Sunday, November 29, 2009

Financial and asset bubbles cannot be avoided, but....

We are constantly bombarded with the propaganda that financial and asset bubbles cannot be avoided.

This is meant by interested parties as a move to paralyse debate about the number and size of bubbles and whether anything can be done to limit those.

An exactly parallel statement might be that life is full of dangers. But that does not mean that nothing can or should be done about such dangers and, in reality, each of us goes about reducing such dangers as far as possible.

Even those among us who enjoy extremely dangerous activities such as going to the frozen wastes of the Antarctic or the Himalayas, or take to bungee jumping and such, do take all the training possible, all the equipment possible and all the safeguards possible to minimise risk.

So the intelligent question to ask is NOT "Can asset and financial bubbles be avoided" (which would be like asking "Can dangers be eliminated from life") but: "Can the frequency, number and size of bubbles be contained?"

And the answer to that question is a clear "YES".

Two DVDs have recently been produced which provide easy-to-follow light on related subjects:

1. Dr. Bernard Lietaer's "Money for the Future" (the German-language version, "Geld für Zukunft" is on the same DVD), and

2. Dr. Margrit Kennedy's "Re-inventing Money" (the German-language version is "Geld new gestalten", also on the same DVD).

The first lasts 50 minutes, the second 65 minutes. Both are produced by Zeitfilm Media GmbH, Rutschbahn 33, 20146 Rotherbaum, Hamburg, Germany (Telephone: +49 40 414699-40). The cost is Euros 17.80 each, or 30 euros for the two. Regretfully, Zeitfulm does not seem to have an email ID that is publicly available, nor is their website in English at least at present! However, an order in English to the following should secure your copies: Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Going fast versus going further

While in Birmingham, UK, recently, I was reminded of an old saying that is too easily forgotten (at least by me!): "If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go further, go with others". Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How Airlines Can Improve Profits While Encouraging Healthy Habits Among Passengers

On a recent flight, I noticed that the following alcoholic drinks were on offer: two kinds of beer, three kinds of white wine, two kinds of red wine, and at least a dozen different kinds of spirits.

By contrast, there were only two kinds of non-alcoholic drinks: orange juice and apple juice.

I should point out that I have nothing against people consuming alcohol in reasonable quantities outside aircraft and airports. But I do get irritated by the consumption of alcohol in airports and flights because alcohol dries out the human body, which is why the medical advice is that one should not consume alcohol for a sufficient time before getting on a flight, nor should alcohol be consumed during a flight.

The body dries up during flights anyway - partly as a result of the radiation that comes through the body of an airplane at high altitudes, and partly because of the processed air that one has to breathe during flights. Adding the dehydration caused by alcohol is pretty stupid. On long flights, consuming alcohol can contribute to the formation of blood clots and what is called deep vein thrombosis.

So we have airlines encouraging unhealthy behaviour.

But the really interesting thing is that airlines are encouraging unhealthy behaviour at an increased cost to themselves!

Fruit juices are not only much healthier to consume during flights but also cost much less than alcoholic drinks. And there is such a wonderful array of fruit juices that could be offered! BTW I am always puzzled when I am offered orange juice in countries where no oranges grow - and I am even more puzzled when restaurants in many countries cannot offer me the juice of any of the fruits that do grow in their country.

Anyway, my point is that airlines can contribute to the health of their passengers at the same time as they can improve their profits if they stop serving alcoholic drinks during flights. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, November 19, 2009

British Woman now occupies most powerful post in the EU

It is ironic that the British, who are so very anti-EU, are going to supply, with effect from December 1 this year, the person who will occupy the most powerful post in the EU: Baroness Catherine Ashton is to be the "High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy" - a title that is impressively long as it is important.

The Baroness has been the EU's Commissioner for Trade, a position in which she has not made many waves, but in which she has no doubt built up considerable and appropriately high-level experience of the workings of the EU.

I was chatting a few days ago in Oxford with my friend Professor Miguel Mesquita da Cunha, who used to be an Adviser to an earlier EU President, and whose opinion it is that ever since the UK joined the EU, it has supplied people for key posts in the EU. Most British people do not realise what a sea-change has come about in the EU over the years that they have been part of the EU: when they joined, the EU was dominated by the French and the first language of the Commission was, for all practical purposes, French. With the accession of an increasing number of countries, the French influence has been marginalised. And, as most of the "new" countries prefer English, that has become clearly the dominant language. Not only that, English-language thought-forms and Anglo-American values are clearly winning out over traditional Continental European values. At least, that has been the trend up to now. So much for Miguel's view.

It remains to be seen whether the current crisis, and the operation of the new Lisbon Treaty from December the first, will change the trend and, if so, in what direction. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, November 13, 2009

The UK is trying really hard to address the challenge of unemployment in the country

There are now two separate agencies checking passports on arrival at Heathrow - at least there were this morning when I landed from the US.

One agency was checking at the end of the arrival pier, the other at the normal Passport Control kiosk. Sphere: Related Content

Inter-religious Dialogue

A friend , John, who is a Christian, copies me on a letter he writes to a Muslim friend of his:

"I was prompted by Karen Armstrong’s article in the Guardian today, where she suggested that truly Socratic dialogue should be conducted by expressing yourself clearly as a gift to your debating partners.

"The question arises as to what followers of Jesus can offer to members of other faiths that seems to be unique to Jesus.

"If we just list common points between the faiths the result can look can look rather like a list of middle class values!

"The combination of the following things seems to me to be unique to Jesus. They were revolutionary in Jesus’ time and continue to be so. The problem is that the conflict between virtue and power usually results in power getting the upper hand.

"Jesus’ responses to his own persecution and his entreaty to his followers are quite sublime.

"I quote from the New International Version of the Bible.

1. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Mathew 5 v 43

2. Jesus on the cross said -

“ Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23 v 34

3. The “Sermon on the Mount” Mathew 5 vv 3-11

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are all the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
Blessed are you when people insult you persecute you and falsely say all kinds of things against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is you reward in heaven, for in the same way they
persecuted the prophets who were before you.

5. The Lord’s prayer. Mathew 6 vv 5 – 14

“ Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver is from the evil one.
For if you forgive men when they have sinned against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins your Father will to forgive your sins.”

6. The parables of Jesus in the gospels ------in which he says “ The kingdom of heaven is like this…………….”

"Would it be possible and valuable for you to set out the unique gifts other faiths can offer to each other?

"I once attended a dinner in London hosted by Sigi Sternberg where Muslim Jews and followers of Jesus shared their faith in after dinner discussion. It was quite inspiring".

As someone who finds formal "inter-faith dialogue" totally boring, but always values more personal sharing, I thought the point that John made at the end rather more my cup of tea.

Though I should say that what John regards as "middle class values" are in fact, historically speaking, Biblical values that were the cultural creation of the Protestant Reformation, even though that has not yet quite succeeded in overcoming bourgeois values.

However, I responded to John somewhat as follows:

Dear John
many thanks for copying me on this
I seem somehow to be under the impression that what is unique about Jesus the Living Lord is His promise to come and live in the hearts of those who choose to follow Him, so as to renew in them day by day a desire to grow more closely into God's moral/ spiritual/ emotional likeness...
his teachings are at best beautiful thoughts, though arguably more beautifully expressed than by others, if we do not have the experience of His living in us
Prabhu Sphere: Related Content

Dialogue on Religion and Business

I have just participated in a discussion on the subject, as part of the agenda at one of the more important business fora in the world. At the session, moderated by the Chairman of Lazard International, Ken Costa, there were representatives of Protestant, Roman, Muslim, Buddhist, and Jain traditions (not all apeaking only on their own behalf).

While the others said nice things, the most useful contributions for the business audience came from the Buddhist, Robert Thurman, who pointed out that leaders "are always in danger of being misled about the real situation in their firms by their own subordinates" and by the Protestant, Rick Warren, who argued persuasively that we need to think not only of the "two-legged stool" of Public-Private Partnerships but rather of the "three-legged stool" of Public, Private and Faith-based partnerships: the power of faith-based institutions to contribute to the elimination or amelioration of social evils is hugely underestimated or ignored.

He also spoke stirringly of the Five Global Goliaths in today's world: Conflict (spiritual, perpersonal, inter-generational...), Corruption or unethical leadership, Extreme Poverty, Pandemics and Illiteracy.

Altogether, the speakers offered a paean of praise for religion that seemed to me perhaps justified in view of the brief time dedicated to the subject. However, it did seem to me open to the charge of being unduly uncritical of religion.

Religion has, and continues to be, itself a source of corruption in most parts of the world, it continues to justify and participate in economic and social exploitation, and it is too closely allied to and often itself becomes a base for power. At least that is my viewpoint as a disciple of someone who was so anti-religious that the religious-political establishment decided that the best way to deal with his criticisms was to eliminate him. The establishment, having found this to be an ineffective strategy, then proceeded to try and co-opt his followers into the power structures - a challenge with which his followers still struggle.

Anyway, from my point of view, the discussion would have been much more useful if there had been, on the part of the religious leaders on the podium, a little less self-congratulation, and a little more engagement with the ethical mess in which business is today. The topics slated for discussion were: "Has global business lost its moral context? If so, has this loss contributed to the global downturn? Can belief systems help us generate the co-operation that is needed to renew growth?" - excellent topics that were wholly ignored by the speakers, who went on far beyond their allotted time (as is, I think cynically, surely an occupational hazard for them), leaving then little time even for the participants to pick up the slack. Sphere: Related Content