If you read only one thing... For me, I had the equivalent of a viral post when Economist Tyler Cowen linked to my blog ("a dose of sanity in exposition, very nice visuals") on whether the size of government or the quality of government matters more for peace, education and life expectancy. Mostly of interest if you think about “state capacity” and how we should be governed. I think more people should do amateur economics and policy! It’s also sparked a good conversation with the originator economist, Ed Dolan. And H/T Tristan Summerscale for pointing me to Flourish Visualisations. The size of government vs the quality of government.
I performed Thinking Bigly for the Arts Council England London office. Very well received. Let’s hope us creatives play our parts. Next performances: Boston! Wed 4 March - reply for an invite. And then Fri 6 March, Brown University.
Next London performance - 26 March, followed by open Mingle. It will sell out, do book. Tentative mini-mingle Tues, 26 Feb. Reply if you’d like an invite.
Future plotting: I’m still plotting a climate UnConference. Reply if this sounds intriguing. It has both participatory elements and new format delivery ideas. Do check out the Climate Assembly process too.
I’m working on a piece about How We Die (and also Live). What song would you play at your funeral? Or what would you like read at your funeral? Let me know. Hit reply.
Latest Winner of a grant is Ioana Mischie for help to finish a set of maths books for autistic children. £1K microgrants programme for positive impact still open to all.
Recent Times: CEO of large medtech company cites 15% of revenue is under circular economy. I ask a large pharma CEO about their commitment to the environment. Markets, arts, sustainability all busy and full of life and debate.
Recent reflections on:
➳Book Thinking Bigly, 26 March 7pm + Mingle 8pm
➳Grant Winner: Maths Books for autistic children
➳Quality of Government vs Size of Government
➳Global GHG source emissions chart
➳My tiny place in the history of theatre blogs
➳Qualities a playwright needs
➳Use of voting power (Tumelo, GreenGov, Yourstake)
➳ESG bug bears
➳Me on ESG investing / YouTube CFA UK
➳Micro-grants. £10K for positive impact people.
I suggest quality of government is more important than size thus arguing for “State Capacity”.
Quality of government (QGOV) seems more important than size of government (SGOV) for a variety of domains
QGOV is more important for peace, for human development, for health and for education
This exploratory work extends the work of Ed Dolan (Niskanen Centre) and comes with many caveats due to interactions.
Outliers such as Singapore and Ireland may be worth closer examination for what is working well in smaller governments
QGOV may have increasing importance at higher levels of development
This may provide exploratory evidence that “state capacity” in certain domains eg innovation, health and education - might be important. This adds to the debate on “state capacity libertarianism” and in terms of current UK policy may inform on whether investing in an “ARPA organisation” or other areas of state capacity is a positive return on investment. 5 min blog with visuals here.
There’ a new WRI blog on energy flows and GHG emissions. Based on more recent CAIT data it’s different from the older IPCC data. Not radically but enough that climate thinkers should take note. Short blog here.
People are mostly surprised about how small aviation is (about 2-3%) but how a small number of people globally are responsible for all the flying impact.
-History of theatre blogging cf. economic blogs
-What does a playwright need? (2005 blog redux)
-My own small part in the history of theatre blogs
-David Eldridge vs Chris Goode redux
There’s a new book on the history and influence of theatre blogs by Megan Vaughan. Recommend if you are interested in blogging or have read any of the early days theatre blogs.
Turns out I’m part of a tiny piece of internet history being amongst the first wave of theatre bloggers. Vaughan writes:
“...In 2005, playwrights Benjamin Yeoh (Theatre and Writing) and Stephen Sharkey (O, Poor Robinson Crusoe!) started new theatre blogs, while director Paul Miller (My London Life) decided to concentrate his personal, journal-style blog on theatre..."
This phenomenon was echoed within the Economics blogosphere.
In 2005, Mark Thoma started his economics blog which spawned a similar wave in economics. That those economics blogs have spawned even wider influence than theatre is mostly to do with the size of the “market” but the shape of the progress is the same.
A democratisation of ideas, a faster moving debate by interested professionals and amateurs: fierce opinions thrashed out in almost real time.
I think Megan Vaughan argues that blogs are alive and well in their new forms. I think blogs are alive but that peak blogging in its old form has been eroded by podcasts, twitter and the like. (I think she agrees)
For me it’s a moderate shame - as I loved blogs so much - maybe blogs will resurge in some form at some time - and certain they are still valuable... 4 min blog here
I was at a meeting talking about how shareholders can use their voting power. In the UK, ShareAction have been using that power for a while. As a variation on that theme there are three start-ups worth looking at Green Governance, Tumelo and Your Stake. Check them out if that's your area - I can connect you with the founders if you need.
Another dinner on ESG and some interesting bugbears. Specialist only but... (1) The problems of breadth versus depth. That too many investors had surface breadth on ESG and related issues but had no real depth on any single issue and therefore were not strong enough to perform good analysis or stewardship. (2) The problem of over-claiming. As in making too strong claims for what ESG can or cannot achieve. This went hand in hand with the cult of numbers, the idea that numbers and, say, ratings can explain everything or anything...(3) Out-ESGing one another in a meaningless way...the efforts by asset managers to “out ESG each other” somehow in the fight for competition... the idea of collaboration or making companies and systems better was getting lost in various claims for how well ESG was performed or not performed (4) Another criticism was that in the reporting of “Broader reports” of ESG and the like, that the strategic analysis around ESG (the actual threats and opportunities) was being lost. Not everything about a company was only ESG and this was being lost by some ESG practitioners. (In the same way that the mainstream may not pay enough attention to ESG – this is another argument for an integration within the same portfolio manager) (5) There are a lot of commitments to carbon net zero and this had turned into somewhat of a competition between some players, but not backed up by credible plans... [I'm still a fan of an ambition + plan, but I can see how the ridiculous dates with no plans are not working]
From the archive:
The time I went to go visit a remote tribe in the Sulawesi jungle.
Once upon a time I went to visit one of the most remote people on this planet. These people were called the Wana tribe.
Today, they are a semi nomadic hunter gatherer tribe who are transitioning to some forms of agriculture.
The tribe I visited lived deep in primary rainforest jungle in the middle of an island called Sulawesi, part of what we call Indonesia.
Hope to see you on March 26th if not before.
Some Ben Yeoh life advice
I’ve been asked for “Life advice” a few times recently, which has given pause for thought. I think much of this type of advice needs to be tailored to an individual experience so I’m a little reluctant but I have some ideas - most based on personal experience (so take it with the usual caveats on all anecdotal ideas). I’d go so far as to say ignore what I say and go read stuff (which is one of my top pieces of advice on this list). The summary goes:
-Read. Read. Read.
-Be (or learn) curious. About everything.
-Be (or learn) empathy.
-Immerse yourself deeply in at least two domains
-Build and nurture connections (choose friends \ life partner well)
-Prioritise experience over objects/consumerism
-Communication and Conversation: Learn how to communicate effectively
-Learn how to cook food you and others will love
-Learn to think for yourself
-Run your own Race
It’s a 5 min anecdotal blog about how those ideas have served me well, plus some evidence to go along with the anecdotes. It's perhaps mostly geared to younger people but I can still take lessons from it myself!