisation has delivered many relative benefits.

Look at home to find the efficiency gains from recent technological innovation

The technological changes that have occurred in the past decade have, from an economic perspective, increased at virtually no cost the efficiency of household production. Trying to account for this kind of development is the considerable challenge being undertaken by Sir Charles Bean’s review of the UK’s national statistics.

Effective leaders recognise the limits of their knowledge

We all have a tendency to interpret evidence, whatever its nature, as demonstrating the validity of the views we already hold. It requires intellectual magnanimity to acknowledge that additional information might lead us to a different conclusion.

Solutions to the Greek debt crisis should be found through pragmatism not blame

The Greek crisis is not simply the result of Athens’ inept public administration but also of an extensive carry trade on eurozone convergence by northern European banks, notably in France and Germany, which obtained short-term profits by matching northern eurozone liabilities with southern eurozone assets. For every foolish borrower there is usually a foolish lender.