Robert Shiller of Yale University is #48 on Foreign Policy’s list of the 100 Top Global Thinkers of 2010. He tells Chrystia that his big idea is that “finance can serve humanity, especially if it democratizes.” In fact, Shiller argues that the spread of finance is responsible for the super-cycle of economic growth that the world has enjoyed over the past half-century. He disputes the charge that finance is mainly beneficial to a small cabal of bankers in the world’s financial capitals.
At the end of Chrystia’s interview with Dan Ariely yesterday, he revealed that his next research priority is to demonstrate how pernicious conflicts of interest really are:
Daron Acemoglu of MIT is #88 on Foreign Policy‘s list of the 100 Top Global Thinkers of 2010. Acemoglu tells Chrystia that his big ideas involve “the relationship between democracy and development” and “the historical roots of economic success and political success, and unfortunately also economic failure and political failure, across nations.” Professor Acemoglu explains why he disagrees with modernization theory, which states that nations tend to democratize as they get richer. He also disagrees with the thesis of fellow FP Global Thinker Raghuram Rajan that income inequality was a root cause of the most recent financial crisis. Acemoglu also discusses the prospects for democratization in China, and Russia’s project to replicate Silicon Valley outside Moscow. His next big idea, he hinted, is exploring the relationship between individualism and society.
Dan Ariely, author of “The Upside of Irrationality,” has some (unsurprisingly) unconventional recommendations for restoring the health of the financial system and fixing Wall Street pay. He told Chrystia that the government’s effort to recapitalize the banks and restore liquidity to the financial system are half-hearted since it has done little to restore trust in the industry:
In conjunction with her essay in Foreign Policy‘s Top Global Thinkers issue, Chrystia interviewed six of the financial luminaries that made the list:
Saying ‘yes’ is one of the dominant tropes of American life. America’s favorite politicians are the sunny optimists: think Ronald Reagan and “Morning in America.” In fact, the culture is so insistent on looking on the bright side that, as Barbara Ehrenreich complained in a recent book, injunction can be heard on the cancer ward. You might even say — and some historians have — that Americans themselves have been pre-selected for their optimism: you or your ancestors had to have a powerful faith in the New World and the opportunities here to make the trek over in the first place.
At last Friday’s Wharton Private Equity Partners Distressed Investing Symposium, Chrystia interviewed Mark Gallogly, co-founder and managing principal at Centerbridge Partners, a private equity and credit investment firm with $12 billion in assets under management. Gallogly said finding good opportunities in the distressed sector has become tougher as the “wall of maturities” (the point in time when debt must be refinanced) has been pushed further into the future, thanks to the booming market for corporate debt.
Nikesh Arora, Google’s President of Global Sales Operations and Business Development, spoke to Chrystia yesterday at a panel during the Paley Center for Media’s November International Council meeting. Arora explained how Google is able to keep its garage-workshop spirit of innovation even as the company swelled to 20,000 employees. The key, he said, was to establish a “culture of yes” where the default option is for management to approve employees’ new ideas andprojects rather than trying to nitpick and say no. Several of Google’s most recent initiatives, from driverless cars to a new offshore power grid to promote wind power, were the byproduct of this bottom-up process.