The last few years have shown how badly the financial services industry performs as a custodian of savings and pension funds. The "skimming" of US mutual funds, the see-saw of the stock markets, and a string of business scandals from Enron to Parmalat have wiped billions from the savings of employees on both sides of the Atlantic. They have also exposed the absence of responsibility at the heart of what Robin Blackburn calls "grey capitalism." In this short and pithy book, Blackburn takes forward the argument of his acclaimed Banking on Death and explains why attempts to meet the costs of the ageing and learning society through a proliferation of financial products are doomed to fail and have a host of unfortunate side-effects. In fact "financial engineering," as it is called, has allowed corporations to escape taxation while allowing a new breed of chief executive to accumulate extravagant fortunes at the expense of shareholder and employee alike. The author does not just expose problems, however; he also explores solutions. Blackburn identifies new sources of pension finance...especially ways of ensuring that corporations make a real contribution...and sketches the shape of a progressive and responsible pension fund regime, embracing all citizens and accountable to them.
Robin Blackburn teaches at the Graduate Faculty of the New School University, New York, and in the Sociology Department of the University of Essex. He is the author of Banking on Death: Or, Investing in Life: The History and Future of Pensions.