Skip to main content


Britain is over-tolerant of monopolies

Jonathan Ford in The Financial Times

The old joke that asks why there is only one Monopolies Commission may no longer work now the watchdog has rechristened itself the Competition and Markets Authority. 
But perhaps it’s no coincidence that the UK’s trustbusters have dropped the word “monopoly” from their name. 
Contemporary Britain can seem oddly complacent in the face of declining competition. True, it is not the only country to face the uncomfortable concentrations of market power that new technology and global capital make possible. 
Many advanced economies struggle with the “winner takes all” nature of the internet. 
Large parts of the UK’s competition mechanism are in any case delegated to Brussels. But even so, the country often contrives to drop the trustbusting ball. 
Take the ongoing dispute between Transport for London and Uber over whether the car-booking service should retain its taxi licence. 
TfL is up in arms about safety standards. But the real scandal here is the way Uber …
Recent posts

Bonuses are the enemy of progress

Andrew Hill in The Financial Times

When my children were still in primary school, I once let my English stiff upper lip slacken and asked them whether I had ever said how much I loved them. “Yes,” responded my truculent son, “but not with money.” 
I am reminded of his precocious attempt to persuade me to apply hard cash to a soft problem every time I hear about efforts to use monetary bonuses to encourage executives to hit non-financial goals. 
Reduced emissions, safer factories, better gender balance: companies everywhere are enshrining such creditable objectives as “key performance indicators”, putting a price on the target, and letting greed take care of the rest. 
“I think we’ve got to do more to tie the outcomes to compensation, so that it’s meaningful and it’s real,” declared Alexis Herman, a former US labour secretary and Coca-Cola board member, at the recent Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society in Paris, discussing how businesses can become more “human”. 
More than once I h…

How the oligarchy wins

Ganesh Sitaraman in The Guardian

A few years ago, as I was doing research for a book on how economic inequality threatens democracy, a colleague of mine asked if America was really at risk of becoming an oligarchy. Our political system, he said, is a democracy. If the people don’t want to be run by wealthy elites, we can just vote them out.

The system, in other words, can’t really be “rigged” to work for the rich and powerful unless the people are at least willing to accept a government of the rich and powerful. If the general public opposes rule-by-economic-elites, how is it, then, that the wealthy control so much of government?

The question was a good one, and while I had my own explanations, I didn’t have a systematic answer. Luckily, two recent books do. Oligarchy works, in a word, because of institutions.

In his fascinating and insightful book Classical Greek Oligarchy, Matthew Simonton takes us back to the ancient world, where the term oligarchy was coined. One of the primary threa…

What the grim reality of a ‘bad-tempered’ Brexit means

Toby Helm in The Guardian

A little over a year ago, David Davis was confident that Brexit Britain would soon strike new trade deals across the world. They could be negotiated and agreed without the difficulties and delays of which Remainers warned. All parts of the global trade jigsaw would fall quickly and neatly into place. “So be under no doubt,” the Brexit secretary wrote in an article for the ConservativeHome website in July 2016, “we can do deals with our trading partners, and we can do them quickly... I would expect that the negotiation phase of most of them to be concluded within between 12 and 24 months. Trade deals with the US and China alone will give us a trade area almost twice the size of the EU, and of course we will also be seeking deals with Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, India, Japan, the UAE, Indonesia – and many others.”

Around the same time, international trade secretary Liam Fox predicted that a free-trade deal with the EU, giving us continued access to EU markets a…

Who am I - Swami Sarvapriyananda

Part 1

Part 2
Part 3

Why religion is here to stay and science won’t destroy it

Peter Harrison in The Wire.In

In 1966, just over 50 years ago, the distinguished Canadian-born anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global demise of religion at the hands of an advancing science: ‘belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge’. Wallace’s vision was not exceptional. On the contrary, the modern social sciences, which took shape in 19th-century western Europe, took their own recent historical experience of secularisation as a universal model. An assumption lay at the core of the social sciences, either presuming or sometimes predicting that all cultures would eventually converge on something roughly approximating secular, Western, liberal democracy. Then something closer to the opposite happened.

Not only has secularism failed to continue its steady global march but countries as varied as Iran, India, Israel, Algeria and Turkey have either had their se…

Big data prove it is possible for a society to be riddled with racism in the complete absence of racists.

The government audit shows racism can be endemic even in the absence of racists

Trevor Phillips in The Financial Times

If Theresa May’s challenge to her own government on race equality does nothing else, it should take some of the terror out of talking about racial difference. Her government’s compendium of data about ethnic minorities’ experience across 130 public service areas, published this week, confronts us with a baffling puzzle: in a society demonstrably more open-minded than a generation ago, why do race and ethnicity remain such powerful pointers to an individual’s place in society?

You do not have to be a specialist in race relations to know that your doctor is more likely to be a Sikh than a Somali. Most of us can see that people from certain backgrounds — South Asians, Chinese — are more likely than others — African Caribbeans, Pakistani Muslims — to wind up as chief financial officers of big companies.

Sir John Parker, in a review that concluded this week, called out the …