Weekend reading

Good reads from around the Web.

When I was growing up, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan championed the power of capitalism to change the world.

There was a clear alternative back then – making tractors in some Soviet gulag wearing ill-fitting overalls while being lorded over by sanctified hypocrites who hunted bears from private lodges on the Kamchatka peninsula, before stuffing their faces with Beluga caviar.

I was happy to sides with Thatcher and Reagan over a Labour party that risked taking us one step in that direction.

But by the 1990s, the communist threat had gone. Plenty of us, including me, indulged our more socialist side – both in our thinking, and at the ballot box. Dotcom moguls made money almost as a by-product of their desire to change the world, and before long even Bill Gates had pledged to give away his fortune.

Now, today, we’re shaking off the credit crisis, inequality is rising out of control, and old arguments of Left Vs Right are being reborn in new guises.

So far I’ve come down on the side of the 99%. I think extremes of wealth need curbing – especially because the threat of the Siberian tractor factory is no longer there to encourage the richest to keep everyone on side.

But I don’t think we should do that simply by taxing and redistributing more money. I think the incentives can begin to act in perverse ways, locking some of the poor in dependency and dead-end thinking.

Instead I think we should boost pre-university training, give massive tax breaks to companies for taking on young and unskilled workers, create more start-up funds for new entrepreneurs, raise the income tax personal allowance to at least £10,000, think of innovative new ways to bring childcare to single mothers who want to work, and much more.

What did a rich man ever do for you?

In the midst of this debate, it’s refreshing to watch a video like the following (via Objective Wealth) that reminds me of the ultra-Libertarian other side.

It’s not often you hear Bill Gates chastised for giving billions to charity:

The guy is clearly extreme in his views (I’m sure his moguls are comforted by their billions when society overlooks their achievements) but maybe you have to be to get a view like this across. I’ve just embedded the video, haven’t I?

So what do you think? Is it time to bring back Greed is Good?

It’s hard to stomach the thought, given what those who never surrendered money as the ultimate scorecard – the bankers – did under that flag in the last decade.

But equally, I’d always choose 1980s Manhattan over 1980s Stalingrad.

From the blogs

Making good use of the things that we find…

Passive investing

Active investing

Other articles

Product of the week: The Telegraph reviews the latest fixed-rate savings bond from the Co-Op.

Mainstream media money

Note: Some links are to Google search results – these enable you to click through to read the piece without you being a paid subscriber of the site

Passive investing

  • Buffett’s bet on passive funds over hedge funds is winning – CNN
  • Invest like a dog, not a cat – Roth/CBS
  • What explains the appeal of hedge funds over passives? – New York Times
  • 20 year anniversary of ETFs – The Economist

Active investing

  • Great illustration of recency bias via magazine covers – Business Insider
  • Apple is stronger than ever – Slate
  • US financials still look good – Part 1 and Part 2 by The Brooklyn Investor

Other stuff worth reading

Book of the week: With Apple in the news all week, I’ve been reading the authorised biography – titled simply Steve Jobs – published around the time of his death. It’s superb!

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