Veckans ”The Economist”

Några intressanta artiklar:

En recension av en biografi över Louis Brandeis, domare i högsta domstolen 1916–1939.

Increasingly he found himself defending what he saw as the public interest against what were known as “the interests”. He fought an elevated-railway company and he campaigned for savings banks to be allowed to provide life insurance for poor people. He defended unions and with great courage challenged the efforts of the Morgan “interests” to build a rail monopoly in New England. “I am rapidly becoming a Socialist,” he exclaimed. “What the bankers leave undone their lawyer minions supply.”

He was, though, no socialist. He was in many ways typical of the Progressives, middle- and upper-class people who were alarmed at what the growth of metropolitan cities and huge corporations were doing to a rustic, egalitarian America. One of the keys to Brandeis’s philosophy was a very un-socialist horror of bigness, in unions as well as corporations.

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En artikel om familjeföretagens beteende och roll i ekonomisk kris.

When Germany invaded Denmark in 1940, A.P. Moller, founder of A.P. Moller-Maersk, a shipping company (above on the left, with his family), refused to co-operate with the Nazis. He sent his son (second left), then 26, to run the business from America instead. These days the younger Mr Moller, now 96, is helping the firm through the recession. Because of overcapacity in container-shipping, the firm is on course for its first full-year loss. Mr Moller is no longer involved in the business day to day, but he keeps an eye on cash flow and gives advice to the chief executive, who is not a family member. Events today, in Mr Moller’s view, are moving even faster than they did in the 1930s.

Enligt många ekonomer är en struktur med många familjeägda företag välgörande och minskar risken för spekulation och kortsiktighet.

Having a century or more of experience is supposedly a big advantage for family firms in difficult times. Many big European family businesses, after all, have survived two world wars and successive waves of nationalisation. As a result they tend to be wary of debt and seldom panic. According to a global index compiled by Credit Suisse, a bank, family firms have outperformed the MSCI World Index by 4.8% since its launch in January 2007. Some people even argue that family firms, with their lower leverage, long-term approach and loyalty to employees could point the way toward a more stable kind of capitalism. “Family businesses value honest, careful work and keeping close to the customer,” argues Fernando Casado of the Family Enterprise Institute in Barcelona, “not easy money and speculation.”

Tyvärr bjuder den senaste krisen på många exempel på oansvariga beslut och strategier även i många av dessa företag.

This run of failures points to some big problems with family capitalism. The first is that one of its main strengths, the alignment of ownership and management, can become a weakness when control passes to the next generation. “Sometimes they are arrogant, sometimes they are naive, sometimes they are really very good, but they are never the original entrepreneur,” says Volker Beissenhirtz of Schultze & Braun, a German law firm.

Men idén om att familjeägda företag bidrar till en mer sund och stabil marknadsekonomi kvarstår. De har generellt sett ett annat perspektiv:

Albrecht von der Hagen, the director of Die Familienunternehmer, a lobby group for family businesses, says members’ first priority is to ensure the survival of the family firm and that this trumps any desire to expand or increase profits.

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Recension av Michael Sandels senaste bok Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?

In each case, Mr Sandel gently prods readers to check their gut reactions of right and wrong against three philosophical views. To utilitarians such as Jeremy Bentham and J.S. Mill, the right action is roughly speaking whatever most promotes human well-being. Kantians stress individual rights and not using others as means to your ends. Aristotelians emphasise virtues and intrinsic values that make for worthwhile lives.

Mr Sandel then suggests objections and counter-objections to each of those learned answers. He gives each its due, but nudges readers towards the Aristotelian approach by being harder on the other two. For classroom purposes, he presents the three approaches as rivals, though how far they do preclude each other is debatable. This is ethics with trainer wheels, and up to a point it works well. His aim is not to offer solutions or end disagreements, but to exhibit ethical argument as a back-and-forth between intuitions and principles.

He returns also to an old charge against the late John Rawls. In “Liberalism and the Limits of Justice” (1982) Mr Sandel argued that Rawls’s celebrated account of social justice downplayed the moral weight of family feeling, group loyalties and community attachments. He repeats those “communitarian” charges here.

In his final chapter Mr Sandel drops the role of teacher and speaks up stirringly for a “politics of the common good”. Such a politics would involve more patriotism and sense of service to society, greater concern for equality and a readiness to limit markets when they threaten to injure human values. Like Barack Obama, whose speeches often echo “communitarian” sentiments, Mr Sandel knows how to appeal to his readers’ better natures. But politics, as Kant and Mill recognised, has also to deal with men at their worst

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