Robert Skidelsky
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Articles from Vedomosti (Ведомости)

The Securitized Debt Crisis
by Robert Skidelsky
published in Vedomosti | Thursday, January 31, 2008

 
Until about a year ago, it was widely believed that financial shocks occur only in emerging markets. Advanced countries with ‘mature’ financial systems had discovered the secret of markets that never crash. This so-called wisdom has now been turned on its head. The United States has sneezed, and it remains as true today as it has in the past, that when the USA sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold.

A year ago, few had heard of sub-prime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations. Today no one who has invested money in these securities can talk about anything else. The collapse of the market in securitized debt is a perfect example of how a financial storm can suddenly blow up out of nowhere, destroying all those sophisticated,


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Russia should leave the British Council alone
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Thursday, January 17, 2008 | English version Russian

 
Britain and Russia should be friends. Born of originally Russian parents, and brought up in England, I can appreciate the two countries’ cultural appeal to each other, quite apart from the fact that they were allies in the two world wars. But friends can, and do, quarrel, and friendship cannot survive escalating bickering.
 
Consider the current row over the British Council. The British Council is the cultural representative of the British government. It exists to provide information about Britain, and help students who want to study in Britain. It is part of a world-wide web of cultural bodies. Last year almost 500,000 Russians took part in its projects, or visited exhibitions, plays, and films which it organised. The Russian authorities

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Veronika Krasheninnikova and ‘The Cold War of Cultures’
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Thursday, December 13, 2007

 
American-Russian relations are plagued by ‘mutual misperceptions and misunderstanding’. So says Veronika Krasheninnikova in an important new book амерйка-россиа-холодая воина култур (America-Russia: Cold War of Cultures). Each country perceives the other through its own cultural and ideological lenses.
 
As Ms Krasheninnikova tells it, the US view of the world is governed by a ‘unique ideology’ of liberal democracy which it seeks to foist on the rest of the world. This ideology is derived from the unique circumstances of America’s founding and flourishing – its foundation by God-fearing Protestant immigrants, its relative immunity from the rough and tumble of world politics. American exceptionalism first

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The threat of energy depletion
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Thursday, November 29, 2007

 
 
For centuries, humans have relied on non-renewable energy for their heat, their light and their material progress –and have worried that they would run out of it. Visiting frozen St Petersburg in 1839, the Marquis de Custine commented ‘In beholding the inroads made upon the forests we may ask, with inquietude, how will the next generation warm themselves?’ The answer was coal, a much more efficient system of heating, a few sackfulls providing as much heat as a constantly coppiced forest.
 
But people soon worried that we would run out of coal. In 1859, the economist William Stanley Jevons wrote a book on The Coal Question, subtitled ‘the Probable Exhaustion of our Coal Mines’. His thesis, in brief was that in a growing economy, the

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Russia’s billionaires
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Thursday, November 15, 2007

 
According to Forbes Magazine thirty-nine of the world’s hundred richest people are Americans. Their fortunes amount to 4.6% of US GDP. Fourteen of the world’s hundred richest people, the next largest group, are Russians. The Russian concentration of super-wealth – at 26 per cent of GDP - is much higher, since Russia’s national income is one-seventh of America’s. These figures are reported by Martin Wolf in the Financial Times of 7 November. Wolf writes that such extreme inequalities of wealth, and the inequality of power which goes with it, are bound to call into question the legitimacy of the political and economic system which allows it.
 
He goes on to say that it is easier to justify wealth earned in competitive markets than wealth

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