On October 15, the AAPA met Columbia University Professor Bruce Greenwald, a leading authority on global economics and “value investing” — the art, or science, of picking stocks, as Warren Buffett amazingly seems to do, that have been forgotten or sidelined but are potential winners.

In our 90-minute breakfast meeting at Falstaff Café, Prof. Greenwald touched on a wide range of big economic issues, including globalisation, export-driven economic models and varying rates of productivity, but also spoke of the urgent need to address demography and how it deeply affects climate change.   If these problems go unaddressed, mass-migration flows like those we saw in Europe in 2015 are bound to re-occur, he maintained.  To alleviate over-population, he put forward the idea that IMF could distribute pension payments to retirees in, say Africa, to ease the requirement for subsequent generations to provide for the elderly.

He also shed light on an angle of female empowerment: data shows that women are far more adaptable than men to shifting social circumstances and to the changing economic model where growth in jobs will be in services (versus manufacturing).  On income distribution Greenwald told members leaders need to address income inequality and labor force training from a policy standpoint rather than try to make business do it through legislation & penalties, which depress business efficiency and generally don’t work.   His thoughts seemed to be that only if governments provide this labor support in the form of earned income credit can service sector workers make a decent wage.

On Brexit, Prof. Greenwald said Britain’s exit from the EU doesn’t necessarily need to be the death knell of the UK economy.  If Britain keeps its doors open to talented and well-trained migrants, it could ride out the problems of Brexit, he said.  He suggested Britain look at the Canadian Model for migrants as part of the solution.

In a final note, Prof. Greenwald revealed the first book he recommends to his Columbia Business School students.  It’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ — a novel about self-deception, and self-deception, he said, is the single biggest source of making mistakes.

Also present at the talk was Prof. Greenwald’s wife, Ava Seave, who has co-authored one book with him, the analytic work The Curse of the Mogul: What’s Wrong with the World’s Leading Media Companies.  Asked if we can expect an update edition of this work, Seave noted: We have to see how this wave of consolidations works out.  Stay tuned.

-Catherine Field

-Pictures by Thomas Haley