Felix Salmon

Why it makes sense for Larry Page to donate his billions to Elon Musk

Three years ago, with a post entitled “philanthropy isn’t for profit”, I expressed the hope that we had finally reached a turning point, and that people would “do good to do good, rather than simply declaring that the best way they can do good is to chase profit as zealously as possible”. And maybe I was right. That post was directed in part at Matthew Bishop, who had written a silly article asking whether IBM had done more good for the world than the Carnegie philanthropies. But this evening, when I ran into Bishop at an event for rich people in a swanky midtown club, he couldn’t bring himself to defend Larry Page, who said something similar at TED:

It’s time for Bill Gross to retire

A word of entirely unnecessary advice for anybody on the Pimco trading floor Tuesday morning: do not look Bill Gross in the eye. Or talk. Or do anything at all to make yourself stand out or be noticed. Because Gross, who for most of his career has been the subject of some of the most glowing press imaginable, has just been brought down by a downright brutal article on the front page of the WSJ. Neither Gross nor Pimco will ever be seen the same way again, and indeed, if Gross cares at all about the long-term fortunes of the company he built, the best thing he can do right now is simply retire.

Be happy that Stan Fischer worked at Citi

Last week, Justin Fox had a great post entitled “How Economics PhDs Took Over the Federal Reserve”. The first Fed chairman of the modern era was a banker, Marriner Eccles; he was succeeded by Thomas McCabe, who had a bachelor’s degree in economics but whose main qualification was having been the CEO of Scott Paper. Then William McChesney Martin moved over to the Fed from Treasury; he was a former stockbroker and New York Stock Exchange president, and ushered in a new era:

Sensible data

I have an essay in the January issue of Wired about the limits of quantification. In the magazine it’s headlined “Why Quants Don’t Know Everything”, but online it’s been retitled “Why the Nate Silvers of the World Don’t Know Everything” — which is a little unfortunate, since the whole essay is deeply indebted to Silver’s book, which makes substantially the same point.

The JP Morgan apologists of CNBC


I don’t know which producer at CNBC had the genius idea of asking Alex Pareene on to discuss Jamie Dimon with Dimon’s biggest cheerleaders, but the result was truly great television. What’s more, as Kevin Roose says, it illustrates “the divide between the finance media bubble and the normals” in an uncommonly stark and compelling manner.

Judging Treasury

There’s a fascinating heavyweight fight going on when it comes to writing what you might consider the official narrative of the financial crisis. The White House released its own 49-page report this morning, talking in glowing terms of the successes that the Obama Administration has made on the financial-reform front. Meanwhile, this week’s issue of Time magazine takes the opposite tack in a tough cover story by Rana Foroohar, headlined “How Wall Street Won”.

Summers over

David Wessel has the scoop: Larry Summers has bowed to reality and is withdrawing from consideration as Fed chair. His last-minute attempt to distance himself from Citigroup was far too little, far too late: with Democratic opposition in the Senate only getting harder, it was at this point more likely than not that any Summers nomination would actually fail to get through Congress.

Hank Paulson, hero?

1338_cov304x4151.jpgHank Paulson had a good crisis. That’s why he’s getting hero-worship on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine; he is also pretty much the sole interviewee in a hagiographic 90-minute documentary, produced by Bloomberg, which is about to appear on Netflix. The combination is being promoted with the idea that “no one felt the impact” of the financial crisis more than Paulson, which is obviously false, but which also gives a pretty good idea of the whole project’s point of view. (The film never mentions, for instance, that Paulson received more than $500 million, tax free, for his Goldman Sachs stock when he sold it before moving to Treasury.)

Larry Summers and the politicization of the Fed

Ezra Klein has an excellent piece on Larry Summers today, basically saying that he’s “the overwhelming favorite” to become the next Fed chair just because he’s an old Clinton hand, and is trusted by all the other old Clinton hands with whom Barack Obama has surrounded himself. (Interestingly, that’s a phenomenon unique to the economic team: no other department exhibits the same trait.)