Archive for November 3rd, 2017

From Shakespeare to JUNK: A History of Drama and Finance

November 3, 2017

Here is a list of theater plays which have looked at role of finance in society. But all are based in US:

Ayad Akhtar’s new play, Junk, explodes onto Broadway this season, bringing with it an important conversation about the history of our current corporate economic dilemma and how we got here.

It’s 1985. Robert Merkin, the resident genius of the upstart investment firm Sacker Lowell has just landed on the cover of Time Magazine. Hailed as “America’s Alchemist,” his proclamation that “debt is an asset” has propelled him to dizzying heights. Zealously promoting his belief in the near-sacred infallibility of markets, he is trying to re-shape the world.

JUNK is the story of Merkin’s assault on American capitalism’s holy of holies, the “deal of the decade,” his attempt to takeover an iconic American manufacturing company and, in the process, to change all the rules. What Merkin sets in motion is nothing less than a financial civil war, pitting magnates against workers, lawyers against journalists, and ultimately, pitting every one against themselves.

Set more than 30 years ago, this is a play about how, while most of us weren’t watching, money became the only thing of real value.

Since the dawn of the theatre, many playwrights and composers have explored the world of finance. Whether corporate or personal, money matters have seeped their way into even the unlikeliest of works. As one of the prime motivators for most humans. matters of finance have served as the central driving force for some of the stage’s most memorable characters.

Whether they are swimming in cash, scrounging for change in the laundry cup, or even committing murder for it, money has been the prime motivator for some of the stage’s most famous tales.

Let’s take a look back at some of the theatre’s most popular visits to the world of cash and commerce…


In Venezuela politics, opposition political parties are on the verge of collapse…

November 3, 2017

Prof. Marco Aponte-Moreno of St Mary’s College of California points to this interesting irony: On one hand the opposition forces are being crushed by the ruling party’s Maduro. On the other hand the opposition is winning awards abroad for trying to fight for democracy:

It’s been a bittersweet couple of weeks for the Venezuelan opposition, which for six months this year staged daily protests against the authoritarian-leaning regime of president Nicolás Maduro.

On Oct. 26, the alliance – which began working together in 2008 to counterbalance Hugo Chávez’s “Chavista” regime – was given the Sakharov Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious human rights awards. “Today we are supporting a nation’s freedom to struggle,” said Antonio Tajani, president of European Parliament, in bestowing the honor upon the more than two dozen parties that comprise Venezuela’s Democratic Unity Roundtable.

However, the award came just after the opposition had been handed a stunning defeat in Venezuela’s Oct. 15 regional elections. Despite a 75 percent approval rating, its candidates won just five of 23 state governorships.

Today, President Maduro has consolidated his power, Venezuela – my home country – remains hungry and mired in crisis and the resistance movement is flagging. Is this the beginning of the end of the Venezuelan opposition?


Meanwhile, BOJ’s Kuroda laughs off face-watchers trying to predict policy changes

November 3, 2017

I had pointed to ongoing research where researchers are trying to estimate future policy using changes in facial expressions of central bankers.  The researchers had studied BoJ’s Kuroda and figured some things.

Now Kuroda on hearing this, laughed off the idea (HT: MR blog):

On Tuesday, Kuroda suggested that the researchers could be easily outsmarted.

“I apologize to the people who are doing this research, but I really have no idea whether or not this is meaningful,” Kuroda said with a laugh at a press conference.

“If you try to decide something based on a specific indicator, people will behave in such a way that (your prediction) doesn’t happen. Then it simply becomes a game of cat and mouse.”


It is always a cat and mouse game between media/researchers and central bankers…

Capitalism will eat democracy — unless we speak up..

November 3, 2017

Yanis Varoufakis, the former Minister of Finance for Greece gives a TED talk.

The summary is:

Have you wondered why politicians aren’t what they used to be, why governments seem unable to solve real problems? Economist Yanis Varoufakis, the former Minister of Finance for Greece, says that it’s because you can be in politics today but not be in power — because real power now belongs to those who control the economy. He believes that the mega-rich and corporations are cannibalizing the political sphere, causing financial crisis. In this talk, hear his dream for a world in which capital and labor no longer struggle against each other, “one that is simultaneously libertarian, Marxist and Keynesian.”

He says we should be weary of ideas that threaten democracy at the cost of so called economic development:


Behavioural economics is also useful in macroeconomics

November 3, 2017

Paul De Grauwe and Yuemei Ji have a piece:

Need to read this carefully…

Spain’s ongoing digital civil war..

November 3, 2017

Alvaro Santana Acuña in this piece:


In principle, social media platforms should facilitate dialogue across the ideological spectrum. Yet Spaniards’ on-line reactions to the Catalan crisis suggest otherwise. No longer a mere echo chamber of what happens in the parliaments of Spain and Catalonia, daily clashes on social media have become part of the problem.

Two centuries ago, the spread of nation-states gave rise to total wars, such as the two world wars. Nowadays, the global spread of social media is giving birth to new a form of warfare, as revealed by the unintentional role of Facebook and other social media outlets during the U.S. presidential election and the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom. Bits of data cannot be defeated as easily as flesh and blood soldiers, and social media platforms now function as digital battlefields. Unlike traditional muddy and bloody battlefields, no army – not even the American, the world’s most powerful army – has enough weapons to win a war fought in a digital battlefield.

In Spain and Catalonia, the digital Balkanization of people’s minds due to exposure to sectarian social media content is a reality. People’s positions on the Catalan crisis become more radical in the intimacy of their digital trenches. Usage of smartphones and other portable digital devices confirms their views on the crisis as it is presented to them via customized social media content in their apps.

It is unclear whether social media Balkanization is directly responsible for episodes of sectarian violence in the streets of Catalonia this month. Yet digital trenches are spreading. Soldiers continue to dig their trenches in Facebook profiles, intolerant tweets, secret Snapchat messages, private Instagram images, and closed WhatsApp groups. Behind these digital trenches there are people that I love and admire, just as most Spaniards had a loved one who fought in the trenches of 1936.

Instead of talking to each other, digital soldiers leave a WhatsApp group if members do not applaud their opinion about what to do with Catalonia or Spain. On Facebook, a friend and member of the conservative Popular Party insulted his party leader and Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy for being too soft with Catalonia. Via Twitter, a Catalan friend in favor of independence shared the famous 1975 video of Prime Minister Arias Navarro announcing the death of dictator Franco, but his voice is altered and he declares, “Spaniards, Franco has returned.” My partner and I got into an argument about whether Instagram photos of blood-soaked Catalans hit by the police during the referendum in early October were real or digitally edited.

Though, not as violent but we in India also use social media for nearly similar purposes..

For Spaniards born in 1976, the collective health of their lives is forever linked to the health of their democracy. And nowadays there is so much hatred against Catalonia and Spain on social media (while the social divide widens) that many children of ’76 wonder whether democracy really lives in Spaniards’ hearts and ways of thinking.

Spaniards should prove to their ancestors, the ones who died in the trenches of ’36, that they have not forgotten the lessons of war. Civil society must take a firm step forward and demand that Spanish and Catalan politicians make full use of the democratic value of dialogue and find a negotiated and all-encompassing solution to this serious crisis. If solved, the children of ’76 would reach old age and tell their grandchildren not that we fought in a civil war (as my grandparents did), but that we are the first generation of Spaniards that was born, lived, and died in peace and democracy.


%d bloggers like this: