My raison d’être is documenting the intersection of geopolitics, macroeconomics and finance.
That finds expression in what you might call my elevator pitch, which touts a dedication to providing “the best” socioeconomic, market and political commentary “anywhere.”
Of course, it’s not possible to be an expert on everything, and even if it were, there are only 24 hours in a day. As I explained to a reader last year, I make a pound for pound claim about the breadth, depth and frequency of the coverage I provide. I couldn’t, for example, pen the definitive take on the war in Ukraine. For that, you turn to historians, diplomats and, well, Ukrainians. But what I can do is provide highly-informed, intelligent, daily takes on the conflict contextualized via macroeconomics and markets, thanks in no small part to my cross-disciplinary background.
The bottom line is simple enough: On any given day, I document what matters using just enough articles to constitute “exhaustive” coverage, but not so many articles that it’s impossible for readers to read them all.
It’s in that context that I grappled Tuesday with POLITICO’s bombshell SCOTUS scoop. In short, the outlet obtained an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Alito which conveys the Court’s intention to strike down Roe v. Wade.
For me, SCOTUS coverage presents a unique challenge. In most cases, it’s not strictly (and almost never immediately) relevant to macroeconomics, markets or geopolitics. Additionally, it’s very difficult to add value given the scholarly and journalistic specialization required to possess anything approaching the kind of encyclopedic knowledge one needs to weigh in authoritatively. A decent LSAT score (which I managed once upon a time) is no help, I’m afraid.
All of that said, I’d be totally remiss — absolutely derelict — not to offer what little I feel qualified to offer vis-à-vis a prospective repudiation of Roe and Casey.
I probably know just enough to weigh in on the legal side, and barely enough to venture something darkly witty about Thomas, Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett. But I doubt any of that would be additive or constructive. Instead, I wanted to make a pair of related, straightforward, big-picture points. This will be brief, objective and, crucially, nonpartisan, even as I’ll critique others’ penchant for partisanship.
Our collective tendency to view religion as a first principle has a poor historical track record. Our millennia-old quest to please the Divine has, at various intervals, led us to draw objectively false conclusions about everything from agriculture to disease to the solar system, and has, on countless occasions from ancient times through the present day, driven us to conflict. There’s a lot of good in religion, but unfortunately, it tends to bring out the bad in us. History is replete with examples of our species making objectively poor decisions on the basis of what we believed to be Divine dictates.
Given that, it’s entirely fair to suggest that religion shouldn’t be a reference point for policymaking of any kind. If our history suggested we were predisposed to channeling the many good things about religion when making decisions about how to order society and interact with each other, it’d be reasonable to make policy based on Scripture. Unfortunately, our track record is very bad in that regard. It’s not religion’s fault. It’s our fault.
Yes, it’s entirely plausible to suggest that religion is a viable lens through which to consider some issues. And maybe the questions raised by Roe and Casey are just such issues. But, again, we’ve proven ourselves incapable, over thousands of years, of reliably separating instances where being pious is helpful and instances where it’s not. There’s no evidence to suggest we’ve improved in that regard.
An advanced society can’t continue to advance if its ordering documents and principles are viewed as a rigid set of instructions to be interpreted literally by a panel of de facto clerics. Even if that approach occasionally produces the “right” outcome, it’ll prove incompatible with a dynamic society. On most issues, it’ll favor the minority, and the end result will be a loss of dynamism and everything that implies for the polity going forward.
American society (and Western democracies in general) have succumbed entirely to the so-called “culture wars.” We’re no longer capable of contextualizing issues (any issues) through any other lens. Everything is now a manifestation of a toxic “us versus them” politics, where no issue stands outside the fray.
Needless to say, the Roe debate is no exception. In fact, it’s the quintessential example of a divisive issue, and like all other such issues, it’ll be exploited by the same social media outlets whose algorithms perpetuate the breakdown of civil discourse by amplifying the most abrasive voices in the name of monetizable engagement.
In the corporate context, there are a few key points worth briefly noting. Corporations view the world through the bottom line and their obligation to shareholders. That means maximizing profits, which almost by definition means siding not with any court majority, but with the balance of public opinion. Because what is “the public” to a profit-maximizing corporation? It’s a collection of consumers.
In America, the Republican party has historically insisted corporations be left to their own devices to pursue profits, that corporations are “people” and that, as such, activities like campaign donations are tantamount to free speech. Over the past several years, though, the profit-maximization mandate meant corporate “persons” were compelled to exercise their right to free speech by supporting causes inconsistent with Republican values. That put the GOP in an awkward position: Defend corporations’ duty to maximize profits for shareholders by, for example, spending money on ad campaigns championing progressive causes, or defend conservative values?
Complicating things further, even acknowledging the existence of that quandary was to tacitly admit that a slim majority of the populace isn’t aligned with conservatives on many key issues. If they were, corporate America would be throwing money at advertising campaigns touting conservative values, because all that matters to the C-suite is staying on the right side of consumers.
Corporations are thus embedded in the culture wars on multiple fronts. Their advertising dollars pay the bills for America’s social media giants, so when Twitter (for example) amplifies the kind of shrill, divisive rhetoric that so many corporate executives publicly decry, remember it’s those same executives funding the cacophony. The louder that cacophony, the more fervent the culture wars, and the more difficult it becomes for Americans to contextualize reality through any other lens. That necessitates still more corporate initiatives aimed at staying on the “right” side of consumers which, in turn, perpetuates still more GOP vitriol towards their erstwhile partners in plutocracy.
The end result is a complete fraying of the social fabric, a total breakdown of intelligent debate and the disappearance of civic engagement, as citizens begin to view their daily lives as an extension of the culture wars: “I can’t invite the neighbors to dinner because what if they’re pro-this, or anti-that.”
If Americans (and Western democracies in general) don’t address the two points made above (and all of the attendant questions those points raise), society will regress and disintegrate.
For whatever it’s worth, that’s my contribution to the SCOTUS debate. At the least, I acknowledged the necessity of saying something, and endeavored to provide value while not straying from my raison d’être.