In this exclusive series of interviews, we speak to four world experts on inequality. Professor David Hulme (Founder and Executive Director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester) , Prof. Sir Michael Marmot (Director of the Institute of Health Equity, University College London), Baroness Onora O’Neill (Chair of the Equality and Human rights Commission) and Prof. Richard Wilkinson (Co-Founder of the Equality Trust). We discuss the fundamental question of why inequality exists in our society, the impact it has on our world, and what we can do to fight it.
Vikas Shah, November 2013
Originally Published in Entrepreneur Country
It’s curious how we treat the market as a phenomenon that exists outside us; akin to climate. Our forecasts describe the oscillations and undulations of this entity with the accuracy we would expect from weather forecasts. Tens of thousands of businesses, traders and other participants go-out, take-cover or make decisions on the basis of these words. For longer than most market-participants would care to admit, the ‘invisible hand’ was seen as being the arbitrator of the economy, but in more recent times- we have started seeing things a lot more clearly.
A market economy is not an entity that exists outside us, but rather… it is ‘us’. Markets are an amalgamation of the interactions of entrepreneurs (in all their forms), governments, and financial infrastructure providers (such as banks). Whilst we tend to describe these as entities, institutions or so forth- the truth is, they are comprised of people who; while communicating using the universal language of data; in truth, are highly emotional – psychological – beings.
To really understand how economies behave, we must therefore understand the psychology of entrepreneurs and other key market participants. To learn more, I spoke with Professor Daniel Kahneman, who is widely regarded as being the world’s most influential living psychologist. In 2002 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics “for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty”, work he undertook with the late Amos Tversky. Kahneman is a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.
Originally Published in Entrepreneur Country, July 2013
“Throughout much of history… ” writes Prof. Edward Barbier, “a critical driving force behind global economic development has been the response of society to the scarcity of key natural resources, such as land, forests, fish, fossil fuels and minerals. Increasing scarcity raises the cost of exploiting existing natural resources and creates incentives in all economies to innovate and conserve. However, economies have also responded to increasing scarcity by obtaining and developing more abundant sources of natural resources. Since the agricultural transition over 12,000 years ago, this exploitation of new ‘frontiers’ has often proved to be a pivotal human response to natural resource scarcity.”
The scarcity itself has come as a result of a number of factors including (but not limited to) astonishing population growth, industrialisation, increased lifespan and- of course- the depletion and destruction of the remaining resources on our planet. The pace of technological advance has allowed us to extract and exploit a wider range of resources, including those which are harder to reach- but the long-term picture remains grim. Humanity must find new sources of resources to support itself.
With the vision of “bringing the natural resources of space within humanity’s economic sphere of influence“, Planetary Resources (founded by Eric Anderson of Space Adventures, and Peter Diamindis of the X Prize) are developing “…low-cost robotic spacecraft to explore the thousands of resource-rich asteroids within our reach.” These audacious goals may sound like science fiction, but the company is close to making them a reality. Continue reading
Guest article written for AllAboutAlpha.com – the official publication of the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association
Originally Published at: http://allaboutalpha.com/blog/2013/06/17/the-truth-about-executive-pay/
There is little doubt that we are facing tough times for the economy. Rising unemployment, austerity and many other factors have meant that the average person feels considerably worse off than at any other time in recent history. It is unsurprising therefore, that we are witnessing a backlash against senior executives (in many industries) who are taking home multi-million dollar pay packages.
From board actions and shareholder revolts, to grassroots protests and the Occupy Movement- hundreds of thousands of people have rallied together against what they perceive as being the manifestation of gross inequality. “Former fashion jewellery saleswoman Rebecca Gonzales and former Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson have one thing in common: J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) no longer employs either…” wrote Bloomberg in April 2013 adding, “The similarity ends there. Johnson, 54, got a compensation package worth 1,795 times the average wage and benefits of a U.S. department store worker when he was hired in November 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gonzales’s hourly wage was $8.30 that year.” Even leading academics have joined the debate. Interviewed in the article referenced above, Roger martin (dean of the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management) states, “When CEOs switched from asking the question of ‘how much is enough’ to ‘how much can I get,’ investor capital and executive talent started scrapping like hyenas for every morsel… It’s not that either hates labour, or wants to crush their lives. They just don’t care.”
To learn more about the true state of executive compensation, I spoke to Steven N. Kaplan who is Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He was named one of the top twelve business school teachers in U.S., Business Week, 1994, and one of the top four business school entrepreneurship professors in U.S., Business Week, 1996. In 2012 after extensively researching executive pay and compensation, Prof. Kaplan published a paper titled: Executive Compensation and Corporate Governance in the U.S.: Perceptions, Facts and Challenges Continue reading
Originally published in Global ARC.
Vikas Shah interviews Alan S. Blinder (the Gordon S. Rentschler Memorial Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University) who served as Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from June 1994 until January 1996. In this position, he represented the Fed at various international meetings, and was a member of the Board’s committees on Bank Supervision and Regulation, Consumer and Community Affairs, and Derivative Instruments. Before becoming a member of the Board, Dr. Blinder served as a Member of President Clinton’s original Council of Economic Advisers from January 1993 until June 1994. Continue reading
An interview with Eileen Bartholemew, Vice President of Prize Development at the X Prize Foundation.
“For most of history…” notes Rachael King, “the thrill of solving life’s thorny problems has provided ample incentive for inventors. Yet the promise of fortune and fame doesn’t hurt. Over the past few centuries, governments and private interests have sought to enlist innovators and entrepreneurs against specific challenges by offering prizes with financial bounties.” (Bloomberg Business Week, 2008).
The British Government’s ‘Longitude Prize’ (1714) was responsible for one of the most important navigation tools in history (the precursor to the modern chronometer). The French Academy of Sciences ‘Alkali Prize’ (1775) created one of the most important industrial-chemical processes of the 19th century and Napoleon’s Food Preservation Prize (1795) created the fundamentals of a food preservation method that is still used today. Even in more recent history we saw the Orteig Prize (1919) for the first transatlantic flight, which spurred the world travel industry and the multitude of innovation prizes we have today including the Ansari X-Prize which offered US$10 million to the first non-government team to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks (a feat which had taken governments decades and billions of dollars to otherwise achieve).
To learn more about the role of prizes in innovation, I spoke to Eileen Bartholemew – Vice President of Prize Development at the X Prize Foundation who (in their own words) are, “…an innovation engine. A facilitator of exponential change. A catalyst for the benefit of humanity….” Since their founding in 1995, the X-Prize foundation has facilitated oil recovery cleanup at triple the standard rate. Enabled the creation of a 135 MPGe energy-efficient car. And helped launch a $1.5 billion private space industry.
In these exclusive interviews, we speak to Jeff Raikes (CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Eli Broad (Founder of the Broad Foundations), Sir Ratan Tata (Chairman Emeritus, Tata Group) and Anousheh Ansari (Trustee of the X Prize foundation and title sponsor of the Ansari X Prize). We discuss the fundamental nature of charity and philanthropy- looking at why these phenomena exist together with their role and impact on society. We also talk about their individual journeys in philanthropy, and how their organisations are aiming to tackle some of society’s greatest problems.
An interview with Tim Berry, a world expert on business planning
Plans are the DNA of business, containing all the base information needed to form a strategic framework for the growth, direction and shape of an enterprise.
Whether you are launching a new business, growing an existing enterprise, or even creating a venture within an existing corporation- chances are the first step in your journey will be the business plan. In fact, for those wishing to raise money (whether it be seed capital, or venture finance) the plan is certainly a pre-requisite.
Studies have shown that “except in a small number of cases, business planning appeared to be positively correlated with business success…” and that “while analysis cannot say that completing a business plan will lead to success, it does indicate that the type of entrepreneur who completes a business pan is also more likely to run a successful business” (Ding & Hursey, 2010)
Much has been written on the business plan, and for many- it seems an almost insurmountable hurdle to write (what they anticipate will be) a thesis length piece on ever minutiae of their idea. The reality however, is far simpler…
To learn more about the secrets of the business plan, I spoke to Tim Berry. He is co-founder of Eugene Social, founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software, founder of bplans.com, and a co-founder of Borland International. Tim has dedicated his life to business planning. Continue reading
In these exclusive interviews, we speak to Michel Sidibé (Executive Director, UNAids), Dr. Stefano Bertozzi (Director of HIV at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall (Director of HIV Department at WHO – World Health Organisation) and Brian West (Chair of the European Aids Treatment Group, who has been living with HIV for over 25 years). We look at the very nature of the virus, its impact on society and culture globally, and discuss the opportunities to move to a world free of HIV/AIDS.
An Interview Auschwitz survivor, Iby Knill.
In one of the darkest moments of modern civilisation, over six million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany in a state-sponsored genocide. This event (The Holocaust) killed over two-thirds of Europe’s entire Jewish population. The Nazis, in their single-minded belief of German racial superiority, targeted any group they felt as ‘racially or ideologically inferior‘ including Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians and so on), Socialists, Communists, Jehova’s Witnesses and homosexuals.
Believing that the Jewish people posed the greatest threat to their ideological plans, the Nazi party felt a systematic eradication of all Jewish people was the ‘Final Solution‘ to the ‘Jewish Problem‘. As Henrich Himmler was quoted as saying, “I may here in this closest of circles allude to a question which you… which has become for me the most difficult question of my life, the Jewish question.. I have resolved even here on a completely clear solution… The difficult decision had to be taken, to cause this people to disappear from the earth.”
The level of dehumanisation witnessed in Nazi extermination camps during was staggering. Killing was indiscriminate for those whom the party felt they had no use for, and many people were even used for human “medical” experiments. the account of one Jewish inmate at Auschwitz (Vera Alexander) recalls, “…I remember one set of twins in particular: Guido and Ina, aged about four. One day, Mengele took them away. When they returned, they were in a terrible state: they had been sewn together, back to back, like Siamese twins. Their wounds were infected and oozing pus. They screamed day and night. Then their parents—I remember the mother’s name was Stella—managed to get some morphine and they killed the children in order to end their suffering….”
it took decades for the Jewish people and the rest of the world to recover from World War II, and for most of us- it is impossible to imagine how the very few survivors of such atrocities could rebuild their lives, but some did. To learn more, I spoke with Iby Knill who- as a teenager- survived Auschwitz. Continue reading