Felix Salmon

The Shard as metaphor for London

Aditya Chakrabortty doesn’t like the Shard, the huge new skyscraper nearing completion next to London Bridge station, across the river from the City of London. It’s certainly a monument to the 0.01%: owned by the government of Qatar, and featuring Michelin-starred restaurants catering to guests at the five-star hotel; the hedge-fund managers who will rent out the office space; and of course the plutocrats in the 10 monster apartments (for sale at prices starting at $47 million or so).

How to make New York’s cyclists safer

It’s becoming something of a trend these days: good report, bad press release. The latest example comes from John Liu, the New York City comptroller, who is warning about New York’s bikeshare program. “LIU: BIKE SHARE PROGRAM PEDALS PAST SAFETY MEASURES” says the release (geddit?) — and certainly that’s the message received by the New York Times, which wrote up the news under the headline “Bike-Share Program May Mean More Accident Suits Against the City, Liu Warns”.

Is price stability immoral?

Steve Waldman is one of the most original thinkers on the internet, and I highly recommend you read his latest piece, “Stabilizing prices is immoral“. You might never think about central bankers quite the same way again, and indeed you could start thinking that they judge themselves according to how assiduously they service the interests of the rich and well-employed.

Counterparties: Central banks warn about central banks

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Subordination in Spain causes very little pain

Sony Kapoor has a very good post on the Spanish bank bailout today, explaining that when Spanish credit spreads rose in the wake of the bailout, that had nothing to do with the fact that bailout funds were senior to privately-held bonds, and everything to do with enforced austerity.

Why checks won’t be abolished

In the latest issue of the Atlantic, I have a short piece under the headline “The End of the Checkbook” — something which can’t come quickly enough, at least for me. The video above is a bit of fun, and the result could be easily tweaked just by changing the distance I walked to the ATM, but the fact is that even supposedly easy things, like depositing a check by taking a photo of it, are in reality quite hard and full of frustrations.

Counterparties: SCOTUS’s massive healthcare decision

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Financial fiction

Near the beginning of Capital, the new novel from John Lanchester, we’re introduced to banker Roger Yount, and are treated to a wonderful three-page riff on the million-pound bonus he’s desperate to receive:

Why are US stock pricing conventions so sticky?

Last week I explained why Wall Street prefers lower-priced stocks: they mean that bid-offer spreads are wider, in percentage terms, and when that happens, brokers make more money.