Blockchain and crypto currency reading list

I’ve decided it’s time to get more familiar with all things blockchain, in particular cryptocurrency, central bank digital currencies, and NFTs. Do any of you have suggestions for good reading material? If so, please get in touch via the comments.

If any of you are also interested, this is some of the material I’ve found to date:

Recent additions to the bookshelf

New additions to the bookshelf you might like. The piles of unread books are growing faster than I can finish them, but I feel as if I’m surrounded by new and interesting friends.

I recommend On Writing Well for anyone interested in non-fiction writing; I laugh out loud even as I’m taking notes. For a book where laughter is the main aim, I like David Sedaris. Three editions of the London Review of Books have also arrived since I last posted about new books. If you don’t subscribe, you should.

One step closer to green monetary policy

In a world first, the Bank of England’s (BoE) mandate has been updated to include action on climate change. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made the announcement during yesterday’s budget speech (35.24):

An updated monetary policy remit for the Bank of England. It reaffirms their 2% target but now it will also reflect the importance of environmental sustainability and the transition to net zero.

The BoE’s primary mandate has been to keep inflation steady, and subject to that, help the government increase growth and employment.

Now there’s more.

From the Chancellor’s letter to the Governor of the Bank of England

I am today updating the MPC’s remit to reflect the government’s economic strategy for achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is also environmentally sustainable and consistent with the transition to a net zero economy.

The Bank of England has responded:

In the coming months, we will provide more information about our proposed approach to adjusting the Corporate Bond Purchase Scheme (CBPS) to account for the climate impact of the issuers of the bonds we hold, with a view to adapting our approach by the time of our next scheduled round of reinvestment operations in 2021 Q4.

I’ve discussed green quantitative easing several times before (here, here, and here for a recap). Today’s announcement will make it a reality in the UK. “our proposed approach to adjusting the CBPS to account for the climate impact of the issuers of the bonds we hold,” is more momentous than it sounds. The BoE will now take climate impact into account when it buys corporate bonds. This could mean applying a penalty to the bonds of big polluters, or even avoiding them entirely. Central banks already discriminate between bonds today, requiring greater collateral or higher interest rates for bonds with more financial risk. Climate risk will now be included. The consequence could be higher borrowing costs for polluters, as the bond market follows the BoE in labeling polluters as higher risk.

It will take several months before we see this new remit translated into practice. Still, today’s a day to celebrate.

Trump, a third-party, and a golden calf

I’ve frequently discussed the possibility that Trump could run as a third-party candidate. I was wrong.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on the weekend, Donald Trump gave one of his first public addresses since leaving the White House. In addition to the usual ravings about electoral fraud, he also called rumors he would lead a breakaway political party fake news, saying: “We’re not starting new parties. We have the Republican Party. It’s going to be united and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party.”

He teased the possibility he would run for a third-term, saying “I may even decide to beat them for a third time.” The FT reports that 68% of attendees wanted Trump to run again. I suspect this understates his support, given CPAC hosts a larger portion of party functionaries, who may be more likely to oppose him.

Finally, what kind of conservative political conference would it be without a golden statue of Trump.

Perhaps they’ve forgotten how God feels about golden idols.

Golden calf | Old Testament | Britannica
Adoration of the Golden Calf, oil on canvas by Nicolas Poussin, c. 1634

Exocudes 32, verses 7-10

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

Things to not waste time on

We drown in content. Authors, thinkers, and officials are available on podcasts or YouTube commenting on almost any issue. Some of these conversations are interesting, many are not. Powerful people with reputations at stake, both theirs and their organization’s, are incentivized to be guarded. This is sensible policy when off-the-cuff comments can move markets, but doesn’t make it any more interesting. So, how to find content worth listening to?

Avoid interviews with Very Important People: People like the IMF’s Chief Economist or the CEO of Volkswagen have little to say not already in print elsewhere. They are usually there to discuss one of three things: a report or press release; events which are the subject of an ongoing report or press release; events which will soon be the subject of reports or press releases. Very Important People will repeat the party line with clarity, maybe even a little humour, but waffle the rest. Should the conversation require their opinions on the unknown or controversial – presumably why you are listening – they will squirt out clouds of PR speak.

Take this example from an interview with former Director of the CIA John O. Brennan. When asked his opinion on the possibility of extraterrestrial life, following the release of videos taken by US Navy pilots documenting as-yet-unexplained flying lights and objects, he said:

What that might be is subject to a lot of different views. But I think some of the phenomenon we are seeing continues to be unexplained and might in fact be some type of phenomenon that is the result of something that we don’t yet understand and that could involve some type of activity that some might say constitutes a different form of life.

Avoid public intellectuals at well-marketed events. “An evening with…” or “In conversation with…” are warnings you are paying to be the clap track of a YouTube video. These events usually follow the release of a new book or public controversy. In the latter case, consider a podcast (or the book’s introduction), in the former, the opinion section of a newspaper. When it comes to the content itself, nuance and complexity will probably be left out, while you can find the high-level summary more quickly and cheaply elsewhere. I make exceptions for debates or dull-looking events like memorial lectures or technical presentations; you usually get more candour and a better version of their ideas.

A case can be made for seeing your ticket as a financial gift for an author you like; I suspect it is more lucrative than book royalties. It can also be exciting to see an idol up close, in which case the location is also usually beautiful, even if the drinks are overpriced.

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