Skip to main content

Magna Carta

Boris Johnson's speech at the Tory conference yesterday poked fun at David Cameron not knowing what Magna Carta literally meant (see clip below where David Letterman exposes Cameron's lack of knowledge of British history). I found Cameron's lack of knowledge astounding for two reasons. First, as an Etonian, he would have studied the classical languages. Second, the signing of Magna Carta was one of the most important and defining events in England's history - we can trace our legal rights (such as the right to a trial by our peers) and checks on autocratic rule all the way back to the signing of Magna Carta.  

Cameron's lack of knowledge is maybe not that surprising. I've been to Runnymede (where Magna Carta was signed) and the only memorial to the event was erected by the American Bar Association (see photo below)! Magna Carta is much more important to Americans than to the British. However, our lack of knowledge of the past endangers the freedoms we enjoy in the present. For example, in 2005, the British government got rid of double jeopardy laws (i.e., you can only be tried once for a crime), which had existed since the time of Magna Carta.     

American Bar Association monument at Runnymede

Popular posts from this blog

Bitcoin Bubble?

According to Robert Shiller , speaking at Davos, Bitcoin is a perfect example of a bubble - story here . Shiller sees Bitcoin as a backwards step in the evolution of money.   George Selgin , a free banker, takes an opposing view - click here .  Although he doesn't believe that Bitcoin is money, he sees its development as a fascinating turn in the evolution of money. In particular, he lauds the fact that Bitcoin production is constrained and cannot be infinite. There is a short video below where Bitcoin explain how it works.

How Valuable Are Connections?

Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, Amir Kermani, James Kwak and Todd Mitton have written a paper on whether firms connected to Timothy Geithner benefited from these connections. They do so by looking at how stocks of these firms reacted to the announcement that he was a nominee for Treasury Secretary in November 2008. They find that there were large abnormal returns for connected firms. Below is the paper's abstract and the full paper is available here . The announcement of Timothy Geithner as nominee for Treasury Secretary in November 2008 produced a cumulative abnormal return for financial firms with which he had a connection. This return was about 6% after the first full day of trading and about 12% after ten trading days. There were subsequently abnormal negative returns for connected firms when news broke that Geithner's confirmation might be derailed by tax issues. Excess returns for connected firms may reflect the perceived impact of relying on the advice of a small ne

Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles

Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles, co-authored with my colleague Will Quinn , is forthcoming in August. It is published by Cambridge University Press and is available for pre-order at Amazon , Barnes and Noble , Waterstones and Cambridge University Press .