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Opinion
Matt Levine

Russia’s Money Is Gone

Also SPACs, 1MDB and Amalgamated/Amalgamated.

One great theme of the post-2008 financial world is that money is a social construct, a way to keep track of what society thinks you deserve in terms of goods and services. That has always been true, but modern finance has made it more obvious. I think that 15 years ago it was easier to think that money was an objective fact. Money is a kind of stuff, you might have thought, stuff with some predictable value that you can exchange for goods and services, and you can acquire a quantity of it and then you own that money and can use it however you like to buy things. 

But the response to the 2008 global financial crisis, and to its later European aftershocks, made it clear that something else was going on. Who has money and what they can do with it can be adjusted by the actions of central banks and national treasuries; banks can be bailed out; costs can be socialized. The fiscal response to Covid-19 reinforced this point: Money is a tool of social decision-making, not an objective thing that you get through abstract merit.