The Great Debate UK

The morally blind leading the arithmetically blind

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–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

You’ve got to admire the endless inventiveness of our politicians. Just when you think there’s nothing new under the sun, they catch you out by coming up with an idea so bad nobody seems to have thought of it before.

Now the All-Party (or was it All-night Party?) Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People has come up with the daftest idea I’ve heard since the previous Government’s idiotic Home Information Pack scheme, but which threatens to do far more serious damage. They propose, in the FT’s words, that “High street banks responsible for some of the worst consumer mis-selling scandals of the past decade will be invited into British schools to help teach financial education”.

I had to read this paragraph two or three times, then ask myself if it was April 1st, before digesting the craziness of this idea. Presumably it will be followed by an invitation to Silvio Berlusconi to lecture our MPs on ethical behaviour in politics. After all, most people would expect a course in prudent personal financial management to start with the lesson: “Whatever you do, don’t take advice from your bank”.

Fiscal cliff deal is depressingly European

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–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

The deal to break the deadlock in the US looks awful, far worse than going over the cliff, which I suspect would have been a lot less damaging than is usually assumed.

The Leveson Whitewash

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–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

If you ask a lawyer what to do, he’ll recommend a legal remedy – what do you expect? In the same way, many of our politicians have a background as lawyers, so no wonder we have such a proliferation of unnecessary laws. Besides, it does provide plenty of work for old pals…

How much longer can China carry on like this?

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–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Breakneck economic growth alongside staggering (and rising) inequality, much of it attributable to blatant corruption, seems like an explosive mixture, but until very recently, I would have said that there was at least a 50-50 chance that China could stay on track for another generation (albeit with some slowing in its growth rate). In recent months, however, I have noticed one or two straws in the wind to suggest that the odds may have tilted against the maintenance of the status quo.

Party political policing

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–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

I hope I am proved wrong, but I am afraid that the decision to introduce elected police commissioners will turn out in the long term to be the most damaging of all the stupid things this incompetent Government is doing. It is a fear that has been reinforced by the leaflet shoved through my door on the eve of the election. At the top, it has a bright red band reading “From…., your Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidate” and a matching red ribbon at the bottom says “Vote Labour Thursday 15th November”.

Declare victory in the War on Drugs – then run like hell

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By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.

Wherever you look – radio and TV, novels, internet – history is all the rage these days. Perhaps a large part of the appeal is the nice warm feeling it gives us of being able to look down on the sheer madness and heartless cruelty of our own ancestors. What did they think they were doing back in the 16th century burning witches? Or 300 years later, locking up poor young girls for getting pregnant? Or sending men to jail simply for being homosexuals, as we did until the 1950s ?

History may seem to be nothing but a catalogue of human folly, but have you ever asked yourself what features of contemporary life will have our own descendants scratching their heads and asking themselves: how could they – meaning us, today – be so crazy?

Continuous assessment – just another middle-class privilege

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By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.

It will be a long road back to respectable standards in our schools, but for making a start, Michael Gove deserves our respect and gratitude. It takes a lot of bravery to confront Britain’s education establishment.

However, there is one critical issue which I never hear mentioned in any of the fractious debates on education. It hides behind a number of aliases: continuous assessment, assignments, projects, and no doubt many others. Whatever form it takes, the common factor is the incorporation into public qualifications of grades based on work completed outside exam conditions – at home, in the library, in the shopping mall, anywhere except under the eye of an objective invigilator.

Carving the Turkeys

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–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

The LIBOR scandal will run and run, and it is far too soon to say where it will all end. Nonetheless, there are two conclusions that we can already draw from it.

Punish the bankers, not the banks

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By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.

Another day, another banking scandal. Last week, it was a software glitch so serious that some people were left homeless and scrabbling around for money to pay the rent. This week, a new scandal over mis-selling of interest rate swaps has so far been buried under the furore over manipulation of LIBOR by Barclays (and apparently other banks). They could at least stagger the scandals a bit – say, one a month – we need time to absorb the last one before we start on the next.

The London Interbank Offered Rate is a hypothetical indicator of the cost of money, based on the answers given each day by a panel of banks to the question: how much would you have to pay to borrow in the interbank market today? It was introduced as part of the Big Bang deregulation of the City in order to provide a benchmark interest rate for pricing the new financial instruments being developed: swaps, options, futures and forwards.

Press, police, politicians and public in race to the bottom

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–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Listening to the interminable Leveson Inquiry hearings, it is impossible not to feel revulsion at some of the antics of the hacks. How could anyone be heartless enough to hack into the phone of a murder victim, let alone to tamper with the voice messages she left behind? How could they invent stories to try to incriminate parents who have been through the nightmare that the McCanns have faced since their toddler disappeared? And, having behaved with such heartlessness, how could they present the stories they invented in such a self-righteous tone? There is nothing the tabloids like more than posing as crusaders for decency in a wicked world, yet their own behaviour was beneath contempt.

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