Deutsche Bank highlights a society at risk

by Chris Becker The HBO series Chernobyl wasn’t about the dangers of nuclear power but rather the ability of societies at large to lie, obfuscate, conceal and pass off individual responsibility to create huge “mistakes”. The collapse of the Soviet Union was due to this cascade of lies, that its economic and social system was


The paradigm now shaping our world’s digital cities

Cross posted from The Conversation: by Davina Jackson Honorary Academic, School of Architecture, University of Kent Today’s smart cities rely on networks: squillions of semiconductor devices that constantly pulse electromagnetic waves (light and radio frequencies) through telecommunications satellites. Data Cities, by the author. Lund Humphries (2018), Author provided Another genre of satellites, equipped especially for Earth


SpaceX launches and lands Falcon 9

by Chris Becker This is big. Big big news that paradoxically one day will be as humdrum as a 747 crossing the Atlantic. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched its orbital rocket, the Falcon 9, and landed the first stage. The 2nd stage went on to deploy 11 satellites for Orbcom, but the game changer is


Too complex to succeed

By David James. A common observation is that the financial system got into trouble because of the invention of securities that were too complex for ordinary investors to understand. This is true, but it should be more closely examined. Warren Buffett is no doubt right in noting the sociological implications for the finance and business


Is debt free money an option?

An intriguing proposal about how to rethink the global financial system is the notion of debt free money. This idea is typically raised in relation to the fact that the US Federal Reserve is not a central bank, it is a privately owned institution. The documentary “Secrets of Oz” details a long history of battles


How politicians failed us

  The global financial crisis and its subsequent repercussions were the inevitable consequence of governments’ abrogating their responsibility to govern. In thrall to nonsense arguments about “financial de-regulation”, they weakly handed over the job of setting the rules of money to the markets. As previously discussed, this did not result in fewer rules. It resulted


The Growth Myth-Metaphor

  The angst of the day is the prospect that low growth will become a permanent feature of the world economy. Flashman has asked what it would mean if the GFC was permanent? As he notes, the Asian Development Bank is cutting its growth forecasts. Europe and America are struggling to grow at all and


Gunns and the Elites

  An intriguing discussion was had on the Radio National breakfast program this week about the conclusions to be drawn from the demise of Gunns, Tasmania’s biggest paper and pulp mill. It is, sadly, the kind of debate that only occurs in Australia after the fact. People fear creating ripples in a small pond. Plus


Death by financial rules

Surely the greatest misnomer in modern times is the term “financial de-regulation”. For at least 25 years, various business funded think tanks and mono-culture, conformist university economics departments have hailed its advantages, for the most part completely capturing the world’s business press. I know. I am actually a business journalist who was, until recently, in


Money is power

For the last couple of years, in the wake of the financial crisis, the banking and finance community has darkly warned about the dangers of over regulating the sector. “We mustn’t impede the free flow of capital”, it is claimed, “otherwise efficiency and productivity will be lost and the real economy will not recover.” The


The ring of finance

Doubts are growing about the efficacy of quantitative easing. Maccanomics  is asking whether monetary easing is a Ponzi scheme, a trap that central banks won’t be able to get out of. The Economist explores the possibility that there is a problem of diminishing returns: For economies that have already used QE, the problem is one of diminishing


Krugman vs CNBC

Paul Krugman appeared on CNBC overnight and the results were fascinating as his Keynsian views went head-to-head with an ideological distaste for government. Great viewing.


Finance and the Mafia State

The argument advanced by the historian Philip Bobbitt that a transition is occurring in world politics from the nation state to the market state has long appealed as a snapshot of what is occurring in world politics. It is, as with any thesis about a large subject, far too simple to reflect accurately all that is


The end of the Age of Entitlement

Find below Joe Hockey’s recent speech on “the End of the Age of Entitlement”. It’s a good speech with which I agree in principle. It is the first time I’ve seen an Australian political leader acknowledge that the world has changed after the GFC and that henceforth nations will be judged upon the relative performance


The rule of capital

In the movie Margin Call, which is broadly about the financial crisis and the insidiousness of the financial sector, one of the characters laments about how he used to be an engineer who did useful things like build bridges (he calculates that one he built saved people thousands of years of travel time). But of


Exponential finance

A talk by the futurist Ray Kurzweil was recently played on the ABC in which he talked about the accelerating rate of innovation when it becomes part of what is broadly termed the information technology industry. He argues that in the future medicine, biology, economy and social relationships will be subject to information technology and the


Freud puts capitalism on the couch

A fascinating article has been written by Eliot Spitzer for The Slate which details the massive lying that went on during the GFC. It raises an intriguing question. What functions do lying and truthfulness play in financial systems? The assumption commonly made is that lying and deception are “bad” and truth telling is “good”. This is


The scourge of government debt

There has been much debate about the need to revive Keynesianism, government stimulation of the economy versus austerity. In many respects the debate is irrelevant. It is not dealing with the world as it currently is. A lesson is emerging from the current crisis, and for that matter the financial crises of the last  two


Market states

Binary thinking is always easy. It is also a trap, perhaps the most common. A moment’s reflection should tell us that human affairs cannot be analysed as simple antonyms: government versus markets, socialism versus laissez faire, monetarism versus Keynesianism. But the habit is hard to shake, perhaps because we inevitably tend to see things in


History resumes

If nothing else, the European crisis is bringing us back to a timeless reality: power is what matters in human affairs. My esteemed colleague Houses & Holes has long argued for the importance of looking at political economy; the intersection of finance, business and politics; the true matrix of power. It was always a compelling


Fat bonuses don’t work

We’ve heard quite a bit about the new ‘two-strikes’ rule on executive pay in the media since an amendment to the Corporations Act, to toughen executive remuneration conditions, was passed in July.  This amendment was the outcome of a Productivity Commission inquiry into executive remuneration released in January this year. While more accountability to shareholders


What a piece of work is a man

We live in hyper-metarialist times, both financial materialism and scientific materialism. It has become so intense, it is scarcely noticed. Yet its consequences are profound, not least for how we understand economics. The concluding remarks of Adam Curtis’ documentary “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace” detail some of them. He argues, using the example


The natural chaos of markets

Having just watched the second episode of All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace  by my favourite documentary maker Adam Curtis, in which he tells the “story of how our modern scientific idea of nature, as a self-regulating ecosystem, is actually a machine fantasy”, I am once again struck by what an absurd body


Marx vs capitalism vs you

It is a measure of how un-self critical modern economics has been, that the Marxists are starting to appear to be making the most sense of the current crises. The supine acceptance that “the market is always right” — a truism only to traders and vested interests — means that there has been precious little


Unoccupying Melbourne

I must admit, beyond writing a story about why we might want to carry the Occupy Wall Street banner downunder a few weeks ago, I haven’t shown a lot of interest in the various “Occupy” movements in Australian cities. Not for any particular reason beyond that I assumed, rightly it seems, that any Australian movement