11/30/2022 - It's Not Fraud...Until It Is

Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown University's Watson Institute, and Carrie Nordlund, political scientist and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs at Brown University, share their take on the news.

On this episode:

  • The geopolitics of the World Cup, and why we’re all implicated in the spectacle's dark underbelly 
  • Midterm elections come and go, yet paralysis and polarization remains in Washington 
  • Trump is back, eating dinner with a Nazi, hoping the Murdochs don’t care. 
  • Biden contemplates a second term in office, and the US contemplates a Biden/Trump rematch
  • FTX’s collapse in the context of history’s great frauds
  • Protests in Beijing and the limits of ‘Zero Covid’

Learn more about the Watson Institute's other podcasts.


[MUSIC PLAYING] CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, hello, and welcome to Mark and Carrie. We're back in your basement, which is the second time we're here.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. Or at least that's what we're telling everyone else.


CARRIE NORDLUND: That's true. I think I know the answer to this, but are you boycotting watching the World Cup? Or are you watching? Where are you on this?

MARK BLYTH: So I did an interview with the student newspaper about this, and found myself getting to a pretty interesting place in the conversation, which was-- the best way to boycott this thing is to watch it.

What you're watching is an example of sportswashing. So you've heard of greenwashing. So it's sportswashing. And the best thing you can do, rather than, I'm above this and I'll ignore it, because it will continue regardless, is to watch it. And if it's truly ridiculous, and if it's Astroturf fans, and if it's just nonsense, then, in a sense, you're part of showing it up.

Unfortunately for that thesis, it seems that it's actually quite a well-run World Cup, with genuine fans from around the world that seem to be enjoying themselves. So yes, it does put the moral thing into question in a new way. So in other words, yes, I'm watching it. There you go.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I am an American fan with typical American preferences, in that nothing ever seems to happen in soccer. So I watch it, but I feel like nothing happens. And then when it does, that's the only thing that happens for a long time.

MARK BLYTH: There's an amazing Simpsons episode from years and years ago, when Pelé was still around. And Pelé shows up in Springfield and takes a big bag of cash, and then a whole bunch of people pass the ball from side to side, and nothing happens. And Homer says something like, really? This is soccer? And yes, sometimes it can be like that.

It's kind of a tragedy that the most-watched game was the USA-England game, which was the worst game of soccer that I've seen in about 10 years.


MARK BLYTH: Yeah, it was totally crap. But yeah, today actually was quite interesting.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I actually watched the USA-England game. And I was like, wow. I thought the US was going to get totally hammered, because England's got to be way better than the US.

MARK BLYTH: We could get into this, but the minute Gareth Southgate, the England manager, decides to play three at the back, they become completely immobile. And it's almost as if the Americans couldn't believe how immobile they were. That was the only reason they didn't score.

But anyway, let's move on from that. Let's think about the other stuff that's going on. There is no beer in the stadiums, which is a fun one.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And they did that at the last second, too. The brother of the emir said he didn't like the Budweiser tents, and was like, no. No more.

MARK BLYTH: I mean, I'm with them on that one, because I don't actually think Budweiser is actually beer. So it's banning Bud, and I'm all in favor of that one. There was the whole thing of, you got an instant yellow card if you wore LGBTQ rights armbands, which was pretty heavy tactics.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But what are your thoughts about this, in terms of-- this gets into a whole other thing about sports and the politicization of sport. But there is no-- for all the human rights abuses, there is no-- what's the punishment for Qatar?

MARK BLYTH: Well, none. Yeah. Totally.

CARRIE NORDLUND: The world is there. It seems well-run. People, the fans, seem excited.

MARK BLYTH: Well, there's an interesting one as well. We tend to think about human rights abuses-- someone is taken to prison and tortured, right? That's not what's happening. The human rights abuses are loads and loads of voluntary migrant workers from poor countries working in appalling labor conditions, and being seriously injured, maimed, or being killed. So are those rights abuses, or just terrible labor practices? There's a lot of things getting thrown into the blender on this one.

In terms of what Qatar gets out of this, you've got to think of that whole region. Think of Manchester City, the biggest club in England. They're owned by the [INAUDIBLE] of Abu Dhabi, the neighbors. All of the airlines, Qatar, Etihad, Emirates. They're all sponsors of big football teams. Qatar has at various points owned, or had done sponsorship deals, I should say, with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Roma. They recently bought PSG, Paris Saint-Germain.

So this is all part of a giant, if you will, sportswashing, image-branding. Honestly, we're the nice authoritarians. Look, we buy football. Now, why would you do this? Partly it's ingratiating yourself to the Western states that buy your oil and are your security guarantors, but there's also a lot of stuff which goes on under the radar that's very similar at home.

If you think about elite universities opening up campuses in Doha, and all this sort of stuff, and if you think about elite American medical institutions having separate wings from people for the Gulf, and building ancillary clinics over there. We are standing over here throwing our righteousness stones at them, but we do the same sort of stuff. We are total enablers of this whole thing.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So Qatar is not the only country to import laborers. Of course, the United States has a long history with this as well. And of course, lots of other Western nations, too. But I didn't realize that the laborers often-- I don't know in how many cases-- their passports were taken away, and they were not allowed to leave.

MARK BLYTH: Right, and that's the rights violation. But that's incredibly common, not just in the Gulf. The stories of Filipinos who leave the Philippines and become domestic servants in India and places in South Asia, the removal of the passport to keep you there, that sort of stuff. That's common. That even happens with certain elite families in England. There's been court cases over this. So that's kind of a general sort of thing.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So it's interesting to think about the elevation of these particular royal, rich families from the Middle East, buying their way into certain circles that allows them to then be accepted outside of the terrible human rights abuses.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, exactly. As they say, sportswashing.

In case anyone's listening and hearing in the background, growling and something squeaking, that's the golden retriever saying, can you pay attention to me, please, because I'm a cute golden retriever? But we will keep this in the episode. And Lucy, calm down.

CARRIE NORDLUND: It makes it so much more friendly and less serious.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. All right, so let's switch it. You must have been super excited. Finally, after months and months of talking about it, the midterms are here. And it was amazing, right? Everything changed.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Deep breath. How long is this episode going to be? It was funny, because in the notes it was, should we talk about the midterms? I was like, yeah, there's everything to talk about the midterms.

I think my big takeaways-- I had three takeaways from the midterms, and one is that polling is dead, and we've talked about that. The Republicans flooded the last couple of weeks with all these garbage polls.

But polling, essentially, didn't really tell us anything, which is what led to the red wave, or which should have been-- many people thought it was going to be a red wave. But then was red trickle, red drizzle. So polling is dead. These are not particularly novel thoughts, but we are very, very closely divided.

MARK BLYTH: But the polling thing is interesting, because it meant they'd be sort of-- they called it in Britain, the silent Tories. The silent Republicans. So the whole thing was, you were underestimating the Republican vote. So the reason they thought there was going to be a wave is because they already had a majority.

So it wasn't just like they got it wrong. They got the sign wrong. It was basically the other way around. So polling is really in trouble, right?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, I think so. Just the entire basis of how do you get a random sample these days, I think is incredibly hard. And the amount of money that has to be spent in order to actually get that. And then to be able to-- like in everything-- to be able to tell the good poll from the bad poll. And how do we actually know the difference between that and junk science, the junk statistical science versus the stuff that actually can stand up?

And I think the other thing that was interesting is that we're very closely divided. Power flips as quickly as it does-- from every two years or so-- is, I think, one thing that adds to this-- the US can't get anything done. Because the power is switching back and forth all the time.

MARK BLYTH: Years and years ago-- it's kind of funny, when I reflect on it. Back in Nineteen Ninty-Four, there was a political scientist and an economist, did a book together. And it was this whole theory of rational ticket-splitting. So this idea that basically the public have rational expectations and are long-sighted, and have all this information. Which is complete nonsense.

And somehow what they were doing was basically making sure there was divided government, because they like that. Because that then gave them stability, and all the rest of it. And what a load of rubbish. People don't know anything. We know now, with the spread of social media, it's just chaos out there. Chaos and conspiracy theories.

And it's just partisan, throwing red meat or blue meat to the base and hope for the best, with maybe one or two wedge issues that get you a little something. If you're in Alaska but you're OK with fish, you can win if you're a Democrat. If you're Joe Manchin, you can be absolutely conservative, but you can support the Inflation Reduction Act, even though that's on the Democrat side, so long as you're doing the other stuff.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I think it's interesting, on that. People showed up in Georgia, and they voted for Brian Kemp for governor, the Republican, but then voted for Warnock, the Democratic senator. And this happened in Pennsylvania as well. They would vote for the state leg person, they'd vote for John Fetterman, the Democrat. So you actually saw moments of ticket-splitting, which political scientists didn't think happened anymore. And they're just straight-ticket voters.

MARK BLYTH: As I was saying, it was true when they wrote about it, then it stopped being true. And that was a load of rubbish. And then it seems as if it's come back, to a certain extent. At least in some places.

CARRIE NORDLUND: They're still counting votes in two house districts. So the House has not been fully decided. Yes.

MARK BLYTH: Who sent the votes around, the British post office?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. California, and then Colorado three, which is Lauren Boebert. She's known as MAGA Barbie. So these votes are still being counted, but as it stands right now, it's, I think, 220-something to 218. But the Republicans are expected to pick up those two seats. So in the end, it'll be plus Republicans 10 seats in the House. They were predicting something like 60, so it's still a pretty narrow, narrow margin for them.

MARK BLYTH: So should the Democrats be confident going forward? Let's assume the following. China doesn't invade Taiwan. Russia doesn't go nuclear. But also here, inflation abates. The economy gets better. Are they actually in a re-electable position?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Is Trump on the ballot? I think that's what is really the question for the presidential.

MARK BLYTH: So let's turn to it. He's back. He's officially back. But he was invited back on Twitter, he hasn't gone back.

CARRIE NORDLUND: No. Do you think-- I've been reading he has a contract, which I don't know if he's ever paid attention to any contract, but a contract with Truth Social. So this is maybe why he's not back on Twitter.

MARK BLYTH: Maybe. I mean, I'm sure he could unwrite that contract if he wanted to.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, that's what I was thinking, too.

MARK BLYTH: But then there's the whole sort of-- maybe it's just liberal reporting bias, but it seems the Republicans aren't that thrilled, in part because of the effect that he had in the midterms, right?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and it's so interesting. Murdoch-- the New York Post is what he owns, right?

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. Oh no, he owns everything.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Well, that's true. The first two covers right after the midterm were DeFuture-- big picture of Ron DeSantis-- and then Trumpity Dumpity. So you could tell that the Murdochs are like, we're done with you. Yeah.

MARK BLYTH: Which actually tells you where the real power lies.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, exactly.

MARK BLYTH: It is not with your electable representatives. It's with who your media barons want to give them a tax break for the next several years.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So yeah. Is he on the ballot? And of course, however many days after the midterm, he said, yes, he's going to be. But he's also done some-- even for him, some pretty nutty stuff.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, the white supremacist and Ye dinner. It's hard to know which one is which in that statement. That was good. I heard that variously described as-- what was the one that you heard?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, what was it? It was a take on, oh, Trump is back. Dine Kampf.

MARK BLYTH: Dine Kampf. That was good. That was pretty good. The other one I liked was, he didn't know he was dealing with a white supremacist because of the white hood he had on.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I just-- you can't.

MARK BLYTH: I know. You can't make it up. You really can't make it up. So anyway, he's back. It seems to be less of the tsunami and red storm than people had thought. The Democrats still seem to be alive. The world continues to surprise.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And one last thing about Trump. So his endorsements were mixed. He had, I think, 10. If you think of the actual endorsements-- I mean, it's hard to measure this stuff, because sometimes you've said yes, and then he'd pull it back. But he had 10 victories, 10 defeats. Some big defeats, like Dr. Oz, for example, in Pennsylvania.

MARK BLYTH: I mean, in all seriousness, he was a total Muppet.


MARK BLYTH: It was ridiculous.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Yes. So I don't know that that necessarily gives us any real evidence as to how much-- whether Trump has the juice to stay for another two years. But he's still front-page news. He's the best thing Democrats have going for them, too. Especially if Biden, who just had his 80th birthday, runs.

MARK BLYTH: I know. And the whole thing is, of course, with Biden-- he will run if Trump runs, because if Trump has the only-I-can-fix-it complex, then Biden has the only-I-can-defeat-Trump complex. And it's bad enough with two septuagenarians going at it. A near-octogenarian and an actual octogenarian? Oh my god. We really-- we need to move on. We really do.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. I mean, it almost makes you want Ron DeSantis to win, just so we have--

MARK BLYTH: Somebody who's actually-- somebody who's actually not seen MASH when it was originally syndicated. That would be good. That would be good. All right, where else do we want to go? China. As Trump would say, China.

CARRIE NORDLUND: The protests there, if we can call them protests, are interesting because you wonder how long Xi is going to allow these to happen before he just-- is he just letting them have their moment? Presumably, he's going to have the secret police shut this stuff down pretty quickly.

MARK BLYTH: Well, remember, this is a guy who in the space of three years built the equivalent of the American prison industrial complex, and put an entire ethnic group into it, who number in the millions. So the notion that he's going to be a little bit afraid of a couple of protests in town, that's not going to happen.

Yeah. Interesting stuff there. Apparently it was exacerbated by Chinese football fans actually watching the World Cup, and seeing all these people who didn't have masks. And then it was the apartment fire, and then basically the frustrations that it just kicked off.

The whole, we're going to go for zero-COVID-- it sounds good, but if you actually say to people, here's what we're going to do. We're never going to stop having lockdowns. That's where that gets kind of like, what? Why are we actually doing this?

And rather than signaling the competence of the Communist Party, which is what they always trump-- in the other sense of trump-- it is like, you people have no idea what you're doing. You blew the vaccine. You came out with Sinovac. It doesn't work very well. You won't ask the West for their stuff. So now you've got this situation where you're constantly locking down entire cities. You know what? It's not really working.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and your citizens are not-- they're actually humans, and don't want to be locked up anymore, so much so that they're risking their lives to protest.

I have a sidebar question for you. So China has a huge population. India has a huge-- but neither of them are in the World Cup. Do they not-- I mean, they can build gigantic cities, but they can't--

MARK BLYTH: So it's interesting. I think Modi was also a bit of a soccer fan, but I know that Xi definitely was. And China has a Chinese Super League, and for a few years before the pandemic, they were offering big salaries to Western players. They were really trying to build this up. But I don't know if it's fallen by the wayside, the COVID restrictions have done it in or whatever, but it just hasn't happened for either.

For India, one of the big sports, of course, is cricket. Coming out of that kind of post-colonial legacy, if you want to put it. Sports in China, there's huge following for British sports teams. Manchester United have an enormous fan base in China, that sort of stuff. The TV rights in China are incredibly lucrative. So it's really popular, as a domestic league. But maybe it's about-- like the Americans. It took them 20 years to get it together and actually be good. So maybe it just takes that a bit of time.

One thing we should mention, though, and we actually got an email about this-- we do read your emails-- from a friend in Iran who basically said, why are you guys not even mentioning the fact that we've got more serious protests?

And I think we do need to acknowledge this, because it's one of those things that the West loves to highlight, because it doesn't like Iran. And then it points at the heroicness. Well, first of all, the situation that's coming from basically killing women, teenage women, by the security apparatus. And then the protests against this.

And you see the way that this bubbled under the World Cup. And you have the Iranian team basically doing their team photograph with everybody covering their mouth, as if to say, we're all being silenced. And this is a regime that doesn't screw around. Once they decide you need to go, they will kill you. It's not like China, who will throw you in jail for a few years. They will actually kill you.

So I actually thought it was incredibly impressive that the Iranian team would even make a gesture like that. I mean, that was incredibly brave. And what happens then is you start to get these idiot questions from sports journalists about, well, what do you think about freedom, and all this sort of nonsense. And you're asking these players who have already put themselves in jeopardy just by showing the slightest signal in sympathy for this stuff. So I just wanted to acknowledge that.

CARRIE NORDLUND: No, but I agree with you. Because even with all the, oh, I'm going to wear the armband for LGBTQ rights, and then they didn't. And the Iranians, who-- I mean, the penalty is death. They were the bravest, to my mind.

MARK BLYTH: No, absolutely.

CARRIE NORDLUND: To actually stand up. I also-- there are all sorts of different numbers in terms of how many people have been killed in terms of the protests, but there's also a report, I think early in September, that the Ayatollah-- who's actually similar age to Joe Biden, was actually quite--

MARK BLYTH: Thank you, 80-year-olds.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes. Was quite ill, so I don't know. Just knowing Iranian politics from very far away distance, does this signal something like a change in leadership? Or is this just one of those things that the West is really, you know, look at these protests somewhere else, in China, in Iran, and maybe we look somewhat better in comparison.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. Well, it's one of those things where, at various points, we think our own regimes are unpopular. Look no further than Liz Truss. You can say a lot of things about Liz Truss, but she wasn't basically out to murder her own citizens en masse.

And you really are dealing with an entirely different type of regime, where it's deeply distrusted, if not hated, by large segments of its own population. And they know that, and they will fight back. Because they know that if they're ever vulnerable and replaced, then there's going to be payback for all the stuff that they've done.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Yeah. They don't screw around. OK. Are we going to talk about FTX?

MARK BLYTH: Go on, then.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I've been waiting to hear what your-- I'm so curious what your take on this is.

MARK BLYTH: Well, we've spoken crypto before, and I've been, shall we put, a bit of a skeptic. This one is actually much more interesting, as to what happens when traditional banking meets crypto, or crypto tries to do traditional banking.

So how do you make money off of a worthless token that's only got value because other people think it has value? Well, you're going to have to have a place you can buy and sell different tokens, and you can actually make prices. So you have this thing called an exchange. Now, why would you put your coins in the exchange, rather than keep them on your computer and trade them yourself? Well, because of ease, liquidity, options. You can do things.

OK, that's making sense. I'm willing to pay you fees. But to really make it worthwhile, these exchanges basically said, if you give us your tokens, we'll do investments in other tokens, and we will guarantee you a pretty high rate of return for doing so.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And this is what FTX is saying. Sam Bankman-Fried, Sam Friedman-Bank.

MARK BLYTH: All these exchanges, basically. They're not just exchanges that charge you a fee because it's convenient for you to buy and sell stuff. They're actually giving you a quote-unquote value proposition, which is, I'll give you x percent on our return if you give us your coins. Now, for that to happen, they have to go off and make really risky investments. And so long as they pay off, everything works. But now you've got the classic Ponzi, right? So long as the money is flowing in, it's all good. The minute the money drops, it's bad.

And what happened was it seems that basically, to cover up the losses that they were making, he gave the hedge fund he runs-- it's called Alameda Research-- loads of people's coins to then gamble on resurrection for the losses they'd already made. And of course, the whole thing just went down.

This is a classic story. This is like AIG in the financial crisis, being overlevered on insurance contracts. And then basically, banks-- what they call gambling on resurrection, the all-or-nothing bet to bring it back. So it's kind of funny that despite-- to me, what I think is really interesting is, despite the fact that it's all DeFi, and it's all about crypto, and it's all these exchanges, and it's so new, and all that, it's actually a really old story.

There's nothing really that new in it. You got massively overlevered, you took a series of bets, you gambled on resurrection, and down you went. That's an incredibly old story.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So I gave you my money, and then I wanted it back because I got nervous, and there was no money to give back.

MARK BLYTH: There was no money. Because I'd borrowed it from you on the prior that I'm going to give you money back. So I'm going to pay you an interest, essentially. But what's actually happened is it's not really there, because I took it all and gambled it away on something else. And then I got found out.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right. And because it was crypto bros, they were like, no regulation! You can't regulate us!

MARK BLYTH: Right. So at least when AIG went down, there was the insurance regulator of Pennsylvania, who was backed up by the US government. So you could do something about that. In this case, no.

To a certain extent, there's a certain poetic justice about this. So if one of your main claims is like, no government, no regulation, it's the real value, blah, blah, blah. Well, yeah. That's what happens when it turns out you've invested in crap. Nobody comes to help you.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Will he-- OK, so here's where I'm going. So Elizabeth Holmes was just sentenced--

MARK BLYTH: Oh, yeah. There's a news point. Right.

CARRIE NORDLUND: --to 11 years.

MARK BLYTH: I wonder how she's enjoying Club Fed. I wonder where they sent her.

CARRIE NORDLUND: The WeWork guy, Adam. He didn't go to jail.

MARK BLYTH: No, because he didn't actually do any fraud.


MARK BLYTH: He was just an appalling ass.

CARRIE NORDLUND: OK. Well, Sam-- what I thought was so interesting is, first of all, he's like-- he wears these gigantic tees, and he's this wonder kid, or kind, or whatever it is. Everyone was like, MIT, his parents are Stanford Law professors. And there's this weird-- oh, well, therefore it must be OK.

MARK BLYTH: And it's the Elizabeth Holmes thing. You're totally right. She's Stanford, she wears a polo neck, she looks like a female Steve Jobs, she's kind of cute. She must be a genius.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But here's my question. Does Elizabeth Holmes get taken, or does-- she get sentenced to 11 years. Will Sam Bankman-Fried, will he suffer any penalty?

MARK BLYTH: That's a fascinating one. So somebody I had on the other podcast I do a while ago is a guy called Dan Davies, who wrote a book called Lying for Money. So if you haven't listened to it, listen to it. It's great. Because he's an authority in this. He used to work for the Bank of England.

And it's basically about financial fraud. And the difference between financial fraud, and fraud in any other sphere, is fraud in any other sphere tends to be based upon a lie. And if you can show the lie, then you've committed fraud, right? But maybe it just didn't work out. Now, you can't do that with Theranos technology, because there was no technology. It was bullshit. You can just go, this doesn't work, right?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right. But she said it did. OK. So there's the fraud.

MARK BLYTH: And then she consistently said it did, when it was clear that it didn't. That's a fraud. Now, Dan's point is that pretty much anyone in any business-- you don't have to be doing the crypto bro thing. You could be running a bakery. It's really hard to tell the difference between bad luck, mismanagement, and a fraud.


MARK BLYTH: The very first time it happens. If you've got a track record, you run three bakeries, they all go bust, people get suspicious. But if I did one, and I bought too many shares, and I opened at the wrong time, and it just ended up all falling apart, and I couldn't do it, and I default on the loans, and I go into bankruptcy. Maybe I took all the loans and stuck them in a bank account somewhere, and I just run this train into the ground. You're now going to have to go after me to find out, and that's really difficult. Because there's no obvious lie.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So WeWork was like, oh, I tried.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. WeWork was just a really bad idea backed by a Japanese bank that should have known better. And to get the guy who was a megalomaniac out of the way, they paid him $1,000,000,000. So he got rewarded for basically running a company into the ground. That's slightly different from what we're talking about here.


MARK BLYTH: With finance, it's much more opaque. Even in normal finance, not just-- you don't even need all the layers of crypto babble. It's just much more opaque and hard to find out.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right. OK. Because I see in gendered things, too, and that Adam Neumann even actually gets more money, and people are like, yeah, the next thing you want to do, we're on board for that. But I get your point that there's an actual thing to point with her, and no, that--

MARK BLYTH: That makes a difference.


MARK BLYTH: So that was FTX. Where do we want to go next? Are we still raising interest rates? I don't think so. I think it's pretty much done. It's baked on at this point. We went through this before. Short answer. If you keep doing this, all the money in the rest of the world is going to run to the United States, and you'll have the mother of all currency crises. They don't want that to happen.

It looks like one of the perverse effects of China locking everything down is they're not using much gas, which means that all the LNG cargoes that are going to Asia now are able to go to Europe. Europe's gas storage for Germany is now above what it normally is in the winter, despite the Germans. Oil prices have fallen, and are continuing to fall.

So if it is the case that most of this is supply side driven, and there isn't a kind of unhinging of expectations that we've spoken about before, then you're not going to-- it's not going to be like returning to zero inflation. There's still lots of things that could go wrong. Again, more China lockdowns mean more supply chain problems, whatever. But the rationale for continuing to hike up and up and up, that's getting weaker.

And there's also an awareness now, even at the IMF-- I think it was the IMF that did a piece that said, the problem is if everybody tightens, there's a kind of fallacy, a composition problem. So while it makes sense for any one country to tighten, particularly if somebody else tightens, if they all tighten at once, the sum of tightening is more than any one of them would have wanted done. So in a sense, you can bind it too much. So I think it's like, we're pushing back on the gas pedal a little bit.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I guess that will make the holidays somewhat less bleak, in terms of consumer spending, then.

MARK BLYTH: One would certainly hope so. In fact, apparently-- I haven't really looked at the numbers for this year, because they just came out today, but the Black Friday numbers, and the-- it's not called Crypto Monday. What was it?


MARK BLYTH: Cyber Monday. I mean, what? First of all, "Black Friday" is a song by Steely Dan. I know I'm dating myself here, but it has nothing to do with selling after Thanksgiving. I don't know what-- what should that be called? Should it be called the Turkey Sell-Off?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. I have no idea. And also because it's now a month before. It starts on Halloween.

MARK BLYTH: And then Cyber Mon-- what?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I'm with you.

MARK BLYTH: It's ridiculous.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But I like Crypto Monday now

MARK BLYTH: You should have Crypto Monday, which is basically all the stuff that you bought on Black Friday, you get to swap for crypto on Monday. Because you were like, what was I thinking, buying all that crap?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Just back to crypto for a second, because I saw something. There's another crypto that has folded, but of course, now I can't remember the name of it.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, there's Binance, is one of the exchanges. That one's still OK. Then there's another one that's basically in bankruptcy.

Well, and again, this is the same as the financial crisis of Two-Thousand Eight, right? What have AIG, and Goldman Sachs, and Chase Manhattan, and the firms that went down like Countrywide Mortgage, all have in common? They're all connected to each other. So if one of them is wildly levered, the problem that hits them, it's going to hit the other one, because they're the counterparty. They're probably just as wildly levered. They're going to go down as well.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right, right, right. OK. So it's not-- I get your point. The connection versus some bigger trend that crypto's dead, or something like that.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. It's classic banking. They're just massively overlevered and undercapitalized, and they blow themselves up.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I think your point that it's such an old story--

MARK BLYTH: It is! It's such an old story. I mean, you read this stuff, and it's like, no, don't worry, because the harsh protocol of blah, blah, blah. And it's all this programmer language. At the end of the day it's like, you basically borrowed short levered, and you lost the money. That's it. There's nothing more complex than that.

What's some fun stuff we've got? Because we're going into the holidays now. We need some fun stuff.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I know, right? Well, Kate and William are coming to Boston.

MARK BLYTH: Shut up!

CARRIE NORDLUND: Are we going to get an invitation for this?

MARK BLYTH: I better get an invitation, or I'm going to seriously pissed.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I just saw this this morning. First stop, they're going to Harvard, and then maybe they'll get some clam chowder in the South End, or in Back Bay, maybe.

MARK BLYTH: First of all, if I'm going to come all the way to Boston, why am I going to Cambridge?


Secondly, neither of them were known for their academic prowess. So you know, first stop, Harvard? It's a bit weird, isn't it? What are they doing? Is this Harvard kissing some royal booty, or something?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I don't know. I mean, maybe it's because it's a short flight?

MARK BLYTH: I know, but you could-- you could take in a ballgame. You can do a lot of other fun things in Boston. You could take the harbor cruises.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, the Duck Tour.

MARK BLYTH: You could go to drink. Excellent bar. Really, really good. There's loads of things they could do.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And they haven't been in the US in eight years. So yeah.

MARK BLYTH: The best thing is to go to Harvard. Jesus. It just goes to show you that the upper classes of every country are all the same. They all want to go to Harvard.

CARRIE NORDLUND: They all want to go to Harvard.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. What else is going on?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I don't know if you saw this, but Taylor Swift had 50-something concerts at big arenas that she was selling. Of course, everything was through Ticketmaster. They were doing-- I hope I'm getting all these details right-- they were doing a pre-sale, except the pre-sale went bad, and so everything got flooded. Ticketmaster, of course, couldn't--

MARK BLYTH: Crashed. Crashed the servers.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right. A billion people couldn't get their tickets, but some did. And so what was an interesting fallout from this was that Taylor Swift then called for an investigation into this. And a lot of the snide comments were, is Taylor Swift doing the job of the DOJ, in terms of breaking up a monopoly?

MARK BLYTH: And yes, she is. God bless her. Because yeah, exactly. That's exactly what it was. I mean, this is just the sort of licensed monopoly. I just hate Ticketmaster.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I know. They're the worst.

MARK BLYTH: Every time you want to go get a ticket it's like, the ticket costs $36, but you're going to end up paying $60. Come on, what is this? This is absurd.

CARRIE NORDLUND: All the fees, and all the-- yes. All that sort of stuff.

MARK BLYTH: The fees. I mean, think about all the terrible fees, because all the services they're doing. I get a monopoly right to issue a digital token has a marginal cost of zero to produce. Literally, I do nothing except act as an exchange, and I get to double the price. It's absolutely outrageous. So god bless Taylor Swift.

So William and Kate going to Harvard. Have fun, kids. We've got Taylor Swift doing the job of the Department of Justice. Anything else?

CARRIE NORDLUND: On the royals for a second, Meghan and Harry's documentary-- docuseries, sorry-- it's coming out a month ahead of his--

MARK BLYTH: Ahead of the book, the tell-all book.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, which obviously we'll do a book club about that.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, that's going to be awesome.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But I think that was all the royal news. I think we'll be able to get in an end-of-the-year episode, and we can talk about our favorite end-of-the-year stuff.

MARK BLYTH: Go back and--

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, of course.

MARK BLYTH: What we should do is go back and-- not that we have time to do this, but we should go back and listen to all the episodes, and then just note all the times we were wrong.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, that's true.

MARK BLYTH: We do an error count, because nobody ever does that.

CARRIE NORDLUND: No, that would be awesome.

MARK BLYTH: So if anybody who's out there wants to do this for us, go back, listen to all the episodes, and everything we got wrong, just write down one line. You said this. You got this wrong. And send it to me or Carrie, and then we'll totally ignore you. No, then we'll actually use that as the basis for an episode. That'd be great.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Since we started with the World Cup, let's end with it. Do you have any favorite highlights, lowlights, et cetera?

MARK BLYTH: To a certain extent, two days ago, my riff on this was that this is the decline of the West.


MARK BLYTH: Because it was just, anything interesting was happening with-- Germany was crapping,


--all the usual suspects. And Brazil was awesome. Really awesome. Argentina was crap, you know.

And then there was one game which came along, which was Serbia versus Ghana, I think it was. It was 3-0, and it was everything that football should be. It was just a brilliant game. Utterly chaotic, end to end, everybody giving everything. And just nail-biting.

The other one I thought-- I was so sad-- was the-- interesting, they don't call them South Korea, they call them the Republic of Korea in all the commentary-- was the Korean game when they went down 3-2. Because they were weak in the first half, but the second half, they just tried so hard. They had so many chances, and you just know it just wasn't going to happen for them.

In a sense, that's football at its best. Whereas watching USA versus England was the equivalent of shooting yourself in the head with an ice pick, fired from a rubber band, repeatedly, until your eyes fell out.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I have to say-- again, I already said that I don't watch a lot of soccer-- is that this is the one event, not even the Olympics, where everybody-- I walked into class, and they had arrived early, and had it on the big screen. And it's live TV, which no one watches anymore. We didn't know the outcome yet. Everybody was watching the same thing. And that's just cool, because it happens very rarely.

MARK BLYTH: You're absolutely right. Because what we've done is we've individuated the screen, and everybody's watching a different thing at a different time, and there's no community or center there. And that's exactly what this creates.

You know, let's not romanticize it. Let's go back to where we started, at sportswashing, authoritarian regimes, at least in this instance. Doesn't have to be. But it is based upon something, exactly as you say, which is both communal, and shared, and unknown. There's excitement. Unless it's the USA versus England.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Well, thanks for having us in your basement.

MARK BLYTH: It's always a pleasure.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Thank you for listening. We will talk to you again soon.


About the Podcast

Show artwork for Mark and Carrie
Mark and Carrie
Mark Blyth, political economist at The Watson Ins…

About your hosts

Profile picture for Mark Blyth

Mark Blyth

Host, Rhodes Center Podcast
Profile picture for Carrie Nordlund

Carrie Nordlund

Co-Host, Mark and Carrie