‘Opinions’ is one of the hot-button topics of today due in large measure to the impact of President Trump’s behaviour as presidential candidate and president of the United States.The combination of Mr Trump and social media has created the ‘perfect opinion storm’ which continuously engulfs the news media and claims attention from all of us. There has been no U.S. president like Mr Trump for the daily impact he has had on us in the way he has changed the ‘climate of opinion’ about opinions. A major effect of ‘Storm Trump’ is that his behaviour has single-handily legitimated the expression of any ‘opinion’ and his example has validated the sense of entitlement to ‘my opinion’ no matter how outrageous, discriminatory, or ill-founded. He has brought confusion to political discourse and provoked the normally restrained news media into calling him a liar, describing his statements as lies, and characterising his behaviour in the strongest personality terms. Trump-as-role-model challenges us to think about how we form, hold and use opinions – an unintended benefit perhaps, but one we should not (cannot?) forego. The crisis he has unleashed has also gifted us an opportunity (or forced the necessity?) to bring some clarity to the confusing field of opinion-making. A Case Example We can use Mr Trump himself as a case study for us to think about shaping our opinions and, specifically, whether we form the opinion that he lies. Keeping a grip on truth in the midst of ‘Storm Trump’ demands much effort and diligence, more than most of us can sustain. In time, we can expect that even the rolling audits which various news media and political websites are compiling on the truthfulness of his words and deeds will become demanding. Many people will have an opinion about Mr Trump’s behaviour such is his impact worldwide and this poses the question as to how this opinion was formed or acquired. And, if we do not have an opinion already about the status of his endless flow of claims we decide, one way or another, where we stand on Mr Trump relationship to truth in a way that we have not had to do about most U.S. presidents. We have two options: opt out or engage our minds. For many, even at this early stage of Mr Trump’s presidency, his behaviour is too much and it is already a question of ‘tuning it out’ to preserve peace of mind. Alternatively, his opinions behaviour requires economizing on our attention – coming to a sustainable assessment of it so that we need not think about his every turn.
Professor Gavin Reid, one of the members of our Advisory Board, has recently given an insightful lecture entitled ‘Long Live the Small Firm: Strategies for Sustaining Business’ at Abertay University. Worth watching it:
Our colleague, Dr. Eoin O’Leary is the author of Irish Economic Development: High-performing EU State or Serial-Under-achiever?, a major study of the Irish economy recently published by Routledge. Last Sunday he made interesting points to the Irish Independent about the current state of policy thinking in Ireland: It has recently been argued in these pages, that sooner or later Ireland will experience another crash. I would agree – and would argue that the lack of institutional reform since the most recent crisis would suggest that we are sleepwalking into the next crash… READ FULL ARTICLE Click here to Download Book Flyer
Financial Times: Dublin Should Be Careful Not to Celebrate Too Soon New York Times: A Less Credible Euro: How the Euro Turned Into a Trap
Two speeches last week by very different types of people raised an issue about the way publicly held corporations works as was raised by Keynes many years ago. One was a presidential candidate in the USA, Hillary Clinton, who in a speech in New York last Friday, in which she challenged “quarterly capitalism” – the short-term thinking currently dominating ‘Wall Street’ (financial markets and institutions) – as being detrimental to ‘Main Street’ (production and retail activities). Clinton emphasised the role of the tax system. Watch Speech Report from the NYT Commentary by VOX The other was the Chief Economist of the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, who in an interview with BBC Newsnight last Friday, questioned “the share-holder economy” as suffering from short-termism, not investing enough and consequently “almost eating themselves”. Haldane emphasised corporate law. Watch BBC Interview Report from BBC Interviewer Report from The Guardian Keynes, as far back as 1936, was raising the same issue in his famous Chapter 12, on ‘The State of Long-Term Expectation’, in his final major work, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money (1936). He made a powerful distinction between “speculation…the activity of forecasting the psychology of the [financial] market” and “enterprise…the activity of forecasting the prospective yield of assets over their whole life”. Keynes emphasised the organisation of investment markets which at times may put speculation in the driving seat. He saw the balance as crucial: “Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation. When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done.” Keynes, with his irony, had a different suggestion than Clinton and Haldane: “The spectacle of modern investment markets has sometimes moved me towards the conclusion that to make the purchase of an investment permanent and indissoluble, like marriage, except by reason of death or other grave cause, might be a useful remedy for our contemporary evils. For this would force the investor to direct his mind to the long-term prospects and to these only.”
As Greece apparently reaches an agreement with its creditors, we found the following links helpful to understand the current situation and we hope you will too. The Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole made a powerful assessment yesterday at Today FM’s The Last Word. Listen HERE (It starts at Part 2 36:51min and finishes at Part 3, after 10sec). Today O’Toole also conveyed some of the same ideas in his Irish Times Column: Tormenting Greece is about sending a message that we are now in a new EU. As always, John Cassidy at the New Yorker is worth reading and is on the same lines as O’Toole: A Humiliating Deal for Greece An exclusive interview with the Economist of the moment, Thomas Piketty, who makes many interesting points: Germany Has Never Repaid its Debts. It Has No Right to Lecture Greece A look behind the scenes is given in this exclusive interview with Yanis Varoufakis by the NewStatesmen: Varoufakis opens up about his five month battle to save Greece Bloomberg’s useful introduction to the European Debt Crisis. Watch HERE