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Friday, 3 June 2016

THE CAPITALIST TRAP

BHS, Woolworths, Austin Reed, Blockbuster, Comet, JJB Sports, to name a few. But not only retail: steel, coal, banking. Big companies come and go, file for bankruptcy, fold. Jobs, thousands of them are lost in the name of capitalism, an old-fashioned capitalism.
The type where managers/owners/entrepreneurs simply use companies to inflate their portfolios, to seek short term gains, unashamedly steal the cash and drop the consequences to others.

There is undoubtedly a pattern in terms of the type of companies that fold. Most are simply not meeting the demands of a fast changing market or the implementation of technological advances.
But they are also kept that way by investors whose sole aim is to make big money fast and run. No need to upgrade stores, train staff, research markets. Companies are bought, money is appropriated, then those same companies are sold, dismissed and good luck to the next owner. It's happening in the name of freedom, free market, individual pursuit for happiness.
 
We need a system that allows freedom but has a cap on greed. Companies that employ, say, five hundred plus employees should be under the scrutiny of independent bodies, a bit like Ofcom for broadcasters or Ofsted for schools.
It shouldn't happen that a company as big as Tata Steel suddenly closes, leaving not just unemployed people but whole cities and regions destitute of commerce as a consequence of that closure. It should not be a surprise. Companies shut down because they start to lose money. That should flag up. Over time, if the business is on steady decline, there should be a system of employment redistribution, talks within the region and with the government about generating jobs, finding ways to persuade other companies to allocate their business in that area. It's all done too late. It takes years, while people are on the dole and/or on benefit and whole generations of people lose self-respect because of the continuous struggle.

It follows this culture of cuts to inflate the coffers in the short run but no investment for the long term. Because the old fashioned managerial style it is embedded in politics and in the financial world. We have Big Data, we have the numbers and information is available for entrepreneurs to secure the best possible scenarios. It takes willpower and compassion, not easily associated with greed. It takes a different kind of regulation and willingness to do the right thing not just for the individual but for society as a whole.
A happy and balanced society would respond to markets much more readily than one that resents the wealthy and the powerful.

Economists tend to make predictions based on trends and historical financial events. With the help of sociologists those predictions would be more objective and equitable. Their involvement would procure a more realistic picture for financial forecasts. This forced separation of concepts only helps the artful dodgers of the markets. Crying wolf is not acceptable anymore. We know what is wrong, change should be demanded.



Monday, 30 May 2016

TO BE OR NOT TO BE - THE NIBALI HYPOTHESIS

Nibali won his second Giro d'Italia in what has been hailed as one of the best last minute surges since... well, probably Flandis at the Tour. Or was it?
The element of suspicion for any winner is high. Social media are quick to analyse a victory in every detail and from any stance. Years of cheaters draw inevitable conclusions from many sides.
Nibali, up until stage 17, was apparently under the weather, thus under-performing. This brought on speculation on the negative effects of changing crank length so close to a GT and so late in a career. But Merckx did the same, although I believe he went for shorter cranks rather than longer ones like Nibali's. Then the Italian was taken to see team doctors and after that he started performing at his best. Astana does come with a heavy baggage of doping offences, including its own manager Vinokourov, so it was easy enough to finger point to a darker side of that sudden burst of energy.