Mark Hannam


Hegel and the End of History
This is the text of a short talk that I gave at a philosophy conference in Berlin in June 2022. I consider Hegel's claim that history had come to an end with his understanding of the meaning of Napoleon's campaign to bring universal freedom. While I am sceptical about the scope of Hegel's universalism, I think he is right to argue that al history ends in the present.

This article was written for and published at The Essence of Water in July 2021. It compares the taking of photographic self-portraits with the making of still-life paintings, and notes that in our images of ourselves there is always a skull hiding behind our flesh.

This article was written for and published at The Essence of Water in August 2020. I make an estimate about how many books I have read thus far in my life, and then consider what makes the reading of good books so enjoyable and valuable.

On Thinking
This article was written for and published at The Essence of Water in February 2019. Starting with an overheard conversation by two hasty young men, I suggest that the most valuable achievements in life require the hard work of careful thought. Living a long and happy life, as Goethe observed, is not about speed of thought but the persistence of good practice.

On Unhappiness
This article was written for and published at The Essence of Water in January 2019. In this article I consider our vulnerability to being made unhappy by events or circumstances beyond our control, and what we can do to protect ourselves from this risk. I lean more to the wisdom of Aristotle than of Seneca.

On Purposefulness
This article was written for and published at The Essence of Water in December 2018. In this article I reflect on the importance of having goals and ambitions that can never be achieved, that provide us with purpose in our lives. Searching for pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is important even though we know it is not there.

On Striving
This article was written for and published at The Essence of Water in November 2018. I take my theme from a poem by Pasternak, in which he quotes the Russian proverb, 'to live is not like walking through a field'. While I do not wish for hardship to be imposed on me by others, I do need to set myself hard goals to strive for.

On Failure
This article was written for and published at The Essence of Water in October 2018. It is a short reflection on the inadequacy of the term "success" to describe the attribution of approval in public life and to describe the sustainability of our sense of achievement in private life: there is no success like failure.

All Things are Accomplished Through Money
In the first volume of Marcel Proust's A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, Charles Swann gives the narrator photographs of paintings by Giotto from the Arena Chapel. On reading this, I went and found an illustrated guide to Giotto's frescoes and started thinking about the story they tell, and the life of the man who commissioned them This article, on the role of money and patronage in the Renaissance, is the result (April 2018).

The Doubly Excluded: consumer credit regulation in the UK
This text is the basis of two conference presentations: first, a conference in Bordeaux in October 2015, sponsored by CNRS (University of Bordeaux) and Geary Institute (University College Dublin); second, a conference in Brussels in February 2016, organised by the FinCris project, supported by the AHRC. I argue that the new regulatory regime for consumer credit in the UK has led to the bifurcation of the sub-prime market into "near prime", for whom credit remains easily accessible, and the "doubly excluded", for whom credit is harder and more expensive to find.

Corporate Governance: origins and challenges
This text was the basis for a talk to students at UEL's School of Business and Law in December 2014. I consider the reasons why people come together to form organisations and the challenges faced by governing boards to ensure that organisations fulfil their purposes.

Proposals for a price cap on high cost short term credit
This article, written jointly with Faisel Rahman, is the formal response by Fair Finance to the Financial Conduct Authority's recent consultation on the introduction of a price cap for the high cost short term credit market. Fair Finance does not support a price cap because we believe that its introduction will reduce competition amongst lenders and entrench the financial exclusion of the poorest.

The Need for Roots?
In February 2014, I attended a conference at the Burgundy School of Business that explored the various ways in which "the local" is important for economic and social development. My talk argued that financial networks (connectivity) are more important than roots (locality).

Syria: the Economic Implications of the Civil War
In this article - co-authored with Hayyan Alia - I describe the economic consequences of the civil war, both for Syria itself and the wider global economy. This article was commissioned in October 2013 by Strategic Intelligentia.

In Praise of Non-Bank Finance
I was asked to write this article by Knowledge Peers. There is growing interest in the emergence of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending websites that allow investors to provide equity or loans to borrowers. These websites are particularly useful for small and/or new businesses, who find the mainstream banks too slow, too expensive or just too difficult to deal with. You can also read it here.

The Price of Money
This article is the summary of a talk I gave at the Burgundy School of Business, Dijon, in March 2012. I argue that the important ethical issues in micro-lending concern the manner in which the borrower is treated during the loan process, and not simply the price at which the loan is made. This summary was also published on their website here.

Numbers 4 Good
In April 2011 I interviewed Bertrand Beghin, who runs a consultancy firm called Numbers 4 Good. He explained to me why he thinks social businesses need to think harder about financial innovation. His website is here.

Borrowing Freely
Microfinance institutions and their leaders have come under sustained political attack in recent months in India and Bangladesh. In this article, published on 16th February 2011, I argue that the real reason for these attacks is that the microfinance business model threatens the quasi-feudal relationships between clients and patrons that exist in many parts of rural Asia. You can also read the article here, with hyperlinks to quoted sources.

Sceptics Knock Success
Within the microfinance industry there is an increasingly heated debate about the role of private sector capital and the impact of greater commercialisation on the original mission of microfinance institutions. SKS is one of the fastest growing microfinance companies in India and has recently raised more capital to sustain its rapid growth. This article was published by Fair Finance on its website on 13 September 2010.

Life, Liberty and Access to Credit
Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, whom I interviewed a couple of years ago, has called for access to credit to be recognized as a basic human right. I am not convinced that access to credit should best be thought of as a right, nor that we should rely on governments to ensure that access is provided. This article was published on the OECD Insights website on 25 June 2010.

Osborne's Banking Reforms: a hedge to far
George Osborne ignored my earlier advice (see George - Don't do that!) and has announced the abolition of the Financial Services Authority. This short article explains why I think he has made a poor decision. It appeared on the Prospect blog on 18 June 2010 and you can read it online here.

Always Spend Wisely
I wrote this short piece for the OECD Insights website, on 14 May 2010. The article makes the distinction between saving money (that is, deferred consumption) and spending money wisely (that is, getting good value for money in the process of consumption). You can read it online here.

A Truly Ethical Foreign Policy
When the Icelandic bank Icesave collapsed many UK savers lost their money. The UK government offered full compensation to UK retail investors and then tried to recover this money back from the Icelandic government. Given the likely impact of this compensation demand on the Icelandic economy, I argue that the UK should give up its claim. The article was published in Prospect 167 (February 2010). You can read it online here.

Southern Africa: 2020 Vision
Public policy priorities for the next decade

This article is the Introduction to a book, published in April 2010, which contains presentations from a conference held in Windhoek, Namibia in August 2009. The article, co-written with Jonathan Wolff, explains the motivation for the conference and describes the main themes that were discussed in the conference's four sessions: Economic Development, Healthcare, Democracy and Governance, and Legal and Civil Rights. The book providesa rich and varied account of the current state of, and challenges for the region. If you would like a copy of the book, at a price of £10, please contact me.

Mervyn Turns a Tidy Profit
This article was published in Prospect 166 (January 2010). I have made some critical comments about the Bank of England over the past two years (George - Don't do that! for example). However, in this article I give the Bank credit for the way in which it provided Emergency Liquidity Assistance to two large banks that found themselves in difficulties in the autumnn of 2008. This is just what central banks are supposed to do. In this case the assistance was successful (it gave breathing space that allowed the banks to be rescued) and profitable too. You can read it online here.

Private Banking for the Poor
This article describes the work of Fair Finance, the London based microfinance company of which I am Chair. It has not been published elsewhere. Fair Finance was also featured in the Sunday Times on 20 September 2009.

Teaching Jurisprudence in Namibia
This article - co-written with Jo Wolff - was published in The Philosophers' Magazine 46 (3rd Quarter 2009). It considers the importance of legal philosophy for developing countries, not least in helping us think about how to resolve conflicts between customary and constitutional law. You can read it online here.

George - Don't do that!
This article was published by Reuters on their website on 24 July 2009. In it I argue that the Bank of England is not the right institution to oversee the supervision of the banking sector. You can read it online at Reuters here.

Do the Math
This article, which was published in Prospect 159 (June 2009), revisits C P Snow's famous lecture of May 1959, "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution". I suggest that amongst the decision makers of today the dividing line is no longer between the scientific and the literary, but rather the numerate and the innumerate. You can read it online at Prospect here.
The article was translated into Spanish and republished by the Chilean newspaper, La Nacion. You can read it online at their website here.

Two Cheers for the Walking Wounded
This article first appeared on the Reuters website on 6 May 2009. It was also published on The Guardian website on the same day. It welcomes the return to profitability of some of the major British and American banks. You can read online at Reuters here or The Guardian here.

That's Fair Enough
This article was published in Issue 38 of Square Mile Magazine (April 2009). It provides a brief survey of the flow of funds to microfinance institutions at a time when financial capital is in scarce supply.
Square Mile Magazine's website is here.
This article was also published in Issue 7 of Hedge (April/May 2009).

What Crisis? This is Creative Destruction
This article first appeared in Prospect 152 (November 2008) as part of a symposium on the problems in the financial markets.
You can read it online at Prospect here
The article was re-printed in Issue 37 of Square Mile Magazine (March 2008).

How to Stop the Next Bubble
This is the transcript of a Roundtable - hosted by Prospect - which was published in July 2008 in Prospect 148. I was one of six participants along with Jonathan Ford (Chair), John Gieve, Anatole Kaletsky, George Soros and Martin Wolf.
You can read it online at Prospect here

Muhammad Yunus
This article on the Bangladeshi microfinance pioneer was published in Prospect 145 (April 2008). I met Dr Yunus in February 2008 and spent a hour or so discussing his book Creating A World Without Poverty (Public Affairs, 2007).
You can read it online at Prospect here
This article was published by a Brazilian website, so if you want to read it in Portuguese you can do so here or here

Rethinking Risk was published in Prospect 140 (November 2007) following the collapse of Northern Rock bank.
You can read it online at Prospect here

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