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Niall Ferguson won an Emmy in 2009. He also has some pretty funny lines about capitalism.
Niall Ferguson is an extremely well-known and at times extremely controversial historian of finance, money, and imperialism. Born in Scotland, he now operates from a perch at Harvard. He's not afraid to tangle. And he's not afraid to be funny, something you have to concede no matter what you think of his conservative (some would say reactionary) politics.
I'd never seen him in action until yesterday, when at the Milken Institute Global Conference taking place this week in L.A. I caught him participating in a panel with the modest title of "The Future of Capitalism."
Prof. Ferguson outlined three varieties of existing capitalism: the old-school version we all know so well; a very new state-sponsored variation (see: China); and "cheese-eating" capitalism.
Ferguson enjoyed pronouncing those last few words. The cheese-eaters come from where you think they would: Europe. Social democrat-flavored Europe. Your socialist candidate for president of France, François Hollande, is a pretty solid example of Ferguson's cheese-eater. Hollande probably enjoys his cheese, so it's hardly a leap.
David Siemer of Siemer Associates and Siemer Ventures.
I had a great conversation recently with David Siemer of Siemer & Associates, a boutique investment bank and early-stage venture capital investor — Siemer Ventures — that's based right here in Southern California. The merchant banking side of their business is "new" old school investment banking, centered on raising capital for clients and providing advisory services. In other words, investment banking the way it used to be, before trading of the sort practiced by the Big Boys — Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley — became a profit-driver.
Not surprisingly, David Siemer wanted to get into venture capital, as well. What's interesting about this part of the business, which focuses on digital media, is the firm's bullishness on Asia and India. Siemer Ventures was started in 2007 and currently has its main office in Santa Monica, which is beginning to re-establish the "Silicon Beach" critical mass of tech companies that we first saw back before the dot com crash. For what it's worth, New York is also picking up steam. Silicon Valley isn't the only place to go for venture funding anymore. (Not that it ever was, but it's always been easy to get that impression.)
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People walk by a National Bank of Greece in Athens on October 27, 2011. Greece reacted with measured relief on Thursday after European leaders sealed a deal to contain the eurozone debt crisis that slashes the country's huge debt by nearly a third. LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images
Has Europe finally solved its debt-crisis problem? Well, that depends on who you talk to. Yesterday, hot on the heels of the announcement that European financial leaders had labored into the wee hours to finally get their act together to rescue Greece and save the Euro, I heard an economist say she was pleased that Europe had finally agreed on a plan...to agree on a plan!
Yeah, not exactly a ringing endorsement of Europe's ability to right its listing ship of states.
Meanwhile, around the blogspshere, various voices weighed in. At Reuters, Felix Salmon took a deep dive into the matter of credit default swaps (CDS) on Greek debt (although it wasn't nearly as deep as some). You're not going to want to wade into this debate unless you're prepared to induce a pounding financial headache, but the topline summary is fairly simple.