Peter Hoskin

Cameron courts the public academics

Cameron courts the public academics
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I've just got back to my desk after watching David Cameron in conversation with Nassim Nicholas Taleb - the author of The Black Swan, and one of those folk hailed as a "prophet" of the Crash - over at the RSA.  Although, to be honest, "conversation" might be stretching it.  Until it came to questions from the floor, Cameron largely left Taleb to it; letting him riff on everything from the national debt to biodiversity in Europe.  No bad thing, I assure you.

As for the details of Taleb's address, there were plenty of decent quotes and observations.  He warned of the "high risk" of hyperinflation, for instance, and laid into debt as a sign of systemic "overconfidence".  He even came up with this neat aphorism on the financial crisis: "How can you have evolution when those who did the right thing have to finance those who did the wrong thing?"  But if you've read The Black Swan - along with, perhaps, his letter to the Observer on Sunday - then there wasn't anything particularly new here.

In the end, the whole event was probably more noteworthy for the fact it took place than for what was said.  So far as the Tories are concerned, it's something of a coup: a sign that one of the world's leading public academics is taking an interest in Project Cameron, and that Project Cameron is taking an interest in the rule-sceptical work of one of the world's leading public academics.  Sure, Cameron went on to distance himself from Taleb's views on inflation and climate change.  But, that aside, you can expect the Tories to maintain a close relationship

P.S. Taleb was the subject of a wonderful interview-cum-profile by Bryan Appleyard in the Times last year.  Well worth a read.