Raymond Ashton takes a look at the role of competition regulation in the islandThe-rules-of-competition-16-August-2023
Raymond examines the effect raising interest rates could have on the housing market in GuernseyRiding-out-the-storm-19-July-2023
Raymond Ashton gives a brief history of philanthropy in the last couple of centuries and outlines the opportunities to the wealthy.
Before looking at the subject in more detail it is appropriate to define the term philanthropy.
A good working definition is: ‘The desire to promote the welfare of others expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes and can involve donating time, effort and other forms of altruism’
This is a good starting point for the famous 19th Century philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie, D Rockefeller and Titus Salt. Subsequent contributions have been made by Alfred Nobel, Bill Gates and many other high-profile people such as Elton John and pop stars who have made substantial contributions to research into Aids and importantly peace.
It is important to remember the origins of philanthropy. While the 19th Century was a period of substantial economic growth and profit, the infrastructure of even advanced economies such as the US and Europe was rudimentary. As a consequence, taxes were low and philanthropy, in its various forms, attempted to fill gaps in the infrastructure. Whilst substantial gifts were made it must not be forgotten the voluntary work, particularly in nursing.
One of the most famous philanthropists of the time was the Scottish-born US entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919). While he made fortunes in making steel and was famous for the investment in the Pullman Car Company, he was also famous for his generosity in setting up public libraries contributing to charity generally and establishing trusts for choirs and universities.
These donations were made to areas not covered by state expenditure and contributed to the greater wellbeing of society.
after the comprehensive Beveridge Report in 1942. Recognition should also be given to the international organisations such as the Red Cross and other benevolent institu-tions whose contributions have never been totally acknowledged. In this context the heroic efforts on behalf of the troops in the Second World War by Eleanor Roosevelt are widely recognised.
In more recent years philanthropy has taken many other forms, such as groups dealing with climate change and notably the war against cancer and Aids. Pop stars have held concerts not only in aid of Aids, but also peace in Northern Ireland and to address the deprivations suffered around the world. This philanthropy has taken a much wider role and has supplemented the efforts of wealthy individuals.
Originally philanthropy was mainly undertaken by wealthy individuals who recognised the wider needs of society e.g. the Andrew Carnegie Hall in New York (and elsewhere) and the orchestras it gave rise to.
These charitable efforts were soon accelerated by economic growth began to cover a much wider range of activities. This greatly accelerated after the Second World War as the role of government became wider. As a result of individual and collective efforts the welfare of society has greatly increased and continues to increase, witness the huge strides in the medical world regarding the treatment of cancer and the provision of aid to stricken economics.
For the wealthy the opportunities are greater than ever. Often the wealthy want to make their own unique contribution to a cause such as the Bill Gates Foundation or nearer home in Guernsey the efforts of Guy Hands and earlier, the benefactor of the Priaulx Library.
Wealthy individuals have asked me not only for the tax breaks available but also the form of organisation they should invest in. While there are various – such as a charitable trust – the least cumbersome I feel is the foundation which provides a more flexible alternative which is often more familiar overseas.
What is clear is that the world is short of philanthropists of all descriptions as there are many areas where there is great need, witness the devastation in Ukraine. It is not the shortage of causes that should concern us but the shortage of philanthropists.
Dr Raymond Ashton wonders whether anticipated improvements in productivity will be as good as predicted.
The possible uses of AI have fascinated computer users for many years. The intellectual development of AI uses has exploded in recent years, and in particular in the fields of law and other media users. This facilitated the commercial development of AI and chatbot. Given the evolutionary nature of the product the possibilities of this have been discussed at some length in the popular press and in elsewhere. In this sense all sorts of possibilities have been canvassed.
Recently it was reported that a large law firm is proposing to introduce an AI chat-bot to assist them, and in particular to assist its lawyers to draft contracts and similar tasks. The aim of this much-vaunt-ed technology is to find efficiencies for both its lawyers and clients. The tool is now available to any lawyer of the firm.
While other groups have been experimenting with similar technology, other companies across other industries are exploring using the technology. This has been spurred by the November launch of ChatGPT, an AI chatbot from Microsoft-backed Open AI. This can parse text and write answers to questions.
The technology (known as large language models) is poised to be introduced to a wide range of industries that generate large amounts of text, such as media, advertising and education.
This new wave of AI systems has reawakened natural concerns about the technology’s threat to millions of jobs although in the legal field it is said that it would not reduce billable hours or save money for the company and/or its clients in the short term. The firm concerned said future versions of the technology could lead to cost reductions ‘eventually’. This move comes amid growing pressure on law firms to reduce costs, following years of rising salaries for their most junior employees. Law firms have often used technology to deliver work more flexibly but not necessarily at lower costs. The AI product comes with a disclaimer that its use should be supervised by licensed legal professionals, yet it can still ‘hallucinate’, which is when the programme can produce inaccurate or misleading results. Lawyers and others will be alerted that they need to fact-check any information generated by the chatbot. Experts have also raised regulatory concerns over the ethics of using the technology in legal settings, where accuracy is paramount.
Obviously the development of AI and chatbot methodology is in its relative infancy but it offers significant possibilities to increase efficiency in data-intensive industries. While frequent use may be 10 years away, we can expect significant improvements in the technology, the effect of which will be to greatly enhance its use. In this regard, a comparison might be drawn but it offers significant possibilities to increase efficiency in data-intensive industries. While frequent use may be 10 years away, we can expect significant improvements in the technology, the effect of which will be to greatly enhance its use. In this regard a comparison might be drawn with the internet. Indeed, since the turn of the century there have been significant improvements in productivity. One note of caution is echoed by the AI ‘godfather’, Geoffrey Hinton, who has been in the news warning that the implications of Al chat-bots are ‘quite scary’.
The White Rose Group & Other Rebels
A few weeks ago, I visited Munich and decided to go again to the memorial (“Denkmal”) for the White Rose group at the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich. I decided to go on the basis that the last survivor of the group (Trante Lafrenz) died in March of this year aged 107. I also recently met the German ambassador in London who is attending the Liberation Day celebrations in Jersey as a gesture of peace and reconciliation. Thus there was an element of reciprocating.
2 THE WHITE ROSE GROUP
The White Rose Group was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany which was led mainly by five students and one professor at the University of Munich by others, Willi Graf, Kurt Huber, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl, although there were many more in their group, reference to which will be made below. The group conducted an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign that called for active opposition to the Nazi regime. Indeed, Sophie Scholl (the most famous) threw leaflets from the top of the atrium at the University and there is a memorial outside on the pavement to where some of the leaflets landed. Their activities started in Munich on 27 June 1942; and ended with the arrest of the core group by the Gestapo on 18 February 1943. In terms of the mood at the time this was unfortunate as Germany had just capitulated to the Russian army at Stalingrad. They, as well as other members and supporters of the group who carried on distributing the pamphlets, faced show trials by the Nazi People’s Court. As a result, many of them were imprisoned and executed. Hans and Sophie Scholl, as well as Christoph Probst were executed by guillotine four days after their arrest, on 22 February 1943. It seems that during her trial Sophie interrupted the judge multiple times! No defendants were given any opportunity to speak.
3 OTHER MEMBERS AND THEIR ROLES
They were supported by a number of other people, who are listed in Wikipedia including, Traute Lafrenz, who died in California recently. Obviously, most of the participants were in their early twenties. Wilhelm Geyer taught Alexander Schmorell how to make the ten templates used in the graffiti campaign. Eugen Grimminger of Stuttgart funded their operations. Grimminger was arrested on 2 March 1943 and sentenced to ten years in a penal institution for high treason by the “People’s Court” on 19 April 1943, and imprisoned in Ludwigsburg penal institution until April 1945. Grimminger’s secretary Tilly Hahn contributed her own funds to the cause and acted as the go-between for Grimminger and the group. She frequently carried important items such as envelopes, paper and an additional duplicating machine from Stuttgart to Munich. In addition, a group of students in the city of Ulm (near Munich) distributed a number of the group’s leaflets and were arrested and tried with the group from Munich. Among this group were Sophie Scholl’s childhood friend Susanne Hirzel and her teenage brother Hans Hirzel and Franz Josef Müller. In Hamburg, a group of students including Reinhold Meyer and a number of others formed the White Rose Hamburg resistance group and distributed the group’s leaflets.
4 OTHER RESISTANCE GROUPS
The above analysis has shown that there were a number of very brave people who opposed Hitler and are to be highly commended. In addition, there were a number of other resistance groups. One such group was ‘Red Orchestra’ a loose network of individual groups connected by prominent people such as Harvo Schultze-Boysen. There was also a group known as Kreisan Circle, a group of 25 dissidents led by Helmutn Van Molke from Silesia, and the Bishop of Munster who was a strident critic of Nazism and was beautified by Pope Benedict XV1 in 2005. Last but no means least was the legendary Dietrich Bohoeffer.
5 LATER DEVELOPMENTS
The group wrote, printed and initially distributed their pamphlets in the greater Munich region. Later on, secret carriers brought copies to other cities, mostly in the southern parts of Germany. In July 1943, Allied planes dropped their sixth and final leaflet over Germany with the headline The Manifesto of the Students of Munich. In total the White Rose group were the authors of six leaflets, which were multiplied and spread, and in a total of about 15,000 copies were published. They denounced the Nazi regime’s crimes and oppression, and called for resistance. In their second leaflet, they openly denounced the persecution and mass murder of the very unfortunate Jews. By the time of their arrest, the members of the White Rose were just about to establish contacts with other German resistance groups like the Kreisau Circle or the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack group of the Red Orchestra. Today, the White Rose is well known both within Germany and worldwide.
Given that this group operated in Hitler’s ‘back garden’ they demonstrated formidable bravery to say the least. As testimony to them there is a special room in the University devoted to them and their activities. There is also a peace garden I recommend a visit to, for anyone visiting Munich and the room which is tastefully decorated with memorabilia. At the moment there is building work but the pavement outside shows a photograph of where the leaflets landed. It is hoped this short paper about the events during the Second World War highlights the heroic efforts of the very diverse groups in Germany. It should be taken into account that these groups faced constant pressure (not to say hostility) from the Gestapo and other informers which shows their degree of bravery. It is why in the intellectual literature the dissident groups are venerated.
Dr Raymond Ashton examines carbon targets.
As we are all aware, the major industrial nations have agreed to new carbon targets in the years to come. This is reinforced by the tax incentives to businesses to attain these targets in the form of research and development tax breaks and major initiatives by global oil producers such as BP and Shell. While such targets are laudable, they may be somewhat over-ambitious.
We first heard about global warming in the later 1980s from scientists concerned about the ozone layer, but little was actually done about it until the 21st century, particularly from 2015 onwards.
The reason for this is the wide variety of uses to which oil and its carbon alternative coal can be put.
So important is the importance of oil that it played a vital role in not only the Second World War via the United States and Russia but afterwards in the Suez Canal crisis in 1956 and the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1973. Its importance is even felt today in the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
The core issue is whether the current initiatives will likely prove successful, given the geopolitical role of oil and the current absence of potent green alternatives. Having said this, significant progress has been made in relation to cars and to some extent in air travel, and which via technology will continue to develop and mature – but what about a competitor which will displace oil as an energy source? Strides have been made in relation to the use of nuclear energy but none of the alternatives to date have made a significant effect on the nations of the world such as China showing little commitment towards a green alternative.
In this writer’s view it will take a major technological development equivalent to the significant developments in oil and coal extraction before a significant improvement is made to the environment. This will take time and whilst everyone has been warned about climate consequences of carbon use the pressing need appears absent in practice. Until there is a climate catastrophe of some magnitude the necessity in immediate terms will not present itself. Climate change by governments is dogged by world politics and the roles of China, the USA and Russia who are too powerful to take effective action against in the need to reduce their carbon imprint.
It follows that while green finance and the sustainability of alternative energy sources are potentially very important, this writer believes that progress will be slow. This slow growth should govern expectations and the effects of Government policy may well be thwarted, an unpredictable force that will undermine efforts to reduce global warming given the conflicts of the last two centuries. Efforts to reduce carbon emissions are highly desirable but our expectations must be driven by the technological developments which have been more modest.raymondashton-bb-to-gp-15-March