I spent most of this week in Washington, in part filming an interview with IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva. "Axios on HBO" airs at 6pm ET/PT on Sunday.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Exchanges matter. Exhibit A: In the end, it was the Chicago Mercantile Exchange that dealt the final death blow to the theory, published in Vanity Fair, alleging President Trump or his associates had somehow been trading major geopolitical news by buying and selling e-mini contracts on the futures markets.
The big picture: The CME, host to trillions of dollars' worth of trades, needs to be trusted by thousands of counterparties around the world.
The bottom line: While the CME, with its monopoly, does a good job of staying on top of the e-mini contract in particular, it can't effectively regulate today's ultra-sophisticated cross-border arbitrageurs.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Some flywheels are broken, and can fall apart astonishingly quickly. This week's WeWork news provides a prime example — one that will be very familiar to millionaire pop artist Jeff Koons.
The most dangerous flywheel is one where a rising share price is a core component of the virtuous cycle.
WeWork, however, used its rising share price as much more than just a recruiting tool. Its breakneck growth created enormous losses, and its shareholders were OK with those losses if and only if they were seeing even greater gains in the share price. When the value of a company's shares rises by $10 for every extra $1 it loses, then it's natural for shareholders to want to lose as much money as possible.
The now-scuttled IPO was supposed to be WeWork's biggest investment round of all, which would ratify the company's largest-ever valuation.
Jeff Koons could have told WeWork CEO Adam Neumann what to expect.
The bottom line: There's a fine line between a virtuous cycle and a Ponzi scheme. Whether you're issuing shares or sculptures, it's extremely foolish to count on them appreciating in value whenever you need them to do so.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
What's been less remarked on is that we're seeing social breakdown between countries as well. (Brexit, of course, probably finds itself in both camps.)
The IMF, celebrating its 75th birthday, held its 150th semi-annual meeting this week.
Meanwhile, the EU summit in Brussels this week was also a failure.
The bottom line: The era of international consensus and cooperation seems to be over.
Americans' trust in big business eroded sharply over the past year. That's one of the key messages in the latest survey from JUST Capital, a nonprofit that tries to get businesses to align their values with those of ordinary Americans.
By the numbers: When asked if they trusted or mistrusted large companies, "trusted" won in 2018, but "distrusted" won in 2019. And when asked whether large companies have a positive or a negative effect on society, again the results swung dramatically from positive to negative.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
If you want a prime example of why Americans mistrust business, look no further than the Future Investment Initiative, the lavish conference (aka "Davos in the desert") that will take place later this month in Saudi Arabia, sponsored by the crown prince who ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Go deeper: The full draft program is here.
Economics shouldn't really be called the dismal science, because, most of the time, it's not much of a science at all. There are precious few experiments, and almost no economic theories are falsifiable.
This year's winners, however — Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee, and Michael Kremer — are true scientists. Their theories are based on large-scale field experiments, often using randomized controlled trials. Which shouldn't be revolutionary, but is.
Dennis Muilenburg. Photo: John Gress-Pool/Getty Images
Why it matters: Muilenburg will face lawmakers for the first time since the crashes. The company is under more scrutiny than ever from lawmakers, regulators and airlines.
Photo: Ole Jensen/Getty Images
The 75-foot tall Rubjerg Knude lighthouse, in northern Denmark, was built in 1899, on a cliff some 200 feet above sea level. Its light, originally powered by an on-site gasworks, could be seen from ships 26 miles away.
Finally, you might be interested in what William Cohan, the author of the Vanity Fair story, is saying in the wake of the CME statement. He pointed me to what he said to Vox, which basically boils down to "I was merely asking questions."