Friday, 26 April 2013

The new employee-shareholder status in the U.K. - a model for the commodification and securitisation of legal protections?

Under the new UK law, just adopted a few days ago (see here) an employee can surrender certain employment rights (eg, related to unfair dismissal, flexible working) and in exchange get shares of its company that have a market value of not less than GBP 2000. This has been highly controversial: e.g., critics saying that this “encourages employees to trade their rights as if they were commodities, frustrating their purpose as essential protections for employees”.
  Of course, this is not really a commodification of rights since employees “just” get shares. But one could also imagine a real commodification similar to carbon emission certificates: here, say, all employees of companies with publicly listed shares would get certificates incorporating their employment rights which can also be traded on the exchanges where those companies are listed (ie these rights become securitised). Then, employees could sell these certificates, or if they want to, buy them back later on; also, being securitised, the price of the certificates would change depending on the current value of the employment rights (eg, depending on the risk of being made redundant). And to go one step further, why stop with employment rights: eg, one could extend it to consumer protection rights - most people may want to keep them, but if you need some cash, securitise them and sell them on an exchange until you may have the resources to buy them back.
  Finally, of course, I don't think that any of this is necessarily "good" from a normative perspective - while it does seem to me an interesting model to compensate for opting-out of default rules (of course, just for the sake of the argument, assuming that these rules should really not be mandatory ones).

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Google fun! I am ….

As my previous post got a good deal of attention, this week’s Tuesday evening procrastination on what kind of person Google Instant Search thinks I am.
So, first of all, I’m a lawyer and a professor – so….
Well, not so good, but at least we may be ‘doctors too’ (?) and ‘people too’ (!); also I didn't know about the mars/snickers book… Then, of course, I’m also a blogger – so …
That’s even worse! Next, with some hesitation, what does the English-speaking web thing about the fact that I am …
Ok, to give it a positive spin, this may show that I’m hard working, that the degree of Europeans being Neanderthal is a matter of debate, but at least we're better than Americans!
But perhaps I also have to consider how I look – so … 
That doesn’t look too bad, though not perfect of course. So, by contrast, now let’s try something very general – just the first two hits … 
Oh, yes, indeed!
That should be the final word for today – next week I’m going to post something incredibly dry on a random topic of company law…

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Google tells you that your university may be …. !

Ok, ignoring the obvious mistakes and insults, a couple of points seem interesting (assuming that potential students are the main persons determining the instant search results):   

- not unexpectedly, they care about the status and quality of the institution – actually I’m even a bit surprised that words like ‘rank’ or ‘ranking’ do not appear.  

- location also seems to matter; plus things such as whether a particular university is ‘fun’ or ‘posh’ (of course, a rather misled view about the nature of universities).   

- apparently there is a good deal of confusion about what public/private universities, the “Russell group”, the “University of London”, and “polytechnics” are.   

-some subject-matters seem to be popular search terms for some of the universities, indicating potential within-university differences.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Latvian solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict?

I just return from a week in Riga, Latvia, and it made me wonder about the topic of this post – also triggered by reading a book on the history of the Baltic states and a conversation with a history professor from the University of Latvia.
  To start with, it seems strange to see Latvia as a model. A couple of years ago I attended a talk by Thomas Friedman (NYT), actually in Riga as well, and he was saying that when Americans say something is “history”, they mean that it is no longer relevant, whereas in places such as the Baltic states “history” is often the underlying reason for current conflicts. In Latvia in particular it is mainly the Russian and Soviet legacy, i.e. that a significant part of the population is of Russian origins, and that this creates discussions for example about citizenship and language (some of the Russian Latvians not having citizenship; the only official language being Latvian).
  This already sets the scene for the parallel with the Middle East – two groups of people who happen to be in the same place but would rather like to be on their own. But it is clear that the Latvian situation is the preferable one. Despite disagreements, living together somehow works – and, for example, the book cited above mentions more and more marriages between people of Russian and Latvian descents. How come? I’m not expert on Latvia but it seems to me that the implicit compromise is that the former understand that the majority culture and language is Latvian while the latter accept that the Russian speakers can stay and play an important role in the economy (due to historical reasons; but also language ones) – all of this possibly leading to a gradual process of cultural convergence.
  Now, Israel/Palestine: in some of the coastal towns there may be some convergence in terms of the secular population of different origins, but in general the problem seems to me that both sides are uncompromising about any question of cultural identity. To be sure, I’d not suggest that cultural differences (including language ones, religions etc), need to fade away – that’s not happing in Latvia either. But, considering human history more general, it is clear that processes of cultural and social diffusion often make initial divisions less relevant over time. In this respect, actually, the book on Baltic history, cited above, too explains that the Latvian culture is also very much a composite of groups (and, previously, tribes) that have settled in this region over time. So, overall the Latvian model is that there may be no ‘big solution’ but gradual changes triggered by living together (of course something which also needs to enabled, stimulated etc).