I've been swamped lately preparing for my book launch on the 25th, so a short newsletter this time. Part of that was finishing off this video, which is adapted from one of the chapters:
A few articles from the last month. First, a look at Chile's process of writing a new constitution and its huge lithium deposits:
To be fair, Chile's constitution was tainted by its association with a brutal, mass-murdering and -torturing dictator, and so it was relatively easy to convince Chileans to ditch it. But for an American, this only underlines the importance of imagination and organization in politics. The American Constitution is objectively just as bad as the Pinochet-era Chilean one, if not worse, and for basically the same reasons. It was deliberately designed to insulate political power from voters, its basic structure is wildly unfair and easily a century out of date, and for complex reasons, it has gotten even worse over time.
Yet because NFTs have that gloss of new technology, and huge profits being made apparently for free — some guy paid $560,000 for an NFT of a New York Times article — suckers are flooding into the market. A lot of those apparent riches are unquestionably fraudulent, or the result of money laundering. A common practice in NFT markets (and in crypto generally) is "wash trading," where somebody takes both sides of a trade to create the impression of demand. Trade your ape back and forth a few times to yourself to create the impression of demand, and then fob it off on some sucker who thinks it's worth that much.
Either the Biden administration and American foreign policy establishment can admit this — and acknowledge the Taliban won the war, and treat them like any other poor and unsavory government — or they can continue causing untold harm to Afghanistan's civilian population while almost certainly doing nothing to displace the Taliban from power. It's time to end this miserable and useless economic siege.
The ongoing economic boom demonstrates how badly Obama's team screwed up in 2009:
More concretely, as Obama fundraiser Reed Hundt details in his book A Crisis Wasted, Summers and other key aides, like Tim Geithner and Peter Orszag, all rejected tricks that would have boosted the effect of the stimulus without raising its headline price. They could have refinanced state debt at the ultra-low federal interest rate, thus easing pressures on their budgets, or gamed the budget window by front-loading spending balanced with tax increases that would not take effect for years. Best of all, they could have set up a green infrastructure bank that would have functionally made $10 of stimulus for every dollar appropriated, according to the budget rules (because they could issue $10 of loans for every dollar in capital, similar to a normal bank), and thus made progress against climate change while creating jobs. They didn't do any of that because decision-makers in the Democratic Party didn't want sufficient stimulus. They doomed their party to total wipeout in the 2010 midterms.
It's a perfect microcosm of the broken American state. When the polity is crying out for bold leadership and nationwide coordination on something incredibly important and time-sensitive, we had feds handing money to the states, who hand it to local districts, who aimlessly spend it on more or less whatever they feel like. Some do the right thing, most don't, or simply can't.
Stay warm out there. More soon!