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Reinventing the Financial System

By Marc Rubinstein | June 15, 2021 | 4 Comments

If you’re like me, you’ve been put off from digging deeper into DeFi by the terrible signal-to-noise ratio of anything crypto-related on the interwebs. That’s why I found this DeFi primer (using Maker DAO as a specific example) by ET contributor and banking analyst Marc Rubinstein to be so fantastic.

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“Yay, Environment!”

In Epsilon Theory-speak, we use “Yay, Good-Thing!” as shorthand for a narrative that takes a linguistic construction that we all agree is a Good Thing (something like “capitalism” or “freedom” or “democracy”) and turns it into a behaviorally powerfully argument for something that is decidedly not that Good Thing, but can be painted with other behaviorally powerful words into something that sorta kinda looks like that Good Thing if you squint really hard and you say the behaviorally powerful words loudly enough.

In rhetorical construction, “Yay, Good Thing!” is a variation on begging the question (in the correct way of understanding that phrase, where the conclusion is assumed in the proposition), or if you’re in marketing or sales you would recognize this as a variation of the assumptive close. The typically-but-not-always unspoken corollary to the “Yay, Good Thing!” narrative construction is “You’re not against Good Thing, are you?”, which is the linguistic stick to the “Yay, Good Thing!” carrot.

Socrates would call “Yay, Good Thing!” sophistry, and he hated the Sophists with a deep and abiding passion. Same. In the modern world, the Sophists are powerful government and corporate interests (aka the Nudging State or the Nudging Oligarchy if we’re going to continue in Epsilon Theory-speak), and the “Yay, Good Thing!” construction is their go-to narrative weapon in the Forever War of stripping away our autonomy of mind.

If you want to read more about our take on “Yay, Good Thing!” narratives, here’s the Epsilon Theory note that started all that.

Anyhoo … I was thinking about “Yay, Good Thing!” today because of how the “Yay, Environment!” implementation of this narrative device is being used to shape the politics of two issues that we’ve been writing a lot about recently: work and crypto.

“Yay, Environment!” is now one of the primary threads in the narrative-world battle over the future of work.

It’s a very powerful narrative thread. It’s a big reason why “Remote work is here to stay!” is winning this narrative war, and you are going to see a lot more “Yay, Environment!” rationalizations for remote work policies in the future.

Similarly, “Yay, Environment!” is now one of the primary narrative threads in the narrative-world battle over the future of Bitcoin.

Here’s the latest, from Elizabeth Warren, but you’re no doubt familiar with Elon Musk’s oeuvre here, as well.

And yes, this construction of “Yay, Environment!” does indeed speak the usually silent part – “You’re not against the Environment, are you?” – out loud. And yes, you’re going to be seeing A LOT more of this narrative. Not because it’s right. Not because it’s wrong. But because it WORKS.

It’s all just another weapon in the ongoing narrative war for Wall Street control and US Treasury visibility over Bitcoin.

— Ben Hunt | June 10, 2021 | 9:24 am

Fiat News in Action

It wasn’t enough for ProPublica to do actual news reporting by publishing these tax records.

The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax

No, they had to tell you how to think about their news reporting.

They had to turn news into Fiat News by constructing a metric of “true tax rate” based on unrealized capital gains, because … you know … the actual true tax rate just wasn’t damning enough for ProPublica’s purposes.

To capture the financial reality of the richest Americans, ProPublica undertook an analysis that has never been done before. We compared how much in taxes the 25 richest Americans paid each year to how much Forbes estimated their wealth grew in that same time period.

We’re going to call this their true tax rate.

What is Fiat News? It’s the presentation of opinion as fact. It’s an interpretation of factual events projected with the same authority as the factual events themselves.

Fiat News (in this case the opinion that wealth in the form of unrealized capital gains should be taxed) is to hard news (in this case the tax filings of the very wealthy) what fiat currencies are to hard currencies.

We write a lot about Fiat News. Here’s the money quote from the note that started it all, Fiat Money, Fiat News:

There’s really no such thing as “real money”, i.e., gold and silver as a medium for exchange or a store of value, in existence in the world today. That used to be the meaning of gold, but those days are long gone. Today fiat money completely and utterly dominates all global commerce and exchange. Why? Because it supports the existential aims of government: taxation (sovereignty), price control (stability), and liquidity provision (growth). Without the invention of fiat money, global GDP today would be at … I dunno, maybe mid-18th century levels? Something around there, I’d guess.

Fiat news serves exactly the same existential aims of government, just in a less overt (but more powerful for being hidden) fashion. There’s just too much at stake for status quo regimes, what with modern referenda like Brexit and national elections like we just experienced in the U.S. and are forthcoming this year throughout Europe, for regime institutions to do anything other than double-down in their embrace and promulgation of fiat news.

Ten years from now we will be awash in “news” to a degree that we can hardly imagine today. That’s what happened with fiat money, and that’s what I think happens with fiat news.

The exponential growth in fiat news is still ahead of us, not behind us.

Gresham’s Law: bad money drives good money out of circulation.

Hunt’s Law: fiat news drives hard news out of circulation.

— Ben Hunt | June 8, 2021 | 9:42 am

A Disturbance in the Force

Yesterday, one of Softbank’s largest portfolio companies – Katerra – filed for bankruptcy.

Katerra was at the heart of the relationship between Softbank and Greensill, and I think it’s the most viable path by which the Greensill fraud and financial crimes can be shown to be Softbank fraud and financial crimes.

You can read our full take on Greensill and Softbank here …

… but the skinny is this:

in 2019, Softbank put ~$3 billion into Greensill, turning it into the Vision Fund’s private bank. In 2020, Greensill lent Softbank portfolio company Katerra $435 million. When Katerra ran into trouble, Greensill wrote off the $435 million loan in exchange for 5% of common equity. LOL. A $435 million senior secured loan – which had been packaged and sold to Credit Suisse – was exchanged for a 5% equity position in a bankrupt company.

Credit Suisse has announced that they are filing suit against Softbank over this and all of the other Softbank/Greensill shenanigans. And in the WSJ article describing the Katerra bankruptcy filing, you can see how Softbank is going to try and spin this (all caps mine).

When Katerra ran into financial difficulties last year, Greensill forgave the loan. 

SoftBank, in turn, invested $440 million into Greensill, EXPECTING THE MONEY TO GO TO CREDIT SUISSE’S INVESTORS.

Instead, Greensill put the proceeds of the SoftBank investment in a bank it owned in Bremen, Germany, according to a bankruptcy administrator’s report. The report said Greensill had used money it received from SoftBank, including the $440 million, to boost its bank’s capital position and fund Greensill’s overall operations.

The Softbank defense is going to be that their back door pay-off to Greensill for forgiving the Katerra loan was really intended to be a back door pay-off for Credit Suisse, but that rascal Lex just kept the money. Who knew!

As always, the best way to rob a bank is to own a bank.

— Ben Hunt | June 7, 2021 | 11:41 am

Deadly Theatre

The Deadly Theatre of corporate signaling on Pride Month continues to run rampant, with feel-good rebranding pop-ups in all the geographies where this is a marketing advantage … and nothing in geographies where it isn’t.

What is Deadly Theatre? It’s a performance that is so deeply abstracted from its source material that it has become painfully, obviously artificial to anyone who is paying attention.

And yes, there’s an Epsilon Theory note on that.

— Rusty Guinn | June 4, 2021 | 10:34 am

Shot … Chaser

P&C insurer Lemonade (LMND) went public last year and now has a $5 billion market cap. They’re not just a sleepy insurance company, of course. No, no … they’re actually a cutting edge AI Company! TM.

They’ve deleted the tweet above and issued a classic non-denial denial on their blog:

Let’s be clear: 

AI that uses harmful concepts like phrenology and physiognomy has never, and will never, be used at Lemonade.

We have never, and will never, let AI auto-reject claims.

LOL. So their AI Jim textbot + video recognition program (I am not making this up) isn’t using phrenology and it can’t auto-reject claims. No, no … the supervisor will reject the claim. BITFD.

— Ben Hunt | May 28, 2021 | 7:47am

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Why Am I Reading This Now? 01.23.23

Recent major media stories that feel to us like they’re part of a larger narrative campaign.



Why Am I Reading This Now? 01.16.23

Recent major media stories that feel to us like they’re part of a larger narrative campaign.



What Do We Need To Be True?

By Rusty Guinn | April 6, 2021 | 44 Comments

Modeling common knowledge by analyzing missionary statements and their reverberations works. Except when it doesn’t.

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A Tiger Can’t Change Its Stripes

By Ben Hunt | March 30, 2021 | 32 Comments

What do you get when you give a raccoon billions of dollars AND invisibility from regulators? Collusion and insider trading.

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Hot and Cold

By Rusty Guinn | March 23, 2021 | 26 Comments

Most of us are under the impression that a protracted conflict within China will increase national unity. Not this time.

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Recent Notes

Office Hours Recap 01/27/2023

By Harper Hunt | January 30, 2023

These are the major topics and ideas we discussed during the 01/27/2023 Office Hours as well as some of the biggest takeaways. If you have something you want to add to the conversation, let us know in the comments and join us next time.

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Office Hours Recap 01/20/2023

By Harper Hunt | January 23, 2023

These are the major topics and ideas we discussed during the 01/20/2023 Office Hours as well as some of the biggest takeaways. If you have something you want to add to the conversation, let us know in the comments and join us next time.

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“Yay, College!” Part 1: The Smiley-Face Super-Villainy of American Higher Education

By Ben Hunt | January 22, 2023

The modern American system of higher education – especially its most prominent public and private universities – is less our Superman than our Homelander, a smiley-faced faux superhero who does The Man’s dirty work in exchange for wealth, privilege and … our cheers.

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Metaphysics, Consciousness, Nature of Reality: a Thread from the ET Forum

By Ben Hunt | January 19, 2023

The craziest thing happens when there’s no audience, when you’re talking with other actual human beings for the right reasons … you not only have actual conversations, you not only move quickly past politics into subjects that are far more interesting and far more relevant to our actual lives than politics, but you make actual friends

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Hodor

By Rusty Guinn | January 10, 2023

The Story of Adequate Liquidity doesn’t exist and shift on the margin. Instead, it exists in two states: it is normal, or it is broken. Once the threshold between these states is crossed, it is very hard to tell the old story. Sometimes impossible.

There is almost no price too high to keep that story from jumping over that threshold.

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Office Hours Recap 01/06/2023

By Harper Hunt | January 9, 2023

These are the major topics and ideas we discussed during the 01/06/2023 Office Hours as well as some of the biggest takeaways. If you have something you want to add to the conversation, let us know in the comments and join us next time.

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Office Hours Recap 12/30/2022

By Harper Hunt | January 3, 2023

These are the major topics and ideas we discussed during the 12/30/2022 Office Hours as well as some of the biggest takeaways. If you have something you want to add to the conversation, let us know in the comments and join us next time.

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Epsilon Theory 2022 in Review – Foundation

By Ben Hunt | December 29, 2022

2022 was our ninth year of publishing Epsilon Theory. It was also our best.

We’re changing the way the world sees the invisible water in which we swim – narratives.

And we’re just getting started.

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Covid is China’s Vietnam War

By Ben Hunt | December 22, 2022

Covid is China’s Vietnam War, and the current outbreak is their Tet Offensive.

This is how common knowledge changes, as now everyone knows that everyone knows that the CCP is not just a liar, but an incompetent, failed liar.

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Office Hours Recap 12/16/2022

By Harper Hunt | December 19, 2022

These are the major topics and ideas we discussed during the 12/16/2022 Office Hours as well as some of the biggest takeaways. If you have something you want to add to the conversation, let us know in the comments and join us next time.

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Webinar: It’s Not Just SBF – How to Recognize and Avoid Wall Street Cons

By Ben Hunt | December 14, 2022

A webinar on recognizing and navigating the confidence games, big and small, of our investing world, and coming out the other side with our integrity and assets intact.

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Office Hours Recap 12/09/2022

By Harper Hunt | December 12, 2022

These are the major topics and ideas we discussed during the 12/09/2022 Office Hours as well as some of the biggest takeaways. If you have something you want to add to the conversation, let us know in the comments and join us next time.

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The Recipe for Agent Orange – The Projection Racket, Pt. 3

By Rusty Guinn | December 1, 2022

There is a true story of free market capitalism. It is one of humanity’s greatest and most important stories.

There is also a myth of free market capitalism. It is one of humanity’s most manipulated stories.

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Office Hours Recap 11/18/2022

By Harper Hunt | November 21, 2022

These are the major topics and ideas we discussed during the 11/18/2022 Office Hours as well as some of the biggest takeaways. If you have something you want to add to the conversation, let us know in the comments and join us next time.

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The MacGuffin, Part 2: The Story Arc of SBF and FTX

By Ben Hunt | November 18, 2022

The MacGuffin is the object of desire.

It is the thing around which the plot of the story revolves.

Here is the story arc of SBF and FTX, and the MacGuffin that anchored it all – the Magical Money Machine.

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Office Hours Recap 11/11/2022

By Harper Hunt | November 14, 2022

These are the major topics and ideas we discussed during the 11/11/2022 Office Hours as well as some of the biggest takeaways. If you have something you want to add to the conversation, let us know in the comments and join us next time.

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Stock Buybacks!™ and the Monetization of Stock-Based Compensation

By Ben Hunt | November 9, 2022

I love stock buybacks, but I despise Stock Buybacks!™ – the issuance of new shares to management with one hand and the buying back of those shares with the other.

Over the past decade, Stock Buybacks!™ have transferred more than a trillion dollars from shareholders to managers. Not founders, not entrepreneurs, not risk-takers … managers.

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Office Hours Recap 11/04/2022

By Harper Hunt | November 7, 2022

These are the major topics and ideas we discussed during the 11/04/2022 Office Hours as well as some of the biggest takeaways. If you have something you want to add to the conversation, let us know in the comments and join us next time.

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Cursed Knowledge #15: Sir Edmund Hillary Thinks You’re An Ass

By Harper Hunt | October 28, 2022

Mt Everest is a death trap. Everything about the mountain is designed to kill you. So why are so many people going up there? Why do we ignore the very real and very dangerous narratives that are right in our face.

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Office Hours Recap 10/21/2022

By Harper Hunt | October 24, 2022

These are the major topics and ideas we discussed during the 10/21/2022 Office Hours as well as some of the biggest takeaways. If you have something you want to add to the conversation, let us know in the comments and join us next time.

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