Weekend reading: the write stuff

What caught my eye this week.

There are always a bunch of stories in The Financial Times worth including in Weekend Reading. Unlike most of the online media landscape – see the mini-special in the links below – the subscriber-funded FT goes from strength to strength.

Of course like anyone who believes their favourite outlet is unbiased, I guess the FT confirms all mine.

Free but regulated markets: good. A social contract and welfare state: fine too.

This stuff should be obvious by now, but apparently it’s not.

Brexit bad, obviously. But even better the FT isn’t signed up to the omertà code that apparently prevents others admitting the whole thing is a costly crock, whether out of fear of annoying Blimp-ish readers, politicians, proprietors – or all three.

A wolf with teeth

Here’s veteran economics commentator Martin Wolf on fine form this week on the bitter lessons of Brexit [search result]:

In sum, this supposed liberation has greatly curtailed the freedom of many millions of people on both sides.

Whose freedom has it increased? That of British politicians. They can act more freely than they could when bound by EU rules.

What have they done with this freedom? They have lied about (or, worse, failed to understand) what they agreed over the Northern Ireland Protocol. They have threatened to break international law. They even proposed eliminating thousands of pieces of legislation inherited from EU membership, regardless of the consequences.

These people have, in sum, destroyed the country’s reputation for good sense, moderation and decency. All this is a natural result of the classic populist blend of paranoia, ignorance, xenophobia, intolerance of opposition and hostility to constraining institutions.

Take that, Torygraph.

Whose history is it, anyway

But the main reason I love the FT – and I’m a paid-up subscriber – is its business and markets coverage. Not perfect, but at the least not reliably clueless like the competition.

In large part that’s down to its specialist journalists. A species that’s in danger of becoming extinct.

The world is moving to a model where we hear directly from sector experts for information and opinion, without any savvy writer as an intermediary. (Clue is in the word, eh?) Think X/Twitter, YouTube, blogs. This has pros and cons, but so did having a professional writer work the same beat for decades.

On that score I enjoyed John Plender’s lessons from a lifetime in investment yesterday [search result].

When I started learning about investing I read about Ross Goobey – the guru who transformed the Imperial Tobacco pension scheme – all the time. I wonder how many have heard of him now? Plender writers:

So great were the returns that Imperial enjoyed pension contribution holidays for years.

Other institutional investors followed suit by dropping gilts in favour of ordinary shares. Ross Goobey was credited with founding what came to be known as ‘the cult of the equity’.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter. The article’s point is partly that markets change. The globalisation of history and perspective has been part of all that.

Still it’s a bit of a shame that investing lore in the UK has become so American-ised.

Holy Taxman, Batman!

Finally, the FT has fun as only insiders can do, through its FT Alphaville blog-like section.

This week’s romps included a deep dive into HMRC vs action figures: the face off [search result] – a battle about what constitutes a human.

The language wouldn’t be out of place in an absurdist drama:

Are the people in Game of Thrones people?

It’s a question most of us probably don’t ever think about, but that might just come up if you’re a judge.

It quickly gets bonkers – “The character is a powerful mutant who is able to control magnetism through which he manipulates metal objects. This is a superpower which human beings do not have. The figure represents a non-human creature” – but I don’t want to overdo the quoting.

Enjoy!

Will we pay for it?

As per the mini-special in the links below, the media landscape is imploding.

Ads long ago ruined websites via the incentive of clickbait desperately stirred up to try and tempt crumbs of traffic away from social platforms. Google, Meta, and TikTok take most of the money anyway. People under 30 mostly watch video.

Again, does it matter? I guess we’ll soon find out.

I suspect it does, and even that there’s becoming almost a moral case for paying for at least one or two media outlets you’d like to see survive. I’m biased – we have our own dog in the game – but I’ve also put my money where my mouth is with the FT and others and I’m rarely disappointed.

Have a great weekend.

From Monevator

Freetrade UK Treasury bills: what’s on offer, is it any good? – Monevator

From the archive-ator: Adrift in the darkness en route to FIRE – Monevator

News

Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view click through to read the article. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing to sites you visit a lot.

Rents outside London hits record £1,280 a month – This Is Money

Scottish government admits freeze caused rents to skyrocket – Scottish Express

Net inflows plummet at St James’s Place [Search result]FT

Netflix subscribers surge to 261m after password sharing crackdown – Sky

Where have all the tech unicorns gone…? – BBC

…London A.I. firm with 29-year old founder achieves $1bn valuation – E.S.

China fears are driving a new ‘A.I. industrial complex’ – Axios

Wise and Skype founders raise $436m to build tech giants in Europe – CNBC

Adding even a little Bitcoin dramatically alters a portfolio – Morningstar

Products and services

Biggest cuts to one-year bond and ISA rates in 15 years – This Is Money

Government considers ‘radical’ approach with 1% deposit mortgage – FTA

Get between £100 and £1,500 cashback when you open an ISA with Interactive Investor before 31 Jan. New customers only. Minimum £2,000 deposit. Terms apply. Capital at risk – Interactive Investor

Sainsbury’s Bank to withdraw from the market – Which

Nationwide fuels mortgage war with lowest rates in eight months – Guardian

Open an account with low-cost platform InvestEngine via our link and get up to £50 when you invest at least £100 (T&Cs apply. Capital at risk) – InvestEngine

Paying monthly makes car insurance even pricier – Which

A guide to supermarket loyalty schemes – Be Clever With Your Cash

Energy-efficient homes for sale, in pictures – Guardian

Comment and opinion

How you average matters – Fortunes & Frictions

The three types of investing mistake – Behavioural Investment

Identity economics – Money With Katie

Can you afford to live to 100? – Which

New all-time highs for the US stock market – A Wealth of Common Sense

Some friendly advice for would-be retirees – Humble Dollar

It’s time to bury the 4% rule for good… – Think Advisor

…and, if you agree, some alternative strategies – Morningstar

An M2 (money supply) primer [Geeky, interesting]Carson Group

China is a basket-case mini-special

Dropping China –  Humble Dollar

China’s GDP from 1992: $500Bn to $18 trillion. Its market?  0% – Cullen Roche

Naughty corner: Active antics

FTSE 250 valuation and forecast – UK Dividend Stocks

The investment trusts paying 5%+ dividend yields – This Is Money

Equities not priced for recession, says Personal Assets Trust – Trustnet

The IPO window is re-opening in the US… – Axios

…with Reddit seeking an IPO in March – Reuters

…but alas for the atrophying UK stock market [Search result]FT

Bloomberg’s first generative AI tool hits the terminal – Institutional Investor

Coinbase is at the nexus of Bitcoin risk and reward – Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance

Kindle book bargains

The Good Enough Job by Simone Stolzoff – £0.99 on Kindle

What They Don’t Teach You About Money by Claer Barrett – £1.99 on Kindle

Factfulness: 10 Reasons We’re Wrong About The World by Hans Rosling – £0.99 on Kindle

Make Your Bed: Feel Grounded and Think Positive by William McRaven – £0.99 on Kindle

Environmental factors

Plastic bag bans work, study finds – Semafor

Renewable power set to surpass coal by 2025 – Scientific American

Underground hydrogen find in France sparks clean energy hopes – Guardian

The sea horse black market is bustling in Brazil – Hakai

How Tesla’s Model Y became Europe’s first electric bestseller – This Is Money

Written media is dying mini-special

Platforms killed PitchforkPlatformer

Soon a day will come that none of this exists – Discourse

The prestige recession – Yancey Strickler

The glory of Sports Illustrated – Joe Blogs

At least 8,000 journalism job cuts in UK and North America in 2023 – Press Gazette

Off our beat

UK citizen army: Preparing the ‘pre-war generation’ for conflict – BBC

The forgotten genius who changed British food – Guardian

Why the Davos smart set sound so dumb – Politico

The tremendous yet troubled state of video games in 2024 – Mathew Ball

Decoding ‘story’ – Seth’s blog

He sold staples – Humble Dollar

Why is LinkedIn so cringe? – Satpost

Bank of America sending warning letters to home workers… – Guardian

…but remote work won, and ‘don’t let anyone gaslight you otherwise’ – Hot Takes [h/t Abnormal Returns]

And finally…

“Gunning for average is your best shot at finishing above average.”
– John C. Bogle, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing

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A walk down memory lane, followed by all the latest money and investing reads…
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