Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Analogies to the Taiwan/China relationship?

I just return from the Xth Annual Conference of the Asian Law and Economics Association, this year hosted by the National Taiwan University in Taipei. I used this occasion to learn a bit about the island: eg, reading the excellent book by Jonathan Manthorpe, Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.
   In particular, I was wondering whether and how the Taiwan/China relationship may be an analogy to other current and past conflicts (as well as more non-conflictual relationships), such as: Russia v Ukraine; Ukraine v Crimea; Europe v UK; UK v Scotland; UK v Ireland; Iraq v ISIS occupied territories; West v East Germany; Germany v Austria; Malaysia v Singapore; Australia v Tasmania; Australia v New Zealand.
   As always with analogies, there are both similarities and differences – indeed, one could do a table showing how each of the country pairs of the previous paragraph may in some respects be similar but in others different from the China v Taiwan pair. Moreover, it can be seen that the results differ sharply: in some of these instances the separateness is or was accepted, while in others it was a temporary one. Thus, if anything, this reflection may illustrate the limits to draw policy conclusions from analogies.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Which university rankings get most attention in the UK?

To start with, which rankings do we have? A first group only ranks UK universities: the Complete University Guide, the Guardian University Guide, and the Sunday Times / Times (Good) University Guides (which now have been merged into one ranking). Second, there are a number of international rankings (overview here), the most well-known being the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
   To determine ‘attention’, I used Google trends (not perfect but convenient). The ‘UK only rankings’ have developed as follows:
It can be seen that the Times guides started as the most popular ones (note: I used a wide search term to cover both the Times and the Sunday Times ones; I also considered that sometimes but not always the word ‘good’ is added), but are now a bit behind the two other ones – presumably due to the fact that since 2010 The (Sunday) Times is no longer freely available to read online (though since last year the actual rankings are now freely accessible again). Note also the peaks when the respective guides were published (eg, the Guardian one for this year was just published last week).
Adding the international rankings, the second figure shows that recently they have become a bit more important (see eg the peaks for the QS ranking; click on figure to enlarge), but overall they still get less attention than the UK ones (to clarify, I also tried some of the other global rankings as well as abbreviations such as THE for Times Higher Education but this didn’t change things). To check this result, I also looked at the data for the last twelve months only - and here the 'ranking of the rankings' in terms of 'google attention' is: (1) complete university guide, (2) guardian university guide, (3) times university guide, (4) QS world rankings, (5) THE world rankings.
   This final point is a crucial aspect to observe since in the actual rankings there are some notable discrepancies between the UK and the global university rankings, discussed in a previous blog post (where I also expressed a preference for the UK rankings to compare UK universities).

Friday, 6 June 2014

Comparative Law - published!

Just published with Cambridge University Press - see its websites, eg, here for the UK or here for the US. 

Or, see,,,, etc.

In addition, another blogspot site provides further information about the themes of the book.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Can the “deep state” analogy be applied to corporate governance?

Sunday afternoon post with a rough idea. The "deep state" refers to the situation that elections and other changes of personnel don't really matter since deeper power structures of the state are unaffected. Thus, emphasising that there is something like the "deep state" means that one should not simply focus on surface changes in politics.
   Could there be something similar in corporate governance? Here too there is a strong focus on visible changes and powers: eg, frequent topics are hostile takeovers, activist investors, dismissal of directors, powers of the general meeting, voting rights of shareholder etc. But, in firms too, could there not also be powers underneath the surface that are largely independent? To research this properly one would presumably start with role of company secretaries, in house lawyers and other employees; or perhaps there may be internal structures (committees, divisions, guidelines etc) that are unaffected by any change of corporate control, any powers of the general meeting etc.
   If this sounds plausible, the next question is whether this should be seen as a problem. In the political debate the "deep state" is often regarded as something negative. Yet, stability can also be valuable (cf. Egypt with Syria). And in the corporate governance context it may be argued that organically grown "deep" corporate governance structures may have some legitimacy, perhaps somehow akin to the well-known team production theory of the corporation. So, presumably, here too there is not really an easy answer.