Memia 2020.40: Make America Rake Again🥕// the polar opposite of "wealth tax"💸// HYPErloop➰// missing courgette robots🥒

Invest in minds🧠, not places🏙️

Hi and Kia ora,

Welcome to the *40th* Memia newsletter of 2020! A huge thank you to all readers who have stuck with me over the year as Memia continues to evolve from its raw beginnings - and also welcome to a record number of new readers in the last week, clearly starting to do one or two things right 😊.

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The most clicked link in the last issue (~20% of openers) was the impressive video of the fireworks-display-replacing drone swarm.

Make America Rake Again🥕

Much of the world held their breath (and doom-scrolled through Twitter) for 5 days… but actually it looks like things turned out alright in the end. Phew, America.😥

The videos of people dancing in the street when the result was called were pure joy to watch (just don’t mention the pandemic)😷.

Just a few of the funniest moments recorded for posterity:


And a huge hat tip goes to the team at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia:

…you can even visit for a VR dance party:

…but in all seriousness

The four-year stress test for the US’s democratic institutions (…maybe consider revisiting that arcane electoral college voting system, eh…?) now appears to be on the home straight with palpable relief around much of the world.

(If only to finally have media oxygen to talk about something and someone else!)

“Make no mistake: The attempt to harness Trumpism—without Trump, but with calculated, refined, and smarter political talent—is coming. And it won’t be easy to make the next Trumpist a one-term president.” - Zeynep Tufekci in The Atlantic

In democracies elsewhere:

If you gamify consensus, you expose points of unity that were previously hidden.

The polar opposite of “wealth tax”💸

Speaking of AoNZ native birds, I am ever-so-slightly overawed by the frequency, quantity and quality of political-economic commentator Bernard Hickey’s new newsletter The Kākā. (Free to subscribe until Sept 2021, recommended daily read).

He’s particularly vocal about the perverse (…unintended…?) effects on the housing market of the Reserve Bank’s Covid-response QE programme…particularly given the government’s priority to fix housing shortages and reduce inequality:

Near-zero interest rates appear to have incentivised existing property owners to leverage into even more property, re-inflating the housing bubble while locking out those on low incomes even further. “Helicopter money” might be a better policy:

Given that PM Jacinda Ardern has categorically ruled out a wealth tax and capital gains tax… what tools are left in the toolbox?

[Disclaimer: I’m a complete amateur at this monetary policy stuff, still rather dazed and confused that a Central Bank can just “magic up” NZ$100Bn in a few months.]

Currently the RBNZ’s remit is pretty much inflation targeting alone. Couldn’t the government broaden this mandate to some form of “inequality targeting” as well?

…If so, one technocratic idea to address the current housing bubble: variable central bank OCR lending rates…for example the Central Bank could lend to commercial banks as currently but at different interest rates depending on the purpose of the eventual loan book:

  • 0% or negative for general non-property lending to businesses

  • 2.5% (say) for “family home” mortgage lending

  • 5% (say) for any other property mortgage lending

Could this have a similar net effect as a wealth tax?

In the same way as the RBNZ was considered an international innovator with its “Loan to Value Ratio” policy (I’m serious) is there a reason why they can’t introduce granular targeted monetary policy interventions like this? (…and even if this blurs the purist theoretical boundaries between “monetary” and “fiscal” policy… who really cares if it works?)

(Feel free to let me know why this couldn’t possibly work in the comments section below.)

[Weak] signals

OK, that’s far too much about the present - the future looks way more exciting…

Mind expanding

“The Covid crisis is coming at an odd moment when there’s an enormous amount of technological change afoot … and some of it actually increases globalization. It’s really a radical shift in what globalization is about.” - Harold James


A few notable shout outs around Aotearoa this week:

“If we can't vote in tech-capable people or train up those that are in power, let's at least give them the best advice we can and make sure New Zealand is well placed for the future.”

  • New report from the Auckland University Koi Tū Centre for Informed Futures: New Zealand’s economic future: COVID-19 as a catalyst for innovation recommends some policies to move Aotearoa (read: Auckland) towards a more knowledge-based economy.

    • Personally I disagree fundamentally with the recommendations about “Knowledge Agglomerations” and “Making Auckland a Globally Competitive Hub For Innovation”… which seems to focus largely on physical colocation of researchers incentivised by (guess what?) lower house prices.🤔

    • The report doesn’t mention remote work once: (again…) the biggest opportunity I see from Covid19 is that the worldwide knowledge economy has gone fully virtual this year. The very concept of a geographically-based “knowledge hub” is outdated thinking after Covid, I just don’t think the world is going back there.

    • New Zealand innovation is more internationally connected than it ever has been: Invest in minds🧠, not places🏙️

  • Following my notes last week on being “Fact Checked”, Memia subscriber Matt Boyd reminded me of the article he wrote on the topic 2 years ago : ‘Healthy News’ labelling – a discussion at Ben Reid’s request - lots of ideas in there still to be implemented by the social media giants…plenty of discussion still to go, methinks!)

Hidden gems

Hard finding anything that’s not election related around the internet this week!

  • Tiger, tiger (beautiful):

  • Voyager 2 LIVES! (Anyone still alive who can debug FORTRAN?)

🙏🙏🙏 Thanks as always to everyone who takes time to get in touch with links and feedback, it’s always great to hear from you. And if you enjoy the newsletter, please:

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More next week…

Cheers / Ngā mihi