We started this post before a Greek deal rendered the discussion of a digital parallel currency moot. Nevertheless, it’s still worth looking to the Kenyan M-pesa for a better understanding of why it’s dangerous to treat fintech solutions as panaceas for economies struggling with productivity, poor credit profiles, tax collection issues and overall corruption without understanding what’s really at stake.
Kenya is often presented as an example of a country which has flourished thanks to mobile money adoption — the poster child that “digital payments can make the world a better place”.
But often forgotten is Kenya’s unique circumstances. The M-pesa mobile money system, owned and operated by Safaricom which is 40 per cent owned by Vodafone, was allowed an unchallenged monopoly in the country for a very long time. Read more
In their latest oil note, Goldman Sachs describe the oil market as having a “dominant firm/competitive fringe” structure, in contrast to say a monopolistic or perfect competition structure.
This is basically the description of an oligopoly, in which a dominant firm (for decades, Saudi Arabia) only differs from a monopolist in one key aspect… Read more
Cartels come in many shapes and sizes.
There are Colombian drug cartels. Mafia protection cartels. Oil producer cartels. Diamond cartels. Commodity cartels. Central banks. Altcoin cartels. All sorts.
All of them, however, extract value from potentially low-value things by means of organised collusion and discipline.
Columbian drug cartels organise to ensure drug markets are not oversupplied by wiping out the competition. The mafia organises to extract rents from those who would otherwise not be inclined to pay them, mostly by imposing an artificial market for protection. Oil producers organise to ensure oil markets are not oversupplied for the best possible return from oil prices. Diamond cartels do the same , but since diamonds are not an essential commodity they also create fanciful myths about diamonds being a girl’s best friend to create continuos demand. Central banks control the money supply, and thanks to that can corner and support any market they wish for as long as their underlying currency is demand. Read more
We first proposed the idea that QE could be (but wasn’t necessarily) deflationary a couple of years ago. It was dubbed a counter-intuitive idea by Tyler Cowen.
More recently, a similar proposition has been made by Stephen Williamson — though this time using models and proper math. His view is a little different to ours because it’s less focused on the safe asset squeeze and more on the conditions that generate a preference for cash over yielding paper in the first place. Hint: you have to think the purchasing power of cash will go up regardless. Read more