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In the Blind Spot (Zuck, VAT, Rationism)

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Due to travel, this edition of the wrap looks back at all of the week’s events. It is compiled by Izabella Kaminska (IK) and Dario Garcia Giner (DGG).

Econ, Business and Finance etc:

  • The Vatican is centralising its finances to avoid another property scandal.
  • President Biden unveils plans to cancel up to $20,000 of student debt ahead of the midterms.

    This is hardly in the blind spot, but it’s worth noting that Larry Summers did not support the move, having himself preferred an option where student debt was forgiven via some sort of bankruptcy process that maintained some sort of debt discipline and didn’t subsidise it. – IK

  • UnHerd’s Foreign Affairs Editor, Aris Roussinos, attempts to provide solutions to the clusterf*** the UK economy is facing. Dubs his vision “AngloFuturism”.

    All very nice in theory but not necessarily in practice. The issue as ever remains the cost of introducing such policies and who is going to pay for them. Rationism, on the other hand (or what I call Vitruvian Capitalism) is a simple tax rule that can align incentives in a way where the market does the bulk of the work using conventional free-market incentive structures.  – IK

  • Truss mulls a VAT cut.

    Cutting VAT on the surface seems like a fudge to synthesise lower inflation, but there is some logic to it if you consider the law of large numbers. The higher prices get, the higher the tax take from the same percentage of VAT. Though of course the higher the costs of operating the government too. And it does little to address the supply-side issues. – IK

  • WSJ argues that net zero will bankrupt Britain.

    I agree. But it’s also the case that we are where we are, and I’m starting to think we need to start talking about solutions. As well as reviving domestic sources of fossil fuel, we may have no choice but to lean into the “transition”. But life I doubt will never be the same again. Perhaps some of that is no bad thing. But I’m still more fearful than optimistic. – IK

  • They came, they chatted, and they left none the wiser. Irwin Stelzer offers a good summary of events at Jackson Hole, which were largely grim.

    I’m still surprised by how little discussion there is about financial stability or the continuing capacity of the mortgage market to absorb rate hikes without serious consequences for bank balance sheets. John Dizard is on it though at his new Substack. – IK

Geopolitical Pivots:

Living with Covid:

Military News:

Algorithmic Manipulation:

  • Zuckerberg admits that Meta censored the Hunter Biden story as a result of an FBI request.

    The head of Facebook admitting the organisation throttled the spread of a legitimate and scandalous news on behalf of a governmental agency should be nothing less than shocking. The greatest irony is that the FBI de facto requested that Meta moves to restrict election misinformation by… enacting measures to misinform the electorate regarding an electoral candidate son’s corruption and drug-abusing habits (and more.)

    The issue of mainstream outlets and social media sites lowering the circulation of documents such as the Hunter Biden leaks speak to a greater issue at the heart of our democracies: feelings of ‘responsibility’ towards ‘public safety’ are always used to frame these authoritarian dictats.

    One of the most sinister aspects of all this is not knowing if a story you have put out on social media is generating  low numbers because it is being suppressed or because it is genuinely not of interest. For example, our interview with the head of communications at the World Economic Forum, Adrian Monck, no less, drew genuinely subpar numbers on our key promotional channel — i.e. Izzy’s @izakaminska Twitter account. We have no way of proving that it was suppressed, but the numbers simply don’t fit with normal trends.

    It was only upon investigation that Izzy discovered she was in fact blocked by the @wef handle, which may have curtailed the spread of the promo Tweet. Though to be clear we think this is a legacy block due to her @davosdeville promotion activity — our cheeky but well meaning parody —  not a direct result of our actual podcast with the head of WEF’s comms. But it is ironic. – DGG

    Either way, this severely curtails our ability to accurately report on facts regarding the Forum to our audience. 

Covid-19-induced Political Shenanigans Exposed:

From the “Fake News” Zone:

Odds and Ends:

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