Today’s video is an attempt to bridge a gap I see in a lot of economic discussion on twitter, in academia and in mainstream journalism. There seems to be a growing sense that the US economic consensus is changing in a bigger way that it has for four decades. The old Reaganite consensus seems to be falling apart. Some deplore this shift, but many more seem to love it. What neither the pro- or anti-camp seems to be doing in a serious way is reckoning with how cryptocurrency fits into this picture. This is a major oversight. How can we talk about the economy, money and finance without discussing a growing insurgency against all of those things? Today’s video attempts to put the two pictures together, and point out that Crypto ideology is very much on one side of this broader economic debate.
I’ve been bothered by Cryptocurrency for quite some time. I started following it seriously again after the 2017 peak and crash. I’ve always been leery of talking about it because I so fundamentally did not get why it continued to be a thing. After researching it at great length in recent months, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the world that’s crazy, not me. If cryptocurrency continues on its current trajectory, it’s got a lot of terrifying implications. I begin to unpack those in this video, which is intended to be the first of three.
I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to Tunisia. I have been making the same argument on here since 2016, but people keep not listening. Considering the amount of damage the US has done to Tunisia’s neighborhood, and considering the value of Tunisia’s democratic experiment for the long term interests of the United States (going back to George Washington), the US and Europe should just be giving the country money. Not loans, not conditional, but just outright gifts in an attempt to keep its democracy going. It’s been about two years since I’ve made that argument, so with today’s video I trot it out again…
Comparative history is not an exact science. It can be a fraught business. I’m sure there are a number of ways in which today’s video could be portrayed as condescending or even a bit racist. “What do you mean Ethiopia is 100 years behind Europe!!!”. But comparative history is too useful a tool, to not use. Unfortunately, it’s often used poorly. With this video, and a follow up I’m still drafting, I hope to debunk some of the dumber comparisons that are made. I also want to show that while Ethiopia’s civil war is horrible, it’s not really much of a detour from normal development.
It’s interesting how far my politics have evolved. If you had told me in 2014 that this channel would include a full-throated call for more stimulus spending, even after a year with a near 4 trillion dollar US budget deficit, I would have been appalled. I’m in surprisingly strong company. The inflation hawks and bond vigilantes on Wall Street have mostly retired in failure. The new generation is now just as eager for a big spending government as I am. What happened to all of us was… events. An under-appreciated aspect of Donald Trump’s presidency is the way that he sort of blew up the argument for fiscal conservatism. The Republicans let him do all the economic stimulus that they denied Obama, and the economy really did kick into higher gear. The threatened inflation never happened, and while people are a little less eager to buy our debt, the Federal Reserve seems to have stepped into the breach without consequences.
The only thing standing in the way of the emerging “magic money” era is the Republican Senate. And they’re only standing in the way until they can put a Republican back in power. Which is way I think we shouldn’t let them do that, as I lay out in today’s video on Georgia’s January 5th elections. As I briefly note in this video, however, I still suspect that those failed bond vigilantes and Republican Senators may actually be right. The British Empire fell because it ran out of people willing to give them money, and I think it’s likely that will be the case with us as well. We just don’t know the time scale. And as Keynes pointed out, “In the Long run, we’re all dead”. 2021 is not the year to try to solve the national debt.
In the month since everybody woke up to what a disaster the Coronavirus pandemic is, it’s been interesting watching people use it as an excuse to push the same things they were already pushing. Conservatives, Socialists, Environmentalists and Nationalists, all of them are eager to tell you that this confirms everything they have been saying all along, and proves that their particular policy priorities should be enacted immediately. Some of them may be right. But one of the most important Washington, DC lobbies is looking a little silly right now. The Military Industrial Complex, that monstrosity that gets close to a trillion dollars a year to keep us safe… did nothing to stop the greatest calamity to befall the homeland since the war of 1812.
But this hasn’t stopped them from pretending that they are still relevant after this extraordinary failure. In alliance with a Trump administration that is desperate to find another scapegoat, they are calling for a deepening of the “New Cold War” against China. They seem to believe that China is “winning” the pandemic somehow. China had what looks like a competent public health response after all, and now it’s flying stuff all over the world to help other countries. Well today’s video is here to tell you that that suspicion is ridiculous. China is not winning this thing. In fact, they are likely to end up the biggest losers.
I’m not kidding when I say I’ve been agonizing over Coronavirus for months. It’s really quite infuriating how hard it was to get good solid information. China looked terrifying. But all market and government sources in the US seemed pretty relaxed. A couple weeks back only the US government was relaxed, while media was waking up to the shock. It was only two weeks ago that the markets began to reflect what was happening. Now everybody is losing their shit, just as China seems to be recovering. It’s all a mess.
When it comes to history, I usually know as much or more than any journalist I am reading. That’s not the case with diseases and epidemiology. It seemed like everything I read contradicted the last thing I read, making it impossible for me to say anything definitive. Eventually I gave up on talking about the disease. It’s too late to warn folks, we are now at the crisis, which is what today’s video covers. I feel like I’ve kind of let the viewership down. I knew this was coming for a while now, but I’m only now adding to the panic pile with this video. Guess I should bone up on biology for the next plague.
I have meant to do a series on frozen conflicts for a while, and I’m glad that my North Africa focus has finally led me to do a video on one of the oldest and dumbest. The frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union are probably the most famous, including Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, Transdneistria, Ossetia and South Abhkazia in Georgia, and now Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine. These conflicts are famously a way for the dastardly Putin to keep his border unstable, and maintain a Russian sphere of influence. The conflicts that the US maintains aren’t generally referred to this way, but they serve the same purpose. Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria are also frozen or lukewarm conflicts that the United States maintains for its own (wrongly) perceived strategic interest.
Most of these conflicts are unlikely to be solved, because a regional or world power has an interest in them. That’s not the case for Western Sahara. France definitely has an interest in the continued fight between Morocco and Algeria, but nobody else does really. The fact that this conflict has derailed Moroccan-Algerian relations for almost 50 years is just dumb, as I explain in today’s video.
Merry Christmas Everybody! I’m heading out of town in a couple hours, but I’m super psyched to be able to fill one of the year’s biggest gaps by putting out a Christmas eve video on Tunisia! I intend to do a better job of keeping on top of Tunisian and North African politics in the new year. In September and October they held a series of elections that I am very late in covering. Tunisia is probably the most important country in the Middle East/North Africa region. There’s a distinct chance that what they’re doing now will be remembered long after the decades of nastiness further East have been forgotten. One can hope anyway…
With today’s video we go all in on discussing the US stock market. There’s this idea that stock markets are somehow rational, or serious. People who talk about it are always wearing suits, and we put a lot of effort into making all the details of interest rates, portfolio management, and valuations seem boring. The stock market is none of these things. In fact it’s nuts. By going through the history of the “Trump Bump”, I attempt to draw the curtain back a bit.
Unfortunately, watching the video, I think I screwed something up. It’s not that the story I put forward is wrong, it’s just that I left too much out. The video falls into the “Presidents impact everything” school of commentary. I hate that school. The differing views market makers took of Trump and Obama are tremendously important to this particular economic story, but that doesn’t mean that presidents are actually all that powerful. I really don’t want to create that impression, and I apologize if I did so with this video.