Monday, 26 October 2009
At a packed event at the Lowy Institute the other evening I heard Dr Ian McFarlane, past Governor of the Reserve Bank, and Prof Ross Garnaut, author of the Garnaut Climate Change Review, try to explain the economic machinations that led to the GFC. They both admitted to being caught off guard by the speed and depth of the "great crash of 2008". In Ross's book of the same name he traces the earliest sign to the collapse of a US mortgage originator called Merit Financial in May 2006. The company was owned by a former football star and ran up more that $2 billion of mortgages over 5 years specializing in clients with a bad credit history. Many of the loan officers were ex-footballers, one an ex-Hooters girl. Their training consisted of a 19-step program lasting an hour!
I bought the book and asked Ross to sign it for me. I told him I was a psychologist with an interest in behavioural economics. He wrote, "it has taken too long for me to give it the importance it deserves, but Shiller's perspective is certainly part of the story" (behavioural economist Bob Shiller is the best-selling author of "Irrational Exuberance").
Monday, 12 October 2009
After months of watching the tide go out it's now starting to come in. If all these opportunities start to come in at the same time it's going to look like a tsunami (but in a good way)! Most of what we need to learn we discover at the bottom of the cycle. Then we can apply those learnings in the upswing. The trick is having patience and insight enough to capture the learning when all around is uncertain and fragile.
Thursday, 1 October 2009
This week I had lunch with the President of Hungary, Prof. László Sólyom, at the Lowy Institute for International Policy. Turns out he's the "Al Gore" of Europe! Since the Club of Rome in 1972, the "limits to growth" have been predicted. Sub-systems have been changing slowly, but suddenly they go past their tipping point. For example, Atlantic Sea ice is melting faster than predicted. How far can we go before these changes become irreversible? According to an article published in Nature just last week, we've already gone past the tipping point for some sub-systems! Can Human Kind change in time? In 1989, with the fall of the "Iron Curtain", half of Europe changed within a year without the usual violence and destruction. So it can be done. "The only hope", the President said, "are people themselves!"