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Matthew Cooke

Smith Soc Featured Member

Questions and Answers with Adam Smith Society Members

Matthew Cooke is our Featured Member of the Year for 2018.

Matthew Cooke | Stanford / London Professional Chapter

LIMatthew Cooke was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. He studied undergrad at the University of Cape Town, received an M.F.E. from Oxford, and lived in London for four years before deciding to pursue an M.B.A. at Stanford. Now graduated, he is investing in African public and private businesses at investment fund Rondine Capital LLP. In 2017, Matthew published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on how revenue from trophy hunting is currently vital to African conservation. An alumni of the Adam Smith Society’s Stanford chapter, Matthew is on the founding host committee for the London professional chapter.

What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?

I'm trying to rank the quality of barbecues from all over the world. I thought we South Africans were pretty good, but the Brazilians and Texans in my MBA class were formidable...

How do you curate your intellectual diet? What blogs, publications, etc. do you ready daily?

I enjoy the Financial Times' "Big Read" section. I try to regularly read about the same issue on different outlets that spread across the political spectrum; for example in the US I'll read The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN, Fox, The American Conservative, The Guardian etc. I do it to try and understand issues from different points of view and to understand how different people think.

Name something you’ve gained from your membership in the Adam Smith Society that you feel like you could not have gotten elsewhere in your MBA program.

It has reinforced my belief in the fundamental merits of free markets, after several years in which capitalism has been under assault from multiple directions in all three countries in which I've lived (South Africa, UK and US).

Who is your favorite founding father (or president) and why?

I have two - an American and a South African 'founding father':
Nelson Mandela (surprise!). As a white South African, Mandela's leadership and actions enabled me to live my life saying the name of my homeland with pride, not shame. It's hard to overstate the significance of that.
John Adams, for his contribution to the separation of powers and an independent judiciary. Coincidentally, I'm writing this from Kenya, where yesterday the Supreme Court annulled the result of the recent election, citing evidence of irregularities in the voting process. The fact that the whole appeal was handled via the judicial system, that the courts stood up to the powerful sitting president, and that people have (mostly) accepted the Court's authority and the rule of law - hopefully these are positive signals for Kenya's future. John Adams would approve...

NASA sends you to colonize a new planet, but you can only take 3 books: one on political & economic philosophy to help start the govt., one business book to guide entrepreneurs, & a work of fiction to keep everyone entertained. What do you take and why?

"Homo Deus" by Yuval Noah Harari (would help frame my thinking on political & economic philosophy, even if it's not focused on it)
"The Outsiders" by William Thorndike
"The Art of Racing" in the Rain by Garth Stein

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