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That’s it? You have nothing more to say?

Damned insomnia struck again the other night and so after a quick scroll through the internet, I found myself watching “Jeff Randall’s Christmas Dinner” Basically, the pretty decent Mr Randall interviews three captains of industry over dinner and drinks and gleans their collective wisdom.  It was about 3am and so I decided to listen to what they had to say.

He was talking to a mobile-phone hawker, a booze-hound* and some chick who ran a series of burger outlets.

The first thing that struck me was how remarkably mainstream and conformist all their views were.  I don’t imagine too many mavericks or original thinkers get to run large corporations, but really, this lot were pub-bore material in the first segment.  Randall asked what they thought of the Olympics and they all thought them wonderful.  Possibly because people rang each other more while getting drunk and troughing burgers for all I know, but no-one mentioned the four/five fold over-spend or the dead legacy or where the money was coming from to fund the jolly.  Quite disappointing.

The he got onto more serious topics, namely the Euro.  None thought it doomed.  None thought the fundamental over-spend that social democratic western governments all engage in MUST bust their currencies and presumably they all thought that 25% unemployment in Spain was wither sustainable or fixable as none addressed it.

They all knew the economy was in the doldrums of course but claimed or possibly hoped for better times next year.  I guess when you are the boss you must sound a bit optimistic; saying “We are probably canning half of you next year” doesn’t make for a happy Christmas party.

Now it is of course possible that they were all highly intelligent people who thought that sounding like a conspiracy-loon in national TV might not prolong their careers and thus simply trotting out clichés was de rigueur but I have to say, they were not an overly impressive group.  It is also possible that each works so long and hard at their respective businesses they struggle to find the time for wider strategic contemplation.  And let’s applaud their rising up the greasy pole in the first place, but if there was any real insight, any nuggets ~ they weren’t sharing.

I had always thought that the various CEO’s I had encountered in construction were unusual in being largely stupid, noisy, alcoholic, brown-nose bullies who would get lost on the way into the IQ test**.  Maybe such characteristics extend beyond construction?

*By which I mean someone who sells alcohol rather than is overly-keen on it of course.

** For the avoidance of doubt I do not suggest any of Mr Randall’s guests share any of those characteristics nor are navigationally-challenged.


  1. Mr Ed says:

    Mises pointed out that you don’t need good eyesight to be an optician, and Hayek said that capitalism works despite the people who run it not understanding it, all they need to know is that they are required to make a profit in the long run.

    You might hope that one or two might say,e.g. ‘Spanish unemployment is quite challenging, I hope that they can fix it’ and the like, but they probably believe the same as the other naïfs, if they ever give it any thought.

    A 1970s Open University maths lecture might be a better insomnia treatment, if there are any on Youtube.

  2. Paul Marks says:

    Mr Ed – yes. A person can be as ignorant as sin about politics and economics – and do a good job (a very good job) managing a company.

    However, the regulations and tax stucture have meant that managers are more and more protected from OWNERS.

    Of course owners can also be utterly ignorant of politics and economics – but they should be given some sort of chance to show whether they are or not.

    Yet regulations (especially in the United States) make managers more and more “protected” from shareowners – and tax law, such as the graduated (“Progressive”) income tax and CAPITAL GAINS TAX and INHERITANCE TAX mean that ownership goes more and more to “intutional investors” (pension funds and so on) and less and less to indivduals.

    I am not a “corporation basher” – I do not oppose such things as “Dartmouth versus New Hampshire” (the early 19th century court case defending a corporation, in this case a university, against state interventionism).

    However, when vile people such as the “Financial Times” crew celebrate the “division of ownership and control” (and they do celebrate it) then something is wrong – seriously wrong.

    And, yes, telephone number wages (sorrr “compensation packages”) for useless CEOs are part of that.

    In Germany (where families are still more likely to have a real ownership stake in companies) such folly is less common than it is in Britain or the United States.

  3. RAB says:

    Did the Booze hound not mention minimum pricing? If not, why not?

  4. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    Not sure, I wasn’t gripped by their collective wisdom and wasn’t paying full attention.

  5. Paul Marks says:

    Watching British news and current affairs shows is one vice I do not have.

    And this warning by SAOT, reminds me why I do not watch them.

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