Heath Replies to Tabarrok

25 04 2015

Joseph Heath

Two of the most interesting economic thinkers of our times have recently been in an online dialogue. Joseph Heath, the University of Toronto philosopher, recently published Enlightenment 2.0  Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy, and Our LivesThis book builds on his earlier popular and academic work, including Filthy Lucre: Economics For People Who Hate Capitalism. As many readers will know, that book set out to debunk six common right-wing fallacies about the economy as well as six common left-wing fallacies.

In Enlightenment 2.0, Heath draws on the work of Daniel Kahneman.

Over the last twenty years, the political systems of the western world. have become increasingly divided-not between right and left, but between crazy and non-crazy. What’s more, the crazies seem to be gaining the upper hand. Rational thought cannot prevail in the current social and media environment, where elections are won by appealing to voters’ hearts rather than their minds. The rapid-fire pace of modern politics, the hypnotic repetition of daily news items and even the multitude of visual sources of information all make it difficult for the voice of reason to be heard.

In Enlightenment 2.0, bestselling author Joseph Heath outlines a program for a second Enlightenment. The answer, he argues, lies in a new “slow politics.” It takes as its point of departure recent psychological and philosophical research, which identifies quite clearly the social and environmental preconditions for the exercise of rational thought. It is impossible to restore sanity merely by being sane and trying to speak in a reasonable tone of voice. The only way to restore sanity is by engaging in collective action against the social conditions that have crowded it out.

Anyway, Tabarrok published a lengthy and thoughtful review of Enlightenment 2.0 that was entitled Is Capitalism Making Us Stupid? Heath replied with an extensive blog post on In Due Course. I got the impression that Heath has lots of interesting material that wasn’t presented in this book due to space consideration.

For instance, Heath writes in his blog post:

Last but not least, Tabarrok is unsatisfied by my discussion of Ayn Rand’s rationalism. “Heath recognizes the Ayn Rand problem but he brushes it aside. That’s a shame because a longer discussion might have been enlightening.” I’ve heard lots of complaints about this – that I don’t explain how we went from the left being so anti-rationalist in the ’60s, and Rand being the arch-rationalist, to essentially a reversal of the positions. There was initially a longer discussion in the book of conservatism, and why Rand is something of an exception in the broader tradition, which has always gravitated towards anti-rationalism. This got left on the cutting room floor, so I’ve brushed it off and cleaned it up. Let’s call it my one-minute history of conservative anti-rationalism. It’s still pretty sketchy, but at least it’s more than can be found in the book.

It sounds as if Heath has material that could be expanded into a follow-up book!

Les Hannah on the History of Barclays

24 04 2015

Just in time for its tumultuous AGM (for outbursts by shareholders, see here), Barclays bank has produced a video on the history of this venerable financial institution. The video features the distinguished business historian Les Hannah talking about the bank’s history and values. The video alludes to the bank’s Quaker founders and long history of involvement in overseas business.

The video is interesting on a number of levels, not least as an example of constitutive historicism and a fine case of a firm using its heritage in investor relations.

CFP: Management History Research Group Annual Workshop

23 04 2015

The Management History Research Group Annual Workshop, Tuesday 21 July and Wednesday 22 July 2015 at the University of York, UK.

This year the Management History Research Group meeting will remember two important figures in the foundation of the MHRG, Derek Pugh and Andrew Thomson. Derek Pugh was a path-breaking contributor to management thought, particularly through his 1971 edited volume Organization Theory which helped to establish organizational behavior as a field of enquiry. Pugh’s team, known as the ‘Aston School’, was important in furthering this field. In his later career, at The Open University Business School, Pugh went on to help found the MHRG with Andrew Thomson. As well as the MHRG, Thomson was a founder of the British Academy of Management and served as Dean of the Open University Business School. In the management history field he co-authored The Making of Modern Management: British Management in a Historical Perspective with John F. Wilson, and with Edward Brech and John F. Wilson published a biography of Lyndall Urwick, the British pioneer of scientific management.

The Management History Research Group Meeting 2015 will be hosted by The York Management School at the University of York.

The theme of the workshop will be “The scholarship of Derek Pugh and Andrew Thomson”, and we encourage papers that engage with the themes covered by Pugh and Thomson during their working lives, such as organizational behavior and the history of the management profession. As usual, papers can also be on any topic in the field of MOH, broadly conceived. Heterodox approaches are especially well received. Panel proposals are also welcome.

We welcome three types of submission:

Full Papers c. 2,000 words, excluding references. These papers are expected to be works progress and will be peer reviewed. They will be circulated to the participants in the workshop.

Developmental Papers/Presentations c. 500 words, excluding references. These papers/presentations are expected to be at a more formative stage of production should be presented with a view to gaining feedback for further development.

PhD/Post-doc Presentations. There will also be a session for PhD students and Postdocs who wish to gain feedback for their work from experienced scholars. Papers for this session should be c. 500 words excluding references.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 4 May at 5pm. Late submissions will not be considered. Please email submissions and any queries to:


Notification of acceptance will be given by 5pm on Monday 11 May.

Workshop details:

The cost of the workshop is £100 for full-time academic members of staff. The cost for PhD

students and post-doctoral students will be £60.

Lunches and a conference dinner will be provided.

Accommodation will not be provided, but a list of possible places to stay in York will be made available.

Workshop conveners:

Dr Simon Mollan, Dr Kevin Tennnent, Dr Phil Garnett, and Professor Bill Cooke (all The York Management School, University of York)

The Business History Network at Oxford University – 2015 Workshop

23 04 2015

The Business History Network at Oxford brings together early-career researchers from all disciplines with an interest in business history. They want to be a forum for discussion and build long-term collaborative relationships among the participants of our workshops.

Their second Workshop of 2015 will take place on 18th June 2015 at St. John’s College, Oxford. Any graduate students and postdocs who are interested in attending the workshop or signing up to their newsletter can find more information on their website.

Is Globalization Slowing Down? Is Banking Experiencing Deglobalization? Is the Perceived Relative Decline of the United States to Blame?

20 04 2015

There is some evidence that globalization has slowed down since the Global Financial Crisis. One way of measuring globalization is to compare the growth of global trade to growth in the world economy in general. By that measure, the rate of globalization definitely appears to be slowing. According to a recent article in the FT, in three decades before the 2008 financial crisis, global trade regularly grew at twice the rate of the global economy.”With last year’s growth of 2.8 per cent, global trade has now expanded at, or below, the rate of the broader global economy for three straight years.”

In the last year or so, the term “deglobalization” has been on everyone’s lips (see here, here, and here). I get the impression the word was used frequently at the 2015 World Economic Forum meeting (see here and here). This discourse of deglobalization can also be seen in the Wall Street Journal and the other publications read by senior corporate managers. In The System WorkedDan Drezner has argued that we haven’t seen any deglobalization.  My own view is that while the global trade data suggests that while we haven’t witnessed any actual deglobalization, the process is decelerating dramatically.  Recent news out of the banking sector provides some evidence of deglobalization: HSBC is retreating from key emerging markets: the “world’s local bank” has decided it will no longer provide retailing banking service in Turkey and Brazil, two important countries.  See here, here, and here.

As I read the press reports about HSBC’s exit from emerging markets, I noticed the frequency of references to political factors in influencing the change in the bank’s strategy. As a business historian who is interested in globalization, I’ve long believed that the changing political institutions are incredibly important as drivers of the various waves of globalization and de-globalization the world economy has experienced over the last few hundred years.  I’m particularly sympathetic to the view that rapid globalization requires a strong global hegemon, which means that globalization is most likely to take place in a world dominated by a single superpower capable of providing global public goods such as international stability. We had such a superpower for almost a century after Napoleon’s defeat in 1815 (it was the British Empire). Banks and other firms made their strategies accordingly. Britain’s status as the first of the great powers was challenged in the early 20th century by rising great powers like Germany and the world experienced de-globalization, largely because of the reluctance of the interwar US to step into the shoes of the British Empire. International firms still made money, but they had to adjust their strategies to the new geopolitical landscape. Globalization did not resume until the post-1945 period, when the United States began to perform many of the functions  that had the previous liberal capitalist global hegemon, the British Empire, had discharged (Kindleberger, 1986 and Gilpin, 2011, 94-95).

Recent years have seen the accumulation of evidence of American relative decline. I don’t know if we are really in a post-American world, but the unipolar system that underpinned rapid globalization in the 1990s no longer exists. Perhaps the Obama’s administration’s foreign policy has contributed to the perception of American weakness. Such perceptions, accurate or not, may influence the strategies of MNEs. In any event, we now live in a world of great power rivalries that is uncannily similar to the world circa 1905. The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 ended the first era of globalization and initiated several decades of deglobalization and de-financialization. I’m certainly not saying that great-power rivalries will continue to intensify. Nor am I saying that the expectation of intensification now informs the strategy of HSBC and other multinationals. (I simply don’t know what the senior managers of such firms think about the international system, although I would very much love to talk them about this issue!). However, I would speculate that the people who make high-level strategy in firms like HSBC expect that the world’s political systems are moving in a direction that means that a business model of providing retail banking services on every continent and in every major emerging market no longer makes sense.

Please note that I am not saying that either globalization or deglobalization are normative. I’m mainly interested here in how shifting policy environments influence the strategies of multinational firms.

Papers on Canadian Topics at BHC 2015

18 04 2015

Three papers on Canadian topics will be presented at the upcoming Business History Conference in Miami.

Kristin HallUniversity of Waterloo
Trade Journals, Manhood, and “Legitimate Advertising”: Establishing Advertising as a Necessary Business Practice for Canadian Consumer Goods Manufacturers, 1887-1914

Laurence B. MussioMcMaster University
Winners, Losers, and Bankers in the Making of Canada’s Central Bank, 1932-1938

Matthew BellamyCarleton University
Brewing Inequality: Regulatory Capture and the System of Beer Distribution in Canada, 1969-1981

Keith Neilson

16 04 2015

I have heard the sad news that Prof. Keith Neilson of Royal Military College has died. At the time of his death, Prof. Neilson was working on the paper described below.

Have any of my readers seen this important paper? If so, please email me so that we can investigate the possibility of obtaining the permission of the author’s estate for a posthumous publication.

Canada’s Imperial Munitions Board (IMB) in the First World War

The IMB was perhaps Canada’s most important contribution to the Imperial war effort in the First World War. It provided as much as one-third of all the shells used by the British and Imperial forces in 1917. Despite this, however, the efforts of the IMB are not widely known.

This is unfortunate, for study of the IMB provides an excellent window into a number of important matters. First, as the IMB was a part of the British Ministry of Munitions (despite being located in Canada, being headed by a Canadian and often funded by the Canadian government), a study of it enriches our understanding of the way in which extra-British business was tied to the Allied war effort. Second, as British war supplies from Canada had to be paid for, an examination of the IMB and its role adds considerably to our understanding of the international financing of the war. This issue of finance has several dimensions. One involves how financing Canadian munitions production affected Anglo-Canadian relations generally (as Britain often wanted Canada to pay for munitions without having any control over ordering) and the relationship between the Canadian government and private banks; the other shows how Britain’s borrowing of money in the United States was linked to British purchasing in Canada (with regard to exchange rates in particular and the distribution of munitions contracts in general).

My paper will deal with these and related topics. It is based on the relevant secondary work and a wide range of primary material. The latter includes the files of the Ministry of Munitions in the United Kingdom (MUN 4 and 5 in particular), the private papers of a number of people intimately involved in this process (the first Minister of Munitions, David Lloyd George; the head of the IMB, Sir Joseph Flavelle; the prominent banker and British liaison with the IMB, Robert Brand, and the Canadian prime minister, Sir Robert Borden among others). It is also utilises the private papers of several prominent Americans, particularly William Gibbs McAdoo, Secretary of the Treasury in the period.


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