Probably everyone has read Thaler and Sunstein’s book Nudge by now. Their thesis is simple: we are overwhelmed and often paralysed by choice, and public policy should do more to ‘nudge’ us in the direction of better choices where possible. Influencing ‘choice architecture’ doesn’t remove our free-will, but it makes it easier for us to choose a better path, like opting out of organ donation, rather than in. The Cabinet Office now has a ‘Nudge Unit‘, and I am very keen on this route as a subtle and more effective way to improve the market, rather than just coming up with more red tape. Here are my favourite Top 10 Nudges, some because they are admirable, and some just because they are so clever. Read More
You may recall that a chapter on Corporate Psychopaths was included in the 2010 book I co-edited on Ethical Leadership. Its primary author, Clive Boddy, has been attracting some recent press attention on the subject, following publication of an extended version of the chapter in the Journal of Business Ethics. One of my longstanding worries about this very useful identification of a potential boardroom problem is whether the said psychopaths could then use this diagnosis to plead diminished responsibility for any perceived wrongdoing. Read More
Talk given to the parish of St Luke and Christ Church, Chelsea, 8 November 2011.
What is money?
I wonder whether you have given much thought to what money really is? Before we invented it, we bartered goods and produce, and possibly services. But it soon became apparent that some kind of secondary system would make this primary market more efficient – what if I want rice today but only have the corn to swap for it tomorrow? Read More
I visited my accountant recently, who has on his wall an old print of London, which depicts a blizzard of church spires. What do we – quite literally – look up to these days? Tower 42, Canada Tower, the Gherkin, the Shard…most of which are cathedrals to the financial institutions they house. Aspiring? Inspiring? I can’t help thinking that a society’s tallest buildings say something about what that community holds most dear. Read More
I have just been reviewing John Hughes’ The End of Work which I like very much. He argues that Marx used a sleight of hand in introducing the concept of unalienated labour, seeing behind this prestige the hand of God. His arguments are essentially etymological. The first word he examines is criticism. Read More
I am watching the remake of Battlestar Galactica, which I love. For me it has something important to say to Dawkins. In the series, man has created a race called the Cylons, who have now evolved from a ‘robot’ model to one that looks human. Indeed, they appear human, feeling pain, having children, dreaming and believing in Gods. That they can reincarnate and that they conform to a set of identical types is a peculiarity that marks them out, as does their biological signature. However, their genesis makes the question of what defines a human rather interesting. Read More