The whole point about historians is that we are really communing with the dead. It’s very restful – because you read. There’s some sociopathic problem that makes me prefer it to human interaction.
It’s great to see countries like China and India lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty by essentially copying Western ways of doing things.
Only in England would ‘professor gets divorced and remarried’ be a story.
The great thing about behavioural psychology and economics is that they help us to see that there are actually pretty good reasons why human beings swing from greed to fear, and why we’re not really calculating machines or utility-maximisers.
As a financial historian, I was quite isolated in Oxford – British historians are supposed to write about kings – so the quality of intellectual life in my field is much higher at Harvard. The students work harder there.
Risk models are a substitute for historical knowledge, because they tend to work with just three years’ worth of data. But three years is not a long time in financial history.
One of the problems of writing and working and looking at the Internet is that it’s very hard to separate fashion from deep change.
We suffered a terrible blow on 11 September 2001. We responded with fear and anger. A fight-or-flight response is adaptive in any species. For us, given our power, fight was the only response we could imagine.
What’s so seductive about the efficient markets hypothesis is that it applies nine years out of ten. A lot of the time it works. But when it stops working, you blow up.
Like crime, terrorism is a fact of life. I grew up in Israel, where every unattended bag was a suspected bomb; when my family moved for a few years, it was to London in the early years of ‘the Troubles.’