Next year marks the tricentennial of England’s most notorious speculative mania. Even the great mathematician Sir Isaac Newton couldn’t resist The South Sea Company’s charms. Unicorn and cryptocurrency crazes suggest financial practices haven’t improved much over the centuries.
Interest rates are ultra-low and earnings are at record levels, so why has corporate investment slumped? In “Productivity and the Bonus Culture”, economist Andrew Smithers points the finger at soaring executive compensation. His rigorous diagnoses call for some radical cures.
In December 1718, the newly nationalised Banque Royale became France’s first de facto central bank. Under Scotsman John Law, it proceeded to issue paper money in what was arguably the first instance of quantitative easing. Central bankers take note: it ended very badly.