Doing God's work

July 11, 2018

One of the first things you learn in microeconomics is that there are three "factors of production": land, labor, and capital. A tremendous amount of business thinking hinges on the idea that that's all there is—those three things—and that's what it takes, to get a company running. That perspective is wrong, a point I keep coming back to, over and over, but I digress; right now what matters is that if you want to start or expand a business, you need some amount of all three.

There are a lot of "capital allocators" running around New York, on Wall Street and elsewhere. These people see it as their job in life to control the distribution and pricing of capital: who gets it, and what they pay. It's a hard job; the Soviet Union never got it right, and China's still trying to figure it out. It's a lot of work and those who do it well deserve what they earn. But boy, do they think they're important; "doing God's work", as one of them put it.

So it's only natural they'll assume that when a new finance-like thing—cryptoassets— comes along, of course they'll have a role in it. "It involves finance", they think, "and we're the finance people, so it's our thing".

I'm not so sure. A platform like Ethereum is just a giant distributed computer. It stores, and computes, and executes.

Wall Street is many industries: retirement planning, trading, securities issuance, custody, capital markets. Perhaps some of them will have a role; cash markets for tokens, or maybe a big capital-raise if someone wants to operate a giant Ethereum grid.

But it's no sure thing. Just because you were the star of yesterday's show, doesn't mean the same is true today.