Like previous “year ahead” reviews I have published on EconVue, this is not intended as a prediction of how events will necessarily unfold in real life. Instead, as always my intent is above all to consider the main risks to the stability to the international political and economic environment in various regions of the world that I am relatively familiar with.
I normally feel after reading, reviewing, and discussing the events of the previous week that I’m able to discern a direction or constructive theme. Today however, every corner of the world seems mired in some degree of turmoil, and markets are reacting. There is so much noise that it is difficult to decide what is causing this new volatility. Is it China, the Fed, the Mueller investigation, Yellow Jackets, or technology run amuck?
There was a basic flaw in the Vollgeld “sovereign money” proposal rejected by the Swiss in a referendum last Sunday. An arrangement that gives the state or its agencies exclusive power to create money, oversee bank accounts and direct lending to the economy is hostile to capitalism. It cannot produce the assurance needed to allow the process of rational monetary calculation that is the essence of capitalism. This was pointed out by the sociologist Max Weber in 1922. Geoffrey Ingham of Christ’s College Cambridge sums up Weber’s conclusion as follows:
Money is a near-universal social institution. It evolved to support human cooperation and to control and coordinate the life of humankind. Like other core institutions, such as marriage and language, the forms that money takes may differ widely. The values and norms governing money’s use, and the practices associated with it, also vary widely.
For the individual, money is also a psychological symbol. Money allows each person to enjoy the fruits of others’ work. For many billions of people, obtaining money is the sole purpose of their everyday life.
International FinTech startups are looking to the United States as a vast consumer and business market for their applications and services. Despite the difficulties posed by a dual regulatory system, in which multiple federal regulators join agencies in all 50 states, the wealth and size of the market beckons.