BlackRock: Asset Manager or Political Operative?

Last month BlackRock announced plans to lay off 500 workers as the asset management giant and environmental, social and governance (ESG) acolyte contends with unprecedented 2022 losses. The losses are the worst in nominal terms for a 60/40 portfolio since the financial crisis of 2008-9 and the worst in real terms in a calendar year since the Great Depression in late 1929. According to the firm’s most recent earnings report, the company’s assets under management declined from $9.5 trillion in the third quarter of 2021 to $8.0 trillion in the third quarter of 2022 and delivered more than a twelve percent drop in net income.

But what precipitated such losses? Could it be old fashioned market volatility? Or was it the result of flawed strategic analysis, poor policy, or as BlackRock asserts, a problem intrinsic to its portfolio structure (60/40) that they now insist is outdated? Many in the industry, including icons like Goldman Sachs reject the assertion and acknowledge that at some point, every strategy bumps up against non-ideal market conditions through which firms must necessarily navigate.

Industry experts are breaking on both sides of the portfolio-structure argument, teeing up great debates in the months ahead. In the meantime, however, there is a compelling bit of information already known about what underpinned at least some of BlackRock’s historic losses. Rather than an outdated portfolio structure, perhaps a simple rejection of BlackRock’s evangelical approach to ESG contributed to the abysmal outcome in 2022.

Would you trust this man with your money?

BlackRock has regularly out-performed the broader market. Their moves are famously, or perhaps infamously, aped by others on Wall Street. As such BlackRock, for good or bad, influences the market in both tangible and intangible ways. Beginning in 2017, CEO Larry Fink began to increasingly focus on stakeholder capitalism and ESG. He famously said at the time that he intended to change the direction of corporate America. “At Blackrock we are forcing behaviors,” he said of the company’s ESG-scoring approach. He ordained himself the brand ambassador for both stakeholder capitalism and ESG, using BlackRock, a publicly traded company, as the podium from which to proselytize.

A creation of World Economic Forum (WEF) Founder, Klaus Schwab, "stakeholder capitalism" and the ESG construct were introduced through the WEF eco-system of non-profits, NGOs, financial partners and governments beginning in the early 1970’s (stakeholder capitalism) and in 2000, (ESG). Both have become central elements in the effort of asset management firms to re-orient capital flows. Controlling the capital markets gives the WEF-trained ideologues the ability to re-direct capital toward the social and political objectives important to them, even in defiance of the economic interest of their clients, many of which are the pensions funds of average American workers. "Climate change" is the pretense, "stakeholder capitalism" the philosophy, and ESG the unholy mechanism.

Because ESG has become a central focus of Fink in his role as an asset manager, many have pondered the degree to which his WEF board position may be affecting his objectivity. According to the WEF’s own description, the board “…serves as the guardian of the World Economic Forum’s mission and values.”

So what are the values Mr. Fink has agreed to uphold? The Forum's mission includes engaging leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. Since part of the agenda of the WEF includes divesting of fossil fuel, for example, the concern of BlackRock clients becomes clear and quite legitimate. The overt capital market manipulation that he has championed as asset manager is seemingly based on objectives defined by the WEF rather than by the sole interest rule and fiduciary obligations codified in U.S. law.. 

Has asset manager Fink influenced the WEF through his leadership at BlackRock? Or, has his position as a WEF board member and guardian of WEF’s mission and values been used to influence the investment priorities and focus of BlackRock and the larger financial sector? It is a question for BlackRock clients, litigators, and regulators.

Regardless, it is clear that BlackRock has embraced the key tenets of stakeholder capitalism and ESG as a mechanism to re-direct capital away from industries with which Mr. Fink and WEF member-companies disagree, and toward the companies and industries they believe will drive some of the most significant political and societal change ever imagined:

None of this is news to BlackRock of course. They were alerted to client discontent in early 2022 when Arizona’s treasurer quietly pulled $543 million from the firm. Then in early August last year, the exodus began after 19 state attorneys general sent a joint letter to the company expressing concerns that its ESG agenda was impeding its ability to deliver a maximum return on investment for its shareholders—a legal obligation. They wrote: “Rather than being a spectator betting on the game, BlackRock appears to have put on a quarterback jersey and actively taken the field.”

So as BlackRock and industry experts ponder how recent historic losses can be avoided in the future, perhaps they should start by being schooled about the difference between an asset manager and a political operative.

THE COLUMN: 'Vaccine Amnesty'? Not On Your Life

This really says it all: 

Nothing better encapsulates the Stalinist Left's ability to turn on a dime and argue the same set of facts both ways than its reaction to Covid. From the "scientifically" induced panic and hysteria over a fundamentally non-existent threat to the survival of humanity (something one would think the Left would welcome, and in fact they do and are even beginning to admit it) to a state of weaponized HIPPA was but a journey of two years. Beginning as an area of some mild public concern to a fascist boot stamping on a human face for what seemed like forever, the Hoax of the Century has become the Crime of the Century. Without the slightest bit of proof that Covid-19 was indeed a planetary menace, but merely the assertions and "projections" of hypocritical "scientists," cranky lunatics, and foaming totalitarians of every stripe, a near-worldwide lockdown was imposed upon an innocent and trusting populace.

Result: madness. The elderly, dying imprisoned and alone. Families sundered. Children tortured. The rise of an internal, informal Stasi, as neighbor turned against neighbor and ratted him out. It was insane, but even worse: it was evil. Cold, calculated evil. And yet they—and you know who you are, Justin Trudeau, Jacinda Ardern, Joe Biden, and the rest of you nasty international socialists—now have the unmitigated gall to beg for mercy:


In April 2020, with nothing else to do, my family took an enormous number of hikes. We all wore cloth masks that I had made myself. We had a family hand signal, which the person in the front would use if someone was approaching on the trail and we needed to put on our masks.  Once, when another child got too close to my then-4-year-old son on a bridge, he yelled at her “SOCIAL DISTANCING!”

These precautions were totally misguided. In April 2020, no one got the coronavirus from passing someone else hiking. Outdoor transmission was vanishingly rare. Our cloth masks made out of old bandanas wouldn’t have done anything, anyway. But the thing is: We didn’t know.

Dementia meets malevolence.

Baloney. Of course, they did. Not only did they know, but they enjoyed it, in a way leftist sadists like those at the The Atlantic and their ilk always do. In a way that international moguls like Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum did in his book, Covid-19: The Great ResetIn the same way that all genuine Enemies of the People do, formerly secretly and, increasingly, openly.

Unabashed and unashamed, they have the chutzpah to throw themselves on the temporary mercies of their victims, most of whom still haven't realized that the Rubicon has been crossed, and that there is no going back for the antagonists of Western civilization. So ignore their pleas to "focus on the future." Like Satan himself, they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit. By their masks shall ye continue to know them.

Here's another amoral monster, feigning a quasi-mea culpa:

We didn't know. We didn't understand. We were just following orders. So, of course, we brought the entire apparatus of the state down on your heads in the name of "safety." It was for your own good, comrade.

Don't forget that, literarily, every Aristotelian drama can be told from two viewpoints: that of the hero and that of his opponent. Narrative storytelling has evolved into a constant clash of good and evil: the protagonist wants X (a woman, glory, power, money), while his opponent it trying to frustrate his goals and desires. Turn the story around, have the antagonist become the narrator, and you have the same story but with an entirely different outcome. In the Leftist narrative, they are the good guys trying to save the world while we, the inheritors and defenders of Western civilization are the villains, stubbornly and bitterly clinging to the old ways and trying to frustrate "progress."

Leftists, being Marxists of either the economic or cultural variety, are great believers in what they call the "arc of history," a kind of quasi-religious determinism that posits "iron laws" of history that must, eventually, result in their triumph. (Any resemblance to the narrative of the Bible, in which all promises of military triumph and spiritual salvation are conveniently located in the unspecified future, is entirely not coincidental.) As I wrote in The Devil's Pleasure Palace

Progressives like to throw around the phrases “the arc of history” and “the wrong side of history.” Martin Luther King Jr., quoting the abolitionist Theodore Parker, formulated it this way: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But when you stop to think about this, it’s simply a wishful assertion with no particular historical evidence to back it up. Such sloganeering emerges naturally from the Hegelian-Marxist conception of capital-H History. The only teleology they can allow has to do with abstract, ostensibly “moral” pronouncements of a chimerical, ever-receding horizon of perfect “justice.” The moral universe must not and will not ever admit of amelioration in our lifetimes, or indeed any lifetimes, they insist. It is a Faustian quest, at once admirable and yet a fool’s errand; no means will ever suffice to achieve the end.

As these things so often do, the determination to control the world at its most vulnerable and gullible point of entry, health, necessitated a coverup—Twitter and Facebook, take a bow! Overnight, our long-cherished notions of free speech, free expression, the right to "question authority," and even religious observance were overruled by a handful of crackpots aided and abetted by the social-media companies, working in cahoots with governments and the oligarchs of the World Economic Forum to create the Brave New World of the Great Reset. "The viper tongue of totalitarianism is most often bathed in palliatives before it strikes," I wrote in the introduction to our book on the subject. So also does it beg for "tolerance" when it is at its weakest. 

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Now that, once again, they have been exposed for what and who they really are, this is most definitely not the moment to treat them with kindness and empathy which, like "tolerance," is a destructive impulse masquerading as a virtue). Forgiveness, amnesty? Not on your life. Even now, they are plotting their next moves: "climate change" lockdowns, restricted mobility, vaccine-or-carbon tax passports, electric cars, digital currency, the destruction of the fossil fuel industries, artificial scarcity, and misery shared by everybody except themselves. 

Look at the picture at the top of this page, and ask yourselves: if they would do this to your children, what won't they do? And what kind of man are you if you let them get away with it?


Your Credit Score Please, Comrade

Recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Known as a globalist influencing operation, it is funded through membership fees from a cross-section of the elites from the private and public sectors, including CEOs, diplomats, celebrities, media personalities, government officials, religious leaders, and even union representatives from around the world. With attendance this year encompassing 52 heads of state and government and nearly 600 CEOs, the disconnect between the social and political objectives of the attendees and the best interest of the citizens and communities from which these WEF members hail, is widening.

From Sri Lanka to Belgium and from Main Street to Wall Street, the policy proposals and social change the WEF promotes and funds have by now been repeatedly rejected, legally challenged, and roundly criticized by the people these policies are purportedly intended to help. WEF policy prescriptions caused the collapse of the government in Sri Lanka last year, the degradation of the farming sector in Belgium, the destruction of the social fabric in New Zealand, the freezing of citizens’ bank accounts in Canada, higher fuel prices in Europe, the neutralization of the US. Energy sector, the funding and promotion of totalitarian policies similar to those in Communist Chinese, the support of border collapse, and perhaps most relevant to Americans, the creation, of the reporting and scoring scheme known as environmental, social and governance (ESG).

Poisonous to every living thing on the planet.

While WEF policy failures abound, and the ESG apparatus is being met with increasing legal and market challenges, the construct has nevertheless already had a significant negative impact on some industry sectors. ESG was created as a reporting and scoring system used to justify re-orienting the capital markets toward the social and political objectives important to WEF members, and their philosophical eco-system of non-profits, NGOs and financial sector partners. Though in defiance of the "sole interest" principle and fiduciary obligations codified in U.S. law to protect investors, the outsized influence of the financial sector, which has fully embraced ESG, has delivered a particularly strong blow to the U.S. oil and gas industry.

Because of the importance of capital in the scaling and management of many businesses, creating capital pressure through the ESG scheme has been one way ESG progenitors believe they can affect the growth of certain industries. Energy companies have had to look harder to find capital to finance oil and gas assets. This attempt to impede capital has led to supply constraints and higher energy prices globally. According to WEF literature, industries including agriculture, steel and concrete will likewise begin to be attacked which will drive prices across the economy even higher.

This year’s WEF theme of “Cooperation in a Fragmented World," was an ironic choice since the policies promoted by its members seem to reflect cooperation intended to create a fragmented world. The podium and panels overflowed with quips from elites from the United States to the United Nations, all seeking to sound more relevant than the person next to them. Their very attendance revealed their desire to financially enrich themselves, even if at the expense of those in their own countries or of society more broadly. With fear-filled descriptions of the imminent destruction of the planet unless their solutions, however dystopic, be accepted, it was a parade of anti-market misfits and international villains keen to strip you of your personal liberties while entrenching their own privilege and economic benefit. 

Central to their success is the continued fomenting of fear about "climate change." According to their narrative, all problems in society emanate from this chimera. According to their logic, ESG therefore must necessarily be more deeply integrated into all business and society at large, not just corporate boardrooms. "Climate" is the pretense and ESG the mechanism from which to hang all of their liberty-defying policies and society-killing changes.

While initially focusing their ESG scoring scheme on the board rooms of publicly traded companies, WEF members and ESG advocates ultimately intend to also wrest control from private companies and even individuals. With societal control as an important strategic endpoint—think of  the social credit scoring system used in China—the WEF highlights technologies and promotes companies whose sole purpose is in some way to track and surveil members of otherwise free societies. Always couched as an effort to improve one’s life, of course.

In the WEF-inspired world, your privilege will emanate from your social credit score. Use public transportation and your score goes up. Have children, and your carbon emission score goes down. Buy products deemed environmentally acceptable and your score goes up. Use too many fossil-fuel inspired luxuries like computers and private automobiles and your score goes down.  If you have the correct colored check mark on your phone, you will be permitted to access to particular products, services, and experiences. Everyone else is relegated to the existence they are granted by their overseers.

Atop the sinister Magic Mountain, dread Klaus lies scheming.

Some of the mounting evidence: as first reported by True North during last year’s WEF’s annual meeting, an executive with the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba revealed that the company was working on an individual carbon footprint tracker. “We’re developing through technology an ability for consumers to measure their own carbon footprint,” president J. Michael Evans said at the time.

Meanwhile, Mastercard already provides a CO2 emissions-tracking card, developed with technology from the WEF-promoted Swedish company, Doconomy. In May 2019 Doconomy launched its credit card that monitors the carbon footprint of its customers—and cuts off their spending when they hit their carbon max.

Then last fall, the Canadian-based credit union Vancity announced the introduction of Canada’s first-ever carbon tracking Visa card. It is available beginning this year. “The Carbon Counter will help Vancity card holders understand the carbon footprint of their purchases as well as provide advice on what they can do to reduce their emissions footprint.” a statement by Vancity read. In the case of Visa’s credit card technology, developed by Ecolytiq, it too provides “education and behavioral nudging.”

How long before one isn’t even permitted to have a credit card because one’s purchases don’t comport with the values of these arbiters of the acceptable? That day is coming, unless we stop it. 

'A Revolution in Civilization'

If this is an improvement on several millennia of human urban living, I'd hate to see what a diminution would look like. Called "The Line," this great leap backward in urban development is the brainchild of an outfit called NEOM, derived from the Ancient Greek word for "new" combined with the letter "M," an abbreviation of Mostaqbal, an Arabic word meaning "the future" -- and also the first letter of the first name of "Prince" Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

How would you feel about moving into a vertical city, where the lives of nine million people are contained in a building spanning over 170km in length, 500 metres in height, and 22 metres in width? These are the dimensions of The Line, and drone footage over north-western Saudi Arabia has shown it’s already in construction.

To some it’s a futuristic utopia, where a five-minute walk can take you to all of your daily needs, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the city’s stadiums, opera houses, and perfectly manicured gardens. To others however, the strict Sharia laws combined with the high levels of surveillance The Line enables makes the city seem straight out of a sci-fi horror.

No roads or cars will be seen in The Line, and since it will run on 100% renewable energy, the city will have a zero-carbon footprint. The planners also promise a perfect climate year-round, access to all facilities within just a short walk, and a high-speed rail service to enable rapid transit to the other neighbourhoods known as “modules.”

“95% of land will be preserved for nature [and] people’s health and wellbeing will be prioritized,” making this city the perfect home for “the best and the brightest,” the site exalts.

So what could possibly go wrong?

"New Mostaqbal." That sounds vaguely familiar. Sort of like "New Seoul" from Cloud Atlas. And wasn't that a peachy place?

And when you combine futuristic technology with a 7th-century moral system from a dark and savage part of the world that has brought humanity almost nothing but trouble... well, there's a heck of a lot than go wrong.

The top concerns regarded the lack of natural light in the lower levels of the building, the noise and reverberations that the high-speed rail will create, and the estimated 1.8bn tonnes of carbon dioxide required to construct the “zero-carbon footprint” city. Beyond the worries related to the building itself, many fear the consequences of building such a structure that enables high levels of surveillance and control within a country governed by an “exceptionally murderous and repressive regime.”

Ah, but to the fascists of the World Economic Forum, one suspects that last bit might be a feature, not a bug. As the Davoisie says: "2023 will be a year of action," so buckle your seatbelts and get ready for a bumpy ride.

Go Sell It On A Mountain

A Who's Who of the world' great if not good is converging on the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023. In addition to presidents, ministers and other bureaucrats, 116 billionaires, none of them Russian, will be at Davos, not to mention celebrities, advocates, media personalities, etc. The Business Insider describes how hoteliers are preparing to receive an Olympian throng that will include the likes of Bill Gates:

We emptied almost half of the hotel in order to set up for all of the events and prepare for the guests... no one will have access to the hotel without their badge. We have X-ray machines and metal detectors, and each and every person has to go through these to enter the building. It's almost like an airport. Davos itself is like a military zone, where you have limited access and everything is cordoned off.

Greenpeace disapprovingly noted that hundreds of ultra-short private jet flights converged on Davos, as global leaders headed to the World Economic Forum in a rush to save the planet from asphyxiating in carbon. But there is more than climate change on the agenda. Banking, finance, cryptocurrencies, racism, artificial intelligence, workplace robotics, global governance, and cybercrime are probably going to be up for discussion. It is so wide-ranging one may think of it as the first draft of tomorrow, a glimpse of a future you are going to be part of, whether you like it or not.

The return of S.P.E.C.T.R.E.

This wide-ranging character is why the Davos call to action is known as the "Great Reset." Like the familiar reboot of your computer, everything you have ever known will go away and after a moment's blackness (you may be conscious of a spinner as it restarts) all will be replaced by a new OS, interface and architecture you're sure to love. It will be like you've died and gone to atheist heaven. What it will be like is hinted at in a phrase since removed from the WEF’s website. “Welcome to 2030,” read the headline to an article by a Danish member of parliament, “I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better.”

It reminds the world that Wokeness, which has points of similarity with the great religions, also has its own eschatology. There is a a hazy belief in a singularity, after which like Communism's 'withering away of the state', everything will be different. Thus the elect gather on a Swiss mountain to bring on the end of the old world and midwife the new. But while the Davos conclave has borrowed many traditional religious forms and metaphors from the great religions, there is something uniquely contemporary in its character which sets it apart.

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Davos might be described as the Woodstock of power. Like its namesake, it is a new nation. In the past, the presidents and billionaires of the world were kept socially apart by distance, language, and localism. Once those barriers had been dissolved in the acid bath of air travel, the Internet, and universal English, the great men realized they were more alike than not. To a not-insignificant degree, people at the pinnacle of power have, as I like to put it, all "gone to the same school together," sometimes literally, and share more in common with other Big Guys than the unwashed in their respective national slums.

The men on Davos are a tribe; and it would be impossible to understand the nature of the Great Reset without grasping the tribal nature of this enterprise. These are the most narcissistic people on the planet. Of course they know all the answers. Why else would they be presidents and billionaires? John Kerry said it best: "it's so almost extraterrestrial."

Yet ironically the new word out of Davos is "polycrisis," meaning "multiple concurrent economic, political, and ecological shocks are converging to rock the globe in the next decade, and the world is playing catch-up to address them... Only 9 percent of respondents saw the world returning to a state of 'renewed stability with a revival of global resilience.'" This glorious world, whose leaders have gathered at 5,118 feet in the sky to congratulate themselves, is presently suffering from a kind of multiple organ failure. In the next two years, according to a WEF report, we might expect: a cost of living crisis, natural disasters and extreme weather, geoeconomic confrontation, widespread cybercrime and insecurity, large scale involuntary migration to name only some -- unless we hand over the keys now.

Of course the world must 'act together.' The WEF article on polycrisis continues:

Solving climate change is the ultimate team sport. It isn't just coming from one sector. It has to be governments, it has to be business, it has to be the finance sector to work together to really address these complex and systemic issues.

Yet in that approach may lie part of the problem. According to the Cascade Institute, a polycrisis occurs when "multiple global systems become causally entangled in ways that significantly degrade humanity’s prospects," as when the world is wired up like an electrical circuit in series, like a line of dominoes. When components in a system are critically dependent on chains, as for example a Christmas tree with 100 light bulbs in series, if one breaks down, all of them may stop working and it will be difficult to find out the damaged one and replace it.

All hail the New World Order!

The globalization project is nothing if not a recipe for entanglement, and Davos prescribes more of it. Yet central planning by the elites may have caused at least some of the instability we are in the midst of. The men of Davos cannot pretend to stand outside the system, in which they were the leading actors, as if they had nothing to do with anything; that the polycritical world was just an unfortunate event they encountered along the road, for which they bear no responsibility. They should consider, if only hypothetically, whether they are part of the problem.

Perhaps Elon Musk, the billionaire who is not going to the WEF meeting, hit the nail upon the head. The danger isn't that the world won't hand control over to the Elect in time, but that the saviors of the planet will get in over their heads and create more monsters than they slay. "My reason for declining the Davos invitation was not because I thought they were engaged in diabolical scheming, but because it sounded boring AF lol," Musk tweeted. He added that Davos is "not some illuminati plot to destroy humanity, but rather an extension of the well-meaning environmental sustainability movement that has gone too far."

How far is too far? What comes after 'polycrisis'? And do we really want to find out?

Al Gore, Lunatic

Somebody help this man. Speaking at the World Economic Forum's annual wankfest in Davos, Switzerland, the inventor of the internet and the scourge of massage therapists everywhere went on an unhinged rant that tells you all you need to know about the psychosis currently afflicting politicians all over the world. Gesticulating wildly, his face reddening, his voice rising, the former vice president of the United States became a man in the deadly grip of a panicked, violent, superstitious reaction to... the weather.

A decent human being would be ashamed to show his face in public ever again after this embarrassing display of childish, Thunbergian pique, but in front of the unctuous barking seals who make up the attendees at Klaus Schwab's Klubhaus Gore was greeted with whoops and cheers for his messianic fervor. The cultish behavior of the so-called global elites was never more in evidence, a perverse clerisy of crackpots in charge of a global suicide sect.

Sanctimonious, smug, silly, and stupid. Also very, very dangerous. Be sure to watch the whole thing to see the true face of "climate" activists, whose goal is nothing short of the destruction of the fossil fuel industry, the reduction of the civilized way of life, and the political capture of Western governments all over the planet in order to install their punitive program of oligarchic rule. And to hear Gore, at the beginning of his deracinated fulmination, reveals the inconvenient truth that "In my country we passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which is primarily a climate act," and then boast about how much money it's really going to cost. Not him, of course; the American taxpayer.

Hail, victory!

So take a bow, Herr Schwab. Your plan for the Fourth Reich is well underway. But remember this: with friends like Al Gore, you and your Great Reset don't need enemies, and the rest of us are now on to your malignant scam.


The Political and Social Significance of Sam Bankman-Fried

Over the last few weeks, Sam Bankman Fried, having been extradited from the Bahamas, flown to California first class, and granted bail on a 250 million dollar bond (which allowed him to sit comfortably in his parent’s Palo Alto home instead of in some grubby jail cell), has now pleaded not guilty to the many charges against him. There’s been some populist indignation over the apparently indulgent terms of his pre-trial detention. But it’s difficult to be too indignant about what is at best a stay of execution.

Most white-collar criminals avoid prison until convicted. By now SBF is probably too famous to make a successful run for it. And given that his two top accomplices, one his former girlfriend, are apparently singing like Maria Callas to the prosecutors, he faces the realistic prospect of several decades behind bars. He might escape justice by committing suicide but that could be justice of a more uncertain kind.

SBF: "Effective altruism" in action.

As for the purely criminal aspects of the fall of SBF and his crypto-currency exchange empire, FTX, Andrew McCarthy, an experienced federal prosecutor, has already established a key point: that FTX frauds had nothing to do with the “opaque” character of crypto-currencies as such but was instead a plain old-fashioned Ponzi scheme. SBF simply diverted crypto funds entrusted to him by investors into his other failing enterprises.

If the “opaque” character of the “crypto” world was irrelevant to the operation of SBF’s fraud, however, it was vital to its social and political success. The crash of FTX should have been easily foreseeable not only by investors but also by the financial pundits, the organizers of financial conferences, the political parties that accepted his massive donations, the business and style pages of the mainstream media, and above all by the corporate global leaders of the World Economic Forum that meets annually at Davos in Switzerland. After all, the company had been offering very high fixed rates of return in a notoriously risky market less than a decade since Bernie Madoff had demonstrated the inevitable collapse of such enterprises.

Yet only weeks before the inevitable happened, SBF was an icon on the style pages of business as well as mainstream media, a panel member photographed alongside former president Bill Clinton and former British prime minister Tony Blair at investment conferences, the second largest donor (after George Soros) to the Democrats in the 2020 campaign, and he was a rising star in the world of the WEF—FTX was touted as a partner on its website, SBF himself was a speaker at its conference last spring, and if the recent unpleasantness had not persuaded the WEF to scrub these references from its website, he was odds-on to be added to their pantheon of Young Global Leaders.

How could the Great and the Good of our world get it so wrong? One reason, of course, is that crashes (both of the system and of particular enterprises) occur at fairly regular intervals because both market participants and official regulators come to share the same intellectual error: usually that, unlike all previous such occasions, the worst won’t happen this time because we know enough to prevent it. The worst then happens.

What's the worst that could happen?

On this occasion the tendency to believe in SBF and FTX was encouraged by the factor mentioned above: namely, the opaque nature of crypto-currencies. A great many people, including “experts,” relied on the general sense that no-one really understood how crypto-currencies worked to justify not investigating how SBF was accomplishing such miracles. If they had done so, they would have discovered—as McCarthy points out—that he wasn’t investing in crypto-currencies but merely acting as the middleman between those who wanted to buy and sell them and, in the course of this modest arbitrage, siphoning off large amounts his customers’ assets to keep his other failing enterprises afloat. But they didn’t investigate what seemed to be a very good thing.

Unfortunately, not looking too closely at something that either benefits you or appeals to your emotions in some way is a very human quality. Just as financial journalists were led astray by the hocus-pocus of SBF’s crypto-economics, so the same result was achieved at a slightly higher level by the hocus-pocus of Modern Monetary Theory. MMT—an agreeable fairy story that governments can print money indefinitely without causing either inflation or any other discernible harm—persuaded some governments, some financial agencies, some business magazines, and even some economists tired of being “grim” all the time, to dismiss the rising fears of rising inflation—until inflation happened and we all have had to tighten our belts.

My own theory is that both trust in FTX and SBF and the inflationary policies of Western governments inspired by MMT spring from the same psychological sources: optimism, market or bureaucratic groupthink, and submission to what G.K. Chesterton called “mystagoguery” or the technical demagoguery of the sophisticated that misleads those too timid to differ with experts or even to question them if something they say smells fishy.

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And, finally, there is the personal factor. SBF presented himself as someone who incarnated all the utopian virtues of the progressive age that the WEF under its founder Klaus Schwab hopes to introduce under the slogan “Build Back Better.” He lived an austere personal life (he didn’t); he was making money to give it all away (he was allegedly stealing it to keep his businesses afloat and to buy political influence); he was putting into practice a sophisticated method of philanthropy called “effective altruism” (about which his guru now confesses to second thoughts); he gave donations mainly to Democrats (noble, idealistic) but also to forward-looking Republicans (the necessary price of virtuous influence); and he had a particular commitment to funding the kind of bureaucratic health-cum-lockdown campaigns that the WEF touts as the vehicle for launching its global post-democratic technocracy under the firm direction of the Great Reset.

You can and should learn more about the Great Reset. In the meantime SBF provides us with a parable that supports its critiques: It’s not hard to build a world of global social equality—steal a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking effective philanthropy.

Best of 2022: 'Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Davosing' by Jenny Kennedy

The year of Our Lord 2022 has been a good one for us here at The Pipeline, which has seen the launch of our weekly Substack column; the release of our first book, Against the Great Reset: Eighteen Theses Contra the New World Order; and the publication of a lot of excellent content from our wonderful group of contributors. As the year comes to its close, we thought we would spotlight some of our best work, chosen from our most clicked articles.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Davosing

Jenny Kennedy, 29 May, 2022

Hello Davos at long last! It feels a little weird—being here in summer, and also like the prom date who's been stood up four times. but Davos is on, and there are 1,500 private planes here to prove it. I’d hired an assistant named Mila for the conference because I couldn’t very well be seen setting up my own meetings or trying to get myself into parties. I had several invites already but you never really do know which ones will be the hot ticket until you get here.  I’d also set her to the task of sorting out a driver.

A summer conference meant summer clothes, and I refused to be clomping around in wedge-sandals just because modern pavement hadn’t met old Europe. This is among the things Americans find particularly galling and I am starting to agree with them. Hotels never advertise the abysmal water pressure, the inability to use a hairdryer in bathroom, or the two children’s beds shoved together and presented as a king.

I walked through the Partner’s Lounge after checking in with hospitality and could see there were very few women, in addition to a thousand fewer attendees than in previous years. It was hard to know if the drop-off in attendance was rising anti-elitist sentiment, or Putin's war in Ukraine, but many of the A-listers weren’t coming at all. Not Biden, or Boris, or Macron, or Prince Charles or even Greta. And not even Jamie Dimon, which was a double blow because Jamie’s always liked me, and it meant no JP Morgan Chase-hosted suite. Boo! In its geographic place this year is the Covid testing area, to which we all had to submit upon arrival.

Welcome to the World Environmental Forum.

Mila arrived on foot, and with a local bus map mumbling something about Line 4 (Flüelastrasse). Bus? This wasn’t going well. I was going to have to skip the second half of Xi Jinping to get ready for the India Today party.  It’s just as well, it was hard for me not to focus on the singular-plural mismatch by Xi’s translator. Also I wasn’t happy Klaus opened with Xi. I know we are the World Economic Forum but let’s be honest, the environment is our focus and I won’t give China any credit in that department. Detractors may find us duplicitous (we really should be called the World Environmental Forum) but they don’t grasp how important it is to do our fine work by any means necessary...

AGAINST THE GREAT RESET: 'Dueling Faiths: Science and Religion under the Great Reset'

Today The Pipeline concludes its series of excerpts from the essays contained in Against the Great Reset: 18 Theses Contra the New World Order, which was published on October 18 by Bombardier Books and distributed by Simon and Schuster, and available now at the links. 



Excerpt from "Dueling Faiths: Science and Religion under the Great Reset," by Richard Fernandez.


The Great Reset is like an Anonymized Religious Movement

Creating a morally guided war-footing bureaucracy to remake the world is quite an undertaking. As a BBC summary of the Great Reset concept noted with British understatement, it is less an engineering manual than a sweeping vision. “The scope is huge—covering technology, climate change, the future of work, international security and other themes—and it’s difficult to see precisely what the Great Reset might mean in practice.”

At the very least it will mean specifying the moral code that will guide the enterprise; a compass defining what is “holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence…or attitudes towards the broader human community or the natural world,” to quote Encyclopedia Britannica’s definition of religion. Since the only way to solve the pandemic problem is to solve everything, the Great Reset becomes a blank check to do everything deemed good while avoiding evil. The obvious problem is identifying what is good and evil.

It would seem the first place to look for answers would be in our civilizational legacy, particularly in the great religions with millennia of evolutionary experience in trying to resolve these issues. These religions have evolved in the forge of schism, persecution, social collapse, and even pestilence, and hence their doctrines possess an evolutionary toughness that ideologies like political correctness have yet to demonstrate.

In fact, this was the way it used to be, but using the great religions as moral reference is problematic for the giant bureaucracies that need to create their own absolute justifications for their expansive agendas. Without a time-tested belief system to fall back on, governments must find a source of legitimacy to rearrange—i.e., “reset”—the world.

The most popular candidate for the next holy writ is science. After all, popular culture often assumes science can make the moral choices for us, an expectation often associated with the phrase “trust the science.”

After all, if science tells us the “truth” about the natural world, why can’t the “experts” also have the last word on moral questions such as whether and when to disconnect life-support systems and whether molecular biologists should be free to unravel the entire human genome without any intervention. Why can’t science tell us what virtue is?

It’s already being invoked. Preventing “climate change,” for Schwab and Malleret, is not only “more respectful of Mother Nature” (more virtuous) but is also scientific. The new rule is that following science is virtue. In place of the prophets, you have the experts.

Against the Great Reset

Now on sale.

However, many scientific aspects of the climate models are disputed. When Steven Koonin, a former undersecretary at the Department of Energy in the Obama administration, revealed that some consensus-supporting climate scientists had serious doubts about the supposedly “settled science,” global warming advocates simply argued that it didn’t matter.

Yet the particulars do matter, especially in complex systems like a planetary climate. Any actual plan to prevent climate change almost certainly will involve geoengineering, in which details matter because even small mistakes can lead to vastly different outcomes. Write Drs. Neil Craik and Wil Burns in a recent joint paper, “Geoengineering and the Paris Agreement,” prepared for the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada:

In order to meet the Agreement’s objective (outlined in article 2), of keeping global average temperature increase “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels while pursuing efforts to limit that increase to 1.5°C, it is likely that significant carbon dioxide removal (CDR) will be required. Almost all of the modelled scenarios for achieving the 2°C objective include a significant deployment of one carbon dioxide removal option, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), towards the middle and end of the century.

Being “respectful of Mother Nature” boils down to funding giant engineering projects. For example, the Independent has described plans to dim the sun by shooting particulates into the upper atmosphere:

Plans to geo-engineer the atmosphere by blocking out sunlight have been floated before, but an experiment launched next year by Harvard researchers will be the first to test the theory in the stratosphere. The team will use a balloon suspended 12 miles above Earth to spray tiny chalk particles across a kilometer-long area, with the intention of reflecting the Sun’s rays away from the planet. In doing so, they will attempt to replicate on a small scale the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.

Readers who might be worrying about what could go wrong with dimming the sun or mimicking a cataclysmic volcanic eruption should recall that Schwab and Malleret wrote their Great Reset book months before Joe Biden publicly acknowledged that the coronavirus epidemic might have originated in a Chinese lab. When one recalls that the 1977 H1N1 pandemic that killed seven hundred thousand people in Central Asia probably resulted from another Chinese lab accident, there exists the possibility that science itself might be a source of a catastrophe.

If scientists who meant well accidentally killed seven hundred thousand people, then our confidence in science cannot be absolute because when it comes to complex systems—as Schwab and Malleret themselves have noted—minor errors can have huge consequences. Our ability to predict what viruses and dimming the sun will do is limited.

Since the facile equivalence between virtue and science is not always guaranteed, it is not sufficient to “trust the science,” but we must “trust and verify.”

Science Cannot Tell Us What Is Virtuous

Most people are familiar with the philosophical distinction between ends and means. Because extreme ends impel extreme means, communities are usually careful about declaring the equivalent of war. War justifies actions that would never be countenanced in peace. If you are really out to save the planet, then dimming the sun is a reasonable risk.

Can we get such imperative ends from science? It may come as a shock to a generation taught to equate science with progress that it is silent on intrinsic values. Science will equally make an electric toaster or an electric chair. Science itself doesn’t care whether humanity survives or not. It concerns itself with anticipating the outcomes consequent to certain physical arrangements. The moral values of those outcomes must be supplied from elsewhere. Ever since Newton, science has consciously restricted itself to constructing mathematical models that can usefully predict observable phenomena. If governments want science to prophesy on morals, it will be a silent prophet.

AGAINST THE GREAT RESET: The Great Reset and 'Stakeholderism'

For the next two weeks, The Pipeline is presenting the remaining excerpts from each of the essays contained in Against the Great Reset: 18 Theses Contra the New World Order, which was published on October 18 by Bombardier Books and distributed by Simon and Schuster, and available now at the links. 



Excerpt from "The Great Reset and 'Stakeholderism'," by Alberto Mingardi

Politics has always oscillated between Right and Left. After World War II, Western countries took many a step toward interventionism, regardless of warnings by a handful of intellectuals such as Friedrich Hayek and Michael Oakeshott. If the West went down the “road to serfdom,” that serfdom was bureaucratic, benevolent in its aims and generous with many. Yet in a few years, the consensus for growing interventionism was eroded, leading to the elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. In recent years, at least since the financial crisis of 2007–2008, politics have moved in the opposite direction, aiming to put an end to whatever “neoliberal policies” (as they came to be known in the public debate) a country ever pursued.

Yet with the Covid-19 pandemic, this process accelerated. Rahm Emanuel’s advice regarding the usefulness of a good crisis had a profound impact on the Western ruling classes: in the U.S. (where unprecedented and previously unimaginable levels of public spending have been reached), in the European Union (where the alleged need for stimulus policies allowed for the first-ever emission of common debt), in the Western hemisphere (where Covid-19 inspired unimaginable restrictions on the freedom of movement of the citizens). Hence, right from its beginning, the Covid-19 pandemic has been considered something more and different than simply a health crisis, however profound and indeed dramatic it’s been. In the pandemic, governments found (and, perhaps, searched for) an opportunity to address other problems. The pandemic was soon compared to a war and it was assumed that after it, like after war, we should “rebuild.” But “rebuild differently.”

How differently? Intellectuals and experts soon realized that it was their business to answer the question. Though the world in 2019 could hardly be seen as a laissez-faire paradise, a common cry has been a call for different institutions to plan, more solidly, from the top down. Technological transitions of the sort that are now typically advocated for (from the “green” economy to central bank digital currencies) indeed presuppose experts picking a technology. Yet the prevailing view seems not to be content with only industrial policies. The very nature of the economic system should change, moving from “shareholder” to “stakeholder” capitalism.

One element that differentiates this approach from previous waves of interventionism is that it goes hand in hand with a genuine revision of the political vocabulary. Think of the very locution “the Great Reset,” which acquired currency thanks to Professor Klaus Schwab, the influential founder and president of the WEF. The very use of those words implied (a) that the world needed a rebooting after the pandemic; (b) that such a rebooting could be done; and (c) that it could come about thanks to a specific set of policies. The discussion over these two terms includes a considerable toying with words.

Against the Great Reset

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The Great Reset and the Stakeholder Model

Professor Klaus Schwab is a German-born economist that most people know as a highly successful entrepreneur: he is the founder and president of the WEF, a not-for-profit foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WEF is most famous for its conferences, beginning with its annual Davos meeting, where business and political leaders reconvene to enjoy the company of some public intellectuals and ponder the world’s future. The WEF success put Davos on the map, and made the village—ten thousand in population, in the Swiss canton of Graubünden—a household name. In 2004, Samuel P. Huntington christened the participants “Davos men… a (then) new global elite… empowered by new notions of global connectedness.” They “have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations.”

In media accounts and in public perception, “Davos men” were at times seen as advocates of neo-liberalism, of globalization, of unfettered competition. This was a common misconception: equating the interest of companies and its moneyed classes with deregulation and competition, which most of the time, they dread. In one way, this was also quite naïve, even disingenuous: “crony capitalism,” meaning a system in which private companies and the government collude, is the greenhouse of the global elites. In fact, the spirit of the Davos meeting was always to bring all “stakeholders” around the table.

In Stakeholder Capitalism: A Global Economy that Works for Progress, People and the Planet (written with Peter Vanham), Schwab, who coined the locution “the Great Reset,” suggested that we should “use the post-Covid-19 recovery to enact stakeholder capitalism at home, and a more sustainable goal economic system all around the world.” Why? And, in particular, why now? One would expect the aftermath of Covid-19 to see us all busy in getting back to what used to be “normalcy.” The time for reform should come later, not now.

Klaus Schwab: "you will own nothing and be happy."

The idea of “stakeholderism” isn’t new. Schwab himself has been advocating some version of it since the 1970s and is happy to provide an account of his own intellectual enterprise as a struggle against Milton Friedman. An important body of literature grew up around the theme, particularly in the field of business economics and corporate governance. Why should stakeholder capitalism be important in the wake of the pandemic? Why should we all go for it, particularly now? Why has the discussion about it moved out of the circles of experts, to include wider sections of society?

In part, these discussions were rejuvenated by the anniversary of an article published by Milton Friedman in the New York Times Magazine. Fifty years later, in the midst of a pandemic that saw an enormous growth of public spending, Friedman’s piece seemed the ideal starting point to launch a discussion regarding the future of business in the world’s economies. But this would have been a more academic, less heated discussion. Instead, important public figures like Schwab emerged to say that “free markets, trade, and competition create so much wealth that in theory they could make everyone better off… But this is not the reality we’re living in today.”

Schwab is a capable intellectual entrepreneur and a sharp mind. If he believes that “there are reasons to believe a more inclusive and virtuous economic system is possible—and it could be just around the corner,” this means that for him, the rethinking of the capitalist system is not necessarily more urgent because of the pandemic crisis, but such “reimagining” becomes easier, more within reach thanks to the growing role that governments have taken on during the lockdowns and other “emergency” measures. In other words, let’s not let a good crisis go to waste...

Next week: an excerpt from "History under the Great Reset," by Jeremy Black.