Bitcoin is a truly revolutionary idea that allows people to transact and store value away from the prying eyes of governments. China’s digital currency is just another state-issued currencies that gives the Chinese government even more control over the lives of its citizens. From Peter C. Earle at aier.org:
China’s digital currency has left the testing stage and is set for a full rollout to the entire country and region. For some reason, the major media stories on the topic circle around the issue of Bitcoin, invented in 2009 as an alternative to government paper money.
Just because a money has the word “digital” in the title doesn’t mean it is a form of Bitcoin. It is not. It is nothing more than a government currency with a different delivery system.
The digital Yuan does not live on a public ledger. It is controlled centrally by Chinese authorities, to be changed if, as, and when political whims require such.
The digital Yuan is not a peer-to-peer currency but rather requires the use of officially regulated financial intermediation.
The digital Yuan does not have a market-based valuation independent of the old version of the currency. They are tied together.
The digital Yuan does not have an algorithmic protocol dictating the production of new assets (akin to money creation), much less an end date at which point no more will be created. It is a currency with a discretionary money supply controlled by the government.
The digital Yuan is programmable to the point that the currency can be made to expire, thus forcing consumers to use it up by a certain date. This is a twist on an obscure, unconventional monetary policy innovation known as a Gesell currency: expiring money, which gives the issuing government a heightened degree of control over money velocity.
The digital Yuan permits a new method for surveilling the population, creating new data which can be tracked by authorities. Bitcoin has pseudonymous protections for user privacy.
Governments always want a monopoly on money, although they invariably mismanage said monopolies. From Tho Bishop of mises.org:
Today is the eighty-eighth anniversary of Executive Order 6102, signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “forbidding the hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States.” The order was one of the several disastrous responses to the Great Depression that succeeded in escalating the financial crisis. Later in the year, the US Congress would pass a resolution retroactively supporting the legislation; however, it was the determined autocratic leadership of FDR that made way for these unprecedented measures. It would be a crime for Americans to hold gold for over forty years, until President Gerald Ford reversed the order in 1974.
This episode has several lessons for the current financial environment, particularly given the acceleration of tyranny-by-expert rule that has taken over much of the worst this past year.
The underlying legislation that evoked by FDR’s executive order was the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917—a by-product of World War I—despite the fact that the US was in no way in a period of war in 1932. Similarly, we have seen war on terror–inspired financial legislation increasingly used against American citizens. For example, in the name of “fighting terrorism” the US PATRIOT Act significantly increased know-your-customer laws, empowering federal regulators to use the traditional banking system to better track the economic behavior of American citizens.
In the eyes of the federal government, “antiterrorism” legislation was quickly expanded to include additional missions—such as stopping money laundering and drug crimes. Increasingly, these bogeymen have been used by policymakers around the world to erode financial privacy assets—such as cash and secret Swiss bank accounts.
Can governments kill Bitcoin and replace it with something more amenable to their control? From John Rubino at dollarcollapse.com:
One of the flaws in the revolutionary mindset is a tendency towards overconfidence. Combine absolute belief in a new idea with a couple of early wins and you get an absurd level of cockiness. This leads the would-be revolutionary to underestimate the challenges involved in getting from there to ultimate victory.
Why? Because those early successes happened when hardly anyone was paying attention. Once the threat is recognized, the Empire usually strikes back with intent, and the revolution turns out to be a lot harder, and a lot less certain, than it seemed.
History is littered with examples of this principle, from 20th-century geopolitics (where the Nazis and Communists, at various times, each thought they had world domination in the bag) to investing, where the 1990s dot-coms were going to grow forever – until they collapsed under the weight of their own hubris — and 2006 home flippers thought they could build real estate empires without bothering to learn the business.
Which brings us to bitcoin. Its early success has been spectacular …
If it’s not the ultimate Inversion it’s pretty darn close: wealth without work. From James Howard Kunstler at kunstler.com:
The Senate bill also includes a provision intended to avert surprise tax bills for people who lost jobs, waiving federal income taxes for the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020 for households earning under $150,000.”
—The New York Times
Isn’t that a curious concept from the front page of Re-set Central? How does a couple with no jobs and no income earn $150,000 in a year that they were not working? And if they somehow brought in $150,000 anyway, why do they need the support of the US government? Such are the many mysteries of the Coronavirus 2021 stimulus bill.
What’s actually going on with this monster of legislation? Kind of looks like an attempt to replace what used to be a national economy with something that pretends to be money conjured from a system pretending to tax itself on wealth that was never generated in the first place. In other words: politicians have achieved the final divorce of wealth from production, and thus economy from reality. The USA has become the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Whatever else the Soviet experiment was, it was at least predicated on producing stuff, however defective the incentives turned out to be, or how shoddy the stuff was that got produced — and the system finally crashed anyway, because it was based on fantasies of human social behavior that just didn’t comport with reality. Now, the USA, in its own existential climax phase, seeks to re-do the Soviet experiment, only minus that feature of industrial production. Instead, our “wealth” gets generated from the banking system alone, and its subsidiary activities, such as hedge funds, arbitrages, dividends from companies with no earnings, and the fees for swapping digitized bundles of this-and-that. You understand that it’s all an illusion, right?
Governments probably can’t stop Bitcoin, and some of them may not want to. From Alex Gladstein at quillette.com:
Since its creation more than 12 years ago, Bitcoin is undefeated. Its price has leaped from $5 to $50 to $500 to $5,000 to now past $50,000. The number of global users has eclipsed 100 million. The system’s network security, number of developers, and new applications are at all-time highs. Dozens of companies including Tesla and Square have started to add Bitcoin to their corporate treasuries.
This worldwide success doesn’t mean that people haven’t tried to stop Bitcoin. The digital money project has in fact survived a variety of attacks which in some cases threatened its existence. There are two main vectors: network attacks on the software and hardware infrastructure, and legal attacks on Bitcoin users. Before we explore them and consider why they failed, let’s start at the beginning.
In January 2009, a mysterious coder going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto launched Bitcoin, an open-source financial network with big ambitions: to replace central banking with a decentralized, peer-to-peer system with no rulers. It would use a programmable, highly-fungible token that could be spent like electronic cash or saved like digital gold. It would be distributed around the world through a set-in-stone money printing schedule to a subset of users who would compete to secure the network with energy and in return, get freshly minted Bitcoin.
Initially, most were understandably skeptical, and very few paid attention. There had been attempts at creating “ecash” before, and all had failed. No one had been able to figure out how to create a decentralized, incorruptible mint, or how to grow a system that couldn’t be stopped by governments.
An attempt at an objective analysis of Bitcoin, which evokes strong emotions, even hysteria, from both its detractors and its proponents. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:
There are famous stories that come out of the Great Depression in which very astute financiers sold all of their stocks just before the big crash of 1929.
Joseph Kennedy famously dumped his portfolio after receiving stock tips from a shoeshine boy. And Bernard Baruch, one of the wealthiest financiers on Wall Street, said after the crash,
“Taxi drivers told you what to buy. The shoeshine boy could give you a summary of the day’s financial news as he worked with rag and polish. An old beggar who regularly patrolled the street in front of my office now gave me [stock] tips. . .”
Now, these comments make it seem like taxi drivers and shoeshine boys don’t have financial sense. And that’s wrong.
Someone’s profession and their level of financial sophistication don’t necessarily go hand in hand; there are plenty of astute janitors, and plenty of idiot fund managers.
But I did think about Baruch’s remarks recently when an Uber driver started talking to me about cryptocurrency.
Again, his opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s. But what I found remarkable is that the only thing he knew about his portfolio was how much he’s ‘up’.
Because Musk sits at the center of the Venn diagram of today’s cultural dynamics.
He’s an entrepreneur building electric sports cars and commercializing space flight. Tesla and SpaceX, regardless of what you think about them as companies, are aspirational ideas of the highest order.
As libertarians we’ve long decried the public space program as wasteful and inefficient. NASA has stood in the way of private space exploration for decades. And because of NASA’s typical bureaucratic defense of its fiefdom, space exploration slowed to a halt for the past two generations.
Central bankers hate alternative, private mediums of exchange. Don’t take Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies freedom from regulation for granted. From Paul Joseph Watson at summit.news:
“Bitcoin has conducted some funny business.”
Getty Images News
Head of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde has called for global regulations on Bitcoin, labeling the cryptocurrency “reprehensible.”
Lagarde made the comments during a Reuters Next conference earlier today, during which she asserted that Bitcoin was not a currency.
“When you look at the most recent developments upward, and now the recent downward trend … for those who have assumed that it might turn into a currency, terribly sorry but this is an asset and it is a highly speculative asset,” she said.
The former head of the IMF, who was previously found guilty of financial negligence by a French court over a €403 million arbitration deal in favor of businessman Bernard Tapie, went on to accuse Bitcoin of being heavily embroiled in criminal activity.
“(Bitcoin) has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity,” said Lagarde.
The ECB head went on to call for Bitcoin to be regulated by financial authorities.
If you’re looking at alternatives for present state-backed mediums of exchange, cryptocurrencies are sexier but gold has quite a track record. From Egon von Greyerz at goldswitzerland.com:
2021 is likely to be a year of awakening. This is when the world will start to realise that the $280 trillion global debt has no value and will never be paid back.
But even worse than that, of the $280t a staggering $200t has been created in the last 20 years.
Let’s say that it took 2,000 years to go from zero to $80t in 2000. It doesn’t really matter where we start counting since most of the $80t debt was created after Nixon closed the gold window in 1971.
AS DEBT IMPLODES SO WILL ASSET PRICES
Looking at the other side of the balance sheet, there will be an even bigger shock for investors and property owners as debt implodes. Because asset valuations are a function of the debt. And if debt implodes, which is inevitable, so will asset prices.
This is why prices of stocks, bonds and property will implode by more than 95% in real terms (gold) as I outlined in my article last week.
So it took just under 2000 years for global debt to grow from zero to around $5 trillion in 1971. Thereafter it took 29 years to year 2000 to grow by $75t to $80t. That was the exponential phase.
And now we are in the explosive phase with debt growing by over $200t in 20 years.
Anyone who can’t see what is happening is either blind or hasn’t studied history.
+$5t – 1,971 years – Year 0 to 1971 +$75t – 29 years – Year 1971 to 2000 +$200t – 20 years – Year 2000 – 2020
We saw exponential debt expansion 1971 to 2000. Since then the growth has been explosive.
In a Twitter-thread, the chief executive [of Coinbase Brian Armstrong] said that his firm “heard rumors” about the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s plans to introduce fresh rules for “self-custody wallets” by the end of his term.
The open nature of cryptocurrencies allows anyone to create a private wallet by downloading third-party software on their computers/smartphones or through hardware devices that store digital assets. These types of self-custodial solutions come cheaper than traditional financial services — and they ensure privacy.
Those rumors are apparently valid since Mnuchin received a letter from four Congressmen imploring him not to do such a monumentally stupid thing.
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