The City of London publishes regular reports showing the sector’s “contribution” to the British economy, in terms of taxes paid and jobs created. The Finance Curse analysis shows these numbers to be useless — for the simple fact that they show a gross contribution, airbrushing out the costs, instead of what policy-makers need: the net contribution, after the costs of oversized have been taken into account.
The first systematic attempt to put a number to the net figure was by Andrew Baker, Gerald Epstein and Juan Montecino. They came up with a negative number: oversized finance has cost the UK economy a cumulative $4.3 trillion over 20 years.
And there’s another question here: are the gross figures put forward by the City of London even correct? Continue reading →
Update: several great new reviews since this was written, including Martin Wolf’s selection among Financial Timesbest books of 2018:
A splendid polemic against modern finance . . . hard-hitting, well written and informative.
I’ve got an article in the Financial Times, entitledBrexit offers London’s rivals a poisoned chalice. It argues that France and Germany are slavering at the thought of luring British bankers after Brexit, and warns them to be careful what they wish for, because of, well, the finance curse. (It’s been out for a couple of weeks, but I was in Iowa when it came out and constantly travelling since then.)
Underneath the articles there are (of course) a number of angry comments, and I’ve now set up a page on this site in the FAQ section to respond to those, and also to an article about the Finance Curse in the Schumpeter column in the Economist, by a correspondent who I’m convinced cannot have read the book. This page is a work in progress.
(Please feel free to cross-post this, as long as you attribute it to here.)
Alongside the launch of The Finance Curse, and my Guardian article, there’s a new study by Andrew Baker of the University of Sheffield, Gerald Epstein of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Juan Montecino of Columbia University, estimating that the UK has suffered a cumulative £4.5 trillion hit to its GDP from 1995-2015, due to its financial sector being too large and having turned away from its proper traditional functions towards more harmful and predatory ones. That is equivalent to 250 percent of GDP – or £170,000 per UK household.
The finance curse (obviously) affects different kinds of countries in different ways. Take the Cayman Islands, for instance. It has has on some measures the world sixth largest banking centre, and wealth that accrues locally could theoretically be divided among just 65,000 people to make everyone rich. That’s very different from a large economy like Britain’s, where the wealth from a somewhat larger City of London could theoretically be divided among a population a thousand or so times larger than that of Cayman. Continue reading →
This page mostly refers to a site called Fools’ Gold, which I set up before writing the Finance Curse book. It collates the thoughts of leading thinkers on the subject of what ‘national competitiveness’ might mean. There is an awful lot of woolly thinking out there on this subject. Much of it is rests on what economists call the “fallacy of composition” – the mistaken idea that what is good for one sector of the economy must be good for the economy as a whole. Continue reading →
One of the big component of the (currently forthcoming) research by Andrew Baker, Gerald Epstein and Juan Montecino is a factor called “misallocation costs” — that is, the costs that the distorted incentives prevalent in the financial sector inflict on the wider British economy. One of the big factors of misallocation is the distortion of lending. Financial institutions seem to far prefer to lend to whizzy financial schemes than to lend to the rest of the economy.
It’s quite hard on a casual search to find out how much money UK-resident banks lend to the various different sectors of the economy, even though this is one of the most important measures of the usefulness of the City of London to the UK economy. Continue reading →