i Livet

Future of the Future

Heureka! Jeg har lige fundet ud af hvad jeg gerne vil lave når jeg bliver stor! Det kræver ikke engang særlig meget. Blot en Ph.D fra Stanford, et netværk af utrolige dimensioner, samt en arbejdsetik som jeg næppe kan fremprovokere hos migselv. Men skidt pyt. Man skulle da være et skarn hvis man aflivede sine drømme pga. den slags petitesser. Fordi jeg VIL arbejde hos Eurasia Group i New York.

Selv om jeg selvsagt i udpræget grad holder af at wrestle med så knuselskelige størrelser som EU’s 7. rammeprogram for forskning, fødevare teknologiplatforme og Direktoratet for FødevareErhverv, så er det – diplomatisk formuleret – ikke altid det der får mig til at ligge søvnløs af spænding om natten. Og når ens barselvikariat udløber engang næste forår, så er det jo ikke decideret ulovligt at spekulere over hvad man gerne vil beskæftige sig med bagefter.

Hvordan har jeg så fået den pludselige tvangstanke, at jeg rent faktisk skulle have et mål i mit arbejdsliv? Jo, såmænd: Da jeg stoppede som student i min gamle afdeling, fik jeg et par bøger i afskedsgave. Den første var Freakonomics af Steven Levitt, en forståeligt nok ganske populær bog, hvori den tidligere modtager af den prestigefyldte John Bates Clark Medal benytter økonomiske principper og modeller til på ganske pudsig vis, at undersøge en række problemstillinger såsom ‘Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?’, ‘How is the Ku Klux Klan like a group of real-estate agents?’ og ‘Where have all the criminals gone?’. Jeg kværnede den med stor glæde hurtigt i løbet af et par dage, mens den anden bog jeg fik smidt i nakken, ‘The J-Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall’ af Ian Bremmer, har fået lov at ligge i noget længere tid.

Nu har jeg imidlertid opsagt mit abonnement på Weekendavisen, så der er blevet frisat noget ekstra tid/kapicitet til at læse andet end den og Economist. Derfor kastede jeg mig i går aftes over Bremmer’s bog og halli-hallo, den er fabelagtig. Efter en befriende kort gennemgang af hans i øvrigt ganske praktisk anvendelige teorimodel, kommer man direkte over i den bedste og mest koncise analyse af Nord Korea som jeg har læst længe (denne artikel giver et indblik i hans tanker). Jeg er nu godt i gang med hans analyse af Cuba og det virker lovende. Forudser at jeg nok skal få megen glæde af bogen de kommende dage.

Men nu er jeg jo ikke internetnørd for ingenting. Så jeg blev jo nødt til at læse noget mere om den gode Ian Bremmer og ikke mindst den ‘Eurasia Group’ som bogens forside proklamerer at han er præsident for. Lidt google og wikipedia afslører, at hans akademiske karriere er ganske imponerende må man sige. Det vil dog være synd at sige at jeg har lignende akademiske ambitioner. Er hverken blevet udnævnt til research fellow ved prestigeforskningsinstituttet Hoover Institution i en alder af 25, undervist på Columbia og jeg er – endnu – heller ikke blevet udnævnt til ‘Young Global Leader’ af World Economic Forum. Til gengæld har jeg en usund interesse for Central- og østeuropa og Centralasien, læser jævnligt Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, jonglerede i en tid med tankerne om at blive intern i den, objektivt set, noget inferiøre sikkerhedsorganisation OSCE i Wien, synes demokratiserings og transitionsprocesser er interesssante, samt greb mig selv i at synes at denne artikel om muslimer i Rusland (hey, den omhandler Tatarstan!) var vanvittigt fascinerende. Så hvis ikke jeg skulle være den fødte analytiker af politiske forhold i regionen, hvem i alverden skulle så? Forestil jer derfor den spirende jubel da jeg læste følgende fra 2003 i Economist omkring hvad de egentlig laver i Bremmer’ konsulentvirksomhed:

“Last year investors craved analysis of arcane corporate accounts. The year before they clamoured for intelligence on upwardly mobile technology stocks. But this year there is no hotter commodity than political risk: will governments fall, will countries go to war (of the conventional or trade variety), what chance of a nuclear exchange? And if so, who will benefit?

A visible beneficiary of this phenomenon has been Eurasia Group, a small consultancy founded on the idea that politics often matter at least as much as economics for businesses and investors. Five years ago Eurasia consisted of one man, Ian Bremmer, a few computers, and a letterhead. Now it has 40 full-time employees and another 480 part-timers spread over 65 countries—an inspiration for any academic with a seemingly useless degree in political science. According to Mr Bremmer, revenues were $8m in 2001 and $15m last year, with $30m possible this year. In future even $100m is thinkable if his client base, currently numbering 130, expands beyond America. Most consultancies these days are happy if they are just shrinking slowly.

Eurasia’s customers include big banks and investment-management firms, along with the usual multinationals. They are bombarded with an ever-expanding list of products, ranging from niche studies (“New Kazakh Politics: Inside the Ministry of Energy”), to meetings with various foreign potentates, seminars on trade, weekly e-mails and snap transmissions on disasters. Multinationals favour in-depth studies; hedge funds, unsurprisingly, like direct calls on things that could unsettle markets.

Newspapers and broadcasters call on Eurasia too. In a joint venture with Lehman Brothers it produces a monthly index of political risk, reprinted in The Economist. Mr Bremmer writes a monthly column for the Financial Times and frequently appears on news shows.

There is no market price to punish Eurasia if it happens to be wrong. In fact, it is almost impossible for an outsider to second-guess its utterances. It will be years, for instance, before the accuracy of the stability index can be judged. Wrong calls are quickly forgiven and forgotten. A month ago Eurasia suggested “coalition forces may face a determined defence of Baghdad” but that was hardly a wild guess. Other predictions it has made have been spot-on.

Certainly, when news is so effervescent, there is appetite for the seemingly informed take: on Turkey (a “loser” in the Iraq war); Russia (winner); North Korea (short-term better, long-term worse). The greatest political risk to Eurasia itself is peace in our time (a long shot).”

Hvad skal jeg sige andet end at jeg er målløs. Og vil begå mord for at arbejde der og få lov til at lave risiko analyser af Tjekkiet. Yay! Så kan de støvede diplomater på Asiatisk Plads vist godt gå hjem at lægge sig. Og hvis man læser hans ganske underholdende ‘A weeklong journal of a Political Scientist’, så finder man manuskriptet til mit drømme arbejde. Jeg bringer et større citat:

“In Boston, all of my clients are in finance. The buildings are modern, clean, and decidedly non-descript, in marked counterpoint to the rest of the city. For some reason, most of the elevators have TV monitors in them that cycle headlines, weather, and markets. People watch them attentively, and I alternate between watching the people watching the screens and watching the screens directly. I don’t see sports, which strikes me as odd—especially given the sports fanaticism of the typical Bostonian. Maybe I keep catching the wrong 30-second loop.

I saw some of our institutional investor clients—Putnam, Fidelity, and a couple of others. Sometimes the meetings are with only one or two people, and the atmosphere is very informal, conversational; sometimes I have to make a presentation for 20. Today was a little of both. One client was conducting an annual strategy session and asked me to show up and help them work on long-term global scenario planning. It sounded interesting, and we’re flattered to be invited to an otherwise internal workshop, so I went.

There are always a lot of economists in the meetings but never a fellow political scientist. Political scientists don’t work at banks—which is a problem. As political issues become more important for the markets, analysts at banks are asked all sorts of questions they don’t have the ability to answer. And if you’re getting paid to answer questions—as analysts at banks are—you never want to be in the position of saying you don’t know.

Whenever I’m speaking with a group of investors, I love to start with a disclaimer about my background. If they ask me where the dollar should be pegged against the euro, I say I don’t know and I won’t tell them. I’m not an economist. On the other hand, if they ask a global economist on Wall Street the impact of the upcoming Iraqi elections on stability in the Middle East, the economist doesn’t know … but will tell them.

No matter how I look at it, politics and the markets seem inextricable.”

Alt i alt må jeg snarest muligt se at få lagt en fem års plan for hvordan jeg får erobret verden. Vi kan jo starte med den der master…

Giv lyd fra dig

Comment