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Friday, October 12, 2012

2012 Nobel Peace Prize Winner: The European Union

In the modern world of organizations and the members who inhabit them, it perhaps makes sense that the Nobel peace prize would go to a government rather than to a particular official thereof. One immediate problem was figuring out which officials in the E.U. would accept the award. Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, immediately issued a statement indicating that his institution expected to be part of the award ceremony. Herman Van Rompuy, president of the upper chamber, and Jose Barroso, president of the E.U. Commission, could also be said to have had legitimate claims in receiving the award on behalf of the E.U. itself. The absence of an “overall” figurehead in the E.U. is likely a result of Europe’s unhappy experience with “one man rule.” Indeed, the E.U. itself can be said to be a check on such nationalist excesses. In this regard, the peace prize provided Europeans with a change to catch their breath and take in the big picture amid an austerity/debt crisis.

The full essay is in Essays on the E.U. Political Economy, available  in print and as an ebook at Amazon. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A "Bronx Upbringing" Out-of-State: Tolerance in a Federal Empire

Typically, the American empire is assumed to refer to the hegemony of the U.S. in the world. “Imperialism,” in other words, is thought to refer to a major power imposing on lesser ones around the world—the influence being directed externally. I contend that the United States of America is itself an empire, even apart from its external influence, as the Union is composed of republics having distinctive cultures and on the scale of early-modern European kingdoms (e.g., United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Netherlands—which had been “international” in medieval times).

The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires, available at Amazon. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Conflicts of Interest: Relying on a Wall Street Bank’s Safeguards

In October 2012 the Wall Street Journal reported, “the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is examining how major investment banks and brokerage firms define and manage conflicts of interest between themselves and their clients.” Prime facie, defining and managing such conflicts between oneself and others can be regarded as itself a conflict of interest. It is perhaps a bit like the wolf negotiating with itself on its new job guarding the hen-house. I suspect that the regulators were going too far in attempting to translate “regulating” into managerial terms. The Journal goes on to ponder, “Will the first systematic look at conflicts on Wall Street in years make a difference for investors?” In my view, investors have good reason to be skeptical of the FIRA’s “manageralizing” approach.

The full essay is at Institutional Conflicts of Interestavailable at Amazon.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Separate “Eurozone” Budget: Two-Track Federalism

A separate E.U. budget of €20 billion, 0.2 percent of the GDP in the “eurozone” of the E.U., was proposed in the midst of the debt crisis to be spent in E.U. states that have adopted the euro. At the time of the proposal, the budget for the entire E.U. totaled around €130 billion, which was just over 1 percent of the E.U.’s GDP. While adding 0.2 percent to a federal budget that is just over 1 percent of GDP might seem insignificant to Americans, one might recall the first century of the U.S. (through 1860, and then from roughly 1870 to World War I), when the U.S. budget as a percent of GDP was roughly the same as a percent of GDP.

The complete essay is in Essays on Two Federal Empires, available at Amazon. 

The US Govt Budget as a percent of GDP      
Source: Gordon Tulluck

Homer on Heroic Leadership in Business

Can a merchant be a hero?  A manager in the grips of the business-leadership fad, which began in the 1980s, might reply, “yes, of course.” A hero in the corporate context is said to be a “champion,” “servant leader,” “coach,” or “visionary leader.” Hero and leader are typically conflated in society, moreover, without any real thought on whether heroes are necessarily leaders. A hero might rescue a damsel in distress without having any followers. It could be countered that Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey is both a hero and a leader on his journey. However, of such a hero-leader, being a merchant would be excluded. Describing the attributes of Homer’s notion of the hero figure is instructive, for while the characteristics seem especially oriented or applicable to merchants, Homer takes pains to exclude the business caste from Odysseus’ heroic leadership.

Odysseus leading his men.  A business likeness?     Source: Maudandoscar.org

Material from this essay has been incorporated into The Essence of Leadership: A Cross-Cultural Foundation, which is available at Amazon.