Remember that correction we’ve been quietly talking about over the past couple of months?Well, it might be right around the corner. Stocks waited until the last day of the month to nose-dive. The S&P 500 posted its first 2% down day since April — and the Dow wasn’t far behind. Early this morning, futures continue […]
A great technology solves a problem that we didn’t know we had. It makes us aware of deprivations we didn’t know existed until we discover the new thing. Once discovered, we can’t go back.People in the 1950s, for example, never missed the smart phone. They were pleased to have a phone at all. But today, […]
In early July 1944, delegates from 44 countries gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. A three-week summit took place, at which a new system was agreed to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the Second World War.The U.S. was already the world’s commercial powerhouse, having eclipsed the British […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
In 2012, money mandarins running the European Union chose stagnation over restructuring. Here’s a consequence of that choice: expectations for a self-sustaining economic recovery keep getting crushed.Two years ago, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to hold the eurozone together. He bluffed nervous investors into believing in a […]
Here’s a fun fact: Although we all hate the U.S. dollar, as it continues to hemorrhage wealth, its foothold as the world’s reserve currency isn’t going to disappear overnight.A Russian gas deal with China won’t change that — as we’ll highlight below.But before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s dive into a story that’s right […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
“As the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve derives its authority from the Congress of the United States. It is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding […]
The Keynesian disaster recovery plan has been to lower rates, force people to take more risk in search of yield, and entice others to borrow and spend and, magically, more jobs will be created. If people won’t buy stocks, central banks will.Back in 2011, Ben Bernanke, when asked if QE2 was driving up stock prices, […]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices are rising at a 2.1% annual rate. This suggests to us that the current stock market boom will die with a bang, rather than a whimper.Fed economists say they don’t think inflation rates are rising. They think the most recent reading is a fluke. But why […]
Real progress happens through real people, ideas, and innovations. Not by legislation argued and debated in Congress. Right now, one of the most influential technologies is changing the way people do business. And reinventing the future in the process.
As the world gets more digital, people forget about the benefits of transacting in cash. And government officials know that.
The experts will tell you the recession is over, but they’re only torturing the data to hide the truth. The economy never recovered from the downturn it experienced. But the downturn happened in 2000, not 2008. The country’s been in the middle of a 14 year recession and hardly anyone knows the truth.
Every time Bitcoin crashes, it winds up at a price greater than it’s previous high. Yet the experts still call it a currency fad that will fade away. But a little over a year since it really took up, the digital currency is still going strong, and is once again seeing its price rise. But is there another reason why people are buying Bitcoins.
All paper currency has a shelf life. It could be 5 years or 500 years, but at some point, the value of any paper currency eventually reaches zero. That's why, for centuries, people have turned to one shiny metal to safeguard their personal store of wealth. And, as Jim Rickards explains, you still have that option. Read on...
Edward Snowden’s one year visa in Russia expires at the end of next month. With only a few weeks left before he finds himself without a safe country to live in, he sat down to give an exclusive interview. Here are the most important things he wants you to remember from his recent sacrifice.
It’s a destructive cycle that comes around everytime your politicians ask you to take to the polls. The government’s meddling creates unexpected problems that eventually overshadow the planners’ original intentions. But that only leads the way for even more interventions.
Politicians love inflation. It’s a way to pay for the government’s debts without upsetting the public by raising taxes, or their special interests by cutting government. So they’ll flood the economy with easy money and eat away at your savings. But that’s only part of the story...
Obama recently claimed this was the “Decade of the Brain”. But it not the first time the government made that promise. The last time they did it, they wasted millions of your tax dollars. Now they’re back for round two. But this time, their failure could mean more than squandered money. It could mean making Alzheimer’s even worse for those who suffer from it.
“So we have, indeed, had a disappointingly slow recovery, and our consistent expectations for a pickup in growth have been dashed over a number of years… And the labor market is behaving in some perplexing ways and showing patterns that are novel.”–Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen in a speech to the Economic Club of New […]
Politicians who love Big Government love talking about the minimum wage. It’s one of the few policy where they don’t have to ask their constituents to pony up the extra tax dollars to pay the higher costs. Instead, they pass the buck to business owners. They can’t print money, nor can they can force you to pay more. So they cut back hours and fire the very workers politicians tried to help. But that’s how things go when you mess with the economy.
Economists aren’t physicists. But they sure do like to act like they are sometimes. When scientists reach a consensus about something, it usually means they’re breaking new ground on a theory based on hard facts and proven evidence. When economists agree on something, it shows the limitations of a field that tries to model how humans are supposed to behave. And that’s where the danger lies. Especially when it comes to things like U.S. Treasurys.
Ask a D.C. insider what’s the best way to solve the debt crisis. Nine times out of ten, they’ll recommend taking on more debt. That’s how things operate in the Potomac swamp. Up is down, right is left, digging yourself into more debt is the best way to get out of it. But it wasn’t always like this. In fact, there used to be common sense when it came to the economy. So where did it all go wrong?
Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to stop working. Especially now that you have all the time in the world to do what you really want. Entrepreneurs don’t only come out of Silicon Valley. They come from all walks of life, from all different ages. If you’re retired and want to stay active while you relax, then find out the steps you need to take in order to start, manage, and grow your next small business.
Austrian economics does more than tell you what happens when the government disturbs market forces. In the hands of knowledgeable investors and entrepreneurs, it can tell you exactly what to expect from the market. Market behavior depends on how people behave. And how people behave is central to the Austrian perspective.
The U.S. dollar has been the world's reserve currency for almost a century, and already there are signs it may be in decline. But that doesn't mean it's not still valuable. On the contrary... As Chris Mayer explains, there are many reasons the U.S. dollar will remain relevant on the world stage for years to come. Read on...
The government will do whatever it takes to make sure it has enough of your money to fund itself. On the surface you might think that means enduring a grueling audit. But the IRS and the government is more than willing to ignore your privacy in the cold relentless pursuit of the money they think they deserve. As they get bigger and bigger every year, the smaller and smaller your paycheck becomes as they leach off it.
Now that Bitcoin seems to be on the way toward monetization, or at least the long process is noticeably under way, there are a number of issues that are troubling people. I will deal with a few here. Note this crucial distinction that is somehow lost on many commentators on the Bitcoin issue. The flaws are not with the technological unit itself, but with its mode of delivery in real market conditions.
When do we know it is money? As I was preparing a report for subscribers of the Laissez Faire Club, I was going through the list of goods and services currently priced in Bitcoins and available on the Web. It is mind-boggling how many there are. I’m not sure I knew just how much you can get right now. The conspicuous hole in this panoply are local merchants — the pizza joint down the street, the rent, the cab fare. Otherwise, anything you can buy on the Web, you can buy with Bitcoin.
Then it suddenly occurred to me.
If you put this list together and look at the total, what you find are more goods and services available right now using Bitcoin than have been available to most everyone in all times and places using any money that has ever existed in all of human history except for the past few years.
True, you can buy more with dollars now, but you can get more stuff with BTC now than you could get with dollars in the 1980s or any earlier time in history. You can buy more varieties of grain, cereal, and spices now than you could get with government money at the local grocery back then. You can buy smartphones, tablets, scanners, and cameras that didn’t even exist back then. You can get clothing at prices that were unthinkable back then.
In other words, from a broad historical perspective, Bitcoin is already one of the most functional currencies in the history of humanity.
What keeps it from being money — Bitcoin’s value is constantly assessed in terms of its exchange ratios with government currency — is not its usability, but its stage of development. Its volatility is a problem that raises other problems. The other problem has to do with current infrastructure of Bitcoin that is not sufficiently mature to justify calling it a full-blown money at this point. All the signs look great, but we are not there yet.
For example, many in the Bitcoin world today are enormously frustrated with Mt. Gox, the Bitcoin exchange in Japan that processes some 67% of the Bitcoin business on the Web. That’s down from its near-monopoly status just two years ago, and its percentage of overall business will continue to decline.
One factor that troubles many is that Mt. Gox is highly conventional in its political relationships with the state. Just getting an account requires a great deal of information, more than most people would give even to open up a local bank account. There is no anonymity — not even close. However, this situation will surely be short-lived. The more government money moves to digital currency, the more exchanges can rely on a self-sustaining Bitcoin economy. The problem of state-connected, privacy-violating corporations is a feature of the transition, but not of the long-term operation of the system.
The process toward this self-sustainability will follow no predictable course. In the digital age, conditions can change extremely rapidly. As we saw with Cyprus, if people believe that government can rob them of their money, they will do what they can to move it, regardless of ideology. No one likes to be robbed. A technology that can prevent that can go from obscurity to ubiquity in days.
But there are other problems with Mt. Gox. It has borne the brunt of anger for several instances of technical failure since 2009. Most recently, the runup of the BTC-to-dollar exchange ratio from $30 to $266 in a matter of days overwhelmed Mt. Gox’s servers. At the same time, the service was hit by DDoS attacks. After the onslaught and constant crashes that drove a selling panic, the company finally declared a cooling-off period of 12 hours while it upgraded its servers.
Right now we are watching a mad scramble for other services that can provide more reliable service and thereby diversify the Bitcoin trade. Many people sense that the market function of price discovery is being inhibited by industrial concentration in the world of Bitcoin. It seems unsustainable for there to exist tens of thousands of Bitcoin retailers and services but for one company to so thoroughly dominate the producer end.
But there’s a beautiful thing going on here. There are no restrictions on establishing a Bitcoin exchange. The barriers to entry are extremely low, and there are not yet any prohibitive legal barriers. This means the competition for handling coins is already very intense. For Mt. Gox to survive in this environment will require it to be unrelentingly innovative.
Is it? All services like this wear their flaws on their sleeves, because they are seen by 100% of users. When things go wrong, we lunge for our rotten tomatoes and start hurling them. Having been on the other side of this for many years, my sympathies go out to any company faced with these sorts of problems.
In the world of server administration and website management, problems are preludes to solutions. The failures serve a profoundly important purpose: They draw attention to the weak points of the current server and database configuration. Things have to break in order for them to be fixed properly and with precision. One hates for this to happen in real-time, but such is the way with markets. This is no perfection out of the box, and this is the way it must be. The upheavals are more productive in a market economy than the stability. And again, these problems have nothing to do with Bitcoin, but rather with the infrastructure in which it is being introduced to the market.
A larger problem with Bitcoin concerns its essential structure that lends itself to growing value in terms of goods and services over time. This is also known as deflation. With a supply that grows on a predictable basis leading to a final fixed supply, it will always buy more and more. Why would that be a problem? Deflation poses special problems for merchants.
Let’s say that for 100 Bitcoin, you buy five tablets that you intend to resell at a profit. But by the time they enter the market, the value of Bitcoin has risen and you can’t resell them at a reasonable markup. This is a similar situation many merchants found themselves in with memory sticks and thumb drives over the last 10 years. They bought them and ended up eating them, given their falling retail prices.
How can merchants deal with this? Well, we can be inspired by the software and computer markets over the last 20 years. Deflation has been the rule. The retailers who have made it through have proven themselves to be radically “antifragile,” in the neologism of Nassim Nicholas Taleb. They have adapted through limited inventory, providing top service, excellent marketing, and a general reliance on relentless improvements in product quality to carry the day. These have been gigantically profitable industries in spite of the constant fall of prices of their goods relative to money.
If Bitcoin does, indeed, grow in value over time, savers will be rewarded. But never forget this fundamental truth: The only point of saving is eventual spending. Those who are hoarding Bitcoins today will be on the market for Bitcoin products and services tomorrow. This is a truth that Keynesians of all sorts turn away from, but it highlights the reality that hoarding is actually a productive force in the market economy.
Still, replicating that model with today’s wild volatility of Bitcoin seems implausible. But this raises another issue. Why should this volatility matter in our minds at all? Because the market is still in its infancy. We are accustomed to constantly checking the price of Bitcoin in terms of other currencies. It does not always have to be this way. For example, most people today couldn’t tell you anything about the dollar-euro exchange rate, because it just doesn’t matter. The more we deal in one currency, the more we think in terms of that currency, not its exchange rate.
Bitcoin will have matured as a currency when people concern themselves not with the exchange rate in terms of other monies, but with its value against the goods and services it buys. At that point, it will not be necessary for merchants to constantly adjust prices. The prices in Bitcoin will have meaning on their own. Even now, Bitcoin users grow tired and frustrated with the relentless focus on its dollar price. This focus tempts people to think of Bitcoin as a speculative product or investment, rather than what it seeks to be: an emerging unit of account.
Part of the irony of Bitcoin’s volatility is that it is a sign of its success. The markets are testing it, flitting between belief and doubt based on events such as bank runs and currency upheavals. It is a viable alternative today to government currencies, which is why we are seeing panic rushes to buy, followed by panic rushes to sell. Once the futures markets of Bitcoin have matured, we will start seeing those ups and downs smoothed over in a way that at least incorporates the speculative judgments of the players with skin in the game.
So yes, there are myriad problems between where we are today and where I think we will eventually be, with money finally leaving the analog age and entering the digital age. But the trajectory is clear, and those who see this and act on it will be ahead of the historical curve.
A version of this piece was published at the Daily Anarchist.