The Mountain and the Molehill

The best thing about 2020 is that if you don’t know where your close friends, family and colle

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  1. As always, smart stuff, smartly written. My only quibble is that, while I agree “the street” won’t bring down the rule of law or capitalism directly, by moving the narrative and the political positions and platform of the mainstream democrats (oh, say, like I’m-for-breaking-the-filibuster-now Biden), “the street” is having a much bigger philosophical impact than the visible stuff it does. Ideas that were fringe are now mainstream and the totally crazy ones are only fringe now. Oh, and the mainstream democratic ones of the Clinton era - they now get you cancelled.

    As to Trump and TikTok, if the republicans have any core values left, they will rise up and denounce that with everything they have as you are spot on - it is the rule of man, not the rule of law. But remember, it is also the next step of Elizabeth Warren’s (and Obama’s) “you didn’t build that,” which is just an intellectual (and less-obviously-direct) way of laying the ground work for stealing private property/businesses and cooping for the government the value of your work and ownership rights. Trump is smash mouth; the democrats use white-paper cover, but both want the same thing - a big cut of the private sector’s action.

  2. “Today the US central bank is like the modern Siberia for financial assets that do not adhere to the central planners’ idea of price. The Soviets sent intellectuals and artists to remote parts of Siberia when their beliefs conflicted with Marxist ideology. Similarly, the forced settlement of assets within the confines of the Central Bank is nothing more than internal exile based on criteria arbitrarily decided upon by a central committee of unelected people who probably have a political agenda. They will tell you it’s all for the good of the people, and the quieting of the sensory organs of capitalism is consistent with the mood of the gods.” Back In The USSR

  3. Yup. Beautifully put, as always, Rusty. I am reminded of some of Orlov’s descriptions of the collapse of the USSR in the 90s - when the rule of law broke down, mafia-style bosses took over. They provided a brutal and extremely self-serving form of order to replace that (ok, flawed, but still broad-based) rule of law. This is gradually being repaired (by Russian standards if not “western”) but it’s a slow and difficult process. I hope the west can either stop the process or repair it, but it’s been going on for quite awhile now, under “white paper cover”, as Mark said, and now “Smash Mouth” has it in hand. Howl on, friends…

  4. As always well written Rusty - I do indeed love your work. I wish I had it in me to be outraged this was the next logical step and a long time coming.

    I was outraged when the banks were forced to take loans and pay interest to the Fed’s so none of us would really know who was in trouble. I was outraged when the bond holders at GM had half of their claims taken away and given to the UAW as a reward for their support in the 2008 election. I was outraged when all semblance of price discovery was removed from IG credit markets. I was outraged when our first amendment rights to worship and assemble were trampled by a bunch of Governors ,while those same rights were respected , by the same Governors when “their constituents” were the ones doing the assembling—-and even looting and rioting in a consequence free environment. Last week an armed militia came to Louisville (about 250) and their leader publicly said that if the AG of our state did not do what they wanted —they will return in 4 weeks and “burn this mother fucker down” I was outraged that none of the local media or leaders saw this as a terroristic threat.

    So Trump wants Microsoft to pay the Govt for a deal he’s gonna approve while Amazon pays nothing while making billions —-should it outrage me —-yes it should, but I’m too tired.

    Roger Waters said - “it’s just another brick in the wall” That’s what it is to me —-the next logical step in the systematic destruction of the rule of law and property rights. Free Market Capitalism , on the other hand , has been dead for years.

  5. “Trump is smash mouth; the democrats use white-paper cover, but both want the same thing – a big cut of the private sector’s action” . - absolutely right !

  6. Great analysis Rusty. I’m curious, what was it like writing this piece? Are you still self-identifying as a conservative to the point where it was an extremely uncomfortable exercise, or was it a little more gleeful? See “I can tolerate anything but the outgroup” if you haven’t already, for an example.

    If you’re like me, then you’re a little more gray tribe than red tribe, and there wasn’t much discomfort involved in your argument.

  7. People think I’m being histrionic when I make this comparison - but issues of naked extortion and corrupt quid pro quo’s aside (for just a moment, I’ll circle back…as if there were things more important than that mountain…) —

    The forced divestment of TikTok looks to me like the nationalization of oil companies in the 20th century by former colonies. So two things:

    1. Semiconductors as “spice” (uhhh obviously Ben Hunt’s construction) — information and computation as the new “oil” for the Information Age seems to hold-up well here, our data is a resource we don’t want exploited by hostile, extractive, mercantilist powers.

    2. Just as the nationalized oil companies became the chief wellsprings of corruption and government looting in those countries, the room for corruption in the government-backed appropriation of corporations (and manipulation of the free activities of domestic corporations) appears to be obvious.

    The assaults on the rule of law and capitalism — our potential slide into kleptocratic fascism-lite — will look different now than they did in the past. Here specifically, the looming political-economic abomination looks like a combination of left-wing nationalist-populism (“take back control of our resources!”) and good ol’ neo-fascism/mafia-statism (“corporations can do what they like, as long as it is within the bounds of the interests of our nation, and as long as they do the state a favor when called-upon.”)

    I realize my descriptions of those two systems was not the most verbally elegant, so think: our government has the seed of modern Russia within it (nationalized oil industry as a source of massive corruption along with the subordination of corporations to the state) - obviously not the same level, but a kind of imitation of it.

    In my ever-humble opinion, the analogy between oil and data is a good comparison for modern resource-based conflict and strategy.

    “Why do you rob banks?”

    • “That’s where the money is.” (Or close to that quote)

    Why oil for corruption? It’s a huge source of wealth that also has nationalist and populist implications which can be exploited.

    Why tech for corruption? It’s a huge source of wealth that also has nationalist and populist implications which can be exploited.

    That’s my thesis anyway.

  8. Focus? We all know what a Karen is. How about an Otto (Kevin Kline - A Fish Called Wanda)? “Can your run that middle part past me again?”. I have taken to calling this World War Zzzzzzzzz ( with apologies to MB). Overall cognitive function of general population way off and that makes for low hanging fruit for those that would do us harm.

  9. I wish I could remember where I read this, but the source is long forgotten.

    A man rode on a commuter train and encountered two groups of teens. Group one was thuggish, gang-like. They seemed menacing to people his age. Group two was clearly upper class, private school types, who were acerbic and sarcastic to everyone. They denigrated people they encountered, but never threatened anyone physically.

    The man concluded that group two was to be feared the most because their privilege would give them more influence and a wider impact on society. He called them the most dangerous teens in America.

    Your article reminds me that story. Those teenagers grew up.

  10. Excellent note Rusty.
    Once again, ET helps me to think

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