Friday, January 23, 2009

Markets, the State and academia


I am involved in the International Group of the CIPR (as Treasurer) and last night it hosted the Maggie Nally Lecture at the Palace of Westminster with Sir Howard Davies, now with the LSE and formally running the FSA, the CBI and being Deputy Governor of the Bank of England - the ideal person from whom to gain a perspective of the current state of the economy.

He did that, but he also offered a rare insight into the flaws of free market economics and the contrast between the Anglo-Saxon Laissez-faire approach and that taken by the ‘more broad minded near continentals’. In particular he spoke about the French attitude where there is growing feeling that the markets must operate with greater oversight, or to use Sir Howard’s expression ‘return of the state’.

Sir Howard spoke about how the Treasury only seriously considers scientifically based research, avoiding any consideration for the less tangible influences like the ethics of wealth and the associated philosophies under pinning them. Some could argue over the merits of a more Gallic approach and as I am so ignorant on this area I would say nothing more than the Treasury’s approach has obviously failed and there is a need for a discussion on issues like the meaning of wealth, how we reward it and the destructive forces which run hand-in-hand with speculation.

London’s financial services boom of the last ten years has largely been built on speculation and Sir Howard indicated that the new raft of market regulation will vastly limit the ‘creativity’ bankers and financiers have. This will limit asset pricing, limiting the relative size of this sector and ultimately London and UK fortunes. In effect these new regulations will not allow London’s financial services boom to happen again.

This might seem a bit off-topic but I think there is a public relations/measurement element to this. Sir Howard talked about the need for ‘translators’ to make the findings from academia of use to the greater public. In many ways the job of these translators is similar to PR in being the conduit between the organisational message and the public consumption. Whilst we are lucky to have some of the greatest researchers in this country it was seen as regrettable that they were not able to convey their finding in a more accessible way, ie the need for these third-party translators.
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