From the archives: the limits of competition

Monday 25 October 2021


Author: Maha Khan Phillips 

In the September 1996 issue of Professional Investor, Angus Sibley argued that anti-trust zeal was threatening profits, and much more. Sibley suggested that, like athletes straining every nerve for maximum performance, economic theories and policy makers were attempting to fashion a ‘perfectly competitive economy, but with damaging effects’. In Sibley’s opinion, the free market was at risk of becoming a competitive police state.

The effectiveness and aims of anti-trust policies may still be up for debate, but Sibley was prescient later on in the article, when he talked about the ‘hypercompetitive’ electronics industry. The electronic industry’s innovation fed upon itself, its effects spread from suppliers to customers, who were all compelled to keep abreast of each other by installing ever more sophisticated and extensive networks, and by establishing increasing online connections via the Internet, he suggested.

The connectivity of networks is rapidly increasing, and with it the risk that malfunction or sabotage may have far-reaching consequences. The scope grows ever wider for hackers who wilfully derange or disable systems, be they fraudsters who seek personal gain, or terrorists who wreak havoc for their own sake. Experts on cyber security believe that it will soon be possible effectively to make a war on a country by disrupting is commercial, financial, or military networks,” he argued.

It is true that, today, cybersecurity and other network risks take up a large amount of the investment industry’s focus. However, it is also fair to say that without the connectivity of networks, businesses would have struggled to continue through the global pandemic. The interconnectedness of systems and networks have profoundly changed both the financial landscape, and the wider world, since 1996.


Related Articles

May 2021 » Climate Change

From the Archives

May 2020 » Cybersecurity

Investors need to pressure boards to embrace cybersecurity as a strategic issue

Mar 2020 » From the Archive

From the Archives: Behavioural finance and economics

Mar 2020 » From the Archive

From the Archives: Performance Resistance