As the new Russian state struggles with the transition to a market economy, the need for radical monetary reform becomes increasingly urgent. The choice of reform is crucial, for it will largely determine Russia's future economic performance.
President Trump has picked a fight with China on trade. This has run the gamut of badgering to the imposition of tariffs on Chinese exports to the United States. And, if that is not enough, the President threatens to lay on more tariffs if China fails to comply with a host of U.S. demands. China will not stand idly by and be beaten with a stick, but will they pull the trigger?
One weapon that China has in its arsenal is rare earths. As the Global Times,a state-owned Chinese newspaper, put it: rare earths are “an ace in China’s hand.” Rare earths cover 17 important elements on the periodic table. And, they are elements in which China occupies a dominant position. Furthermore, the Chinese leadership is well aware of the strategic importance of rare earths. As far back as 1992, Deng Xiaoping stressed that “the Middle East has oil; China has rare earths.”
President Trump pulled the trigger on a tweet, again. The targets were Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), and the euro. The President claims that Draghi and the ECB are manipulating the euro to weaken it against the greenback. According to the President, this is “making it unfairly easier for them to compete against the USA.” And what’s more, Trump claims that “They have been getting away with this for years, along with China and others.”
President Trump doesn’t like U.S. trade deficits. He also doesn’t like migrants flowing into the U.S. from south of the border. His tariffs and tariff threats are slowing trade and world economic growth. And this will, in turn, increase the migrant flows into the United States. After all, as foreign economic activity slows, and more foreigners are either thrown out of work or find their incomes drying up, they will be motivated to migrate. Trump remains clueless as to why tariffs fuel migration.
Last week in Tokyo, while addressing the 25th International Conference on the Future of Asia (Nikkei Conference), Malaysia’s Prime Minister, the venerable Mahathir Mohamad, went for gold. He brought the audience to attention by proposing an Asian currency linked to gold. Dr. Mahathir argued that such a currency would promote regional stability, while avoiding the so-called “dollar trap” (read: dollar dependency). This time around, the ninety-three-year-old Mahathir is onto something—something that would deliver its advertised benefits.
Each year, I construct a Misery Index. The idea of such an index to measure economic misery was introduced by economist Art Okun in the 1960s as a way to provide President Lyndon Johnson with an easily digestible snapshot of the economy. When we dive down into the depths of misery (read: high scores on the Misery Index), we hit Venezuela, 2018’s most miserable country. It’s score was an amazing 1,746,439.1. Hyperinflating Venezuela was followed by Argentina, another Latin America country that is crisis-prone. To list but a few of Argentina’s currency crises: 1876, 1890, 1914, 1930, 1952, 1958, 1967, 1975, 1985, 1989, 2001, and 2018. You would think the Argentines would wise up and dump the peso, replacing it with the greenback. But, this has yet to happen. That brings me to the third most miserable country, Iran. It also brings me to the countries in the country group—the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)—that Iran belongs to.