Category Archives: Past the Post

Trash the cash!

In today’s FT, Kenneth Rogoff, acclaimed professor of economics at Harvard, advocates the case for phasing out physical currency. The man’s got a brain and he writes well. Furthermore, it raises many interesting and, indeed, highly pertinent issues.

Still, Pinkers just can’t get excited… not very illuminating and somewhat flat, perhaps?

Just wondering… has Professor Rogoff been to the shops lately? Or, indeed, monitored the share price performance of banknote printer De La Rue over the last couple of years? It would not appear so. Had he done so, Pinkers very much doubt he would have wasted his precious time and brain cells writing this article. And as for “anonymity” in the age of the world wide web: Like paper currency, surely on the list of endangered species, facing certain extinction before long.

Is it at all conceivable the eminent economist may have fallen behind the curve?

Picketty unpicked!

Thomas Piketty, the French economist and author of the best selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013) had a bit of a rough time recently. Accused by the FT of using flawed data in his thesis that capitalism has a natural tendency for wealth to become ever more concentrated in the hands of the rich, Mr Piketty’s chances of being awarded the Nobel Prize of Economics have been somewhat reduced. No surprise then the rockstar academic is rather miffed, accusing the FT of “ridiculous and dishonest criticism” in a recent statement to the Guardian Newspaper.

The FT’s investigation into Thomas Piketty’s thesis is a welcome contribution, raising many relevant and, indeed, highly pertinent questions. However, it, too, is based on statistics. May Pinkers refer to the well-known quote attributed to both Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”.

Philip Beresford, editor of the annual Sunday Times Rich List, regarded as the UK’s most eminent authority on wealth, adds substance to Mr Piketty’s work. It is based on facts and not statistics: Well… the proof is in the pudding!

And then there is ‘The Giving Pledge’, an organisation set up by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. Bogus or what? Your readers may be interested in this commentary on The Giving Pledge posted on Pinkers Post on 31 Oct 2013.

Cosy corruption!

Pinkers is a great fan of MoneyWeek: One of the few financial publications that manage to entertain without dumbing down. Articles are beautifully written, witty and, last but not least, extremely well researched. In summary: Exemplary journalism. This, of course, is hardly surprising: Merryn Somerset Webb, editor-in chief, is without question one of the sharpest brains in the business and her brilliant team of lateral thinking contributors makes this publication indispensable.

It’s contrarian, genuinely thought-provoking and certainly not afraid to take a risk! ‘No Risk, No Fun’ is Pinkers’s family motto so it’s a brilliant fit… well a hit!

In this week’s MoneyWeek, publisher Bill Bonner “gives some rare stock tips”, headlined “Buy Russian gas, sell tech stocks”. As one would expect: A well-researched, beautifully written and entertaining article. It’s also very persuasive – sort of, anyway… until you come to the last paragraph:”…Sell those damned expensive US high tech stocks. Buy those cheap energy companies run by corrupt Russian oligarchs.”

Yes, Pinkers could not agree more on the first bit: SELL US high tech – it’s a no-brainer. But putting your money into the pockets of “corrupt Russian oligarchs”? Not so sure if that’s a good idea… . Yes, we all know how terribly cheap Russia is, especially when applying traditional yardsticks. It’s a bit like going shopping at Prada and discover an item for less than a hundred quid and asking  yourself “What’s wrong with it?” – and leave it on the shelf. Double the price, and you would have happily presented the credit card (buy now pay never) without batting an eyelid.

So what’s wrong with Russia? Simple: It’s cheap for a reason and Mr Bonner puts his finger on the spot: It’s corrupt. Not just the oligarchs but the whole system is. It’s also lawless. And that is even worse. If Russia can ‘do a Crimea’, surely doing an Argentinian-style ‘Repsol’ would be a doddle in comparison! In conclusion: Goods are cheap because there is not sufficient demand for it. And for once, investors seem to have their heads firmly screwed on!

Finally, without wishing to peddle moral agendas… not really Pinkers style… certainly nothing wrong with making money (lovely!) – but corruption is wrong. Very wrong. It’s not about making money. It’s about greed. And greed is unacceptable. And what goes around, comes around: Ignore it at your peril!

Pirc vs perk!

Is shareholder activism finally gaining traction? Judging by the wave of protests against high corporate salaries in recent weeks, widely reported in both the financial and mainstream media, one would assume a revolution is under way with western CEOs seeking asylum on Mr Abramovich’s yacht.

Not so. The shareholder advisory group Pirc, supposedly the most powerful lobby group against excessive executive pay, admirably keeps rallying the troops but regrettably those have never been appropriately armed in the first place. It’s a shame but it does seem that without proper legislation little progress will be made. We keep moaning about the ‘Nanny State’ but haven’t got the discipline to self-regulate.

In a recent article for Pinkers Post ,  “Cake’s not worth the candle: Why CEOs should be paid less”, Antonia Oprita of summarises: “Sure, CEOs can keep telling themselves that they are worth the huge sums they receive. Some may even believe it. But the truth is, most of them are not. And the sooner shareholders realise this, the better.” May Kentz investors lead the way!

Mark III: Confused!

This entry was posted on 13 February 2014 and clearly is as topical a subject as ever: ‘Mark II: The Terminator!’.

“Mark I predicted the future, Mark II makes it! That’s what Pinkers calls bold decision making. Now we know, because he knows! The Terminator has spoken: No inflation for at least another year. Phew. Thank God for that. Any doubts? Forget it. Even the FT, “Without fear and without favour”, congratulates Mr Carney on his “salutary change of mind”. No more statistics, no more number crunching. From now on, it’s all plain sailing.

Sorry Pinkers, it’s time to eat your bowl of humble pie… having predicted a rise in interest rates, this year. Or perhaps better pick up the telephone and ring 999: Speed dial for Dr Andrew Sentence?”

Today the FT publishes an interesting in-depth analysis on the subject of Carney’s interpretation of the official inflation report released by the Bank of England: ‘Confusion reigns over what lies ahead’.

Confusion will reign as long as policy makers continue crystal ball gazing. Ok… fair enough…we all love doing it but Pinkers would like to suggest appointing the fox in the garden of former FT columnist Kevin Goldstein-Jackson who has widely been acknowledged as one of the more reliable forecasters! As posted on Pinkers Post 24 Dec 2014: ‘Cosy Christmas Consensus vs the fox’.