With markets crashing and virus fears escalating, I’m getting lots of questions on my take on the world. So I thought I’d share a short piece I wrote for Macro Hive:
“Public opinion is sacred: no panic, above all no panic”
“There have been as many plagues in the world as there have been wars, yet plagues and wars always find people equally unprepared”
Those are words from Albert Camus’ classic 1947 novel, The Plague. Frankly, it should be the book of our times. It’s a reminder that something as primitive and ancient as viruses and bacteria can up-end any civilization, no matter how sophisticated. In current times, our dream was an age of exponential technological development, spouted especially by the Silicon-Valley utopianists. But we got the nightmare of an exponentially growing coronavirus instead.
With fears growing of a COVID-19 pandemic, many are now thinking like a doomer, prepper, primitivist, romantic, survivalist, millennialist or catastrophist*. These are all types of people that believe one way or another that civilisation as we know it is coming to an end.
That path has been well-trodden. Many have taken joined or set up communities that would survive such an outcome. Dylan Evans was one such person. In 2006, he quit his job as an academic and sold his house to fund the “Utopia Experiment” – a post-apocalyptic styled community in the Highlands of Scotland. Continue reading “Time to join a survivalist community?”
I was brought up with a very western-centric view of the world, and culture continues to frame things in that way. It is therefore intriguing to view the world from a completely different perspective. History can provide a very real way of doing that. One example of this is when the British Empire encountered the Chinese.
The British Empire, one of the largest in history, went through several phases. One critical phase was the American War Of Independence when the colonists in North America broke away from the Empire in 1783. While it did stop British expansion in the west, it resulted in them focusing on the East. Eventually, it lead to the British Raj in India and the next phase of the British Empire.
Many people ask me which podcasts I listen to, especially after the launch of my own podcast: Deep See With Bilal. There are so many, that I couldn’t fit them into one blog, so I thought I’d start with best macro podcasts. When I say macro, I mean not only economics and finance but also tech and politics. I’m not ranking the podcasts, but they are the best ones I’m come across. I also include a sample episode to give a taste of the podcast. I’m sure I must have missed some, so feel free to send me your recommendations!
I recently wrote an op-ed for the FT on a topic that I feel is neglected by many. The FT link is here and here’s the piece:
E-trading, shrunken market-makers and retreating central banks is a triple threat
A cynic would say that investors know the price of everything and the value of nothing. But the reality could be much worse because they may not even know the price. For decades, investors, policymakers and academics have taken financial market prices as the critical gauge for the overall expectations on the economy and company performance.
I recently gave a speech on 3 key themes many investors are neglecting . Here’s the summary:
1) US-China tech cold war. The essence is that the US establishment led by the US Department Of Defense (DoD) has deemed China’s tech development as a national security issue. The view has been publically articulated by US Vice President Mike Pence in his Hudson Institute speech last October, where he talked about “using stolen technology, the Chinese Communist Party is turning plowshares into swords on a massive scale”. Meanwhile, the DoD’s venture capital unit, the DIUx, has described in a white paper that a key dimension of China’s technology transfer strategy is to invest in US start-ups, which had to be curtailed. On top of all of this, Congress has taken an increasingly hawkish stance to China.
Mongolia. Bolivia. Pine Ridge (South Dakota, US). What do these 3 places have in common? Well, the average income per person is around $3,500 per year. Yes, you read that correct – there are places in the US with the same income levels as a Third World country. I learnt that during a recent holiday in the US, where I first visited Las Vegas to see some family that live there. While Las Vegas has its own unique sense of aesthetics that seem to pop up in deserts, I did feel the need to have a time-out from Vegas. So I worked out which part of the US is the poorest, and decided to visit it. It turns out to be the aforementioned Pine Ridge in South Dakota. Continue reading “What I Learnt From An Unexpected US Mid-West Adventure (3 min read)”
We’ve all played Monopoly. You go around the board, try to accumulate sets of properties (ideally the green and dark blue ones), build hotels and then drive everyone else into bankruptcy. It can often drag on and on, but it’s worth the wait if it means you defeat your siblings. But did you know that this celebration of monopolistic capitalism was actually based on a game that was meant to show the evils of monopolies?! Continue reading “The Subversive Origin Of the Monopoly Board Game (3 min read)”
The late Hans Rosling found fame through his TED talks on visualising facts about the world. His last book,“Factfulness”, was published this year, and is a great read.
The thrust of the book is that we lazily make assumptions about the world, which are not based on facts, and then go on to formulate big world views. To make his point, he starts his book with 13 questions on the state of the world. I was surprised by many of the answers. Here are the questions (and the answers). See if you get them right!