Woke Capital Wags the Dog

The Century of the Self is a four-part documentary that follows the evolution of advertising and PR. We’re all familiar with Edward Bernays, the marketing genius who convinced women across the country to take up smoking. He paid suffragettes to light up during NYC’s annual Easter parade, then ran ads calling the cigarettes “freedom torches”. Smoking was empowerment.

Bernays went on to work for the CIA. Sex appeal and status signaling continued to be effective marketing devices until the strategy hit a wall in the late 1960s. Consumer financing had taken off, catalyzed by computers and information brokers and data analysts. Whereas loans used to granted on a personal basis, banks could now use credit scores to quantify a borrower’s creditworthiness. Luxury goods became lame status signifiers now that anyone could buy a car on credit.

Advertisers turned to Maslow and realized they needed to aim one step higher on the hierarchy of needs. People will spend money on comfort and sex appeal, but they’ll spend infinitely more on self-actualization. Every product should be a statement of personal values.

If you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
There’s a million things to be
You know that there are
–Jeep Grand Cherokee commercial

Instead of trying to make the viewer feel slightly inadequate, ads should make the viewer feel like a beautiful and unique snowflake. A beautiful and unique snowflake whose uniqueness can only be captured by driving a new car.

That’s why tech bros buy Patagonia vests to sit in climate controlled offices, wear Allbirds that look like cloned Keds, and pay $10 for artisanal toast from The Mill.

The self-expression strategy flowed into politics. A political campaign is no different from any other marketing campaign, only instead of selling new cars you’re selling old boomers. Reagan’s campaign advisors realized they could pander to the people by telling voters that it’s okay to be selfish. Earlier generations asked not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. Now it’s all identity politics all the time.

Why are corporations so woke? Because their employees have been brainwashed by a lifetime of marketing, and workplaces must cater to personal identity just like everything else in life.

Maybe this is an oversimplified explanation. Millennials are selfish and self-absorbed all over the planet. Then again, maybe that’s a testament to the power of American advertising.

Watch the documentary, or read the transcript.

Be So Gross They Can’t Ignore You

Many years ago, I made fun of Silicon Valley urbanites for proposing that California secede the union after Trump’s election. I now realize that I was wrong. Apologies to Sam Altman et al.

The #CalExit campaign has since morphed from an independence movement to a bid to amputate the gangrenous state for the sake of everyone else. (Is it too late to give California back to Mexico?) Even if a complete dissolution is impossible, it’s inevitable that large portions of the country will fracture into autonomous zones. The only question is how we get there.

As Cliven Bundy, David Koresh, and the Confederacy demonstrated, you can’t seize autonomy by force. The US government has no qualms about slaughtering those who try. A more successful example is that of Union Point, where homeless junkies became such a public nuisance that the city of Oakland set aside two vacant lots for them to create a self-governing community.

For years, Oakland tried to discourage homeless encampments with fines, bulldozers, and threats of violence. Every time an encampment was cleared out, the residents would resettle the next block over. City council realized that the homeless were not going to disappear, they were in no shape to rejoin society, and they were too disgusting to stay where they were. The only solution was to mitigate their impact on everyone else.

Union Point Park, Oakland

Oakland residents were happy to get junkies out of public parks, and the homeless were happy to have a place where they could indulge in recreation without fear of harassment.

If you want to have your own autonomous zone, you need to get a bunch of like-minded people together and become so noxious they can’t ignore you.

…Which brings me to anti-vaxxers. Ewwww. If I had to choose between having an unvaxxed kid in my neighborhood, or a group of drug-addled derelicts shitting on the sidewalk, I believe I would rather have the derelicts. I would compare the unvaxxed to leprosy patients, but frankly that’s an insult to lepers.

We’ve tried asking nicely, but the only thing more unreasonable than a strung out meth addict is an anti-vaxxer. Therefore, we have no choice but to segregate the unvaxxed. For the sake of public health.

There should be separate-but-equal facilities to prevent the unvaxxed from spreading disease and pestilence. Starting with designated “unvaxxed” seating areas in restaurants and airports, then separate bathrooms for the unvaxxed, and segregated schools taught by unvaccinated teachers. With short buses to bus in the unvaxxed.

The biggest benefit of separate schools is that the fully vaccinated children will no longer be held back by the intellectual deficiencies of their unvaccinated peers. If the latter children are anything like their parents, it’s inconceivable that they’ll be able to keep up with post-Enlightenment topics like Critical Race Theory.

Eventually, we’ll have entire autonomous zones. Perhaps a city like Miami can declare itself a leper colony, but for the unvaxxed. The surrounding country will build a wall, a cordon sanitaire, to #StoptheSpread. Anti-vaxxers don’t need to all cram into Miami; we’ll have leper colonies all over the country where they cluster. Jefferson County, most of Wyoming, Texas-minus-Austin, and so on. Everyone else will stay far away, as the unvaxxed colonies are obviously really gross.

The best way to get a bitcoin citadel is to convince them to build it for us.

Should I Sell My Organs to Stack More Sats?

I recently learned that the going rate for a kidney is $262,000, and if you were to liquidate your entire body it would net a cool $45 million. Upload your consciousness to the metaverse before doing so, of course.

That means most of us are carrying non-productive assets that could be traded for, well, a different non-productive asset — But one that is going to the moon.

There’s a huge societal benefit as well. This market is clearly suffering from illiquidity:

There’s something off-putting about selling an internal organ. It feels repugnant in the same way that selling a family heirloom feels repugnant, in that a family heirloom isn’t really yours to sell. Like, you never actually own a family heirloom. You merely look after it for the next generation.

It’s the same idea with bodily parts, except the intergenerational wealth moves in reverse. The main reason anyone has children is to create a sort of organ bank, little repositories of flesh and blood with high likelihood of sharing a compatible blood type. You never actually own your liver. You merely look after it until Grandpa has late-stage cirrhosis.

Whether it be a Patek Philippe watch or spare lung or a bitcoin, the objective is the same. If it feels gross to sell a kidney for sats, that’s because you haven’t convinced yourself of Bitcoin’s superiority as a store of value.

This is not investment advice.

This is:

Cops Create Moral Hazard

Now that everyone’s been canceled for hate speech, even moderate opinions feel extremist. Julian Assange’s extradition is a crime against humanity, I might think, quickly followed by Shut up stupid brain, stop being so crazy!

Last week, intrepid investigative journalists discovered that predictive policing software disproportionately targets… exactly whom you’d expect.

The woke conclusion is that software is racist. But we’ve all seen the looting videos on Twitter, and the perps seem to sport a year-round tan.

Maybe it’s the laws that are racist. How come Purdue can peddle Oxycontin but I can’t deal crack cocaine? Why is it against the law to snatch a purse, yet perfectly legal for a cop to do the same under civil asset forfeiture? Why does the Chicago Board get to run a global gambling desk while Porgy and Bess can’t even shoot craps on their front porch?

Aside from racism, larceny laws create a huge moral hazard. I know that leaving a parked car in San Francisco is an invitation to smash-and-grab, yet here’s Louis Vuitton with a plate glass storefront, luxury goods on full display. What’s Fendi relying on for security — Societal norms? Starfleet force field?

Some years ago, a family friend had her little dog eaten by a coyote. Really traumatic experience, I’m sure. She feared her other dog was next, and begged The Department of Fish & Game to Do Something. The Department was unsurprisingly useless, as government agencies tend to be. The coyotes were here first, the wildlife officer said. They’re just trying to survive. You are responsible for securing your animals.

That’s what I think of when I see the CEO of Neiman Marcus petitioning Congress to do something about shoplifters. How bout some responsible risk management?

It wasn’t always like this. Look at old timey photos of people shopping. They’re puttin’ on the ritz just to go to Safeway. Back in the olden days, stores were private businesses enforcing private rules on private property, and could ban customers for any reason. Kinda like Twitter does today. Fancy clothes were necessary to ensure admission, a demonstration of spending ability. Then the Civil Rights Act came along and entitled everyone to full and equal accommodations, private property be damned. Proprietors put up signs declaring the right to refuse service – wishful thinking. That’s not how laws work, bigot.

This is where Amazon Go is the future. You know, those creepy automated grocery stores full of surveillance cameras. Amazon’s competitive advantage isn’t the cameras; it’s the fact that customers can’t enter the store without an Amazon Prime account. Instantly filter out the riffraff.

Every store needs to do this. Starbucks wouldn’t need to worry about derelicts shooting up in the bathroom if a loaded Starbucks card was required before entry. Nordstrom wouldn’t look like this if customers were required to have a minimum line of credit. Defund the police and bring back our Freedom of Association rights. One can hope, anyway.

Backed by the Full Faith and Credit of Tethers

Last month, Tether published a pie chart of its reserves, as part of an effort to get the NY Attorney General off their backs. (The other part was an $18.5 million fine.)

So Tether has paid its protection money and is free to continue printing stablecoins, as long as those stablecoins are fully backed by dollar reserves.

But there’s a catch: The “dollar reserves” can’t be actual dollars.

Banks don’t want Tether’s dollars because Tether’s customers are probably degenerates like me. Accepting Tether as a banking client would invite unwanted regulatory attention, Operation-Chokepoint-style. Even if Tether’s customers were in fact wholesome billionaires like Elon Musk, there’s too much “reputational risk”, according to JPMorgan. And that’s why Tether previously stashed its money with a Panamanian payment processor, where it was promptly stolen.

Apparently the new workaround is to turn the dollars into credit, like commercial paper and corporate bonds. But wait! A corporate bond isn’t a bearer asset — it still needs to be held by a bank or brokerage. That doesn’t do anything to reduce the risk of money laundering, it just adds an extra step.

Maybe the problem isn’t AML/KYC risk, but the fact that banks don’t want dollars. They’re not a public storage facility, they don’t want to store your fiat toilet paper. In theory, deposits can be turned into interest-bearing loans, but that already happened many times over and everyone who wants cash already borrowed it for cheap. (No, not you – I meant the Cantillon insiders.)

Maybe we’ll see more of this going forward, where it’s not enough to park your money and lose 2% to inflation each year. Your money must actively participate in the inflationary process by creating more credit.

Tether is now one of the world’s largest holders of commercial paper, or short term corporate debt. It’s practically a bank. Maybe Tether should use its dollars to buy bitcoin.