Expert Insight

Controversy creates cash: Nouriel Roubini and the art of the insult

The American economist has officially become a parody of himself, argues Scott Thompson, Editor-in-Chief at Coin Rivet

Nouriel Roubini is Donald Trump with a bigger vocabulary.

Steady on, I hear you cry. Roubini is a Professor at Stern School, NYU, Chairman of Roubini Macro Associates and Co-Founder of Rosa & Roubini. He is also known as Doctor Doom for his role in predicting the 2008 financial crisis. He’s a man of substance.

Trump, on the other hand, blagged and bullied his way to the top of business and showbiz circles and then into the White House. He most definitely is not a man of substance.

Bear with me, dear readers…What the two have in common is an ability to grab the spotlight with sweeping statements, accusations and insults that get people riled up and generate acres of media coverage.

Bah! Humbug!

Crypto is the mother of all scams and (now busted) bubbles, while blockchain is the most over-hyped technology ever, no better than a spreadsheet/database.

So said Roubini in his written testimony last week for the Hearing on Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain at the US Senate Banking Committee.

Make yourself a cuppa and have a read. I won’t hold it against you if you fail to make it to the end. It’s one hell of an oddball rant; the sort of diatribe your weird uncle goes off on at Christmas when you dare to suggest that Brexit isn’t going very well…Here are a few highlights (or lowlights depending on where you stand)…

“The financial services industry has been undergoing a revolution. But the driving force is not overhyped blockchain applications such as Bitcoin. It is a revolution built on artificial intelligence, Big Data and the Internet of Things.”

Two points here. Firstly, AI, Big Data and Internet of Things were all initially dismissed in some quarters as overhyped technologies. Secondly, so we should just ignore initiatives by the likes of JPMorgan, then? The big banks are busy wasting their time, right?

“Blockchain has existed for almost a decade, and still has only one failing and imploding application: cryptocurrencies.”

Yes, we’re still in the nascent years of blockchain. Rome wasn’t built in a day etc etc. But you only need to look around this site to see that it has far more applications than Bitcoin et al.

“Blockchain’s ideology is politically born out of the same mentality as libertarian right wing conspiracies or extreme left anarchism: all governments, central banks, moneys, institutions, banks, corporations, entities with reputation and credibility build over centuries are evil centralized concentrations of power that literally need to be destroyed.

So the utopian crypto future will be one of libertarian decentralisation of all economic activity, transactions and human interactions. Everything will end up on a public decentralised distributed permission- less trustless ledger; or better millions of ledgers on computers that are now already consuming more energy than Canada to verify and confirm transactions without the use of evil centralised institutions.

But the reality is just the opposite: a bunch of self-serving greedy white men – very few women or minorities are allowed in the blockchain space – have pretended to create billions of wealth out of nowhere while pretending to care about billions of poor and unbanked human around the world. It is a total pretence as crypto-land is the most centralised scam in human history where greed for Lambos and ostentatious consumption is greater than any Gordon Gecko ever.

There are hundreds of stories of greedy crypto-criminals raising billions of dollars with scammy whitepapers that are nothing but vaporware and then literally stealing these billions to buy Lambos, expensive cars, villas in the Caribbean and the French Riviera. These large scale criminals stealing dozens of billions make the small and petty Wolf of New York robbing small investors in criminal penny stock manipulation schemes looks an amateur.

But the most shameful of such near-criminals is a crypto guru – that was formerly investigated for paedophilia and who has put his home and operation – together with a group of crypto scammers – in Puerto Rico after a devastating hurricane that killed thousands and nearly destroyed the island.

Under the high-flatulent pretence of wanting to help the millions who lost homes and their livelihood to the hurricane by using “blockchain” and new crappy cryptocurrencies these literal blood-suckers live in super-luxury mega mansions in the island and use the island’s tax laws to enrich themselves and avoid paying their federal taxes. They are emblematic of a widespread crypto culture that shamelessly pretends to care about the billions of poor and unbanked just to enrich itself. At least the Wolf of New York had no pretence of wanting to save the world, end global poverty and the tragic misery of a Puerto Rico devastated by a hurricane.”

Remarkable stuff, eh? This one actually starts off well, rustling up some valid points about blockchain’s ideological flaws. But it then veers wildly off track with accusations of paedophilia and Gordon Gecko levels of corruption, and then crashes and burns when defending the Wolf of New York. You should never start a sentence with ‘At least the Wolf of New York’. It’s just wrong.

Roubini won’t, of course, stop banging on about how much he hates blockchain and cryptocurrencies. It’s in his interest to defend the status quo and, like Trump, he’s well aware that controversy creates cash.

You could produce constructive criticism of the blockchain/crypto space, but that won’t get you many headlines. Go in all guns blazing, however, make it personal by calling people names and accusing them of bad intentions and you will get much more of a reaction.

Check out his Twitter account, where he regularly calls people crypto clowns, buffoons, bloodsuckers and nuts. And then remind yourself that this guy is an academic.

Roubini was relevant once but has now become a parody of himself. He’s like a grumpy Dad telling his kids that music was better in his day, it’s just noise these days, what are these idiots dressed like?

We should all ignore him from this point on, just like we should ignore Trump’s pathetic tweets. Alas, we will continue to take the bait. Final score: Privileged, out of touch middle-aged man one, forward thinking blockchain nil.

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