• This is a nice interview of UC-Berkeley computer researcher Nicholas Weaver in Current Affairs. He does a pointedly humorous takedown of what he labels “a giant self-assembled Ponzi scheme. You hear about people making money in Bitcoin or cryptocurrency. They only make money because some other sucker lost more.”
“So the stock market and the bond market are a positive-sum game. There are more winners than losers. Cryptocurrency starts with zero-sum. So it starts with a world where there can be no more winning than losing. We have systems like this. It’s called the horse track. It’s called the casino. Cryptocurrency investing is really provably gambling in an economic sense. And then there’s designs where those power bills have to get paid somewhere. So instead of zero-sum, it becomes deeply negative-sum.
Effectively, then, the economic analogies are gambling and a Ponzi scheme. Because the profits that are given to the early investors are literally taken from the later investors. This is why I call the space overall, a “self-assembled” Ponzi scheme. There’s been no intent to make a Ponzi scheme. But due to its nature, that is the only thing it can be.“
• Yet another masterful analysis by the wonderful (and incomparable) Linda Greenhouse, writing in the NYT; Justice Alito’s Invisible Women. A pertinent excerpt:
“In the wake of the mortifying breach that the leak represents, there has been much talk of the Supreme Court’s “legitimacy.” The court has a problem, no doubt, one that barriers of unscalable height around its building won’t solve. But if a half-century of progress toward a more equal society, painstakingly achieved across many fronts by many actors, can be so easily jettisoned with the wave of a few judicial hands, the problem to worry about isn’t the court’s. It’s democracy’s. It’s ours.”
This time-lapse video captured by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite shows the white plumes of wildfires burning in northern New Mexico fueled by extreme drought and high winds, along with the brownish cloud of a haboob (dust storm caused by high winds) blowing south from Colorado.
• Congratulations to Harvard for being unafraid to face its legacy of slavery, and even more impressively, to act in deed as well as word with a $100 million commitment to help with the work of “reckoning and repair.” The full report of the committee charged with examining the subject and making recommendations is here. I’m happy they have joined other universities in acknowledging truth and responsibility. From the report:
“Harvard must set a powerful example as it reckons with its own past. We must pursue not only truth, vital though that is, but also reconciliation. Doing so requires a range of actions—visible and continuing—that address the harms of slavery and its legacies, many of which still reverberate today, affecting descendants of slavery in the community and indeed the nation.
These actions must include monetary and nonmonetary efforts. Slavery was a system that, through violence, deprived the enslaved of the value of their own labor, creating a persistent multigenerational racial wealth gap that continues to disadvantage descendants of the enslaved. And the legacies of slavery—exclusion, segregation, marginalization, criminalization, disenfranchisement, and more—compounded its damage. The economic and social costs of categorical exclusion from and discrimination in education—not only but perhaps especially at Harvard—are profound.”
• Paul Krugman’s column in the NYT, Republicans Say, ‘Let Them Eat Hate’, is worth a read. An excerpt:
“...a real and important problem: The unraveling of society in Appalachia and more broadly for a significant segment of the white working class. Yet neither Vance nor, as far as I can tell, any other notable figure in the Republican Party is advocating any real policies to address this problem. They’re happy to exploit white working-class resentment; but when it comes to doing anything to improve their supporters’ lives, their implicit slogan is, “Let them eat hate.”…I’d say that G.O.P. campaigning in 2022 is all culture war, all the time, except that this would be giving Republicans too much credit. They aren’t fighting a real culture war, a conflict between rival views of what our society should look like; they’re riling up the base against phantasms, threats that don’t even exist.“
• It may be schadenfreude on my part, but I gotta love it; as reported by Sandali Handagama at Coindesk:
A non-fungible token (NFT) of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet could sell for just under $280. The current owner of the NFT listed it for $48 million last week.
Iranian-born crypto entrepreneur Sina Estavi purchased the NFT for $2.9 million in March 2021. Last Thursday, he announced on Twitter that he wished to sell the NFT, and pledged 50% of its proceeds (which he thought would exceed $25 million) to charity. The auction closed Wednesday, with just seven total offers ranging from 0.09 ETH ($277 at current prices) to 0.0019 ETH (almost $6).
“The deadline I set was over, but if I get a good offer, I might accept it, I might never sell it,” Estavi told CoinDesk via a WhatsApp message on Wednesday.
Let’s see, that’s a net of, oh about -$2,900,000. Ouch. Maybe Elon can tweet about it.
• Another good, thought-provoking post (Mancur Olson at the End of History) from Matt Yglesias in his Slow Boring Substack newsletter. Some excerpts:
“So along with all the Ukrainian flag pins, the west ought to be taking action on energy policy:
1. Subsidizing the purchase of electric cars and e-bikes.
2. Raising gasoline taxes and using the revenue to cut payroll taxes.
3. Canceling and reversing planned shutdowns of nuclear power plants.
4. Tearing down regulatory barriers to long-distance electrical transmission lines, geothermal exploration, advanced nuclear, and to permitting new utility-scale wind and solar warms.
5. Either outright barring European imports of Russian natural gas or at least placing stiff taxes and quotas on how much can be imported.”
“But despite a ton of big talk from western leaders, we are so far not really doing any of this.”
“It’s not like there is a single Republican Party elected official who is volunteering to give the Biden administration political cover on gas prices and say “look, we can disagree on abortion rights and government spending while also acknowledging that a surge in energy prices is worth it to beat the Russians.” Nor are Biden’s supporters among environmental groups volunteering to give him a pass on supporting domestic oil and gas production or urging him to go all-in on nuclear. The economic war on Russia is half-assed not because each national leader has independently decided to half-ass it, but because all of our societies are experiencing demosclerosis and simply can’t choose to act decisively on the Russia issue. We lack the capacity.”