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 […]
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 fake stuff we are used to, but the real stuff made of actual silver. He called his currency the Liberty Dollar (and why not, since there is no trademark on the word dollar?).
The feds raided him in in 2006. In 2007, the government outright stole 2 tons of coins from him, many of them featuring an image of Ron Paul, plus 500 silver coins and 50 gold coins. They threw him in jail and dragged his name through the mud many times.
He was later convicted of making counterfeit coins — an ironic conviction given that he was making silver coins to compete with official coins made out of scrap metal. That conviction was in March 2011, fully 2½ years ago. The government labeled him a “domestic terrorist.” Yet — and this is what amazed me — he still hasn’t been sentenced. He walks around as free as you or me.
Truly, I was stunned. I was sitting at a wonderful gathering in San Diego, Calif., called Libertopia. It is several days of lectures, exhibits, and panels, along with lots of socializing, by libertarians of many different stripes. I had just finished giving a talk and was sitting out on a puffy chair underneath an outdoor awning.
Up walked a thin, lively, bearded man who came right up and introduced himself. My jaw dropped. I got up and said the first thing that came to mind: “My God, man, you are a hero,” and he blushed sweetly. I asked how it was that he was not in jail. He explained his saga without pathos or fear, and full of confidence that he would be exonerated.
After all, the feds threw every conceivable charge at him. The jury didn’t buy it, but finally did have to admit the he seemed to be producing and distributing what claimed to be dollars, but differed rather substantially from U.S. government dollars. That was the basis of the counterfeiting claim. The claim alone implies that somehow he was tricking people, which is ridiculous, since the whole reason his coins were marketable was precisely because his customers knew that his coins were real and, in this respect, differed completely from what the U.S. government distributes.
Think about the many distributive technologies that came out in these frontier days in which a new world was being born. All the Internet giants were being born during these years. Other services were simply distributive, such as Napster, which completely revolutionized music distribution, but was crushed by the feds in 2001.
The result was the deep entrenchment of distributed network file sharing, which is more ubiquitous than ever before. All these movements were about challenging the status quo in a fundamental way, the daring decision to take on state-blessed institutions and tap into the power of the consuming public to choose private over public services.
The movement was not killed, despite every attempt. What it actually did was change the whole way we get our services, use the Internet, and engage each other in our social and economic lives. In a rapid and thrilling way, we began to see all the ways in which power could be devolved away from the elites and toward the people. It has left a permanent mark on the world.
The Liberty Dollar was part of this movement. For decades, some very high-level intellectuals had taken note of the decline of the quality of money, from about, oh, 1913, all the way to the advent of pure paper money in 1971. The inflation of the late 1970s made the point: There has to be a better way. Economist F.A. Hayek wrote that it was entirely possible that a high-quality private money could compete with a government money.
But who would step out and make the attempt? What entrepreneur would dare come forward and offer up an alternative as a product in the consumer market?
Bernard von NotHaus was the man. There is nothing illegal about minting silver into round shapes and putting pictures on them. It’s not even clear that there is anything wrong with calling it a dollar, provided he didn’t try to claim it was a government dollar. And this is exactly what he did.
The money monopolists in Washington went absolutely nuts about this. They threw the book at him, and added some of the most hilarious rhetorical flourishes that one can imagine. The attorney who prosecuted the case for the government said the following:
“Attempts to undermine the legitimate currency of this country are simply a unique form of domestic terrorism. While these forms of anti-government activities do not involve violence, they are every bit as insidious and represent a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country. We are determined to meet these threats through infiltration, disruption, and dismantling of organizations which seek to challenge the legitimacy of our democratic form of government.”
A present danger? More like a present solution. The paper dollar hasn’t brought economic stability, but precisely the opposite. It’s been a long string of terrible booms and busts, bubbles and explosions since that fateful day when the gold backing of the dollar was completely removed. The notion that government was trying to protect a marvelous system against domestic terrorism is mind-boggling, since the truth is rather obvious: The government was trying to protect a terrible system from being overthrown by competition.
But they stopped Bernard, right? Didn’t he fail? He can be very confident in knowing that he made a gigantic mark in history. He demonstrated that it could be done. He threw a model out there that would not go away. And only two years after the looting of his business, an ambitious computer programmer created a code protocol that became what is now known as Bitcoin.
But the inventor of Bitcoin — whose identity is either completely unknown or one of the best kept secrets in history — knew better than to operate like a business. He made not silver rounds, but digital units. He didn’t store these units in one place, but rather had them live on a globally distributed network that no government can shut down. He relied not on a third-party transmitter, but instead made it possible for this new currency to be traded peer to peer.
Bitcoin is a brilliant combination of the Liberty Dollar’s soundness and Napster’s distribution methods, with a few extra features thrown in to protect it against shutdowns.
In other words, Bernard von NotHaus took one for the sound-money team, and, in time, the world will see that his instincts were exactly right. Monopolies can’t last. Not even the world’s most powerful government can keep quality and consumer preference at bay forever. His idea pointed to a bright future in a revolutionary way. The revolution will not occur with guns and battles, but through enterprise, entrepreneurship, and a billion tiny acts of peaceful consumer choice.
When I think of this sweet, inauspicious, brilliant man, I can’t help but smile. He is not a revolutionary in the mold of Lenin or Napoleon or even a fulminating media figure. His mode is to make something cool and offer it to people. It’s the American way, and it’s the height of hypocrisy that he would be persecuted in the Land for the Free simply for having made a better mousetrap.
This is why he is a legend. This is why he will go down in history. And perhaps this is why he continues to wait for his sentencing to take place.