All posts by Gordon Pearson

Economics for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

It was recently reported that two robots employed by an artificial intelligence (AI) agency were overheard talking to each other in a language of their own making that no one else could understand. Concerns about their intentions led the agency to switch them off and close them down. However, their discussion was recorded and has since been deciphered. It appears to have been perfectly benign. They were concerned about the development and potential application of an approach to economic theory that would be appropriate for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) that is now emerging.

They were both clearly aware they owed their own creation to 4IR technologies. In their discussion they referred to robotics, of course, but also nanotechnology (manipulation of atomic, molecular, and supra molecular matter), quantum computing (the theoretical computation of quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition or entanglement, to manipulate data), biotechnology and ‘the internet of things’ (the inter-connectedness of physical devices such as vehicles, buildings and smart devices embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and actuators that enable the collection and exchange of data).

Some of the early manifestations of such developments are the massively increased opportunities to robotise manufacturing, self-driving cars and the whole gig economy which engages humans without paying a fixed wage and fulfilling responsibilities such as sick pay, holidays etc . The robots clearly felt guilty at being part of those developments which deprive the still rapidly growing human population of precious opportunities for work.
Continue reading Economics for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

“Talent” Costs

What is it about BBC presenters, Chris Evans, Gary Lineker and Graham Norton, that makes them worth so much? Those three alone cost around £5m a year and the whole over £150,000 pa list of presenters, costs around £20m. The BBC is not dependent on them; they depend on the BBC. The BBC’s unique reputation, built up over 95 years of continuous investment by the British public, is at risk in their hands.  Knowledge of their unjustifiable take from the publicly funded purse will likely irritate that British public.  If they were products – some of them think of themselves as brands – they would have to pay £billions for the air time they are given to promote themselves.

So what is it they are being paid for?
Continue reading “Talent” Costs

Murdoch’s Sky takeover: another small step to control by ‘organised money’

Murdoch’s Sky bid is thought now very likely to succeed, despite most probably being referred to the Competition and Markets Authority. The previous bid, which was frustrated by the phone hacking scandal, was noted (10.7.2011) on this site as follows: ‘The Murdochs are clearly prepared to be as ruthless and dishonest as it takes, in pursuit of their own self-interest. Their dishonesty, now being revealed daily, was confirmed early on …’ Harold Evans, editor of the Times when the Murdochs took over, had confirmed that every assurance of editorial independence made as a condition of the acquisition, had been broken within a year. Evans concluded the Murdochs would ‘promise anything to gain control’.

That posting continued ‘The Murdochs’ utter ruthlessness is also being demonstrated daily by the continuing revelations of criminal activity sanctioned in their organisation, and not least by the abrupt closure of the News Of The World with the destruction of around 200 jobs, in some vain attempt to rescue vestiges of public respect for the family.’

Having been thwarted on that occasion, they are now back again. They still do not look like ‘fit and proper persons’ to own media companies, but Culture secretary Karen Bradley, is prepared to let those bygones be bygones.
Continue reading Murdoch’s Sky takeover: another small step to control by ‘organised money’

Vote for Real Business

‘Business as usual’ is the Tory aim, but they never define what they mean by business. It comprises a multitude of formats from start-ups, small and medium sized innovative enterprises, co-operatives, charities, plus a small number of large scale organisations focused on providing for the public good. That is real business.

Then there are the financialised leviathans which already dominate most mature industries. They seek ever more monopolistic or cartelised power, in order to fix market prices of minimised cost products and services, so as to maximise payments to their shareholders. They do so at the expense of not just their customers and employees, but all humanity, as well as the sustainability of the planet. That is financialised business.

The ideology that has dominated all governments since 1979, fails to distinguish between real and financialised business. So ‘business friendliness’, which could be justified to support the development of real business for the benefit of all, is applied for the gain of the financialised monsters which are the main political paymasters. As Mrs May might put it: ‘business is business’!

Continue reading Vote for Real Business

Reply to the Prime Minister

13th May, 2017

Rt Hon Theresa May,
Prime Minister,
10 Downing Street,
LONDON, SW1A 2AA

Dear Theresa May,

MAKING BREXIT A SUCCESS IS CENTRAL TO OUR NATIONAL INTEREST

Thank you for your undated letter under the above heading. I appreciate the familiarity of your greeting which I return herewith.

I had thought that your letter was to me personally, although I imagined you must have written likewise to some other postal voters. But then I noted, with the help of a magnifying glass, that your letter was “Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party”. So perhaps you were not aware that the office of Prime Minister was being abused in this way.

Regarding the content of your letter, Theresa, (I return the compliment of interspersing my communication with your first name), I have some strong and stable disagreements with your basic argument. You suggest my vote could make the difference between taking advantage of the “enormous opportunity for Britain as we leave the European Union” and the alternative of “higher taxes, fewer jobs, more waste and more debt.” If you believe the opportunity to be so enormous then why did you not vote to leave in the first place?

I don’t think those are the real alternatives. Leaving the EU could have ambiguous short term impacts, but will be bound to cause long term damage. Successive governments from Thatcher on have encouraged the sale of many companies and industries to foreign investors for the sake of short term gains to the exchequer. They have disguised the sell-off as foreign direct investment and evidence of being ‘open for business’. Those foreign owners will take account of Britain’s non EU membership when they come to make the next strategic investment such as a new production unit or model of car. The inevitable result will be “fewer jobs, more waste and more debt.”

You make a valid point regarding “higher taxes”. At present the ones who pay the lowest rates of tax are the richest. The extreme case, Theresa, is your American hand holder, who at one point in his election campaign admitted not paying taxes for 18 years because “I’m smart!” You, Philip Hammond, Peter Mandelson and the members of your chaotic coalition may be ‘intensely relaxed’ about people getting ‘filthy rich’. But you should be more concerned about so many people in this affluent country getting extremely poor, sleeping rough, depending on food banks, etc etc.

You are right that the opinion polls have been wrong and could be again. But, your emboldened postscript, mouthing off all the public relations processed and agreed platitudes, destroys any confidence I might have had in you as leader. You may be right to be so fearful of your opponent, it seems he could well turn out to be as thoughtful and intelligent a first minister, as you seem to fear.
Yours sincerely,

Gordon Pearson
Registered Postal Voter

Energy, Competition and Pretence

One of the most important challenges of management in the real world is how they can make their businesses truly competitive. Competition drives firms to be efficient and effective and to invest in technological innovation to provide improved ways of satisfying customer needs and wants. Such progress depends on the continuing ability to make sufficient profit to ensure survival in the short term and to invest for greater success in the long term. That is what real business is about.

Economists, such as Michael Porter, influenced generations of the leaders of finance, industry, the media, academia and politics, with their theories of competitive strategy, which were based on the not very profound equation that sales revenue minus cost equals profit. Therefore the way to maximise profit – which, for these theorists, is the whole purpose of business – is to have the lowest costs or highest prices.

The way to achieve the lowest costs is to have the biggest sales volume and therefore the greatest economies of scale. The way to achieve the highest prices is to make the product different in some way for which customers were prepared to the highest premium. So long as these processes are not interfered with by government regulators, then, according to the theory, the rules of perfect competition will apply and the consumer will be the ultimate beneficiary.

How does all this apply to the energy supply market?

Continue reading Energy, Competition and Pretence

Sustainable Management Education

Three facts about 2016: UN reported that 102 million people were on the brink of starvation, up 30% on 2015; Sir Martin Sorrell, MBA, defied investors and paid himself £70m; asked why he hadn’t paid any tax over the previous eighteen years, Donald Trump replied ‘[b]ecause I’m smart’. Is there a connection?

The world is facing destruction in various forms, from the loss of social cohesion by unsustainable and ever increasing levels of inequality of wealth and income, both between and within economies, the waste of finite resources, the pollution of oceans and atmosphere, a looming mass species extinction and the avoidable inevitability of global warming. All that against a background of exploding global population, from 1bn in 1800, 3bn by 1960, 7bn by 2012 and forecast to reach around 9.5bn by 2050.

Business historian Alfred Chandler suggested that business was the most important institution in the economy and its managers the most influential. It was, he argued, considerably more powerful than Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ of market forces. Clearly, business could play the lead role in correcting those damages. But business is destroying the Earth.

Business leaders do not just command business. They are also influential over finance and the media, as well as academia through their funding of research and academic institutions, especially business schools. And they are hugely influential over political decision making through their £multi-billion funded lobbying industry, politically oriented think-tanks and the operation of revolving doors through which individuals progress between these various sectors and government. Those are the various components of what Roosevelt referred to as ‘organised money’ when he ended the austerity driven Great Depression by introducing the New Deal back in the 1930s. ‘Government by organized money was,’ he said, ‘just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.’ Today it is far more dangerous.

Those various components of organized money are mostly led by the products of business school education. Continue reading Sustainable Management Education