Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads May 15th, 2022

Marvin Liao
16 min readMay 15, 2022


“Challenge yourself everyday to do better and be better. Remember, growth starts with a decision to move beyond your present circumstances.” — Robert Tew

  1. This is a good European view on the Russian invasion of Ukraine & geopolitics.

2. Scary new digital world. This should be troubling to anyone who cares about free speech, privacy and freedom.

“The danger and the benefits are clear. We could end up with something like the Social Credit System that has been implemented in China, if we are not careful. Except, a CBDC in a democracy is far more challenging. Autocracies are expected to control their populations. Democracies, in contrast, are expected to protect personal freedoms.

Worse still, we could end up with a CBDC system that provides no transparency of government activities but creates full transparency for those of citizens. The combination of blockchain and CBDC will cause also a revolution in public finance because it will bring radical transparency to government spending. It should be the end of buying votes, the end of lobbying, and the end of pork-barrel politics.”

“Democratic governments need to understand that their efforts to exert control could kill the very golden goose of creativity and human agency that they were meant to be protecting.”

3. Agree with this wholly. Germany does owe Ukraine.

4. “Overall, our take is that the war has proved a mildly net positive use case for cryptos, but nothing to get overly excited about. We’re still more interested in countries like Argentina, whose citizens are exiting their government’s decades of monetary missteps in droves via Bitcoin as conversion to USD is capped. Westerners can scoff all they want about us calling Bitcoin a ‘store of wealth’, but when your local currency has devalued by 50%+ for multiple years in a row, Bitcoin represents just that.”

5. I love Nutella, even though its bad for you. Great overview of the Ferrero empire by the excellent Trung Phan.

6. “The most prosperous societies are built around free-market competition. It’s uncomfortable — harsh even — so we’ve tried to design societies based on planning and enforced economic equality. But communism leads to stagnation, repression, and economic collapse. China’s economy went from starving its people to minting self-made female billionaires after Deng Xiaoping embraced private enterprise and competitive markets. “To get rich is glorious,” he proclaimed.”

“Competition depends on rules, and rules depend on umpires. We should fight to protect competition — not winners. Because winners subvert the process. In the name of competition, they demand that their anticompetitive acts go unpunished. In the name of freedom, they insist on their right to shout down the dissenter’s voice. In the U.S., winners have funded “think tanks” and politicians, bought newspapers and cable news stations, and convinced us the umpire is our enemy.”

7. An excellent view on why the world & world economy is so chaotic right now. Well worth reading for fans of macro economics.

8. “In a time of chaotic supply chains, rising food prices, inflation, and war anxiety, being able to provide for yourself has a new glow, whether it’s through “homesteading” or its close cousin, “prepping,”

9. “There is something seductive and comfortable about having fewer options and being told what to do and what to think. And Fromm’s observations are all the more relevant today, with algorithms and artificial intelligence threatening to turn us into zombies glued to a screen (or a headset), and China promoting a brand of open-air jail that too many people seem to find attractive (until they actually try it).”

10. “In other words, if a major great-power war breaks out, or even just a U.S.-China war, it’s likely that Chinese military spending will kick into high gear and the U.S. will find itself struggling to keep up.

Looking at all of these numbers, I definitely do not feel secure that the U.S. has overmatched our potential enemies. In fact, given China’s economic size, it’s pretty clear we have no hope of overmatching them the way we did to Germany and Japan in WW2 — at least, not anytime soon. The argument that our military dominance is so secure that we can afford to slash spending therefore doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Should we try to find and cut waste in military spending? Yes, of course. Should we try to improve the procurement process to get more bang for our buck? Yes, of course. Should we be trying to figure out what new sorts of weapons platforms we need in order to defeat China and Russia should a confrontation come, and to deter them in the hopes of avoiding such a confrontation? Yes, of course.

But should we slash defense spending overall? I just don’t see a case for that.”

11. “While there are dozens of others productizing venture in their own way, as an industry we’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible. Leading firms of the future will be productizing venture, and incumbents who don’t should view them the way Marc Andreessen once commented about Angel List in a New Yorker profile: “What if we’re the most evolved dinosaur, and [they’re] a bird?”

12. “Hmm, “I have all the problems I want” is an unusual answer and I’ve never heard it from anyone else. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. Yet, here I am, years later, thinking about that answer to the most common of questions.

That answer prompts several questions:

What problems do I want?

What problems don’t I want?

Do I want a life with no problems?

What’s the value of having problems?

This makes me think the entrepreneur has a strong locus of control and works to manage his life around “good” problems and attempts to eliminate most “bad” problems.”

13. “These are people who are ill trained and unable really to function unless an officer is standing right behind them.” Ryan said. And that helps explain why so many higher ranking officers, even generals, have been killed in Ukraine. It’s because “the junior officers have not got the leadership qualities or experience to make sure that the tough things that are necessary to do get done. And so the senior officers are coming down to the ranks and the front lines to make sure things get done, and that exposes them.”

14. “The differences in the two blockchains mirror an ideological rift in the crypto world: Crypto purists (like Buterin) accuse Solana of being too centralized, too enmeshed with venture capitalists, too willing to compromise in pursuit of efficiency. When Solana went down for 17 hours in September of 2021, Gavin Wood, a founder of both Ethereum and rival blockchain Polkadot, was quick to go for the jugular: “Events of today in crypto just go to show that genuine decentralisation and well-designed security make a far more valuable proposition than some big [transaction per second] numbers coming from an exclusive and closed set of servers,” he tweeted.

The rivalry between the Ethereum and the Solana proponents has all the makings of the classic, cutthroat battles that defined the internet before Web3.”

15. “With no peace talks and few new sanctions likely to be introduced the focus now is on the fighting. Ukraine cannot cope without Western support and so the key test over the coming weeks will be whether or not the flow of equipment and materiel to the front can be sustained. In reality the West dare not let Ukraine fail now. If Putin’s last big gamble, the offensive currently developing in and around the Donbas, comes off and Ukraine is pushed back then NATO will have to live with the consequences for years to come.

This is no longer about sympathy for an underdog but solidarity with a country that has stood up to bullying and brutal behaviour and may now even have a chance of pushing out the invading forces.

Another one of the past assumptions was that at some point the Americans would have no choice but to step in and arrange a negotiated conclusion to put an end to this deeply damaging conflict. The Americans, however, have had not high-levels talks with Moscow and if they did it is not clear what they could discuss.

Once it is accepted that as Ukraine is doing the fighting only Kyiv can agree terms then there is not much of a limited diplomatic role left for other would-be interlocutors. Should terms be agreed between Moscow and Kyiv then there would be lots to talk about — security guarantees and reparations, war crimes and economic sanctions. But that is for the future. For now the main role can only be a supporting one.”

16. Inflation in the USA: yes, sadly so.

17. Hard to argue with this. Particularly wrongheaded energy policy by Democrats. Yes, we need clean energy but there has to be bridge to this.

18. “This was the moment his job decisions became more liberated, too. Apparently unburdened by the need to be a traditional leading man, Skarsgård took on the darker, meaner roles that have defined this latest chapter of his career. “It might be related,” he nods. “There was another factor at play. I was getting older. And the older I got, the less I cared.

I came out to Hollywood in my 20s. It was exhilarating and exciting but also demoralizing and humiliating. I was intimidated by the industry. You go into a restaurant and there are casting directors, people talking about the business, you’re surrounded. Getting older, getting some physical and emotional distance from that, it was good for me. I just don’t give as much of a fuck any more.”

19. “Connecting with nature. Being part of a tribe. And a motto about living life as a story.

It’s often the simple things that help us reset and find our bearings.”

20. Title says it all. Maximum Bullish on Latam startup scene. Will be spending more time there in 2025–2030, after Central Eastern Europe these next few years.

21. “In the global dollar-centered system, the boundary between inside and outside is fluid. A declining appetite for US Treasuries on the part of Japanese or European investors might well be offset by demand internal to the US financial metabolism.

The dollar system has to be understood as containing within it the currencies that it subsumes, most notably the yen and euro-based financial systems. So long as exchange rate movements are small or can be hedged cheaply they function as effectively indistinguishable from the US financial system.

That, however, depends on preserving a stable alignment of central bank policy — it does not need to be the same, but it does need to be aligned in a stable way. That stability of alignment is now being put to the test.”

22. Love this. Easter eggs in video games.

“That was a common reason for early Easter eggs: a desire from designers to get their names into the world and express themselves in industries that were suppressing individuality.”

23. “As you can see, the Arctic is getting very noisy. It could be that Russia’s strategy all along has been to punch the kid Ukraine, merely a proxy, in order to create a situation that effectively prohibits the US and NATO from responding to Russia’s land grabs and military build-ups in the North. This fear of a direct, or a nuclear, confrontation allows Russia to take many steps in other locations without any response.

When Russia built troops and material up around Ukraine, people thought it was a bluff. I argued that it wasn’t. Now there is a build-up around the Baltics, the Scandis and the Arctic. In my view, this is similarly not a bluff. For those who think Russia can’t afford to keep the war up, try to remember that Putin views the Arctic as a pile of cash. Commodity prices are high and the Arctic represents an almost unlimited treasure trove of commodities, especially black gold.

Now we are in a commodity war and perhaps a physical war in places we had not considered. The Russians are fighting for control over the most valuable pile of commodities on the planet and territory that has meaning for us all — those found from the Baltics to The High North.”

24. “These eight measures arise from a vital lesson of the ongoing war in Ukraine: Each day that a smaller defender stays in the fight, the more constrained the invader’s options become and the dimmer its prospects for success. China seeks to win without fighting, or with minimal fighting.

For Taiwan, the best path is trying to avoid the fight by ensuring that if it starts, it will last for months, be bloody, and prevent China from consolidating meaningful gains before American and allied firepower arrives. With rapidly deployable assistance, munitions, and training, Washington can help Taiwan to become a dragon-choking porcupine before it’s too late.”

25. Word! An Amazing call to action.

“What many have missed when lamenting the decline of aging institutions is that building is still happening in America. The top six companies by market capitalization in the U.S. are technology companies, two of which were founded less than 20 years ago.

Twenty-five years ago, none of the top six companies were tech companies. The prevailing trend of this century is not that we’re destined for decline. It’s that technology is and will continue to improve civic functions in this country, especially in areas where the government is failing.

It is our technological prowess that still makes us the envy of the world. Every country asks itself “How can we build Silicon Valley here?” And thankfully, Silicon Valley is no longer a place in Northern California. It is an idea, one that every city and community must embrace in this country if we truly believe in building American Dynamism.

Insurmountable problems in our society — from national security and public safety to housing and education — demand solutions that aren’t just incremental changes that perpetuate the status quo. And these solutions will come from serious founders, those who are willing to build something new from nothing.

Building is a political philosophy. It is neither red nor blue, progressive nor conservative. It is averse to the political short-termism and zero-sum thinking that permeates our aging institutions that won’t protect us in this era. There is no fixed pie when it comes to building. Building is an action, a choice, a decision to create and move. It is shovels in the dirt with a motley crew of doers who get the job done because no one else will.

Building is the only certainty. The only thing we can control. When the projects we believed were Teflon strong are fraying like the history they toppled, the only thing to do is to make something new again.”

26. “These expectations were upended by billionaires’ finding a (seemingly) much better way to make their money safe: move it to the West. Most of them did so and it seemed an excellent decision — all the way to about six weeks ago. The new post-Putin billionaires will probably not forget that lesson: so we may expect them to favour a weak central government, that is, a true oligarchy, and to insist on the domestic rule of law — just because they will have no longer any place where to move their wealth.”

27. The coming end of Chimerica……

“The big difference between this lockdown and the one in February 2020 is that the rest of the world is open and won’t be tolerant of disruptions. Consumers won’t wait for products — especially when it comes to items that fall under discretionary spending. If products are delayed, consumers will just purchase alternative goods or nothing at all.

Eventually, all of the pent-up orders will be shipped. If the process for ramping up shipping volumes happens quickly, then American ports will likely see a replay of last year’s shipping influx and backlog.

However, if the process takes longer, it could be worse for the economy, because it would erode supply chain forecasts and product orchestration.

This will have long-lasting impacts for decades to come.

Supply chain professionals are already looking for alternatives to China, and this process will accelerate. FreightWaves is seeing a surge in site selection freight modeling requests from supply chain organizations that want to move production closer.

Cost is only one consideration in choosing a production site. Dependability is often more important.

The cynics say North American reshoring will never happen due to cost. This was true for decades. But boardrooms are now prioritizing supply chains in ways they never have before. “

28. “While it is “premature” to analyze what Moscow is doing in Ukraine now, “one can speculate that this will be remembered as the last act of the 30-years-long drama of Russia struggling with its imperial legacy,” a struggle that clearly has had the most paradoxical of results, Kortunov argues.

Over the last three decades, Russia “has been able to turn into a very active global power without becoming a regional leader.” And it is entirely possible that “the very Russian globalism of recent years can be viewed as a kind of political compensation for Moscow’s many failures in its attempts” to build more constructive and stable relations with its neighbors.”

29. “The argument of my book, which is about avoidable war, and avoiding such a war through managed strategic competition and a framework to identify the strategic red lines between them, to allow nonlethal competition between the U.S. and China while still carving out space for strategic cooperation in areas like climate change, I think all that’s possible.

It’s difficult given a hawkish Congress in the United States, and difficult also given the number of hawks who inhabit the halls of power in Beijing as well.

But I don’t see it in the interests of either country to proceed down a path in the absence of such a mechanism, which would run the risk of blowing each other’s heads off if you have crises, escalation, conflict or war.”

30. “New Roaring ’20s” is a big Faster, Please! theme, and I will concede that the 2020s have been kind of a bummer so far. The worst pandemic in a century. A mini-depression. War in Europe.

Of course, the original Roaring ’20s, the 1920s, didn’t start out so well, either. Europe was recovering from the Great War, and the world from the Great Influenza. Economically, the 1920s began with its own thoroughly nasty mini-depression. Output fell by nearly 10 percent, stock prices were cut almost in half, and unemployment surged to about a fifth of the labor force. (In The Forgotten Depression, financial journalist James Grant points out the “bitterly sardonic” lyrics of the 1921 hit “Ain’t We Got Fun” were inspired by the decade’s depressionary start, not its later Jazz Age ebullience.)

Rapid economic growth, driven by big productivity gains, came later.”

31. This is a really good ad promoting Switzerland. Really clever.

32. This is pretty spot on and sounds right. Here we go. Can’t outrun cycles.

33. Always a great show. Must watch if you are founder trying to understand what is happening in fundraising for Silicon Valley & the public market.

Watch & learn.



Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything!