The Finance Curse: How much finance is too much?


Tuesday, March 21st from 1pm - 2pm GMT


Online via Zoom.


There'll be a talk by author Nicholas Shaxson plus ample scope for discussion and debate

Why You Should Attend...

British politics, and large parts of British society, are under the spell of a dominant financial narrative: that the City of London financial centre is the goose that lays the UK’s golden eggs, or the ‘engine’ of the British economy, showering jobs and tax revenues on the rest of the country. Meanwhile, the City is pushing a ‘competitiveness agenda,’ arguing that we mustn’t tax or regulate or police the City too much, or “all the money will run away to Singapore or Geneva or the Cayman islands and we’ll all be poorer.”  This pair of narratives goes a long way to explaining why the City seems so impregnable to regulation, and even to the rule of law.  

How can we challenge this narrative? Well, we must start by acknowledging that Britain, like any country, needs a financial centre, to provide efficient and essential financial plumbing for the economy as a whole. But there is a large amount of international evidence now that there is an optimal size and roles for a financial centre: if it grows beyond these, further expansion tends to inflict a range of damage on the economy and society, including lower GDP growth, steeper inequality, worse crime and corruption, lower innovation, more monopolisation, national security risks, and more. These dangers are particularly acute when growth happens as a result of financial deregulation in pursuit of ‘international competitiveness’.

Britain’s financial centre passed its optimal size and roles decades ago: and now we are in the situation of an apparent paradox: where more finance makes us poorer. Rather than being the goose that lays the golden eggs, many parts of the City are a different bird: a cuckoo in the nest, crowding out other economic sectors. This is the Finance Curse: it bears many similarities to a “Resource Curse” that afflicts oil-rich countries like Angola, where Nicholas Shaxson served as a reporter during the civil war.  The inevitable conclusion from the Finance Curse thesis is this: we must ‘shrink finance, for prosperity.’

About the speaker:

Nicholas Shaxson is a journalist and author. He has written for the Financial Times, New York Times, Guardian, Economist, Vanity Fair, Washington Post, Times, Foreign Affairs, IMF, and many others. He is author of Poisoned Wells (2008,) a book about oil and politics in West Africa;  Treasure Islands (2011,) a book about tax havens, and The Finance Curse (2018,) about oversized financial centres. He is also co-founder of the Balanced Economy Project, a new international organisation dedicated to protecting democracy and curbing excessive concentrations of economic power.

Here's the programme so far...

Andy Agathangelou

Founder, Transparency Task Force; Governor, Pensions Policy Institute; Chair, Secretariat Committee, APPG on Pension Scams; Chair, Secretariat Committee, APPG on Personal Banking and Fairer Financial Services; Chair of the Violation Tracker UK Advisory Board


Nicholas Shaxson

Journalist & Author;
Founder, Balanced Economy Project


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