The Treasurer’s Race

A funny thing happened this week. And by funny, I mean completely serious and unexpected. Frankly, it’s one of the least humorous things that has ever happened to me.

And that’s what makes it so funny.

To clarify, allow me to obfuscate: I’m running for public office. Which I never in my life imagined I would ever do. Yet I am sure that it is the right decision.

It’s funny because I’m serious. But in case you aren’t confused enough, let’s start the second part of this post by going back to the beginning.

The Vacancy

Earlier this week, the Utah state treasurer abruptly announced his retirement. Normally, the treasurer serves a term of four years and is elected during the main (presidential) election cycle. The current treasurer’s abdication means that a new state treasurer will be elected during this year’s midterm election cycle.

Simple enough. And though I have an interest in Utah’s finances, and am embroiled in the current monetary revolution which is impacting individuals, corporations, and countries, it would never have occurred to me to seek the state treasurer’s office on my own.

However, on Friday, I got the most unexpected phone call.

The Party

“The United Utah Party is looking for a candidate to run for state treasurer. Would you be interested?”

Now, the United Utah Party is a relatively new political party making inroads in Utah politics. Like many third parties, it was created with the intention of breaking the false dichotomy that has been handed to Americans for decades, in the form of the Democrat and Republican political cartels.

And while the party has yet to rack up enough victories to be a major player in state politics, it has outlasted a lot of other, similarly motivated third parties that seek to establish themselves in the state. It has also managed to attract a lot of influential people in the state to take an interest. A lot of local thought leaders have gravitated toward the party. I don’t know if this was an intentional strategy, but it seems to be more effective than the host of other third parties which have quickly puttered down to failure.

Now, it’s no secret that I make a point of avoiding political discussion online. Traditionally, my only exception to this was when political discussion touched upon economic issues, because with economic issues it actually does some good to talk about policy. And it is easy to point out failures of economic policy in a way that forces people to listen, instead of the constant back-and-forth that destroys other kinds of political discussion.

So what did I do? I immediately said “Yes”.

The Quick Decision

Though I am a private person, and I try to distance myself from contentious issues, I knew that this was an opportunity I did not want to pass up.

The odds of winning may not be in my favor, but it was clear to me that I could leverage this election to give voice to important economic issues that are currently going unexplored by the state of Utah. The world is currently undergoing a metamorphosis, and our little corner of planet Earth is not exempt from the tumultuous macroeconomic upheavals waiting in the wings. If I can steer this ship even a few degrees one way or another, we might avoid hitting the iceberg that is coming right at us.

Though I have never been part of an election campaign before, the approaching economic perils facing the State of Utah are devastating enough that I could not, in good conscience, turn down an opportunity to do something about them.

The narrow candidate field that normally participates in the treasurer’s race also means that my voice will not get lost among many competitors. My chances of at least affecting the race are quite good.

And we’d better hope I affect it.

The Office

The office of state treasurer has a number of responsibilities. Though, for clarity, it’s better to begin by describing what the treasurer does not do.

  • The treasurer does not decide which public projects get funded and which do not. The legislature is in charge of creating and defining state projects, and the governor is in charge of executing them.
  • The treasurer does not (largely) investigate fraud and misuse of public funds. That duty belongs to the state auditor’s office, though they work closely with the treasurer in matters of monetary misuse. Prosecution of such violations is handled by the justice system.

What a state treasurer typically does accomplish is giving all state agencies access to their funds, ensuring the payment of all state employees, and keeping account of the state’s funds.

The office will also oversee the state’s investments, if it has any.

The office is also in charge of the issuance of bonds and the management of the state’s debts. And this last part is particularly important to my platform.

The Platform

The details of my platform are far from finalized. But one thing I must make absolutely clear: as treasurer, my duty is no less than to make the treasury of Utah FUTURE-PROOF.

What do I mean by future-proof? I mean that we are currently at a crossroads.

The economic policies of ten and twenty years ago will not suffice going forward. The easiest example I can point to is the current state of the federal reserve. After years of attempting to prop up the US economy by slashing interest rates down to the root, the fed finds itself backed against the wall. For the first time in years, the possibility that interest rates may rise has become realistic.

Rising interest rates will have catastrophic effects on public debt. For example, for each 1% hike in interest rates on the US national debt, the country has to pay around 300 billion dollars.

And while the State of Utah’s debt levels are nowhere near as staggering as the those held by the federal government, rising interest rates would certainly create a comparable credit crunch for our state government. And it must be compensated for, even if it requires innovation in how the state manages and allocates money.

(This is also the reason why, as a voter, I always vote against bond issuances, even when I believe in and support the cause that the bond is supposedly paying for. Because it doesn’t matter if the state can find a way to bring sad little Timmy’s puppy back to life if it means racking up billions in debt.)

If the state doesn’t have the appetite to combat this squeeze by reforming its spending and/or tax model, then its only realistic choice will be to adopt a radical investment strategy that takes advantage of the changing global economy. And I may be the most qualified candidate on the ballot to make such a change happen.

Because unlike most state treasurers, I am not a banker. I am a technologist. And what I bring to the office is an understanding of how technology is changing the nature of money. It’s happening in real time before our eyes. And any nation, province, or municipality that does not adapt also in real time is going to find itself living in a world it can’t compete in.

But Aren’t You already Anxiously Engaged?

Regular readers of this blog will point out that I am already neck deep in a life-changing project. This year, I am going to be running a Kickstarter and publishing a book.

True, Advent 9 is an important project—one which could very well change the world in its own way. And if I believed that having a political campaign would prevent me from putting out this book, I would never have considered it. After all, it’s quite unusual for anyone seeking public office to concurrently publish a book.

Except that’s not true.

Every presidential candidate in recent memory has accompanied their campaign with a published book. And while I’m sure this is rarer for smaller state races, it’s hardly unheard of. What I’m doing is not terribly different from what others have done.

I suppose I shall have to settle for the award of “First Candidate for Public Office to have Actually Written Their Book”.

Off to the Races

This effort is certainly going to be a lot more work than I would have been undertaking this year otherwise. Still, the possibility that I might move the needle toward preparing Utah for its fiscal future is worth the ordeal.

Thankfully, the race for state treasurer is not an overtly political one. Due to the low media scrutiny, there tends to be less mud slinging and more thorough examination of actual policy. These smaller elections are more like public job interviews than life-and-death contests of who can out-celebrity the other, with billions of campaign dollars on the line.

At the very least, I can inject topics into the public eye that would have been ignored. If I fail, then I am no worse off than I started, but I wouldn’t put it past myself to pull off a miracle.

It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been struck by lightning.

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