Interbank Market News Scan : A thought on creating an Afro-American currency …

My morning takeaway …

I think a currency should reflect the reality of the relationship between two distinct political economies that reside under a single flag.  I am specifically concerned with two groups under the American flag: Afro-America and the Virgin Islands of the United States.  Neither group have been fully incorporated into the American political economy.  There is only a 47-year difference between their starting attempts at incorporation into the United States with Afro Americans, at least on the surface, holding a lead in political-economic corporation due primarily to their physical presence in the contiguous United States, their 43 million population, and thus greater access to political channels.

Both Virgin Islanders and the Afro-American community have disproportionately higher poverty rates, lower incomes, and higher unemployment rates than their white American counterparts.  Both communities suffer from a dearth of capital and lack productive capacity, for now, through which they could independently sustain themselves.  Their banking markets are, like the rest of the United States, subject to the Federal Reserve, and the lip service of the Fed’s community development initiatives and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977.

A priori, neither community draws the attention of family offices, hedge funds, investment banks, or individual trading desks in search of margin that supports any trade, including foreign exchange.  This is due primarily to both communities not having sufficient pooled natural and human resources upon which a currency (value or “energy”) can be calculated and leveraged.

Then again, under a credit creation theory of banking, this may not matter where credit, money, margin, are created out of thin air … but more on that at some other time.

In the mean-time I thought it would be interesting to add two proxy foreign exchange rates reflecting the currency of the Virgin Island (USVI) and Afro-American (AfAM) communities.  It is my endeavor, amongst too many others, to develop them in the near future …

20 May 2021

Currency PairsRates as of 2:00 pm GMT 20 May 2021Rates as of 12:44 pm GMT 19 May 2021
GHS/EUR0.14180.1419
GMD/EUR0.01610.0159
NGN/EUR0.00200.0020
SLL/EUR0.00010.0001
KES/EUR0.00750.0076
RWF/EUR0.00080.0008
ZAR/EUR0.05830.0584
MZN/EUR0.01370.0137
XCD/EUR0.30330.3033
USVI/USD0.00010.0001
AfAM/USD0.10000.1000
Source: OANDA, Alton Drew

Links you should follow …

Banks.  Three of the biggest US banking groups want the US Department of Agriculture to reconsider the terms of billions of dollars in planned debt relief for minority farmers, claiming it will cut into banks’ profits — and warn they may have to cut those same farmers off from future loans.  Banks say USDA’s debt forgiveness for minority farmers will cost them money and could affect future loans. Black farmers call that a threat. (msn.com)

Banks. Australian stocks closed higher on Thursday, marking their steepest rise in nearly two weeks, due to gains in tech and banking stocks and upbeat employment data.  Australian shares see best day in nearly 2 weeks on jobless data, banks boost | Nasdaq

Banks. In an effort stemming from the murder of George Floyd and at the behest of a Connecticut state official, a who’s who of financial institutions on Tuesday promised to address the effects of racial disparities in financial services by investing billions of dollars to support Black and Latinx communities. A state treasurer convinced big banks to commit billions of dollars to tackle racial inequities. This is the result. (msn.com)

Banks. Mike Mayo, Wells Fargo Securities senior banking analyst, joins ‘Power Lunch’ to discuss the competition banks could be facing from fintech, the future of bank branches and more. Banks are headed toward record efficiency, says Wells Fargo’s Mike Mayo (msn.com) Banks, central banks, digital currency. Can crypto benefit central banks? 3 ways digital currencies backed by central banks could benefit the global economy, according to Fitch (msn.com)

Central banks. The Bahamas became a global leader in e-money last year when it launched one of the world’s first central bank digital ­currencies—the “sand dollar”—beating China’s “digital renminbi” to the market by six months. How the Tiny Bahamas Beat Global Giants in the E-Currency Race (msn.com)

Opinion: Black Americans and Bitcoin. Playing it Wrong from the Beginning and How to Play it Right Now

A few years ago, I saw a number of Black Americans on Facebook touting bitcoin as the path to wealth. What bothered me that in all the hype being expressed that there was nary a discussion on what currency actual meant. No discussion as to the economics. No discussion as to the political-economic philosophy that undergirds a currency. 2017 saw the bitcoin bubble burst and the chit chat by those same Black Americans faded away like the unrealized gains they promoted.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been touted by some proponents as the way to introduce underbanked or unbanked minorities into the credit system. Some Black Americans may have bought into this although the leading Black advocate organizations i.e. National Urban League, NAACP, Color of Change, Multicultural Media, Telecom, and Internet Council, to name a few, have been relatively silent on the benefits of crypto as a banking and payment system. No surprise their since when it comes to technology, Blacks have consistently taken a consumer position versus a producer position. And given that these legacy organizations are lead by the older generation, leadership’s inability to wrap its head around the true underlying economic benefits of cryptocurrency is a direct result of leadership being out of step with technology overall and how technology lies at the core of America’s economic exceptionalism.

In addition to consumerism, Black Americans still emphasize allegiance to the American political economy instead of a more skeptic, independent view of it. Again, its current leadership emphasizes inclusion and diversity as benefits without discussing its costs: that not everyone will benefit from such an approach. A truly inclusive approach to the political economy would be one where Black Americans view themselves not as a community, but as a nation within an American confederation. The advantage of that approach, a national approach, would require that Black Americans re-evaluate the meaning of economic value and the technology or mechanisms for capturing, storing, expressing, and transporting that economic value, particularly in a digital age. Cryptocurrency can be a vehicle for capturing, storing, expressing, and transporting Black economic value.

The upfront work will be the hardest, that being to identify and “mine” that value and quantifying it into a digital asset like cryptocurrency. But by doing so, by tying it to a Black economic engine, Black Americans can provide a blueprint for moving cryptocurrency from merely a speculative commodity to a true currency that can be used in the mainstream to buy and sell any and all goods. Unless crypto can demonstrate its utility in trade, then Nouriel Roubini’s description of cryptocurrency as shit coins will take hold as truly appropriate by most observers. Creating that value means taking a “nationhood” approach. It means connecting all productive assets within Black America to its current banking assets, identifying the economic value within Black America, issuing coin based on that value, ane getting members of its community to buy off on that value.

There are legal and regulatory hurdles, but the biggest hurdle will be cultural and societal. Black Americans will have to take a more courageous approach to Black economic viability and sustainability. The current political-economic structure has failed them and it will be up to Blacks on their own to reimagine the production and distribution of economic value within their communities.

Watching “X-Men: Days of Future Past” through the civil rights movement’s civil war …

I have heard some commenters refer to Stan Lee’s “X-Men” as a treatment of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  I have never taken to the comparison of black people to “mutants.”  While I acknowledge that Mr Lee may have had a noble cause in starting a discussion on equality, diversity, and the inclusion of different cultures, ethnicities, and creeds into the American melting pot, but to be likened to a plant or animal with inheritable characteristics that differ from those of the parents, leads to questions such as, “Did Mr Lee and the good people at Marvel take a look at the definition?” “Who exactly are the parents that blacks differ from?” “Should we get rid of our inherited and unique characteristics in order to be equal?”

I won’t harp on the above questions too much because for the average movie goer the bandwidth may not be available for considering such social questions beyond the need just to get away and watch an exciting movie for a couple hours.  On the other hand, anyone who has read the comics as a kid or has delved deeply into the Marvel Cinematic Universe tends not to be too put off by the social observations.  Besides, lasting imagery and coming away from each viewing having observed different angles on the characters or the message are characteristics that push a movie toward the classic realm.

I hadn’t seen “X-Men: Days of Future Past in a couple years so revisiting it tonight on the FX channel gave me a chance to go a little deeper into the messaging.  The story was set in two time periods: in 1973 with the central event being the Paris peace talks to bring the Vietnam war to an end; and fifty years later where mutants are brought to the brink of extinction by an army of mechanical sentinels.  The X-Men must reach back telepathically to the past to stop an event that that, if left unchecked, will contribute to the start of the global war on mutants.

Three principal characters stood out such that they caused me to unpack the possible civil rights connection.  “Charles Xavier”, played by Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy; “Erik Lensherr”, played by Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender; and “Raven Darkholme”, played by Jennifer Lawrence.  Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr are trying to prevent Raven Darkholme from killing the man who would eventually create the sentinels responsible for near annihilation of mutants.  Raven represented to me the militant arm of the civil rights movement, an arm led by leaders such as Stokely Carmichael, Huey Newton, and Bobby Seale.  Raven, at one point during the story, expresses to Charles her anger and disappointment stemming from his apparent abandonment of his fellow mutants particularly during the period of crisis where mutants were facing an existential threat. This anger and disappointment was also expressed by the more militant arm of the civil rights movement where they saw the non-violent, peace first approach of leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King as ineffective.

I saw Charles as representing the more moderate arm of the civil rights movement.  He did not see violence as the way to forge any peace with non-mutants but did not display to me any naivete of kumbaya and hand holding with non-mutants.  Charles’ preferable approach was to connect all mutants and teach them how to see themselves as great individuals.  While it could be easy to liken him to a Dr. King, Charles’ realism kept him slightly to the right of Dr. King.

Erik was the separatist. And yes, the civil rights movement did have separatists most notably Malcolm X.  Erik’s degree of pragmatism altered with changes in the facts on the ground.  He would have gladly took up arms against non-mutants, but if Raven’s assassination attempt today meant extinction of mutants tomorrow, then neutralizing Raven in the short term in order to secure a separate but strong mutant nation in the long run was the logical play.

This to me has always been the beauty of the science fiction/fantasy genre.  It provides an alternative backdrop for taking a look at ourselves.  The “X-Men” movie franchise has been able to paint that canvas by using the time machine and taking us back to the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, using events from those decades to provide us with teachable insights.  Using mutants as an analogy for race is not perfect.  As I discussed earlier I don’t particularly care for it and I would digress a bit and say I don’t care for the term “race” either, but in this specific space it works.

There is no such thing as economic equality

“Who is creating equal. I’m trying to find the equation.” — Louie Bagz

Byron Allen, a black billionaire media business owner, appeared on Fox Business News today sharing his insights on economic equality.  Economic equality has been one of the major topics during the last five or six weeks since the death of George Floyd last May.  At first glance, you could argue that Mr Floyd’s death had nothing to do with economics and that the media’s highlighting of the plight of black people in the American economy is another angle to either drive up ratings by keeping the story hot or to keep the American public distracted from other undercurrents.  Frankly I think it’s a bit of both.  Conflating an economic argument with an act of horrific brutality gives Emmy and Pulitzer chasing journalists something more to talk about.

On the flip side, you can make an argument that Mr Floyd’s death was related to economics based on an economic decision he made that tragically led to his death.  Mr Floyd was trying to make a purchase with a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.  Somewhere in his decision matrix he concluded that his optimal currency for use in exchange for some other good or service was a dollar bill not recognized as legal tender in the United States.

But currency connotes more than just money in circulation.  The amount of currency one is in possession of transmits a message about the value that an individual brings to market.  Is this individual willing and able to pay for goods and services that I have in my inventory such that I am willing and able to supply such goods and services?  In Mr Floyd’s case that value, at that moment in time, may have been zero.  But did that necessarily mean he was not economically equal to the merchant he wanted to trade with or anyone else for that matter?  I would argue no for the simple reason that there is no such thing as economic equality.

Let’s first define “economic.”  Economic, which is derived from “economy”, entails the management of income and production.  To be economic is to derive and apply certain rules regarding the management of resources in order to achieve some targeted income or production goal.  An economy is a system of rules or decision-making matrices that determine how wealth and income are to be distributed and how production is to be managed.

“Equality” is to do or to make something equal.  Two or more items are said to be equal when they are of the same quantity, size, or value.  Two or more individuals may be considered equal where they have the same abilities, rights, or rank.  But can Mr Floyd’s decision-making matrix be equal to mine?  Would his approach to deciding between producing more bread versus producing more wine equally reflect mine? For the simple reason that no two people are alike I would conclude that economic equality does not exist because no two economic decision-making systems for income, output, and wealth are alike or can be alike.

Can we find economic equality on a macro or national level?  Specifically, can we find economic equality between Anglo-Americans and Afro-Americans?  Again, just like on the individual level, you won’t find the non-existent.  Anglo-Americans, as a collective, follow the rules of income, wealth, and production as determined by a minority made up of political, banking, and religious elites for the benefit of the masses to the extent sharing those benefits with the masses protects the interests of the elite.  After acquiring by force land, minerals, and waterways, Anglo-Americans were able to apply technology and free labor to build an economy and refine a political economy that applied rules of wealth distribution for its people.

Afro-Americans were not at the table when the rules of acquisition and distribution were made.  You cannot enjoy economic equality when you were never the author of the economy’s rules.

But even if Afro-Americans had garnered a sufficient amount of land and other resources such that they could design their own economy, would there be “economic equality”?  I would argue no because differences in lineage, history, environment, and values, to name a few characteristics, would likely create a decision matrix different to those of Anglo-America.  Even if per capita production and quality of goods and services were on par, I would argue that because of the difference in decision rules, both economies would not be equal.

And would it necessarily be a bad thing if both groups were not economically equal where each group decided via its own standards how best to distribute income and wealth?

Identifying the economic value within the African Diaspora and designing currency to transmit it …

Today while waiting for a haircut, a lovely young lady, who was waiting on her companion, asked me if I was a professor.  I was caught off guard by the question for it seemed almost prescient in nature.  I had been an adjunct professor back in Maryland, I told her.  She then asked if I had been on television. Again I informed her that I had made two appearances on a business news channel.  I expected the exchange to end there since her companion was finished with his haircut, but fortunately the conversation did not end there.  She proceeded to ask my opinion about the current state of the economy as it impacted black people.  I was happy to oblige since the topic was interesting and yes, when you get to engage a very attractive woman on the state of the political economy (underscore very attractive), you don’t pass it up.

The conversation turned to whether African Diaspora communities could use their own currency.  My answer was yes, but to get there we have to first identify a resource that could be used to generate an underlying value for the currency.  A true community is built on a resource the extraction, processing, and distribution of which leads to an industry that generates the income necessary for sustaining the communities members.

Second, there has to be a banking/financing resource in place to convert the assets of the underlying resource into loanable funds.

Right now we have very little of the above two components.  For example, Africans in America hold very little of its capital.  By some estimates, Africans in America hold approximately two percent of total capital in the United States. In addition, consider farm holdings by Africans in America.  Africans in America hold approximately two percent of all farms in the United States, according to the website ShoppeBlack.us.

Compounding the farmland problem is the lack of strong financial infrastructure through which not only lending can be accomplished but also trade in the securities that have underlying them black farm output.  There are approximately 45 black-owned farms located in 20 U.S. states.  There are, however, 14 black owned banks located in eleven states to support these farms.  It is a strong financial infrastructure that provides funding for land acquisition, seed, and new equipment and the current black owned facilities for lending are not enough.

Money is created when loaned funds for land acquisition, seed, and equipment are placed in a farmer’s checking account.  At this point black-owned banks could issue currency distributed by the Federal Reserve or create its own currency where a special currency is designed to be used by black farmers and any other industries related to or depending on black-owned farms including black-owned suppliers, black-owned restaurants, black-owned pharmacies and wellness stores, etc.

There is theory and there is application. With one to two trillion dollars in output, Africans in America could invest in more farmland while expanding their financial infrastructure in order to support lending, securitization of debt, and issuance of their own debt.  Where more land is not available, the next move may have to be the cultivation of intellectual capital and thus make greater inroads into the creative industry space.

On the other hand, Africans in America, rather than trying to replicate the existing model, may have to consider a completely new model for generating and trading currency, one where the resource is unique to and managed solely by Africans in America.

 

Will regulating social media benefit content providers in the African Diaspora?

Late last May, President Donald Trump stepped up his battle with social media by issuing an executive order intended to prevent the censure of political speech expressed on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  Mr Trump allegedly saw the last straw when Twitter showed the nerve to fact check the President by attaching a number of links to some of Mr Trump’s tweets.  He didn’t like that.

Mr Trump is not alone in his frustration with social media.  Other Republicans and conservatives have complained in recent years about what they deem as bias against conservative political viewpoints and alleged liberal political positions taken up by executives at the social media companies.

To combat the alleged bias, Mr Trump issued an executive order that would call for the Federal Communications Commission to issue rules that clarify portions of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (47 USC 230).  The Act excludes Twitter, Facebook, and other interactive computer services from civil liability where they exercise good faith in removing and otherwise not accepting certain harmful content.  Taking censorship action beyond the scope of the “Good Samaritan” exceptions would paint them as publishers and cost them their protection from civil liability claims.

Specifically the Act reads as follows:

(c)Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material

(1)Treatment of publisher or speaker

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

(2)Civil liability. No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—

(A)
any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or

(B)

any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).[1]

Mr Trump would like rules that clarify the interaction between section (c)(1), exemption from treatment as a publisher, and section (c)(2), exemption from liability of a publisher, of the Communications Decency Act.  My issue is whether Mr Trump’s proposed path of action in any way hinders the ability of the African Diaspora community to exchange ideas and content for commercial purposes?

Maya Dollarhide defines social media as a:

” …. computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through the building of virtual networks and communities. By design, social media is internet-based and gives users quick electronic communication of content. Content includes personal information, documents, videos, and photos. Users engage with social media via computer, tablet or smartphone via web-based software or web application, often utilizing it for messaging.”

A high percentage of adults within the African Diaspora use social media.  According to Pew Research, 69% of African American adults use at least one social media site compared to 73% of whites.  Whites and blacks appear on par when it comes to social media usage.

When it comes to commercial reasons for using social media, 29% of consumers use social media platforms to research or buy products and services.  Although the “social” or lately the “political” component of social media gets a lot of attention these days, there is a marketing component to social media where these networks allow for businesses to engage with their customers.  Social media provides a relatively lower cost alternative to traditional media marketing mechanisms.  A well done social media campaign can have information go “viral” about goods or services, and send this information instantaneously around the globe.

We have to be mindful that the drafting and implementation of rules to be used to keep social media companies in compliance with the Communications Decency Act may not come to pass depending on the outcome of this fall’s election.  Should Mr Trump lose in November, the Democratic victor will likely put in place a Democratic chairman and along with his or her Democratic colleagues squash the idea of going forward with any rules that give the impression that the Commission has entered the business as social media speech police.

Even if Mr Trump wins and a Republican majority remains in place at the Commission, I believe the Commission will craft very narrow rules in order to prevent any First Amendment violations.  More importantly, rules that keep social media companies from acting as editors benefit the global exchange of commercial information between members of the African Diaspora.

While I doubt that it is ever in the best interest of Facebook to edit or alter purely commercial communications, advertisements, etc. between an African American wholesaler in Atlanta, Georgia and potential retail distributors and/or end users in Accra,  Ghana, added protections that keep communications unimpeded cannot hurt.

The narrower the rules, the better it is for our self-interests.