Central banks increasingly consider combating climate change by pursuing a “green monetary policy”. The European Central Bank is also venturing into the field of climate protection. The ECB can support…
Companies & regulation
On December 17, 2010, a young Tunisian by the name of Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest against police harassment. His act triggered a wave of revolts across the Arab world as people rose against authoritarianism and poverty. The fall of Ben Ali’s regime in Tunisia after 23 years in power generated enormous expectations. People throughout the region hoped to end injustice and corruption, and start moving towards freedom, democracy and economic prosperity.
This year and a half of pandemic has rekindled the debate about the relationship between individual freedom and its limits, especially when health is at stake. While in several countries governments seem to be reasonably cautious in this regard, Italy has adopted policies (i.e., the so called “green-pass”) that have no equal among Western democracies in terms of extension and invasiveness. Italian citizens cannot take a train, attend a university class or go to work without giving proof, possibly via a specific App in their smartphone, that they are vaccinated (or to be negative to a Covid-test taken in the last 72-hours). Despite the perplexity shown by some commentators, general support for the green-pass in Italy is rather high. About two Italians out of three believe that far from depriving them of liberty, the green pass actually enhances their liberty. Although this reaction may be surprising, it could perhaps be understandable, if such policies were thought as temporary. Some data, however, highlight a different and less optimistic scenario.
Much of the socio-economic damage linked to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted from poor regulation: the coronavirus would certainly have caused much less damage in contexts more respectful of the principle of individual responsibility. Unfortunately, poorly conceived regulation continues to lead to more and more state intervention, in a spiral that produces unsatisfactory results and constrains individual freedoms.
The recent paper “Fifty Shades of QE: Conflicts of Interest in Economic Research” by Fabo et al. investigates the possible biases of economic research when analysing QE effectiveness. Part of the research efforts on this subject is led by economists who work at the very central banks that design and put into operation unconventional monetary policies. Comparing their results to those obtained by academic economists may shed some light on the drivers of scientific consensus.
The term meritocracy describes a social and political context in which merit is the key criterion to evaluate the distribution of rewards. If such distribution reflects individual merit, it is fair. It is unfair in the opposite case. The term was coined in 1958 by British sociologist Michael Young, according to whom meritocracy describes a dystopia, not something necessarily desirable. Young was affiliated to the labor party. In fact, the term maintained a negative connotation for a long time within the leftist culture. Since the 90s of the last century, however, the world of politics took at different view, possibly encouraged by egalitarian theories that sought to combine egalitarianism and personal responsibilities.
Vivian in Pretty Woman, Tralala in Last Exit to Brooklyn, Fantine in Les Misérables – sex workers are commonly featured in popular culture. Social perceptions of a sex worker’s daily life are inevitably influenced by how sex work is portrayed in fiction. Some of these perceptions turn into stereotypes that are also reflected in policymaking, which often frames sex workers as either vulnerable victims of human trafficking or as drug-addicted survival sex workers. A UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission’s report, published in 2019, calls for implementation of the so-called ‘Nordic Model’, which makes buying (but not selling) sexual services illegal. In fact, according to leading sex work researchers, occupational reality is a lot more diverse than the report suggests, with many sex workers exercising more economic agency than commonly expected.
Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb: these are only few of the numerous companies which have fundamentally changed our lives with new technologies in recent years. While their business models differ, none of the stars come from Europe. Apart from the serial entrepreneurs at Rocket Internet in Berlin, SAP is the only big digital corporation in Germany. Is there a role to play for the EU in the attempts to change this? Yes, there is. However, not by means of new subsidies and detailed regulation, but by keeping markets open.
Edward Altman is professor emeritus at NYU’s Stern School of Business and director of credit and debt market research at the NYU Salomon Center. He is also the creator of the Z-score: a heuristic index to assess the credit worthiness (and likeliness to default) of companies. The Z-score is built as a weighted sum of commonly available corporate indexes of liquidity, reinvested resources, profitability, and market capitalisation vs liabilities (here the formula). As a scoring system, it does not originate from a precise theory. Rather, it is rooted in common sense, and parameters are calibrated until they generate some useful statistical regularity. For example, for public manufacturing companies, if Z scores higher than 2.99 then the company is not likely to default; if Z scores lower than 1.81 then the risk of default is considerable.