Illustration: The $5 Silver Certificate from the 1896 Series The $5 Silver Certificate from the 1896 Series

Lessons for the Euro from America’s Past

In discussions about the EU monetary union the United States have been oftentimes set as an example, though the US didn’t really have a common currency until 1863, nearly eighty years after independence, and didn’t have the central bank until 1913. For all intents and purposes the US didn’t really have a common fiscal policy with automatic fiscal stabilizers until 1950s. It emerged only after a massive political conflict. Before the Civil War there was the kind of political strife that Europe is currently undergoing. To what extent could the timescale for the EU be different?

A talk by Professor Jeffry Frieden, Professor of Government at Harvard University. He specializes in the politics of international monetary and financial relations. Frieden is the author of Currency Politics: The Political Economy of Exchange Rate Policy (2015); and (with Menzie Chinn) of Lost Decades: The Making of America’s Debt Crisis and the Long Recovery (2011).

The United States Centre at LSE

Power of Dead People

Our lives are controlled by invisible hands from the grave. Trillions of dollars of the US economy are devoted to executing the wishes of people who died long ago, rather than satisfying the needs, preferences, and values of those living now. Philosopher Barry Lam follows the story of the Hershey fortune to show how a 19th century industrialist constructed the oddest business structure to ensure that his idiosyncratic wishes would be fulfilled hundreds of years after his death. The story raises questions about why we give the dead so much power over our lives, and what this says about how we find meaning in our own lives given foreknowledge of our mortality.

Hi-Phi Nation

Channel Island of Jersey

The Fall of Jersey: How a Tax Haven Goes Bust

Jersey bet its future on finance but since 2007 it has fallen on hard times and is heading for bankruptcy. The government is left with a “black hole” in the annual budget. “Filling it will take the equivalent of shutting down every school in the island, laying off every teacher, letting the parks turn into overgrown jungles and having our roads literally fall apart.” Who are the winners?

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

1000 Francs COMOROS

The Bizarre Scheme to Transform a Remote Island into the New Dubai

How Comoros attempted and failed to develop the market for passports and citizenship. “It was a sign of the times – before the collapse of the global financial system, or the Arab revolutions – that it did not seem entirely unlikely that a well-connected global citizen could transform a destitute archipelago into a Hawaii for Arabs.”

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

Offshore in Central London: the Curious Case of 29 Harley Street

The house No 29 on Harley Street is currently home to 2,159 companies, for which it operates as a large, ornate and prestigiously located postbox and answerphone. A company named Formations House, which, since it was founded in 2001, has made a business out of conjuring corporate vehicles from the West End air. Why has this prestigious address been used so many times as a centre for elaborate international fraud?
Written and read by Oliver Bullough, produced by Simon Barnard.
Illustration by Michael Kirkham.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 6th May 2016

How the Nation of Luxembourg Is Racing to Privatise Space

Arkyd 6 spacecraft
Arkyd 6 spacecraft

Mining asteroids is the new old game, though no longer science fiction. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg – which has all the square footage of an asteroid and, with a population up to slightly over half a million – has earmarked €200m to fund NewSpace companies that join its new space sector. In July, the parliament passed its law – the first of its kind in Europe, and the most far-reaching in the world – asserting that if a Luxembourgish company launches a spacecraft that obtains water, silver, gold or any other valuable substance on a celestial body, the extracted materials will be considered the company’s legitimate private property by a legitimate sovereign nation.

Should space benefit “all of humankind”, as the international treaties signed in the 60s intended, or is that idealism outdated? How do you measure those benefits, anyway? Does trickle-down theory apply in zero-gravity conditions?

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

Double-entry Bookkeeping

Luca Pacioli was a renaissance man – he was a conjuror, a master of chess, a lover of puzzles, a Franciscan Friar, and a professor of mathematics. But today he’s celebrated as the most famous accountant who ever lived, the father of double-entry bookkeeping. As the commercial enterprises of the Italian city states grew larger, more complex and more dependent on financial instruments such as loans and currency trades, the need for a more careful reckoning became painfully clear. In 1494 Pacioli wrote the definitive book on double-entry bookkeeping. It’s regarded by many as the most influential work in the history of capitalism. And as the industrial revolution unfolded, the ideas that Pacioli had set out came to be viewed as an essential part of business life; the system used across the world today is essentially the one that Pacioli described.

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy – BBC World Service

Digging up the World Bank’s Best Kept Secret

Due to a project funded by the World Bank to boost the local economy, Honduran military violently evicted local peasants to make way for a palm oil plantation. Their land had been stolen, and a local priest had been murdered.
Sasha Chavkin investigated the World Bank for months, and he is telling a story of how the World Bank has become complicit in violently displacing people from their lands in order to make way for development projects all over the world.

The Breakthrough – ProPublica