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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Retail therapy - history teaches us nothing

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who runs his own training business and we were comparing notes/moans about the current state of the economy. He then told me that he was in the process of doing due dilligence on a small company he was buying.

"What fun", I replied

"Yes", he said, "Retail therapy always works"

Then a penny dropped. What if the captains of industry were no different from the rest of us? When they are feeling low, instead of going out and buying a new handbag or a nice suit or a trolley load of chocolate, they go and buy a company?

Economists have long known that companies making acquisitions often overpay because the people making the acquisition want the kudos that goes with it.

Fred Goodwin's acquisition of ABN AMRO for the Royal Bank of Scotland last year or any of the other recent over leveraged mergers are just a larger equivalent of you taking your credit card and going mad in Selfridges.

When we will ever learn?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Note to self - RSS feeds are a healthy mental breakfast

I learned quite a few things yesterday. My RSS feeds have been piling up in Google reader and I haven't quite had the strength to deal with them. But I gave myself 10 minutes or so to tackle a few of them and found energy in doing them.

I particularly enjoyed Tim Harford's piece in the FT on the collapse of macroeconomics. When I was living in Russia in the 1990's there was a marvellous quote that I am afraid I cannot attribute that, "History was closed for refurbishment". I think the same is true of economics at the moment. Tim's piece immediately took me on a tour of Wikipedia to look up "non linear stochastic general equilibrium" which in turn lead me to the "Lucas critique" which essentially states that you cant use theories drawn from historical data to make policy recommendations to government. It's no use looking at how the game has been played in the past to suggest how changing the rules might affect it as the players will adjust depending on the interpretation of the new rules.

That seems likes a very elegant way to put a large number of civil servants and academics out of a job.

Anyway my point is that this 10 minutes lead me to some interesting things which enthused me. I was subsequently more energised for an interesting meeting I had with some guys from Google which in turn lead to a number of interesting ideas.

All from 10 minutes spent on RSS feeds in the morning.