Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Death and Capitalism at Oxford Think Week

by Viva Avasthi

On Monday I attended a Think Week event entitled 'Death and Capitalism' which has been given the following description by its organisers:

Will Hutton, Viva Avasthi
Here I am with Mr Hutton
Death is a given. We will all die at some point. When you strip away all the emotion, all the psychology, all the cultural impacts, is there something about death, something very practical, that we are missing out on? Death, it turns out, is also an opportunity. It is inextricably linked to wealth and property. So, as we strive to build a stronger, more equitable and more prosperous society, what opportunities does death afford us?

I went primarily to see the main speaker, Mr Will Hutton, who is currently Principal of Hertford College, Oxford and is a prominent Keynesian economist. During a discussion with my economics teacher where I was wondering whether there are any modern equivalents to Keynes (that is, whether there are any prominent economists today who would adapt their ideas and thoughts to suit the economic problems facing them, rather than holding on desperately to fixed ideologies), she mentioned Will Hutton and Amartya Sen. Although I had heard of Amartya Sen and knew that he specialises in development economics, I had not heard of Will Hutton. For this reason, when I found that Mr Hutton would be speaking at an event at Oxford, I was immensely excited and made sure to attend so that I could find out about his ideas and meet him in person.

In his speech, Mr Hutton argued the case for increasing rates of inheritance tax as well as ensuring that the loopholes currently used by the wealthy are closed. In starting his speech by mentioning that the 5-7% levee the Romans used to place on young men from wealthy families was just one of many examples of inheritance tax throughout history, he argued that humans have always been determined to create equality by rewarding people according to the amount of effort they put into their work. He pointed out that in observing this idea, the young Marx was, in fact, wiser than the old Marx to some extent, because the young Marx understood that everybody being paid equally no matter how hard they work is fundamentally against human nature. This aspect was particularly interesting for me as I have just finished reading a book on Marx's ideas, and will be publishing a relevant article very soon.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

And so it Spins

by Eyrie Clark

revolving door, politicians, lobbyists, corporations
Thanks to Matt Wuerker and the Cartoonist Group.
   When talking about politics, politicians, and especially political corruption, you often hear the term 'Revolving Door' come up. 'They are just a part of the revolving door,' or 'It's all just one big revolving door'. But what does that even mean?

   Well, I ask you to look to the illustration to your right in this article and skim through it. It is a vast simplification of the process, but nonetheless, it is still incredibly accurate. In this article, we will be picking through the picture, as well as examining a few politicians as examples.

   But first, like I started this article: what is the 'Revolving door'? Basically, the theory of it is that business men who decide they are not making enough money go into politics. You will notice step one; 'Take a bunch of corporate cash. Buy a seat in congress!' This step is accurate because, time and time again, it has been shown that the campaigns that spend tons of money tend to win elections. Think of how Mitt Romney won the Republican Nomination. Not because he was better policy-wise than anyone else, but he was better-funded. But why? Politicians may be paid an OK amount if you were an average citizen, but it comes with the extra cost of having to maintain two residences: one in the nation's capital, and one somewhere in their constituency.


Monday, 4 February 2013

Osborne to Re-set Banking System

by Karina Shooter

Photo courtesy of and Andy Rain/EPA

Today at JP Morgan, George Osborne announced that 2013 would be “the year we re-set our banking system”. He is forcing big banks to ring-fence their riskier investment banking operations from their retail operations, threatening that those banks which fail to comply will be separated completely.

But what does ‘ring-fencing’ mean? At the moment the investment banking division of big banks uses money from their high street operations (i.e. the money that we put into our current accounts)  to fund their riskier investments. This is what happened during the financial crisis of 2007, which meant that the government was forced to bail out banks with tens of billions of the tax payers’ money, otherwise the money which people had saved in high street banks would have been lost. In the new system, investment divisions will have to have enough money in their own accounts to fund riskier investment strategies, therefore they will put the taxpayer and the economy in a much less dangerous position.