economics finance politics

The Joy of Self-Employment in Ireland

An ironic title as such joy is largely confined to the freedom to pick your work hours that exists in a quite limited sense if you’re providing services to people and you have to fit around their schedules.
Let’s look at the positive side:

  1. You’re the boss. Customers or clients may harass or harangue you but at least the boss won’t bully you.
  2. You have some flexibility regarding place and time of work that you may otherwise not be afforded as a PAYE worker.
  3. Expenses. You get to factor in some expenses associated with a home office into your tax bill. More on this later.
  4. Job security in the sense that you are ultimately responsible for whether you have it rather than a VP or SVP with no personal stake in your life deciding you need to be downsized because your division doesn’t look good on his spreadsheet or you’re at a grade where his costings suggest he could bring in someone younger to bugger up your job.
  5. The sense of achievement that comes with making it on your own.
economics finance

Skin in the game – why banks are blowing up

King of the Quants, Paul Wilmott, has a great blog post on his very popular site about the current financial crisis. If you’re wondering how popular a site about quantitative finance can be then consider there’s about a 65,000 subscribers engaging in debate (some heated, some light-hearted & some perhaps ridiculous) on his forum.

Wilmott is the author of the authoritative textbooks on the subjects relating to financial modelling of derivatives. So you’d be thinking “it’s all his fault” and you’d be wrong. In his writings and courses you’d be hard pressed to find a “rocket scientist” more skeptical of the limitations of risk management using financial models. Unless you happened to be Naseem Taleb but that’s another story.


Nash, McWilliams and an economy of words

I picked up this link in my travels. The article contains an interview with John Nash where he discusses the current economic crisis.

“I get the impression that the government is not ready to do anything that is really beyond a short-term basis,” said Nash, a senior research mathematician at Princeton. “[But] we need a natural stability of value.”

Nash advocates an international monetary system with suitable accords like a new Bretton Woods. He fundamentally believes that such a system should be democratically introduced. He believes that short-termist keynesianism has wrecked the stability of the financial system. A big problem he has cited now and in the past is the variable rate mortgage. Should home-owners really be speculating on their repayments? Do many really understand the implications?
In many cases the illusion of liquidity was craved more than any tangible value. The sprocket-loan derivative market (fictional I HOPE) could be a great source of earnings as long as people kept buying sprockets. If they slow down, the mechanics of the market falls apart as, like a Ponzi scheme, it’s reliant on getting more derivative buyers in so previous buyers can bail out at a profit.
Something like the gold standard has always been deemed inflexible in times of extravagance, mostly due to the cost of warfare. Does anything good come out of a fiat currency, unbacked by commodities? Does it really create sustainable wealth that wouldn’t arise otherwise?
Is the opportunity it creates simply too hazardous to our wealth (and health)?
Despite his well-documented problems Nash is, perhaps the world’s most famous and most brilliant economist with a formidable reputation as a pure mathematician. His comments ring true and this crisis is an opportunity to bring about a more conservative economic system again with less exotic derivative products acting as “get rick quick” mechanisms for greedy hedge funders. Still you have to be brave and a bit different to affect real change.
Right now, we really need change. Lateral thinking backed by some pragmatic experience. One way to do this is to put someone in charge of the banks in this country who thinks differently Which brings me around to the obvious conclusion that Lenihan should appoint David McWilliams as the CEO of one of the banks. Yes, the floppy ginger haired bloke who used to present Agenda and wrote those books about our economic rise and fall. If anything, he’s got timing and great TV hair. Very important in a bank CEO.
I’m deadly serious here. McWilliams has the credentials and the experience of the banking sector. He has worked in the central bank, as an analyst for UBS and as a director of BNP. His predictions have been prescient yet he appears to listen and respond to criticism well, certainly on the evidence of his blog. When an idea is berated he’ll discuss it rationally, responding reasonably to even savage criticism. We don’t get much of that in the FF-led government these days. BIFFOT, Minister for Cork & Battman don’t seem able to take criticism with anything less than a snarl. Then there’s my namesake.. 🙁
On the positive side the Walking Handshake from Drumcondra is gone!
Even more importantly, McWIlliams would scare the over-leveraged but still living shit out of the incumbents. He’s been attacking them for years so imagine their discomfort to be faced with him as their boss or competitor. We might aswell make Michael O’ Leary Taoiseach. Now there’s an idea.
Seriously though, whatever cash he wants, whatever it takes to entice him back into the financial sector, we should pay him. It would be worth it for the entertainment value alone and we’ll need a lot of entertainment over the coming months to distract us from the economic misery in store.