What ails the UK: influential people begin to see the light

Tuesday, Nov 22 2011 by
What ails the UK influential people begin to see the light

Having watched how companies function over many years, I have observed that most company teams prefer the status quo even if it is obvious (to certain observers) that there is systemic weakness which if not addressed will damage the company's future. Examples are: the need to change CEO, inadequate R&D or failure to see need to adopt a business model which converts a product into a service. In my experience, it generally takes a crisis for the systemic weakness to be recognised by the team and for a solution to be implemented. It is unsurprising that a similar process of change should occur within government and the public sector, except that the timescale of change takes considerably longer. I suspect that this is because the public sector finds it more difficult than the private sector to attract senior people who are good at leading fundamental change. This is evidenced by people with successful private sector track records who have found it very challenging to adapt to the public sector modus operandi. 

The reason I'm making the above point is that certain influential people appear to be recognising not only what the systemic weaknesses of the UK are but also what solutions are needed to address them. This represents significant progress along the road out of our present predicament. Examples of who I'm referring to include:

  • Charles Moore, former Editor of The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph has just published an article, Britain's leaders are out of touch with the wealth creators who can save us, written by Charles Moore and can be accessed by clicking here. It provides a very interesting insight as to how many large organisations function and hence end up departing f rom fulfilling their purpose in a way which satisfies the rest of us.

  • Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard gets two ticks. The first is for Virgin Money acquiring Northern Rock. He is quoted as saying "People are crying out for a different approach to banking. We will try hard to create a new force".

The second is the launch of Branson's book Screw Business as Usual. I have yet to read it, but its underlying theme (which resonates very strongly with LCFR's investment template) is that businesses which are a force for good (which I define as providing solutions which meet a fundamental need of society) can deliver very good returns to their stakeholders. He contrasts this with businesses which merely seek to maximise profit without aspiring to being a force for good.

  • Nick Robinson, BBC political editor

On November 23rd and 30th, Mr Robinson is hosting a programme on BBC2, Money and How They Spend It. The underlying theme is the self-deception practised by successive governments over the last few decades by pursuing courses of action which would result in increased expenditure whilst failing to put in place the requisite tax raising measures.

  • John Mauldin

This week's newsletter from Mr Mauldin was very relevant. The paragraph which particularly struck me was:

Now let me summarize that letter in one paragraph. Europe has too much sovereign debt, which is on the books of its banks, which have too much debt; and there is a huge trade imbalance between core and peripheral Europe. All three problems must be solved in order to prevent the Eurozone from imploding. And while the debt is the “sore thumb” today, the trade imbalance is the biggest problem. As I outlined in Endgame, it is impossible for a country to balance its government and business deficits while running a trade deficit. This is an accounting identity and is true for all countries at all times. Greece and others are in a monster predicament. No amount of austerity will work until their labor costs drop (for both private and government workers) and their trade deficits are brought into alignment."

The above four contributions taken together provide, in my opinion, the thinking framework of what we need to do to address our current economic predicament and emerge from it stronger. Yet a large number of people are being handsomely paid to take a long time to reach the same conclusions!

Filed Under: Economics, Politics,

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Virgin Media Inc. (Virgin Media)is engaged in entertainment and communications business. The Company has two segments: Consumer and Business. The Company is a provider of broadband Internet, television, mobile telephony and fixed line telephony services that offer a range of entertainment and communications services to residential and commercial customers throughout the United Kingdom. It is a provider of residential broadband Internet, pay television and fixed line telephony services by number of customers. As of December 31, 2011, the Company provided services to approximately 4.8 million residential cable customers on its network. The Company is also a mobile virtual network operators by number of customers, providing mobile telephone service to 1.5 million prepay mobile customers and approximately 1.5 million contract mobile customers over third party networks. In June 2013, Liberty Global Inc announced that it has completed the acquisition of Virgin Media Inc (Virgin Media). more »

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2 Comments on this Article show/hide all

Sourhills 26th Nov '11 1 of 2

"Self-deception". A) what is it?; B) Is it fundamental to the human psyche?
In the absence of complete knowledge, self-deception need be no more than the idea that we know more than we actually do.
Self-deception is, therefore, integral to the way we operate as a species. Take, for example Richards' gloss, without which reading - and reading this if you don't know what Richards' gloss is - would be a complete impossibility.
Your article chimes rather well with the one on PEG and value in this week's Stockopedia: without knowing what the future will bring we are no better off whether we consider PE or PEG or any other so-called "fundamental" aspects of a company in the hope that these will tell us something about the way its share price is valued by the market. A large measure of self-deception is therefore required to pursue value investing as though it were any different from any other method of picking stocks (including throwing darts).
The lack of knowledge that we routinely accept is merely thrown into relief at turning points in our world-view (Thomas Khun called them paradigm shifts if you want an analogy from the world of science). The point I'm making is that the need for self-deception and the perennial question of not knowing what the future will bring do not go away as a result: they just manifest themselves differently and we go on our sweet way until the trend comes to an end.

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ohinerau 27th Nov '11 2 of 2

I agree with Sourhills that self deception is integral to the human species, but it is not evenly spread - there are some people who are better able than others to recognise what they don't know.

In investment terms, it is in my opinion very important to try to spot at least some likely paradigm shifts in advance of them happening if one wants to be both a long term investor and also to make above average returns - it also reduces the likelihood of being invested in a manufacturer of wheels for horsedrawn carriages when it is likely that the car is the coming mode of transport! Once spotting at least some paradigm shifts has been set as an objective, it is not very difficult to develop a suitable toolkit, particularly against a background of very widespread self deception, but it does require huge patience and a very strong conviction that over long periods of time logic ultimately prevails!

My three key tools for looking for paradigm shifts are:

a) enjoying leading as self sufficient a life style as possible so that I can afford the time which it takes for dysfunctionalities (see b) below) to be recognised and solved!

b) look for dysfunctionalities - I never bought into the belief that manufacturing, for example, should be left to wither and that an economy can be based on services only - I also did not find credible the widespread belief that trade deficits don't matter. With this as a framework of thinking, it becomes much easier to recognise opportunities which will contribute to solving a systemic dysfunctionality.

c) I'm proactively interested in step change innovation. This assists the spotting of opportunities with the potential to help remedy a dysfunctionality.

All of this happens very slowly because the life cycle of step change innovation is long drawn out, akin to the Kondratieff cycle of 40 to 60 years.

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