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The January 6 anniversary must not pass without comment

January 7, 2022, 10:53 AM UTC

Good morning.

I was tempted—as were many business leaders—to let the January 6 anniversary pass without comment. The political and media conversations around the U.S. Capitol attack have become predictable and unsatisfying. The vast majority of Republicans have chosen to protect a narrative that they know to be untrue because they see it as their only chance of regaining power. And leading Democrats are clinging to the issue as if it were a cudgel, hoping it will overpower their failure to enact their policy agenda. My sympathies are only with the small band of Republicans who have chosen to put their allegiance to the Constitution over their political interest. But my sympathies will not get them reelected.

I was knocked out of complacency yesterday, however, by two comments from people whose views I respect. The first came from Ray Dalio, who since leaving the helm of his hedge fund Bridgewater has become an amateur historian. (As Robert Harris has said: “History is too important to be left to historians.”) Dalio’s schtick is to analyze past patterns and use them to try and make sense of the future. And his analysis of recent U.S. political trends has led him to conclude:

There is an uncomfortably high probability that neither side will accept losing the 2024 elections. If that were to happen, rule of law and the constitution will be less influential than raw power. Imagine what that would mean for America as we know it.”

And then there’s this comment from Thomas Friedman of the New York Times in yesterday’s column, where he asks: Who will save us?:

“I think our last, best hope is the leadership of the U.S. business community… Collectively, they are the only responsible force left with real leverage on Trump and Republican lawmakers doing his bidding.”

I’m sympathetic to both sentiments—that we are barreling towards a crisis of democracy (if not already there), and that business leadership is key to solving it. But the solution is not simple, or clear. Business leaders should certainly stand up for truth and the Constitution. But in the process, they can hardly be expected to bind themselves inextricably to the other party, which is increasingly hostile to their interests.

Friedman suggests a way forward by saying business leaders should refuse to donate to any candidate who “has voted to dismantle the police” or “voted to dismantle the Constitution”—setting a line of demarcation on both sides of the political spectrum. I’m not sure that quite cuts the mustard. But I agree the moment is ripe for the nation’s top business leaders to earn their spurs by crafting a clear and consistent message on an issue that could prove critical to their survival…and to ours.

More news below. And if you are missing CES this week, read Chris Morris’ piece on five useful new tools for remote workers that were on display there.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

TOP NEWS

Mortgage rates

U.S. mortgage rates started the year by hitting their highest level since May 2020, largely due to expectations about rising inflation. (Bonus read: this interesting piece on Zillow's abortive iBuying business.) CNN

Big Meat

President Biden is taking on four meat giants—Cargill, Tyson Foods, HBS, and National Beef Packing—in a bid to boost competition in the sector. "Capitalism without competition isn't capitalism. It's exploitation," Biden said, announcing $1 billion in funding for independent meat processors and ranchers. Fortune

China real estate

Now a Chinese property developer with an investment-grade credit rating is running into trouble. Shimao missed a loan payment deadline yesterday, and sharp falls in its share price led the Shanghai Stock Exchange to temporarily suspend trading in its shares. Financial Times

More boosters

Moderna chief Stephane Bancel reckons second boosters / fourth vaccine doses will be needed in the fall, and says the U.K. and South Korea are already ordering theirs. Moderna has been the worst COVID vaccine maker when it comes to serving non-rich parts of the world, and the vast majority of people in low-income countries still haven't even had their primary shots, so this is one way to extend the pandemic. Fortune

AROUND THE WATER COOLER

Larry Fink

The Journal has a piece on Larry Fink's quest to accelerate climate-friendly policies in corporate America. Some say the BlackRock CEO isn't doing enough; others say trying to save civilization is leftist, and he should cut it out. Wall Street Journal

Crypto crash

Cryptocurrencies are continuing to have a terrible start to the year, this time thanks to Fed-meeting comments. Fortune's Chris Morris takes a look at how badly you'd have done if you invested in Bitcoin, Ethereum, Cardano, Dogecoin, etc, at their recent peaks. Fortune

GameStop NFTs

GameStop is reportedly talking to cryptocurrency and blockchain companies amid plans to launch an NFT marketplace for gamers—a scene where NFTs, as unique deeds to virtual goods, could actually be useful. Its share price soared more than 20% on the news. (In an adjacent vein, when you think of decentralized finance, you think of Radio Shack, right? Right?) Fortune  

CEO pleas

Yale's Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian would like Meta's Mark Zuckerberg, Activision Blizzard's Bobby Kotick, Robinhood's Vlad Tenev, Fox Corp's Lachlan Murdoch, and Ark Invest's Cathy Wood to answer some questions about "much needed 2022 improvements or mea culpas." Fortune

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