March 27th, 2022

Last month, world governments learned that property rights do not apply to foreign exchange reserves.

Recall that before Russia’s abhorrent invasion of Ukraine, the United States government froze $7 billion of Afghanistan’s U.S.-based assets. The United States earmarked half for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, while the balance was reserved to cover potential claims from U.S litigants who sued the Taliban for losses due to terrorism, including the attacks of September 11, 2001.

In effect, the leaders of the world’s largest economy — with a gross domestic product surpassing $20 trillion in 2020 — seized the assets of a country with a gross national income per capita of $500. Data from the United Nations reveal that more than half of Afghanistan’s population wasn’t even alive on 9/11.

Two weeks after the seizure of Afghanistan’s assets, the West froze the assets of the Central Bank of Russia. The implications of these decisions will take time to understand fully. However, three immediate conclusions may be drawn.

November 23rd, 2021

Thousands of strangers recently came together to bid on an original copy of the U.S. Constitution at Sotheby’s.

I was one of them.

If you’re into crypto / web3, then you know what’s up.

If you’re not, then you may have come across a story about it in The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times … but maybe you’re thinking: scam!

November 11th, 2021

In Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” (cue snark), the builders and independent thinkers escape to Galt’s Gulch whilst a constellation of communists and conformists grind society to a halt.

It’s been a minute since I read the book, but over the last couple of years the notion of Galt’s Gulch has popped up in my conversations with friends — particularly when discussing higher education for our children.

Most of my friends are operating under the assumption that a conventional university education is the path for their children to attain “success.”

I don’t think that will be the case in ~15 years, when my — and most of my friends’ — children will reach college age.

October 19th, 2021

After Jumia’s IPO a couple years ago, I wrote a brief argument for why I thought African startups would surprise to the upside (see “African Startups” below).

I still think this is the case, and I’m encouraged to see a growing number of venture investors and corporates (e.g., Google, Stripe) recognizing the potential on the continent.

One of the historical challenges stymying company and capital formation has been the paucity — and poor performance — of private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) funds (see “Will Private Equity Build Africa’s Manufacturing Sector” below).

October 16th, 2021

Gary Gorton (Yale) and Jeffery Zhang (Federal Reserve) recently wrote a fascinating paper on the systemic risks of ‘stablecoins’ and the prospects for a central bank digital currency (‘CBDC’). 

I believe a U.S. CBDC is inevitable.

The questions that follow are:

  1. Does the CBDC take the form of (i) a token, or (ii) a citizen’s deposit account at the Federal Reserve?

  2. How do you protect privacy?