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January 15, 2013

In years gone by, central banks were supposed to be the guardians of monetary discipline – vigilant in protecting citizens against inflation and currency debasement. They were rarely known to smile.

In years gone by, central banks were supposed to be the guardians of monetary discipline – vigilant in protecting citizens against inflation and currency debasement. They were rarely known to smile.

Bankers used to quake every time the governor of the Bank of England twitched an eyebrow. Former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker developed a fearsome reputation for taming inflation in the early 1980s.

But the times are changing to suit economic circumstances, as anxious politicians bend central bankers to their will.

January 8, 2013

Whom do you trust out there? In the current climate of downturn and austere suspicion, the likelihood is fewer individuals and organisations than you did before 2007. But do you trust your family?

Whom do you trust out there? In the current climate of downturn and austere suspicion, the likelihood is fewer individuals and organisations than you did before 2007. 

December 20, 2012

Seventeenth century mathematician Blaise Pascal once wrote: “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” And things haven’t changed much since. If anything, they’ve got worse. And things haven’t changed much since. If anything, they’ve got worse.

Seventeenth century mathematician Blaise Pascal once wrote: “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” And things haven’t changed much since. If anything, they’ve got worse.

This is because, in this age of anxiety, investors can’t escape bad news. The global media is magnifying every problem in sight in a desperate bid to compete for our attention and advertising spend.

November 22, 2012

We are creatures of habit. We find it reassuring when day follows night, spring follows winter and lunch follows breakfast. But that doesn’t stop us worrying about the future because anxiety is at the core of our instinct for self-preservation. By not thinking how things go wrong, we put ourselves at risk.

We are creatures of habit. We find it reassuring when day follows night, spring follows winter and lunch follows breakfast.

Social progress has made our life ever more predictable. Rather than worrying about where to get our next meal, we know our local supermarket’s open seven days a week. Instead of foraging for wood to burn, we switch on the central heating.

Over the last 30 years, we have also been reassured by economic growth, punctured by occasional setbacks of up to three years, following overreach.

November 20, 2012

It’s an interesting word, “friends”. It suggests that doing business is a question of relationships, not fisticuffs. Most businesses probably recognise that far more than the idea of business as war.

There comes a moment in British prime ministers’ careers when they feel compelled to get all Churchillian. David Cameron had his at the Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference on 19 November when he – absurdly, insanely – claimed that the UK is “in the economic equivalent of war”.

With the air of a man about to snap on a pair of flying goggles and sprint across a field towards a Spitfire, he added that “in this global race you are either quick or you’re dead”.

November 1, 2012

In capitalism, wealth surges to the top but only trickles to the bottom, as was illustrated between 1870 and 1900 when a band of US industrialists became enriched beyond the realms of avarice.

In capitalism, wealth surges to the top but only trickles to the bottom, as was illustrated between 1870 and 1900 when a band of US industrialists became enriched beyond the realms of avarice.

Over the last 30 years, the scale of wealth enjoyed by entrepreneurs, friends and families has grown further and faster.

The multi-billion-dollar question is whether the hunger and envy that led to uprisings in late 19th century America is set to repeat itself.

October 30, 2012

Stories about corruption follow a familiar arc. It is exposed by the press (or bloggers) and condemned, and then others come along who shrug in a worldly way, give a wry smile and explain that this is how business is done.

Not many people have heard of Yang Dacai until August, when he was photographed smirking at the side of the road where 36 people had died in a car crash. That smile made the head of Shaanxi province’s Bureau of Work Safety a hate-figure among Chinese bloggers, who soon started digging into his life.

October 16, 2012

One thing the financial meltdown of 2008 and the subsequent slowdown in economic growth for much of the world has sparked is a debate about the appropriate types of capitalism for the future. Much talk has centred on reining in the excesses of the financial services sector that nearly led the world into global depression.

One thing the financial meltdown of 2008 and the subsequent slowdown in economic growth for much of the world has sparked is a debate about the appropriate types of capitalism for the future. Much talk has centred on reining in the excesses of the financial services sector that nearly led the world into global depression.

October 9, 2012

Five years after the credit crisis began we have entered a bull market for regulation. It is stretching further, and faster, than most of us realise. The process is inevitable, following recent excesses. Some aspects of it are beneficial. But the line between market regulation and capital punishment is becoming increasingly thin.

Five years after the credit crisis began we have entered a bull market for regulation. It is stretching further, and faster, than most of us realise. The process is inevitable, following recent excesses. Some aspects of it are beneficial. But the line between market regulation and capital punishment is becoming increasingly thin. 

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