Talking Türkiye

President Erdoğan yesterday renamed his nation Türkiye, in what is clearly not an attempt to distract from the ongoing economic collapse he created last Autumn.

He’s not the first to try a rebrand. It was very popular during the decolonising period of the late 20th century, but even recently, we’ve seen Swaziland become eSwatini.

Erdoğan’s reason for rebranding was because his nation gets confused with the bird that people eat at Christmas (except not actually in Turkey, because they mostly aren’t Christian.)

Turkey changes its name to Türkiye to avoid confusion with bird of same name
Confused yet?

But that bird has a lot of names, mostly toponyms (or placenames.) In other words, we call the bird turkey, but Turks call the bird Hindi (after India), as do a whole load of languages including Armenian, Hebrew, Polish and Ukrainian.

A bunch of other languages call it after the Indian city of Calicot, for some similar reason. What’s confusing about all of this is that turkeys don’t come from Turkey or indeed India. They come from America.

I suppose we should give Portuguese some credit for getting the hemisphere correct at least. The bird is called Peru in Lisbon!

What undermines Erdoğan’s argument somewhat is that you simply don’t see Peruvians or their government getting upset because some Portuguese people call a bird after their country. I’ve not heard the Indians complaining either.

But perhaps the best thing would be to agree a universal name for the bird in all languages that accurately reflected its origins. I suggest yanks would be appropriate.

“More roast yank, mum?””Don’t mind if I do, dear! Lovely dinner!”

Talking Turkey about Hyperinflation

The British currency, the pound sterling, takes its name from the fact that, when it first issued, it was redeemable for a pound of silver. That was somewhen in the late 8th century Anglo-Saxon period.

If we do the maths, based on today’s silver spot price, that means that the pound today is worth approximately 1/210th of what it was worth nearly 13 centuries ago.By contrast, the French managed to devalue their currency by more in just 18 months during the early 1790s, as did Germany in less than a year during the Weimar period.

The worst affected ever were the poor Hungarians in the immediate post-war period in 1945. They suffered that level of devaluation in under 6 days at peak. Armenia, Zimbabwe and Argentina have experienced similar horrors.

Tour di 2 giorni in Cappadocia da Side
Beautiful country, beautiful people, ugly economic policies.

Why do I mention this? Because it still happens today. Last semester, in Turkey, I saw my wages collapse by more than half in two months. My colleagues there are still living through this. They suffer daily price hikes in fuel and food costs, with static wages. The Turkish people, like the Armenians, Zimbabweans, Argentinians, or the Hungarians, Germans and French of former times, have done nothing wrong. But they were the ones to suffer.

Hyperinflation is caused by only one thing – shitty governments implementing shitty policies. It destroys savings, commerce, and most importantly, lives. We don’t always think too much about Turkey in the West, but we should. Here is a country suffering a preposterously stupid government and massive devaluation of their economy, yet still accommodates 3.6 MILLION refugees.

It was a salutory lesson for me in macro-economics, and in human decency, to spend last semester in Turkey. My heart remains with them in their plight, and I hope to see them in better times soon. It is a beautiful nation with a beautiful people who deserve better.

A caveat: I am not, never have been and never will be an economist. But it doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to understand money.