A teller holds Turkish lira banknotes at a currency exchange office in Istanbul on Aug. 13, 2018. Turkey's troubled lira tumbled on August 13 to fresh record lows against the euro and dollar, piling pressure on stock markets on fears the country's crisis could spill over into the world economy. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP)
(YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Once again, economists and financial experts are pulling out their hair trying to understand the populist, authoritarian enigma that is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. With the lira plunging to scary new depths, many will ask incredulously how the political steward of an $850 billion economy could be so reckless as to brand utterly rational investors as enemies of the state. Why, they ask, would the government accuse us of conspiring across global financial capitals to take Turkey down -- when it's precisely that kind of bombastic language that will send more capital fleeing? And why won't Erdogan just strike a seemingly simple diplomatic bargain over an American pastor if that will surely bring down the lira's fever? Welcome to Turkey, my friends. To understand Erdogan's behavior today, we have to rewind 15 years....
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