The Burning Platform: Money, Politics, and Corruption

In a post titled The Last Link, ZMan writes at The Burning Platform about the difficulty of sustaining sound money among a corrupt political class.

Way back in the early days of the conservative movement, it was assumed that Federal spending was both unsustainable and damaging to the country. Cutting the size and scope of government was their thing. The tool they eventually settled on to reduce Federal spending was taxes. If they made high taxes so unpopular with the public, the Left could not keep raising taxes. If they could not raise taxes to cover their spending, they would eventually have to yield to the mathematics.

Obviously, that never happened. The big tax reforms of the 1980’s did simplify taxes and lower rates on rich people, but revenues remained stable. At the same time, spending kept growing. One of the unspoken truths of fiscal policy is the percent of GDP that is consumed by Federal taxes does not change much of time. The range is between 15% to 18%, depending on when tax policy was changed. This is the logic of the flat tax. One rate, no deductions and no more IRS.

Spending, of course, keeps going up, no matter who is in office. Despite their rhetoric, the Republicans are the big spenders. In the 1980’s they had to spend on the military to win the Cold War. In the Bush years it was the crusades against Islam. It is only when a Democrat is in the White House that the Republicans get tight-fisted, and even that is mostly ceremonial, as we have seen with the last Covid bill. It turns out that there is no relationship between taxes and spending.

Another shibboleth of conservatives is that eventually the bond markets will force a haircut on the government. The so-called bond vigilantes will drive up interest rates, which will make borrowing more expensive. The theory here is that there is a hard limit on debt. Once that limit is reached, spending must go down or taxes must go up in order to reconcile the books. Like the belief that taxes will curtail spending, faith in the mythological bond vigilantes has been misplaced.

Of course, you can go back further and find arguments from the hard money crowd about the limits of fiat currency. There was an argument in the old days that said fiat currency not only unleashes spending and inflation, but it eventually makes the money worthless, thus bankrupting the state. We have been off the gold standard for a very long time now and none of the predictions came true. The spending continues, the borrowing continues, and the money creation continues.

The gold bugs have now moved to crypto currency as the savior. Once everyone is using digital money that is outside the control of the state, then we end up with a de facto gold standard. That will force fiscal discipline on the state, which means radically reducing spending. The fact that this will never happen has so far not dimmed the enthusiasm, but like all of the other schemes to cut spending, this one will prove no match for the animal cunning of the ruling class.

There is another theory related to money. The monetarists have always argued that sound monetary policy would impose discipline on the state. Since central banks are independent of the state, they can maintain a stable money supply. While not the same as a gold standard, sound monetary policy has similar effects. That has turned out to be a myth as well. The Fed is now captive to the spending frenzy of Washington, finding new ways to underwrite trillions in new outlays.

Now, there are those who will keep lighting candles for their favorite theory. The gold bugs, for example, are sure hyperinflation is around the next corner. The bond vigilantes are similarly sure the next crisis will confirm their theory. The truth is though, none of these theories turned out to be true. The official debt is $28T, but that excludes things like Social Security. The real debt obligations of the Federal government are incalculable. No one knows and no one seems to care.

The lesson of the last half century is one the monetarists learned from the battles over the gold standard. If the ruler is so corrupt you need hard money to control him, your ruler is corrupt enough to find a way around the limits of hard money. It turns out our rulers are more than capable of conniving around every limit put before them. They have reached levels of corruption that were though impossible half a century ago. The display being put on now suggest they are just getting warmed up.

This rather shabby track record should raise a question. That is, is the field of economics just pseudoscientific nonsense? It has lots of complexity and lots of very clever solutions to the complex problems it unearths, but outside of the most basic of concepts like supply and demand, economics is not very useful. In all of the important things, it turns out to be wrong. Astrologers have a better record than economists, because they know they are grifters, not scientists.

Putting that aside, the lesson here is that contra the libertarians, economics is downstream from politics. No amount of fiddling with the tax code can fix the defects of the political class. Even further, the right people in a corrupt system cannot correct the defects of the corrupt system. This is why the people come and go in Washington, but the corruption rolls on unimpeded. In the great chain of causality, economics is the last link in that chain. It is the final effect of a chain of many causes.

FEE: Roger Ver on Cryptocurrency, Human Liberty, and Economic Education

The Foundation for Economic Education interviews bitcoin.com founder Roger Ver on Cryptocurrency, Human Liberty, and Economic Education.

It can help us have freer markets than we have ever had before and to do this faster than lobbying the government for political change. People shouldn’t need a social security number, an ID, and a bank account in order to participate in the economy, and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Cash that are fast, cheap, and reliable can make that possible.

Hal Finney, who is the first person we know of other than Satoshi Nakamoto to run the Bitcoin code, wrote in an email back in the 90s that we can’t just fade into cyberspace and expect technology alone to give us freedom.

“I believe we will have the kind of society that most people want. If we want freedom and privacy, we must persuade others that these are worth having. There are no shortcuts. Withdrawing into technology is like pulling the blankets over your head. It feels good for a while, until reality catches up.”

For all the good that cryptocurrency like Bitcoin Cash can do, it isn’t enough. Bitcoin won’t stop tax collectors showing up at your door demanding 30% of your income and it won’t stop the state putting people in cages for victimless crimes. At least it can’t do it alone. We stop those by winning the battle of ideas too and making people care about being free.

I used to think it was the government and regulators who would try to make it difficult for people to use it, and that is still a threat, but the people in cryptocurrency are also a threat. We’ve seen over and over just how hard it is to scale a blockchain project so that it can actually be used by people around the world. A lot of people have their own ideas about what Bitcoin should be, and these are totally different than what Satoshi Nakamoto wanted or what got so many people like me excited about Bitcoin to begin with. So we see today projects like Bitcoin and Ethereum that are experiencing unsustainable transaction fee levels that are going to push people onto custodial services or keep them out of the cryptocurrency economy altogether.

That’s the big threat, I think—that we never get a project that is actually allowed to grow without being rate limited by the people involved. Cryptocurrency can’t help people be more free if they can’t use it. Fortunately, Bitcoin Cash is one of the few projects working towards solving that, and anyone in the world can send any amount of money for less than a penny.

I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for reading people like Mises, Rothbard, and Bastiat. If you’re a student today who hasn’t read them, chances are you think economics is all about boring numbers and figures, but that’s not it at all. It’s really about understanding individual human action in a world of scarcity, opportunity cost, and incentives. You need that in business, investing, in your career, in anything you might want to do.

Politically, I saw this quote by Isaac Morehouse, who has written a lot of good stuff for FEE.org, which I loved: “good intentions combined with no understanding how an economy works leads to hell on earth.” I don’t think I can put it better.

I read The Freeman in high school and it helped get me started down a path that led to reading people like Mises, Rothbard, Bastiat, and Hazlitt. People are not going to get any of this material in school today, and organizations like FEE are some of the only places that young people can go to get quality introductions and instructions to these thinkers and ideas.

FEE is consistent. One of the things I think about when I support people, causes, and organizations like FEE is whether or not they can be relied upon to continue their work with as much energy and principle as they had when they first caught my eye. Sadly this is not always true. I’ve built several businesses and invested in many more and I can’t tell you how hard it is to build and maintain a team of people who are committed to the vision. I think this is even harder to do in the liberty space where there is so much pressure to compromise and make tradeoffs that serve the organization and the people in it, but water down the message and its impact. In the nearly three decades I’ve been a fan of FEE, I haven’t seen that. You can have a lot of trust in FEE that your investment is going to be used to advance freedom today and tomorrow.

SHTF Plan: Great Reset/Digital Currency

Mac Slavo at SHTF Plan has an article about the great reset and planned moves to government controlled digital currency in It Is ALL BY DESIGN: The Great Reset Is Coming, Prepare For Digital Currency

If you think you have no liberty or freedom now, just wait until the Great Reset, and the elitists and ruling class demand you use their digital dollar.  This is all by design and everything will be tracked, traced, surveilled, monitored, and shut off if you don’t agree to willingly enslave yourself to these psychopaths.

Supporters of the World Economic Forum’s all-encompassing Great Reset agenda are eyeing BIG changes for the global monetary system.

Plans that might once have been dismissed as pure speculation or conspiracy theories are now being openly pushed by people who occupy the highest levels of power. -Stefan Gleason, Money Metals Exchange

If people allow a digital dollar to become a part of their lives, we will end up completely and wholly enslaved. Not that we aren’t now, but there will be no escape. Comply, or be shut off from buying food.

If the Federal Reserve, perhaps in coordination with the IMF, attains the ability to inject stimulus directly into digital wallets, then Quantitative Easing could take a whole new meaning. Central bankers could bypass Congress and distribute their own aid as they see fit – and dole out their own punishments as well.

Medical Journal: Get The COVID-19 Vaccine, Or Be Punished HARSHLY

Treasury Secretary Yellen recently told the New York Times, “Too many Americans really don’t have access to easy payment systems and to banking accounts, and I think this is something that a digital dollar — a central bank digital currency — could help with. I think it could result in faster, safer, and cheaper payments.”

But ankers and politicians do not work in our favor and any still believing they work for us, is delusional. A central bank digital currency might also result in the imposition of negative interest rates or the automatic deduction of taxes with no way for holders to escape. If you are guilty of “wrongthink,” expect to be punished for it monetarily. We have got to wake up and stop allowing other human beings to have any power or control over our lives. Stop the talk of transferring power and just cease to be a slave. This world is going down a dark path if we cannot realize we have no obligation to be slaves for any reason, whether the masters call it government or democracy or republic.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told Congress last week that the Fed is indeed “looking carefully” at issuing a digital dollar, calling it “a high priority project for us.”

The best way to protect yourself is to own physical gold and silver. YOu can also work with your neighbors more locally and take to a barter system that could be mutually beneficial for all. Both will help remove power from the system and in the end, free you and your family from the permanent enslavement these people want to force on us all.

 

Liberty Blitzkrieg: Cancel Yourself

Michael Krieger at Liberty Blitzkrieg has taken a break from his writing break to write Cancel Yourself .

At this point we find ourselves confronted by a very disquieting question: Do we really wish to act upon our knowledge? Does a majority of the population think it worthwhile to take a good deal of trouble, in order to halt and, if possible, reverse the current drift toward totalitarian control of everything? If the United States of America is the prophetic image of the rest of the urban-industrial world as it will be a few years from now — recent public opinion polls have revealed that an actual majority of young people in their teens, the voters of tomorrow, have no faith in democratic institutions, see no objection to the censor­ship of unpopular ideas, do not believe that govern­ment of the people by the people is possible and would be perfectly content, if they can continue to live in the style to which the boom has accustomed them, to be ruled, from above, by an oligarchy of assorted experts. That so many of the well-fed young television-watchers in the world’s most powerful democracy should be so completely indifferent to the idea of self-government, so blankly uninterested in freedom of thought and the right to dissent, is distressing, but not too surprising. “Free as a bird,” we say, and envy the winged creatures for their power of unrestricted movement in all the three dimensions. But, alas, we forget the dodo. Any bird that has learned how to grub up a good living without being compelled to use its wings will soon renounce the privilege of flight and remain forever grounded. Something analogous is true of human beings. If the bread is supplied regularly and copiously three times a day, many of them will be perfectly content to live by bread alone — or at least by bread and circuses alone.

Take the right to vote. In principle it is a great privilege. In practice as recent history has repeatedly shown the right to vote by itself is no guarantee of liberty. Therefore if you wish to avoid dictatorship by referendum break up modern society’s merely func­tional collectives into self-governing voluntarily cooperating groups capable of functioning outside the bureaucratic systems of Big Business and Big Govern­ment.

– Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited, 1958

This isn’t how I intended to return to writing. There was supposed to be a new website and a new focus, but circumstances emerged and laid waste to my plans. So here I am, back again. I’m a bit rusty so bear with me.

There’s no reason to rehash what happened over the last several days, but the gist of it is that significant components of internet infrastructure were weaponized for ideological and political purposes. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we all knew this day was coming. We just didn’t want to admit it or confront it, because it’s not a comforting or easy thing to admit or confront. But the day has arrived and we’re no longer in a position to ignore it. The most concerning aspect isn’t that it happened, but that it could happen at all. The internet is clearly broken, possibly dying, and if we want to digitally associate freely again at some point in the future, we have no choice but to fix it.

Although I have no team in the parochial political fight, I’ve chosen one in the broader ideological battle. The wielding of such concentrated and unaccountable power over human communication has crossed a very serious line and sets us up for a future world I’m uninterested in participating in. As such, we have no choice but to confront the issue head on.

People who think this is about Trump for me are the most ridiculous people. I never voted for him, supported him or took him seriously. While I recognize the role he played in the greater scheme of this massive historical cycle, the best thing that can happen is for him to disappear as a political force and be understood as the spectacle and distraction he was. I’m not here to lecture anyone about who they voted for, but I’m here to connect with people of all political persuasions ready to become serious and admit that a real strategy is needed to address the unaccountable power of the national security state oligarchy. Conventional political avenues are a dead end at this point.

I recognize that tens of millions of frustrated, angry and concerned minds are trying to make sense of it all and reorient themselves. This presents a giant opportunity, but also very real danger. All the emotion being felt currently can be channeled into negative avenues such as violence, aimless spectacles, Trump martyrdom or a futile search for the next political savior guaranteed to disappoint, or it can be channeled in productive ways. That’s why I’m here writing this post at this moment. Enough people are finally motivated to respond, but what really matters is the nature of this response. The dominant aggregate reaction is what will determine the future.

Most of us eagerly, or more likely lazily, embraced the current insipid and dull paradigm in the name of convenience, low prices, and free shipping, but we never stopped to consider the sacrifices made along the way. We swallowed it whole, became comfortable fat and happy, and now the facade’s about to be slowly stripped away unless we bend the knee to an ever narrowing Overton Window of speech and behavior parameters. It begins with social media purges, but it won’t end there. All the special things we sacrificed from the prior era are gone, yet the consequences are here to stay. We can’t run and hide hoping to be the last one hauled off to the abattoir. It’s time to step up.

In this regard, I have a simple suggestion. Cancel Yourself. Unshackle yourself mentally from our suffocating and bland corporate culture while you still have a chance to do it voluntarily. Cancel yourself before they have a chance to cancel you. In this there is power. You’re taking charge and acting proactively as opposed to reacting. We need to play the game on our own terms, because the game’s coming for us either way. If you were a Trump supporter, forget about him. If you held your nose and voted for Biden, don’t expect anything good. If you’re a Sanders supporter, forget it, he’s done. Most importantly, don’t waste time and energy thinking about 2024 and who might run. A lot of really bad stuff can happen between now and then and there may not be much of a country left at that point. Focus on today and focus on what you’re willing to do personally in the near-term.

Once you’ve made the decision to preemptively cancel yourself, start thinking about specific steps you’re willing or able to take from there. Personally, this has been a 10 year+ journey that began when I quit my lucrative Wall Street job and left New York City permanently. It then expanded to public writing, cultivating a social media presence, and developing a passion for gardening. While all these actions brought me to where I am, the biggest realization I had along the way was that I need to focus most of my energy on the things I can control and my own state of consciousness.

The future won’t be determined by whether or not there’s a response, because there’s always some sort of response. What matters most is the specific nature of humanity’s dominant response. Will it be a frothing, violence soaked reptilian reaction, or will it be intelligent, wise, conscious and asymmetric. If we confront the national security state oligarchy by conventional means, we’ll end up with another conventional world, and one that’s potentially worse than this one. If we want something fundamentally distinct and better, we had better respond thoughtfully. Rejecting a tepid paradigm is an important first step, but it does not in itself guarantee a better one. The ends don’t justify the means, the means are everything.

This post has been mostly theoretical and philosophical thus far, so let’s shift gears and get practical. The world we’ve become so dependent on is quickly being turned against anyone who refuses to conform to what amounts to some mangled form of corporate sanctioned, woke imperialism. If you don’t acquiesce fully you’ll be removed eventually. The primary form of leverage being used to bend us into submission are the corporate tools and services we’ve become so dependent on, most explicitly big tech, but increasingly internet infrastructure more broadly. They think they’ve got us trapped via our dependence on these conveniences and addictions, but do they really? What can we do in response?

When thinking about this, it makes sense to look at Bitcoin for some guidance. What first got me involved nearly a decade ago was a keen understanding of how a digital world dominated by centralized digital currencies could be easily weaponized against the entire planet. As such, I and countless others around the world have embraced this revolutionary protocol governed by rules, not rulers. A means of sending value across the planet digitally that’s permissionless, peer-to-peer, decentralized and censorship resistant. There’s no CEO, no one individual human to coerce or pressure in order to change the rules. It’s a politically neutral global money in a world becoming overwhelmed with a willingness to use centralized technological services and hardware for political ends. An oasis in a desert of topdown control. So what can we learn from Bitcoin?

For starters, no one can stop you from sending bitcoin to whoever you want, which is the same sort of principle needed for online communication. Unpopular or even tasteless opinions are not a crime, but we’ve allowed tech oligarchs to act as judge and jury based on their own whims or political calculations. Even worse, they do this after having corralled everyone into their platforms by falsely claiming they served as public squares for free human expression. It’s been a gigantic bait and switch, and the lesson here is to never again rely on individuals to determine something as important as the acceptable parameters of human communication.

Which brings us to the crux of this post. The internet in its current form is dying — it has been for some time, — yet it is far from dead. We all continue to use our Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon products even though we know we shouldn’t. We’ve all become hostages to convenience and now an omnipresent sword of cancel culture hangs over our collective heads. As such, we have some important decisions to make. We can choose to constantly alter our minds and speech to conform to a growing mob of ridiculousness, or we can fix the internet itself.

As someone who’s in the process of preemptively canceling himself, I have little choice in the matter. We’re either going to transition to a decentralized, peer-to-peer internet, aka web 3.0, or the entire thing’s gonna become a sterile Potemkin Village of woke corporate imperialism and national security state talking points. I’m optimistic when it comes to the emergence of web 3.0 for several reasons, but mainly because I don’t think it’s plausible to give humanity freedom of expression via the web for a couple of decades and then just remove it for good and turn it into television. This doesn’t mean the transition will be quick or easy, but I do believe it’s probably inevitable.

If you’re on board with most of what’s been laid out here and are comfortable with canceling yourself, at least symbolically, the next choice you need to make is to determine what you can do to help usher in a different kind of paradigm. Each individual has different skills, temperaments, circumstances and commitments, so what degree of action one takes is a deeply personal decision. All I ask is that you think about how you can contribute to the goal of a more voluntary, decentralized, peaceful, conscious, cooperative, community-centered and networked world and how much time and energy you’re realistically willing to give the effort. Voting isn’t going to do it, we need direct action from millions upon millions of humans around the world.

In addition to the steps I’ve already taken in the past decade, there are several additional actions I’m committing myself to. First, given my determination that web 3.0 is critical to the future of human progress, I’ve committed myself in 2021 to getting up to speed on some of the most promising privacy and peer-to-peer technologies currently in existence, software and hardware alike. Although I don’t have the skillset to add to such projects, I do have the capacity to experiment with them and assess how far along we are and what needs to be done.

From what I know so far, there’s a lot of brainpower working on a multitude of different projects, but it’s unclear how far along and how user friendly they are. The reason this particular avenue is interesting to me is not just because it’s become increasingly necessary, but because we now have a critical mass of people ready to leave the centralized big tech products and services, but this won’t happen until web 3.0 is ready to onboard the average human relatively seamlessly. My objective is to determine how far along we are in this regard.

Beyond that, the recent decisions made by Twitter and big tech generally have once again driven the point home that it’s not wise for me to post all of my thoughts via such platforms, which was a motivating factor for spontaneously writing today’s post. I’ll continue to use Twitter because that’s how I’m able to reach the largest audience for now, but I have one foot out the door.

The next thing on my agenda is to step up efforts to launch a new website that more accurately reflects a new focus, which is not to convince, but to offer inspiration and suggestions about how we move forward as individuals and as a human race. That said, I won’t make any promises about how often I’ll be writing, because I have no idea. It’ll depend on a lot of things, including how well this post is received and how inspired I am to publish at any given moment. When I have something I really want to say I’ll write, and when I don’t, I won’t.

The big final request here for readers wanting to stay abreast of my work is to sign up for the email list (signup box found near the top right of the desktop version, and at the bottom of the mobile site). If I get canceled from Twitter, it’ll be much harder to reach out unless I have your email. Email lists have become very important once again.

AIER: FedCoin Revisited

A US physical coin, not a digital currency

This article at the American Institute for Economic Research talks about a new push for government-controlled, central bank digital currency to more easily track the income and tax liabilities of end users – FedCoin Revisited.

The Federal Reserve is thinking about issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC). The International Business Times reports that the Fed “would be open to collaborating with private business on the creation of a digital currency but emphasized that they were not yet making any commitments.” Talk of a so-called FedCoin appeared to have quelled. But it is now back in full force.

To some, the idea of a FedCoin seems obvious. They see no reason for the Fed to forego adopting 21st century monetary technology. And, certainly, there are a number of benefits, such as lower transaction costs of electronic transfers and helping to execute instant payments (such as in the FedNow project). However, a CBDC also carries risks that must be weighed against the benefits.

One’s view on FedCoin is often related to his or her view on cash. If she thinks cash is good, she is likely to oppose FedCoin. If he thinks cash is bad, he is likely to see FedCoin as an improvement on the status quo. Indeed, some see the introduction of FedCoin as an important step in the direction of a completely cashless economy.

Advocates of moving towards a cashless economy argue that making all payments electronic would help to fight tax evasion and crime. If the move were required, however, it would harm those preferring to use cash for legal transactions as well.

Many people place a high value on anonymity. For some, it’s personal. They don’t want others to know what they are doing. For some, it’s political. They worry about the degradation of institutions, as private information might be used for political ends. The threat of obtaining and revealing private information might silence opposition and undermine the democratic process.

A cashless economy might also lead to policy changes. In order to foster spending during a recession or an economic downturn, the Fed might tax money demand with negative interest rates. If holding cash is an option, then depositors can withdraw their deposits and avoid the negative interest rate. But, if cash is not an option, then consumers are stuck paying interest on their FedCoin holdings. Since they cannot avoid the negative interest rate, consumers would rather spend their money than see their bank balances go down.

In addition to the issues related to one’s view on cash, FedCoin might also undermine financial intermediation. By offering FedCoin, the central bank might crowd out commercial banks.

A checking account at Bank of America is guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation up to the max of $250,000. An account at the Fed is a liability of the government. If both offer the same payment services, why would one opt for the riskier commercial bank account?

Many will see little cause for concern with depositors having access to safer accounts. But that’s because they don’t think much about banking. Banks attract deposits with payment services and interest payments. They then funnel those funds to productive investment ventures. Financial intermediation makes us more productive, thereby raising the standard of living. As the World Bank reports, private credit to GDP high-income countries is “more than 4 times the average ratio in low-income countries.”

If would-be depositors hold FedCoin instead, the corresponding funds will have to be intermediated by the Fed. At best, the Fed would just auction off funds to private financial institutions. But recent events suggest the Fed might be inclined to allocate credit.

My concerns with FedCoin, and other CBDCs, are admittedly speculative. We don’t know whether the Fed would take steps to eliminate cash or impose negative rates on FedCoin balances. We don’t know how it would go about intermediating funds. But such speculations should make one thing clear: there are risks. At the least, we should develop strong institutional checks before permitting the Fed to plow ahead.

Mises Wire: The Government Wants Your Crypto Data. And Lots of It.

Bitcoin Manifesto author Allan Stevo has an article at the Mises Institute about how the government would like to track your crypto transactions, as well as ways that can help anonymize your cryptocurrency use – The Government Wants Your Crypto Data. And Lots of It. Don’t be scared off of cryptocurrency just because governments want to control them. It takes some time and effort to understand and take countermeasures. While governments would have you think otherwise, the money you have earned is yours not theirs.

he Venezuelan government recently announced that its Administrative Service for Identification, Migration and Foreigners (SAIME) is now accepting bitcoin as a payment method for passports.

The problem with that is that bitcoin is not anonymous but pseudonymous.

To interact with any government using bitcoin is to reveal to them the wallet you are paying from. The blockchain is public. When commentators like Caitlin Johnstone and Stefan Molyneux or organizations such as the Mises Institute or TOR Foundation ask for bitcoin contributions, one can follow the money with a blockchain explorer to see how much comes in and how it is spent. One can also see who gave it to them if a donor hasn’t exercised some caution in protecting their privacy.

I would never want the Venezuelan government, the US government, or anyone else who might misuse that information to be able to peek into my crypto finances, especially not through a transaction tied to my passport. Who’s to say that the next time I appear at an immigration checkpoint I won’t be flagged for having too fat of a bitcoin wallet or putting money toward some politically incorrect use?

Though the Venezuelan government dedicates a fraction of the resources to spying on its citizens that the US government does to spying on Americans, there is no need to carelessly provide any government with extra personal data. Knowledge in the hands of the state will be used as a weapon in the hands of the state.

There are plenty of lists of big bitcoin wallets and there are people who make a name for themselves by watching bitcoin move from one account to another. Among them is the US government.

On February 6, 2018, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairman Chris Giancarlo before the US Senate Banking Committee revealed that the US government uses spot exchanges such as Bitstamp, Coinbase, itBit, and Kraken to glimpse into the industry.

Chainalysis, run by Kraken’s cofounder and former COO Michael Gronager, exists to tie personal identity to bitcoin transactions. Their business model is the reduction of other people’s personal privacy, data that they then monetize by selling it to their customers. Far more sinister than Google or Facebook, which at least anonymize data prior to selling it to advertisers, Chainalysis links real-life personal data, including legal name, to a specific wallet. Many blockchain analysis competitors exist.

Coinbase has recently come under fire for having a similar service, Coinbase Analytics, which has a contract with the US Department of Homeland Security. “Coinbase joins a crowded field of cryptocurrency analytics companies – Chainalysis, Elliptic, CipherTrace and others – vying for a piece of the federal pie. Agencies from all corners of the U.S. government regularly contract with crypto intel firms, inking deals for their tracing software worth millions, and sometimes stretching years,” reports Coindesk.

The bitcoin exchanges that KYC (know your customer) their customers are a perfect place for industry data collection to take place. Coinbase could monetize and simplify that data collection process, not only charging fees for their exchange services, but taking it a step further and monetizing their user data, making their users the product. This is especially pernicious in the privacy obsessed, smaller-government realm of cryptocurrency.

How much money did it take for this $8 billion company to sell out crypto consumers to the US government? Government disclosure shows that the contract has a current award amount of $49,000, with potential for another $134,750 total over the next four years.

Coinbase has reassured users that it is only collecting publicly available data about its users, nothing more, and packaging that for government use. Its CEO, Brian Armstrong, has encouraged users not to use bitcoin if they don’t want to be snooped on by Coinbase, but to use privacy coins instead.

Luckily, the marketplace is responding to privacy incursions like this:

  • There are decentralized exchanges like Bisq that can’t easily be subpoenaed because there is no central entity to subpoena.
  • Additional ways of anonymizing bitcoin purchases exist, such as with cash or through ATMs, which may or may not KYC customers.
  • We are now witnessing the introduction of “privacy coins.” These are designed to be far more difficult to trace—some might even say impossible—though I long ago learned that the word “impossible” is not really that accurate, as possibility or impossibility is merely a question of will and available resources.

This topic of maintaining privacy in bitcoin transactions is especially pertinent as personal privacy comes under attack.

  • US Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) have introduced the “Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act,” an antiencryption bill that insists that all encryption without a government back door is illegal. To follow such an order would spell the death of encryption. Any encryption with a back door is not actually encryption.
  • The pseudonymous Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex was under threat of doxxing by the New York Times and consequently deleted his popular blog out of privacy concerns. The New York Times defended itself by saying it has a policy to identify all people it writes about. Alexander, after a month of silence from the New York Times on the topic, believes the threat has subsided. The callous disregard for privacy remains.
  • Google and Apple are begging governments to let them use mobile phones to monitor the whereabouts of users in the name of the latest cause against liberty—public health.

As journalist Peter Chawaga has pointed out, “Privacy is becoming one of the most scarce resources in the world.”

If these attacks on privacy were without consequence, then perhaps one might feel better about them, but as the current spate of cancel culture demonstrates—from Central Park Karen to Seattle’s middle finger Karen—merely having a camera turned on a person when they’re showing disagreeable behavior can be enough to shatter the fragile lives that many live. There’s almost a sociopathic hunger to destroy a person intertwined in some of this behavior. How much worse would the impact of that mob of sociopaths be if they also had access to all of a person’s financial data?

It’s a great time for more encryption and more privacy, and an awful time for helping governments or any other organization populate databases that you can guarantee will one day be used heartlessly against you.

Fr. John Peck: What “No Cash” Actually Means

Dave Ramsey writes about the push for a cashless society and a move to a government-controlled digital currency (as opposed to free/uncontrolled digital currency like Monero, Bitcoin, Ethereum, or many others) and what that means to you in What “No Cash” Actually Means

A cashless society means no cash. Zero. It doesn’t mean mostly cashless and you can still use a ‘wee bit of cash here & there’. Cashless means fully digital, fully traceable, fully controlled. I think those who support a cashless society aren’t fully aware of what they are asking for. A cashless society means:

* If you are struggling with your mortgage on a particular month, you can’t do an odd job to get you through.

* Your child can’t go & help the local farmer to earn a bit of summer cash.

* No more cash slipped into the hands of a child as a good luck charm or from their grandparent when going on holidays.

* No more money in birthday cards.

* No more piggy banks for your child to collect pocket money & to learn about the value of earning.

* No more cash for a rainy day fund or for that something special you have been putting $20 a week away for.

* No more little jobs on the side because your wages barely cover the bills or put food on the table.

* No more charity collections.

* No more selling bits & pieces from your home that you no longer want/need for a bit of cash in return.

* No more cash gifts from relatives or loved ones.

What a cashless society does guarantee:

* Banks have full control of every single penny you own.

* Every transaction you make is recorded.

* All your movements & actions are traceable.

* Access to your money can be blocked at the click of a button when/if banks need ‘clarification’ from you which will take about 3 weeks, a thousand questions answered & five thousand passwords.

* You will have no choice but to declare & be taxed on every dollar in your possession.

* The government WILL decide what you can & cannot purchase.

* If your transactions are deemed in any way questionable, by those who create the questions, your money will be frozen, ‘for your own good’.

Forget about cash being dirty. Stop being so easily led. Cash has been around for a very, very, very long time & it gives you control over how you trade with the world. It gives you independence. I heard a story where a man supposedly contracted Covid because of a $20 bill he had handled. There is the same chance of Covid being on a card as being on cash. If you cannot see how utterly ridiculous this assumption is then there is little hope.

If you are a customer, pay with cash. If you are a shop owner, remove those ridiculous signs that ask people to pay by card. Cash is a legal tender, it is our right to pay with cash. Banks are making it increasingly difficult to lodge cash & that has nothing to do with a virus, nor has this ‘dirty money’ trend.

Please open your eyes. Please stop believing everything you are being told. Almost every single topic in today’s world is tainted with corruption & hidden agendas. Please stop telling me & others like me that we are what’s wrong with the world when you hail the most corrupt members of society as your heroes. Politics & greed is what is wrong with the world; not those who are trying to alert you to the reality in which you are blindly floating along whilst being immobilised by irrational fear. Fear created to keep you doing & believing in exactly what you are complacently doing.

Pay with cash & please say no to a cashless society while you still have the choice.

Mises Institute: Bitcoin and the Theory of Money

It has been a while since we last ran a bitcoin article, but we certainly haven’t forgotten about it. With the economic woes gripping the world, the precarious place of the US dollar, and a lot of uncertainty about everything, gold has risen 12.8% year to date and thoughts turn to alternative money. Here’s Robert Murphy at Mises Institute with Bitcoin and the Theory of Money.

In a modern primer on money mechanics, it is necessary to provide at least an introduction to Bitcoin.1 Consequently, in this final chapter we will first give a basic explanation of what Bitcoin is and how it works. Then we will place Bitcoin in the framework of money that we developed in chapter 2, seeking to answer the fundamental question: Is Bitcoin money?” Finally, we will relate Bitcoin to an important component in the Austrian school’s discussion of money, namely Ludwig von Mises’s “regression theorem.”

Explaining Bitcoin with an Analogy2

“Bitcoin” encompasses two related but distinct concepts. First, individual bitcoins (lowercase b) are units of (fiat)3 digital currency. Second, the Bitcoin protocol (uppercase B) governs the decentralized network through which thousands of computers across the globe maintain a “public ledger”—known as the blockchain—that keeps a fully transparent record of every authenticated transfer of bitcoins from the moment the system became operational in early 2009. In short, Bitcoin encompasses both (1) an unbacked digital currency and (2) a decentralized online payment system.

Bitcoin

According to its official website: “Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority; managing transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out collectively by the network.”4 Anyone who wants to participate can download the Bitcoin software to his or her computer and become part of the network, engaging in “mining” operations and helping to verify the history of transactions.

To fully understand how Bitcoin operates, one needs to learn the subtleties of public-key cryptography, which we briefly discuss in a later section. For now, we focus instead on an analogy that captures the economic essence of Bitcoin, while avoiding the need for new terminology.

Imagine a community where the money is based on the integers running from 1, 2, 3, … up through 21,000,000. At any given time, one person “owns” the number 8, while somebody else “owns” the number 349, and so on.

In this setting, suppose Bill wants to buy a car from Sally, and the price sticker on the car reads “Two numbers.” Bill happens to be in possession of the numbers 3 and 12. So Bill gives the two numbers to Sally, and Sally gives Bill the car. The community recognizes two facts: first, the title to the car has been transferred from Sally to Bill, and second, Sally is now the owner of the numbers 3 and 12.

Further suppose that in this fictitious community an industry of thousands of accountants maintains the record of ownership of the 21 million integers. Each accountant keeps an enormous ledger in an Excel file. The columns run across the top, from 1 to 21 million, while the rows record every transfer of a particular number. For example, when Bill bought the car from Sally, the accountants who were within earshot of the deal entered into their respective Excel files “Now in possession of Sally” in the next available row, in the columns for 3 and 12. In these ledgers, if we looked one row above, we would see “Now in the possession of Bill” for these two numbers, because Bill owned these two numbers before he transferred them to Sally.

Bitcoin Car Sale

Besides documenting any transactions that happen to be within earshot, the accountants also periodically check their own ledgers against those of their neighbors. If an accountant ever discovers that his neighbors have recorded transactions for other numbers (i.e., for deals for which the accountant in question was not within earshot), then the accountant fills in those missing row entries in the columns for those numbers. Therefore, at any given time, there are thousands of accountants, each of whom has a virtually complete history of all transactions involving all 21 million numbers…

Click here to read the entire article at Mises Institute.

Medium.com: YouTube Is Censoring Crypto Videos

Vincent Zandri has written an article over on Medium.com about how YouTube is censoring various crypto-currency videos and/or threatening to shut down the accounts of those who post them. Governments and banking systems are against cryptocurrencies outside of their control. If you control the money (which they currently do), then you can control just about everything else – including people’s behavior.

The first threat to government of an independent and opaque currency is how do they control taxation or government revenue. Our current system of government graft, masquerading as democracy, is dependent on the reliable extraction (some would say theft) of money from the populace on an ongoing basis. When people are receiving payments and making purchases in an encrypted medium, how does the government collect its cut?

Second, control of the money/banking system allows the government to control people’s behavior. As an extreme example, how many people will join an uprising against the government, knowing that their bank account will be frozen or seized so that they cannot pay their mortgage, or rent, or buy food? Or if their retirement fund/children’s college fund, etc. is seized? People already worry about making certain entirely legal banking transactions because the know or worry that the government or banking system will have information about them that either invades a person’s privacy or flags them for criminal investigation.

Altcoin Daily, a popular Bitcoin and crypto education video channel is alleging that YouTube is not only censoring theirs and many other crypto channel’s online content, they are threatening to shut them down altogether. The popular, Google owned, video-sharing platform is slapping many sites like Altcoin Daily with an accusation of “sale of regulated goods,” which is akin to selling alcohol or drugs to the general public and/or minors. As far as I can tell, Altcoin Daily doesn’t sell so much as a stick of gum to anyone. The two twin brothers who run the channel don’t offer financial advice, rather, they describe themselves as “crypto enthusiasts” who offer crypto news with a heavy focus on Bitcoin.

Fellow affected crypto YouTube Channel content creators are making their voices heard about the censoring via social media…

Click here to read the entire article at Medium.com.

Natural News: NSA Archiving Encrypted Communications to Decrypt Later

Encryption works. But as computing power increases the time requires to brute force crack your encryption keys decreases. This article from Natural News notes that the NSA is archiving all eencrypted emails and transactions in the hopes that increases in computing power, including quantum computing, will allow them to be decrypted in the next few years. Note that it mentions 256-bit AES and RSA keys. Upgrade your encryption to elliptic encryption if your apps support it. If your apps don’t support it, look for ones that do.

That said, the NSA also has a vested interest in making people believe that using encryption is useless. So this could also be a smoke screen. Cover your bases and use the best encryption practicable. The government has no business reading your correspondence without a valid warrant.

The NSA is archiving all encrypted emails and transactions, knowing they will be able to decrypt most digital files in about 3 years, thanks to quantum computing

All encrypted emails, files and hard drives that currently rely on 256-bit encryption (such as AES or RSA) may be retroactively broken by the NSA in the next three years, thanks to rapid advances in quantum computing recently announced by Google scientists.

The NSA is currently archiving all encrypted communications and storing the digital files on offline storage servers in its “Bumblehive” domestic spying facility in Utah. Currently these digital files cannot be broken because classical computing presents a strongly asymmetrical complexity problem that makes breaking encrypted files prohibitively time consuming and expensive. Files encrypted with 2^n bits currently present computational complexity that requires 2^n computer power to break. In other words, encrypting files is easy (linear), but breaking encryption is incredibly difficult (logarithmic).

But rapid advances in quantum computing transform the breaking of encryption from a logarithmic mathematical problem to a linear problem, collapsing the complexity to 2 * n instead of 2 ^ n…

Technology and Avoiding Censorship

The world of news reporting has been metamorphosing since the Internet became easily available. Print journalism is dying. The newspaper and magazine news sources that have survived have moved onto the internet to some extent, though they may still have a print presence. But the Internet is a funny place, and it, and dwindling financials, have changed those venerable news dinosaurs. Making profits became dependent upon Internet advertising which was measured by ad views or ad clicks. It became more important to these institutions to have stories that received more views rather than stories of deep substance, not that the two are mutually exclusive. Inevitably, the businesses started catering to specific audiences or demographics, posting stories and headlines that would invite those users to click into the article to view the ads. Once proud institutions like the New York Times have become more of a television sitcom, where the stories are played to a captive audience with implied “applause” and “laughter” cue cards. CNN is more like People magazine than a news network.

Speaking of television, much the same has happened to news sources there. As viewers switched from advertising-supported television channels (or paid cable channels) to watching shows and reading news on the Internet, the financial support of the captive television audience dwindled. As that revenue dwindled, television companies had less money with which to subsidize their news. When once news was a point of pride of the stations that they gladly subsidized, the broadcasters now had to compete for advertising revenue for their news shows. These causes likewise led to a similar chasing after of sensational headlines as was occurring in the Internet space.

In short, the mainstream media news sources have turned into a wasteland as far as actual news goes. Instead they relay stories that will play well with their respective cash-cow herds. Or they run stories that are profitable for them to air, either because they are paid to do so or to ingratiate themselves with government agencies or corporations in order to have access or the personal prestige of being seen with later (for those persons high up enough in the pseudo-news organization). It is well documented, for instance, that the CIA has for decades worked with news organizations of all kinds in order to either relay or suppress the stories or propaganda that they want to shape public opinion. This is no less true for many large corporations and political parties who actively work with these organizations for their own propagandistic ends.

It should be no surprise to anyone, then, that people have turned to alternative news sources. This is a great danger to the power of all those organizations currently involved in mainstream news organizations – i.e. government agencies, political parties, corporations, foreign entities, etc. Controlling the media is a way to control the people. People cannot get angry over something that they never hear about, or better yet, they can’t believe anything that the media is portraying as laughable. Because people are, indeed, looking for real news, these interests are doing their best to prevent alternative news sources or at least people’s access to these sources.

In the past several months, we’ve seen many alternative news voices as well as individual users banned from various Internet social media platforms which they used to communicate with the people who followed them – a process called de-platforming. Because these social media platforms are owned by private corporations there is no first amendment violation, even when some of the corporations are counseled by advisory entities with close government ties. Little justification is given for these deplatformings other than vague mumblings from the corporations about hate speech, extremism, insults, Russian spies, and so forth. The corporations are under no obligation, currently, to provide any truth. They say something the content creator did violated their terms of use and that is the end.  So far these deplatforming actions have been overwhelming against conservative voices, though not entirely so.

Continue reading “Technology and Avoiding Censorship”

Liberty Blitzkrieg: The Times for Which Bitcoin Was Made

Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg has an article, These Are the Times Bitcoin Was Made For, in which he discusses Bitcoin and its role in evading the techno-censorship of the 21st century.

…There are two crucial attack vectors being targeted when it comes to punishing the transgressions of American thought criminals; money and communications, and we need to understand that Alex Jones is our cultural guinea pig. The tech giants started by kneecapping his voice by simultaneously deplatforming his presence from many of today’s dominant communications platforms. Now PayPal’s moved in to make payments more difficult, thus threatening his ability to earn money. You don’t have to like anything Alex Jones does to see how dangerous this is. What’s being done to him can and will be to done to others deemed undesirable by Silicon Valley oligarchs should they get popular enough. What’s emerging is a playbook on how to exert pressure and encourage self-censorship in the digital age and you better pay attention.

Money and communication are fundamental to our experience as humans here on earth in the early 21st century. As such, these things must be as neutral and permissionless as possible. The moment you have human beings in charge of communication and money systems you introduce bias and corruption. This is particularly dangerous in our current stage of human development considering the extent to which power and wealth have become concentrated in so few hands globally. You can bet the farm this small group of people will do whatever it takes to preserve the gravy train that is our current paradigm, including using tools of communication and money to prevent those who want change from influencing the conversation. This isn’t theoretical, it’s happening right now and will surely escalate from here.

Which is precisely why the emergence and continued success of Bitcoin is so fundamentally important to understanding the best way to challenge the forces attempting to bully us into an acceptance of their worldview. Unlike PayPal, Bitcoin is permissionless. There’s no central party, management team or CEO who can decide to stop you from using Bitcoin, something completely distinct from the likes of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, PayPal, etc. As such, we can clearly see the fundamental flaw of these platforms by comparison. Centralized money and communications platforms are ultimately not conducive to a free society, which we can clearly see now, especially with the recent suspension of James Woods from Twitter for the most trivial of reasons…

If we’re going to challenge the current way of doing things and create a more free and decentralized world, we need to create and use tools that reflect and promote those values. Bitcoin is an example in the realm of money, but we’re still sorely lacking in the realm of communications. If a government or some massive corporation can shut down conversation simply because they don’t like what’s being said, we simply are not free humans.

If we want to be free, we need to use tools that reflect and protect such values. We aren’t there yet, but the path forward is being built. These are the times Bitcoin was made for.

Related:

Fast Company: Tim Berners-Lee tells up his radical new plan to upend the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee is a “father of the web,” having invented the hypertext transfer protocol (http). He’s been working on a project to decentralize the web and put data ownership back in people’s own hands rather than in the control of internet mega-corporations.

Make Use Of: I2P vs Tor vs VPN A simple explanation of three tools which can vastly increase your internet security and privacy.

Finances Online: tope 10 Alternatives to PayPal Payments Pro

Gab – Free speech alternative to Twitter.

K of Combat Studies Group to Speak at March 8th LVA Meeting

K of Combat Studies Group will be the featured speaker at the March 8th, 2018 Lower Valley Assembly of the Whole in Prosser, WA. His topic will be digital security.

K is a combat veteran, owner/instructor of CSG Inc, overseas government contractor, and a wilderness medic. He has trained thousands of personnel from all four branches of the military, special operations forces, federal agencies, police and responsible citizens, in firearms, tactics, survival and trade-craft. Combat Studies Group teaches classes in firearms tactics, kidnap defense, austere medicine, vehicle and home defense and most recently has been teaching many classes around the country about digital security dubbed “Groundrod” courses.  Combat Studies Group also creates and sells secure phones, tablets and laptops.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

― Robert A. Heinlein

Ben Yu: Cryptocurrency 101

Over at Medium.com, Ben Yu has written a cryptocurrency primer called Cryptocurrency 101. It is a long read, but it has much good history and other background information to enhance your understanding of the reason for and value of cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin was designed, essentially, as a better ‘digital gold’. It incorporates all of the best elements of gold — its inherent scarcity and decentralized nature — and then solves all the shortcomings of gold, in allowing it to be globally transactable in precise denominations extremely quickly.

How does it do this? In short, by emulating gold’s production digitally. Gold is physically mined out of the ground. Bitcoin is also ‘mined’, but digitally. The production of bitcoin is controlled by code that dictates you must find a specific answer to a given problem in order to unlock new bitcoins.

In technical terms, bitcoin utilizes the same proof-of-work system that Hashcash devised in 1997. This system dictates that one must find an input that when hashed, creates an output with a specific number of preceding zeros, among a few other specific requirements.

This is where the ‘crypto’, incidentally, in cryptocurrency comes from. Cryptographic hash functions are fundamentally necessary for the functioning of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as they are one-way functions. One-way functions work such that it is easy to calculate an output given an input, but near impossible to calculate the original input given the output. Hence, cryptographic one-way hash functions enable bitcoin’s proof of work system, as it ensures that it is nigh-impossible for someone to just see the output required to unlock new bitcoins, and calculate in reverse the input that created that output.

Read the entire article by clicking here