National Facebookism

A nation-state has traditionally been defined by a unifying language, or ethnicity, or geographical boundary, but that’s sooo last millennium. In the future, sovereign states will be defined by a common currency.

Facebook has 2.38 billion monthly active users (and 2.2 billion fake ones). If Facebook were a country, it’d be the most populous country in the world.

Facebook already has the ability to influence elections, provoke regime change, mobilize terrorists, catalyze genocides, and conduct mass surveillance. It’s basically the US government but without the taxes.

No surprise that the company wants to mint a currency called GlobalCoin.

There’s a pernicious myth that when you visit Facebook, you’re paying with your data. Facebook doesn’t traffic in data — they only use it to monopolize your attention. Data isn’t scarce because we can always find new sources.

In the digital world, everything is infinitely replicable and the only scarce resource is attention (And Bitcoin). Rumor has it that Facebook’s GlobalCoin will be pegged to the dollar, but USD is an inferior currency. Peg GlobalCoin to attention, and have user engagement serve as the tax obligation that provides price support to the currency. We pay with our attention.

That was the general idea behind Brave and its Basic Attention Token, except they failed to create a circular economy. Publishers receive tokens for displaying ads, and advertisers submit tokens to place ads, but neither publishers nor advertisers want the tokens so they convert to fiat as soon as they get it.

On the other hand, every single Facebook user wants attention. That’s why we’re on social media sites in the first place, posting content, courting followers, collecting Likes, waiting for validation. We work so hard for attention. That can be the proof-of-work that generates GlobalCoin.

Maybe GlobalCoin can be a transferable version of Klout, where users take their GlobalCoins to merchants, pay for stuff with GlobalCoins, then the merchants use coins to buy ads. As indicated by the name, the goal is ultimately to supplant the US dollar. Capture more engagement, more money, and more attention-value until Facebook takes over the world.

Money is Law

The problem with any theory on the origins of money is the assumption that money has always served the purposes it serves today. Store of value, medium of exchange, unit of account. These are functions, not things. An “Origins of Money” from the vantage point of 1491 America might start with money as a display of status in the form of feathers and beads, and end as a history of wearable jewelry.

In 2019, credit has the greatest moneyness, thus any modern history of “money” involves the origins of debt and violence.

Let’s indulge the Fed and assume that the US dollar is the epitome of money. Well that’s not a store of value. In fact, it’s specifically designed to NOT be a store of value — ZIRP renders the dollar a depreciating asset to encourage investment and consumption. Medium of exchange? That’s mostly done with credit.

Today, the most important use case for USD is to advance foreign policy objectives by sanctioning those that have fallen out of political favor. Money, then, is an instrument of persuasion.

Financial Imperialism
You know what else is an instrument of persuasion? A gun. If I point a barrel at your head, you might relinquish the contents of your wallet to persuade me to go away. Traditionally, the state is defined by whatever party has a monopoly on violence, be it the military or the mafia or the mob. But an entity with a monopoly on money can achieve the same persuasive capacity.

Yap stones are frequently used to fiatsplain how something with no intrinsic value can be used to tabulate debt. That the stones weigh four tons apiece and remain in circulation after sinking to the bottom of the ocean just goes to show how easily a population ascribes value to an arbitrary token.

A less often told story is that traditional Yap stones were actually small limestone discs. There are no limestone deposits in Yap, so stones had to be quarried 400 miles away by canoe. The larger the stone, the dicier the journey; a man-high stone was so rare it could buy a village or a plantation [1].

In the 19th century, Irish-American David O’Keefe showed up with a Chinese cargo ship and steel tools, fetched thousands of massive stones and turned the entire island into his debtors. Massive inflation ensued, which is why the Yapese ended up with ginormous boulders for money.

When you have the ability to loan out infinite amounts of money, you can enslave a population with no violence at all. See also: The entire banking industry.

References:
1. A.H.Quiggin. A Survey of Primitive Money: The Beginnings of Currency.
Routledge Library Editions: History of Money, Banking and Finance, 2017.

Eat the Cats

The best way to get rid of an undesirable is to convince people it’s delicious. That’s what we did for corn syrup, passenger pigeons, and little Irish children.

Australia is awesome. Feral cats are killing native marsupials like koalas and wallabies, so locals eliminate the invasive species by eating them.

This is exactly what I think of when I read about places like Key West and Kauai struggling with feral chickens. They’re chickens! They belong in a stew pot, not an animal shelter.

They’re safe here. Chickens know that Whole Foods shoppers won’t touch any meat that hasn’t been processed into unrecognizable slabs

Hong Kong has feral cows? I can think of twelve different ways to solve this problem, all of them delicious.

Sadly, Australian ecologists are sometimes criticized for killing feral cats:

“I can’t help but use terms like ‘xenophobia’… It’s gobsmacking how much hatred there is.” Adherents to compassionate conservation say that Australia should embrace cats as an element of its environment, rather than trying to restore ecosystems to an arbitrary point in history whose selection is dependent on the whims of those doing the choosing.

Reminds me of those old-school environmentalists who would use conservation as an excuse to justify immigration restrictions. Who are we to try to restore ecosystems to an arbitrary point in history? Climate change is progress, you racists.

Welcome, Huawei!

The Powers That Be would rather consign us to mediocre mobile connectivity than allow 5G networking equipment from China. Boo.

Ostensibly we’re worried about China using Huawei’s equipment to spy on us. (Hi, where were you guys when we outsourced all our manufacturing to China?) Funny, the Chinese government uses the same excuse to ban Google and Facebook in their own country. It’s not about censorship, they say. China bans American internet services to shield its citizens from foreign surveillance!

It’s protectionism. If China hadn’t preemptively banned Google and Facebook, Baidu and Tencent might not have gained enough market share to grow into massive conglomerates.

So we’re blocking Huawei to give Qualcomm, Nokia, and Ericsson a chance to catch up. I don’t know, I’d rather roll the dice and gamble on the off-chance China might spy on me, than the guarantee that the US government will. Remember PRISM? Germany seems more amenable to having Huawei build their 5G infrastructure after the NSA was caught monitoring Angela Merkel’s cell phone.

Besides, Chinese surveillance is less concerning than the NSA because there’s a distribution of power. China can’t punish an American for wrongthink the way it disappears its own citizens. On the other hand, political incorrectness in the US can result in the loss of bank accounts and other privileges. When it comes to domestic service providers, the witness is in cahoots with the judge, jury, and executioner.

Plus, if Chinese telecoms ignore USG subpoenas the way Chinese banks ignore FATCA, that’s a big win for data privacy.

Either way, we’ve already been infiltrated by foreign spies. Our biggest tech companies aren’t US companies. As far as accounting goes, Apple’s IP resides in Ireland, Facebook’s platform is owned by an Irish subsidiary, IBM and Google’s profits are booked by a Dutch company in Bermuda, and so on with Microsoft, Intel, and Oracle. Why are we okay with Irish and Dutch companies spying on us, but not Chinese companies? Clearly the US government is racist. I, for one, welcome our Chinese overlords.

Inflation

A couple years ago, Mark Perry published a chart showing the change in prices of goods and services over time.

The chart has become something like a Rorschach test, where people magically interpret it as confirmation of what they already believe. Globalists point out the low-cost benefits of outsourced manufacturing; Libertarians blame government intervention for price increases in healthcare and education; Socialists see the same price gains and attribute it to Baumol’s Cost Disease, because they believe that human labor confers some irreproachable value regardless of productivity.

I was in Cuba X years ago, where X is some number greater than the statute of limitations for OFAC violations. What struck me was how closely the Cuban economy mirrors that of the US. And by “mirror”, I mean everything is the exact opposite.

In Cuba, health care and education are Free, and toys and food are expensive. Well technically toys and food are free too, if you don’t want very much. Every Cuban receives a ration book that entitles them to five eggs a month and, for those with children, three toys a year. If you want more than that, you pay up on the black market.

(Don’t @ me — Cuba trumps the US in terms of literacy rate, life expectancy, and infant mortality.)

Toys in Cuba

Turns out everyone is absolutely right about that inflation chart. Globalization has indeed made manufactured goods dirt cheap in the US. A quick way to similarly reduce health care and education costs might be to send students and patients offshore, like the Mariel boatlift in reverse. As for Libertarian complaints of regulatory capture — if we rationed toys the way we ration physicians and college diplomas, toys would be expensive too. But the Socialists are smartest of them all. Baumol was right — Healthcare and education are overpriced because the opportunity cost of labor is high.

Cuba gets it. By running an authoritarian commie state, they don’t waste human resources on politics and media and bankers and other parasites. That frees up a lot of manpower for people to become doctors.

In Capitalism’s defense, well, free-market capitalism has never really been tried.