It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Given how poorly states like California and Illinois have funded the pension funds for their own employees, one would think that this would stop dead in its tracks any plan to have the government assist in managing private sector funds too. The spate of recent activity, however, suggests otherwise.
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
“When they come for my gun, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands,” is a common refrain I often hear from the Neo-Cons when there is a threat, credible or otherwise, that the U.S. government is going to take their firearms.And, when I hear this crazy talk, I agree with […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Amidst all the revelations about how the American people, many of whom are absolutely convinced they live in a free society, have their telephone calls, emails, website visits, and who knows what else under surveillance by their own government, let’s not forget the massive infringements on financial privacy that have gone on for decades.Consider, for […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
So you’ve maneuvered the Obamacare website, plugged in your top-secret information and found out how much you are forced to pay to avoid a fine.And for some of you, it turns out you qualify for a government subsidy — making the premium sound like a bargain. But signing on that line to accept the government’s […]
The Largest Company in History:“The United States Corporation of Government (USCOG)”I follow global social and commercial networks, looking for entrepreneurial opportunities.Innovation surges when industry and government models change. Buggy whips. Landline phones. Railroads. The Soviet Union. Apartheid South Africa. All marked social and commercial innovation, both bad and good.We are witnessing a new form of […]
We’d like to give the banks in Australia some credit. They’ve finally gone and done it. They have caught up with 1960s technology. They’ve figured out how to use PIN numbers.How to only use PIN numbers, that is. They’re considering scrapping signatures on credit cards to cut down on fraud. Apparently, having to verify your […]
We put in a good-citizen call to the SEC the other day.“There’s a massive scheme to manipulate stock prices,” we told the friendly agent.“I have to tell you that your call is being monitored so that we can better serve the public,” he replied.“Oh, don’t worry about that. The NSA is tapping our call anyway.”“Are […]
Bitcoins are largely considered digital currency (or “crypto currency”) so you’d expect it to be treated like currency on a retail web site. But the Internal Revenue Service might not think so.
Politicians — elected officials — are street smart rather than book smart.If you care about influencing government policy it helps to know how they think.Forbes contributor Nathan Lewis argues that:“Too much is done today on the oral tradition. That is, literally, what it is. In this post-Gutenberg age, we have some better alternatives.“Thus, we need […]
Bitcoin has been making headlines for months now. Extreme price fluctuations have sparked a vigorous debate: Is it a currency or a scam? Is Bitcoin viable in the long-term, or are we witnessing a bubble waiting to burst?The answers to these questions are simple: Yes, Bitcoin is a currency, but we cannot know if it […]
The Silk Road was an undercover website where you could buy or sell illegal goods — drugs mainly. I believe passports were changing hands for about $6,000, and I understand weapons were also sold, but that was ceased in response to the spate of shootings in the U.S. over the summer. The essence of the […]
The market has selected different things as money throughout history. Some of these items have served as money in isolated places for specific periods of time — for instance, cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps. Cigarettes continue to be a currency in prisons if allowed, but if not, according to Wikipedia, “postage stamps have become a more […]
[Ed. Note: This article originally published on Jan. 24, 2013]Stocks up. Gold down. Bitcoin… waaay up.The S&P 500 busted through the 1,500 mark this morning. Stocks haven’t been this expensive since 2007… right before they got a whole lot cheaper… for a whole lot longer. Gold, meanwhile, dipped a tad. This, despite central bankers of […]
Now, this is sheer entertainment. The Chicago branch of the Federal Reserve has addressed the great monetary question of our day. A researcher has taken a detailed look at the prospects for market-based crypto-currency, with a special focus on Bitcoin. It concludes that Bitcoin is not a viable replacement for the dollar. The report includes […]
The standard version of how money came to be goes like this: First, there was barter. (A handful of nails for a pint of ale!) Then, along came various forms of money. An evolutionary derby eventually crowned gold and silver as the supreme money. And finally, credit (or debt) was born. This is the apex […]
2013 represents another turning point in the demise of the American Empire. If you view it in economic (rather than ethical or moral) terms, the high water mark of Empire was probably in the late 1990s.But the Internet bubble and bust marked an important turning point. It coincided with the birth of the euro, a […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
My community in the Deep South prides itself on friendship, community feeling, and an overall happy spirit. So it was a bit strange for all of this to be utterly smashed and obliterated in the course of a few calamitous weeks in which friend turned against friend, colleagues became antagonists and enemies, and families were […]
A new assessment of state pension obligations suggests the problem is even worse than it already appears.How much worse?EMPTY COOKIE JAR: Pension liabilities are worse than many states’ official figures indicate.Using a more conservative method of accounting for financial gains in the marketplace, there is a $4.1 trillion gap between assets and liabilities — known […]
I dreamed I saw Bernard von NotHaus, alive as you or me.Said I, “But Bernard, you’ve been jailed two years.”“I never was,” said he.Bernard has been the called the Rosa Parks of the alternative money movement. More than 10 years ago, he had this idea that he would make his own money — not the […]
Bitcoin may reach $100 today. That brings the total value of the existing Bitcoin stock (10,960,500) to more than $1 billion.
It was only a few weeks ago when a local Bitcoin trader in my town wanted a 40% premium for a local cash-to-BTC exchange at the rate of $70 per coin. I balked on grounds that it was too high, since the prevailing market rate was $48. Today, that same trader is asking $132. Seems like I passed up a good deal.
Many people fear that Bitcoin is overpriced right now. This view is held even by people in the Bitcoin community who worry that a move from $15 to $93 in three months is not good for long-term viability. A crash could bring down the currency unit in devastating ways, leading to another round of debunking and clucking from the advocates of government money.
But here’s the truth: No one knows for sure. Maybe the price will keep climbing. Next month at this time, people might be kicking themselves for not getting in right now. My instincts right now tend in this direction. I’m seeing BTC at $250, then $500, and then $1,000 by year-end.
Why bullish? Government paper is failing at a faster pace than anyone imagined would have happened in the past year. The Cyprus disaster took nearly everyone by surprise. No close observer believes that the latest bandage amounts to anything permanent. Moreover, the Cyprus save sets in place an incredible precedent: Bank deposits will hereafter be treated as government property first and belong to the depositors only at the discretion of the masters of the money.
It’s no wonder that Bitcoins are being brought from locales all over Europe, including Spain, Greece, Italy, and beyond. This also accounts for why mainstream news outlets are starting to write about Bitcoin as if it were the real thing, something serious, something that really matters on the world stage.
Meanwhile, Bitcoin applications are flourishing all over the Web. Among them:
- Bitspend.net, which allows you to use BTC on any website
- Bitpay.com, which enables payments on any website
- Coinbase.com is a popular place to buy and sell BTC, plus it gives you a local wallet
- Bitcoinstore.com is the emerging Amazon of BTC
- Blockchain.info is the application that many smartphone users choose.
I can completely understand why this emerging currency causes alarm, not just for central bankers, but also for regular people. People have a hard time wrapping their brain around the whole idea of a digital currency. It seems too abstract, kind of sketchy; maybe it is a pyramid scheme of some sort.
Now, you might think that these same people would have just as much trouble figuring out how such a thing as a dollar or a euro exists. After all, this stuff is just cotton fiber paper backed by nothing real at all, and its value has nothing whatever to do with its physical properties. That has been the case for fully 40 years now, since Richard Nixon destroyed the last remnants of the gold standard.
So there is actually nothing entirely unusual about a money being an abstraction. What’s ironic here is that Bitcoins are in fact more “real” than dollars or euros. They are built from 1s and 0s arranged in a particular way to serve a particular monetary function.
Someone might say, “But that’s not real. That’s just code.” Well, actually, code is real, as real as email, YouTube, Microsoft Office, the weather application on your smartphone, or any other piece of software on the planet.
When Bill Gates first started experimenting with the idea of making an economic good out of software and turning it into a commercial enterprise, he was practically alone. The whole idea of “commodifying” stuff made out of code struck many people as outlandish and probably impossible. We know what happened: Code has become the basis of practically every significant economic advance over the last 30 years.
Yet we still have doubts! I’ve thought about this a long time, investigated my own doubts, and here’s what I find to be an additional major point of resistance.
In the world of software and digits, stuff is reproducible. You send an image to Mom and you still keep the image on your computer. When you download a song, you don’t “take” it from anyone; it’s still there for someone else to download. When you invent software, you don’t have to keep inventing it; instead, you sell the same thing thousands or millions of times.
In other words, copyability is the key advantage that the digital world offers over the physical world. The Internet is one big copy machine.
But copying money? That’s not a feature; it’s a bug. Any digital currency has to and must solve the problem of reproducibility. It must be strictly controlled, as with the gold standard. If you want more gold, you have to mine gold.
It turns out that this is exactly how Bitcoin works. The servers run by miners have to work very hard solving complex math problems that grow more difficult over time. You have to use real resources to make more Bitcoins.
But what about those that exist? How can property rights be enforced? This is the real brilliance of Bitcoin. The structure includes a ledger that keeps track of all existing coins and their owners (not by name, but by digits). There is absolutely no way for one coin to be possessed by two separate people. The ledger is open and changes second by second, depending on the trades.
This is why Bitcoin succeeds where every other attempt to make a digital currency (and there were plenty before) had previously failed. Bitcoin assigned property rights to each unit of exchange and made that ownership a major feature of the software itself. In other words, Bitcoin used computer code to reject what is seemingly the key advantage of computer code: its status as a nonscarce good. Instead, it built scarcity into the code.
Incredible, isn’t it? What’s more, the integrity of the system itself doesn’t depend on a single institution like a central bank or one big corporation, but instead operates in a completely decentralized way, peer to peer. There are no money masters and no money slaves.
Dollars can be produced infinitely, and this power has been used too liberally since 2008. Bitcoins, in contrast, are mined about one every 20 seconds, and each new Bitcoin has a particular owner and cannot be spent simultaneously by two owners. In other words, it is sound, like the gold standard, and structured to be this way. This is why so many people are drawn to it.
There are other advantages that this currency unit has over even gold itself. Gold in large quantities usually has to be stored. Historically, this gave rise to deposit banks that tempt bankers to blur the lines of ownership. When accounts are overleveraged and banks find themselves unable to pay out, they traditionally turn to government for help. That’s how we ended up with egregious institutions like central banks.
Bitcoins completely bypass this problem of storage, since they are literally weightless. They cannot be owned by more than one person at a time, so all loan markets will have to emerge within the strict confines of property rights. That means that emerging markets will exist on a sound basis, with no sneaky attempts to blur ownership titles.
Of course, the promise held out by an anonymous, market-created global unit of exchange with near-zero transactions costs can only be described as mind-blowing. Will it continue to advance? No one knows for sure, but my doubts are melting by the day, especially given the incredible failure of government money and the global clamor for a modern currency that serves human needs.