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I Can Fix Bitcoin Syndrome

Most so called “shitcoins” get started by a person who thinks “I can fix Bitcoin”. Usually, these people act out of pure hybris and very little understanding. They create a new coin instead of developing on Bitcoin because they do not understand the compromises deliberately taken by Satoshi and the early core devs and think they can do better. What, however, when the “I Can Fix Bitcoin Syndrome” befalls an actual Bitcoin core dev?

The block size wars are a prime example. The most prominent dev saw himself as the heir of Satoshi and assumed that this meant he could dictate Bitcoin’s course. Had he prevailed, then—without hyperbole—the Bitcoin experiment would have failed. Luckily, the vigilant cyber hornets swarmed out and prevented the big blockers from succeeding.

Even if one battle is won, the war is never over. New BIPs are constantly being proposed. Some look promising, some lunatic, but whatever is suggested, whoever suggests it, the duty of toxic maximalists is to scrutinize every proposal and fight most of them.

The point that is so hard to understand about Bitcoin is that it is already very close to a theoretical maximum. Every ledger has a trilemma that cannot be solved, but only compromised on. You must decide if you want to have security, decentralization, or scalability. You can only ever maximize two.

Envision it like building a character in a video game. Every one of the three skills can have a maximum of 21 points allocated, and you can allocate a total of 42 points.

Satoshi Nakamoto chose to give 21 to Security and 21 to Decentralization. Thus, necessarily having awful scalability.

This is a feature, not a bug. Thanks to second layer concepts like Lightning, Liquid, Fedimint and co. Bitcoin can have its cake and eat it too. The main layer has maximum security and decentralization, which are necessary to make it an accurate, reliable money.
The layers built on top can (within certain constraints) reshuffle the points, while not compromising on the layer 1.

Lightning, for example, sacrifices decentralization to enable scalability, while still retaining most of the security, especially the security to not inflate the money supply, which is the No. 1 key issue a money needs to have.

So, whenever someone proposes a new update to Bitcoin’s main layer, you need to ask yourself:

Does it change the tradeoffs?

If it does change the security or decentralization of L1, it must be vehemently rejected.

Even if it doesn’t change the tradeoffs, the next question is:
Is it needed to scale layer 2 to 8 billion users?

On this question, my opinion is that since the taproot update, it has to always be answered “NO”. We have all the necessary tools to scale to 8 billion or even more users. Sure, it may not be convenient for the L2 devs, but out of constraint arises creativity. In the long run, creative workarounds to given constraints often yield better results than working with a blank slate.

Yes, I know it’s tempting to “just have this little update to L1”. But every update is a gigantic risk because it brings with it untold new bug and attack vector risks. Thus, at this point, L1 should be only touched if a bug is discovered, or if the update is necessary to defend against an attack.

If we accept any major changes or new features on L1, they need extraordinary proof of both the necessity and safety. I am currently not aware of a single proposal that meets these criteria.

If all the node runners, stick to this principle, stay vigilant and aggressive, then we have a chance of turning Bitcoin into a real-world Sword of Gryffindor.

For those who are not Harry Potter fans, the Sword is Goblin-made, which gives it the ability to repel everything that could damage it, yet still be absorbing things that strengthen it.

The key fact you need to understand for making this happen is this:

Bitcoin core devs are not our friends.

We may admire them, we may donate to them, but we must never consider them our allies.

The core devs are humans. And even worse, they are software developers. All developers love to tinker and improve code, add new features and remove old ones. So by profession, core devs are not really suitable to be working on Bitcoin. As strange as it may sound, Bitcoin is not an ordinary piece of software, and it should not be treated as one.

Now, since core devs, of course, are the only people who have the skills to fix bugs on bitcoin, we obviously need their work and should reward it. We must, nevertheless, be as critical of their work as a father who is judging the opposing player who just scored a point against his son.

Since we can never precisely know when and which core devs have succumbed to I Can Fix Bitcoin Syndrome, we need to assume they all have and mistrust every single line of code they write.

Nostr—The hidden advertising champion

Recently, I got zapped on Nostr by a bot called Zappr. The amount I received was less than $.01, but the accompanying note contained a link to the bot and its creator. This tiny gift contains an invaluable lesson, when it comes to the future of advertising and Nostr’s true potential.

For those who don’t know what a Zap is, here is a short explanation:
A Zap is a microtransaction via the Bitcoin Lighting network, where users of the social media protocol Nostr can send any amount of Sats (1 Bitcoin = 100,000,000 Satoshis or Sats for short).
This feature looks and works very similar to a combination of a like and a reply, but receives more prominence in most Nostr clients, thanks to the monetary value attached to it.

Essentially, a Zap is a way to show appreciation for a creator and help finance the creator via the v4v (value for value) principle. At least that was the intention behind the feature, but it is also the most powerful advertising tool in human history.

Nostr works by using relays and clients instead of a centralized platform. A relay is an entry point into the Nostr network, where users can both post their content and download the content from others.
In the client, this content is then presented via a social media style interface, with most current interfaces taking heavy design inspiration from Twitter.

Any user can choose as many relays as they want simultaneously and even run their own. And thanks to the private and public key, the user owns the access to his account, not any of the clients. It is thus quite common for users to frequently switch between clients from entirely different developers.

This means that while any given client or relay can censor a user and while any user can mute or block any given other user, your voice is censorship proof. Nobody can access or delete your account if you don’t give them access to your private key, be it willingly or accidentally.

If you run your own relay, nobody can prevent you from sharing your thoughts with the people who add this relay to their list of Nostr relays. Especially if you hide your relay behind Tor, VPS and other privacy measures.

So, how can Nostr revolutionize advertising?

  1. The data is public.
  2. Advertising can be done without middle men.
  3. Adverts can pay the customer for viewing it.

The first point is rather straightforward. Everything that gets published to a public relay can be gathered by an aggregator. This means every advertiser can gather the data and analyze it. You don’t need to trust any social media company to accurately target the audience, you can do so yourself.

And by cutting out the social media companies, you also cut out their margins. You can either advertise for free, by targeting your posts at the audience you want, or pay the customer-instead of a social media company-for viewing your ads.

Why is this so powerful?

Presently, for 1 Sat (a tiny fraction of a Dollar in Fiat terms), you can get your ad prominently featured in the notifications of every Nostr user you target.
No other social media network gives you this much direct access, and certainly not that cheap.

When Nostr matures, of course, this will lead to more advanced anti-spam measures. This will lead to users filtering your adverts by the amount you zap and other metrics.

At first glance, this may seem like the ad opportunity on Nostr will be short-lived, but far from it. Many people want to receive GOOD adverts. This is a skill Instagram currently masters. Many great products, I daily use, came to me through Instagram adverts. If not for Meta’s algorithm, I would never have known about them.

So advertising is not hated in general, even if it often has a bad reputation. It’s bad advertising that is hated. And so far, most advertising was exceptionally bad.

In good old TV, they blast every viewer with the same ad over and over, regardless of preference. In the mainstream media, they clutter their sites with ad sections and popups that they now have become almost indistinguishable from early 2000s free porn sites.

With Nostr, you can take the frustration out of ads, by getting feedback from the users and rewarding them for providing said feedback. The options are endless…

You can zap a user and offer that they get zapped back a defined amount, if they didn’t like the ad, and you promise to never bother them again.

Users can reply to your ads, give you direct feedback or even buy your product directly from the Nostr client via the Lightning network, without ever leaving the site.

Another option would be to set up dedicated relays for ads, categorized by topic. You can make these relays popular, by providing coupons or promising an amount of Sats, for every user who likes and reposts your ad or interacts with it in any other way. For example, by clicking a link or watching a video.

If you use Nostr the right way, it will become an advertising tool, more cost-effective and customer friendly than ever before. A true disruptive game changer.
A hidden champion of advertising with a near infinite potential that this article could barely scratch the surface of.

Find Walker, the creator of the Nostrich on Nostr here.

Find me on Nostr:

Taxation—The Founding Fathers’ Big Mistake

The US revolution was one of the most significant turning points in history. From the day the Declaration of Independence was signed—July 4, 1776—the world would never be the same.

Republican democratic states had been tried before, but this was the first time that freedom and basic human rights were at the center of a nation’s constitution. Furthermore, the United States had proven that a determined rag tag army of armed volunteers, could beat even the strongest of empires. A lesson that the US themselves have had to be taught over and over again, be it in Vietnam, Korea, or Afghanistan.

The cause which lead the US of A to repeatedly endure that painful, costly lesson, without the nation’s leadership ever taking it to their hearts, was already enshrined on that fateful 4th of July.
No, I am not talking about the president having too much power and being too hard to remove from office or other mistakes. The real reason is the biggest error in the US Constitution. An error that was made already at the very beginning of the revolution.

“No taxation without representation.”

Under this slogan, North American people united to fight off the arbitrary rule by the English King and his devastating taxes.

The problem with this slogan was—and to this day is—that it legitimizes taxes. While the Americans could clearly see, how the British taxes hurt their economy and the development of their people and country, they didn’t dare question the concept of taxes itself.

To their defense, it should be said that they didn’t have the internet at the time, nor modern historical sciences. And even today, where the evidence is readily available to everybody who has a smartphone, many still deny that taxes historically were the worst form of funding public expenses. Many even deny that there are alternatives to taxes at all.

Since, many books have been written on historic and new concepts for a taxless society, I will for brevity’s sake not discuss these here. Rather, I will focus on, how taxes have directly lead to the erosion of US freedoms and human rights and the endless wars.

For the first century of US history, the tea party spirit was strong in the American citizens, so the government didn’t dare to abusively tax them. Especially, since a healthy skepticism against central banks, barred the sneaky option to do a hidden taxation via inflation.

This lead to a small government and the US citizens to become the freest and most prosperous in the world, creating the “American Dream”.

The first dent in this “Dream” came after the civil war.

As is always the case, the Northern, and Southern states couldn’t actually afford the war effort, so they needed to extort their citizens out of the money. This was done by taking on gigantic debts and by issuing the Fiat “Greenback” notes.

In a perfect world, the soldiers on both sides, would have understood the meaning of these actions, turned on their generals and united against the real enemy, the political and financial elites profiting from the war.

I dare not hope that humanity ever learns this lesson, still I need to try to spread the knowledge:
Fiat money printing and taxation always lead a nation into tyranny and economic, moral and technological decline.
These methods are never and under no circumstances to be tolerated by a free and just society.

With the precedent of the first major US war, and its monetary debauchery set, it took less than 60 years for the elites to gradually erode people’s resistance to taxes and central banks. In 1913, both the federal income tax and the FED were created.

It is no coincidence that these two events happened in the same year, neither is it that World War I started just the next year in 1914 and that a century of perpetual war followed.

You may think: “WWI started in Europe, it surely couldn’t have anything to do with the United States.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth. The European states had been in constant military squabbles for centuries. The only reason, this war could escalate to such a large scale and last so long was the US.
By staying out of the war at first and using their new powers to create money out of thin air, the US of A created a giant military industrial complex and a giant fractional reserve financial industry.
These two industries funded and supplied the war efforts (on both sides, at first), greatly enriching the US elites. Only, when both sides were already significantly weakened, did the US pitch in to decide the winner and the war.

This model proofed so successful that the US elites repeated it in WWII. First, they enabled Hitler Germany’s rise in power, with credit and raw materials. Then they supplied and funded the Allies as well. And finally, when Germany had spread itself too thin, by attacking Russia before they had defeated England, the US entered the war itself.

Unfortunately for the US elites, you can play that game only so often, before your opponents figure out your moves and don’t fall for the same ploy.
Thus, after WWII, the elites needed another way to abuse the financial and political system for their enrichment.

Their concept was simple. With the Bretton Woods system, they had forced the war-weakened nations of the world, to make the Dollar the world reserve currency. This gave them leverage to put an inflation tax on the whole world economy, impacting the US citizens least.

With this trick, they could indebt and plunder not only their own country, but all the countries in the Euro-Dollar system. Best of all, the armed and vigilant, freedom loving US citizens would not feel the pain for a long time. In fact, the flooding of the world with Dollars, would be paid for with cheap imported goods, which would raise the living standards for US citizens, sleepwalking them into tyranny.

With the US people appeased with cheap goods, the elites led the United States into their role as the world police and opposer of communism. Countless wars followed, most of which the US lost.

This was on purpose, however.

The longer any war lasted, the more money could be created and moved into the pockets of the wealthy and powerful elites. A game of money laundering and hidden taxation that goes on to this day.

Right now, as I am writing these lines, the US is preparing to send another couple billion dollars to the military industrial complex to “support Ukraine”.

Unfortunately for the elites, Abraham Lincoln was correct, when he said:
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

The corruption of the US political, financial and military systems has become so blatant that more and more people are waking up and opposing it.

The first blatant corruption was when Nixon took the US off the gold standard in 1971 and effectively declared bankruptcy.

WTF Happened In 1971?

From this point on, the US citizens were directly impacted by the money printing that the Bretton Woods system had previously shielded them from. So while the productivity increased, wages didn’t and people had to work longer and longer hours, just to keep their standard of living.

In 1970, a blue-collar worker could support his wife, half a dozen children, own a decent house and drive an indestructible car.
In 2020, just 50-years later, most families have only one or two children. Yet, even with both parents working two full-time jobs, the equivalent of the 70s blue-collar worker, can’t afford to purchase a house and the car is a shitty plastic thingy that breaks down after 5 or 6 years.

Another key moment in the wake-up process, was the 2008 financial crisis, when banks were bailed out—even though they caused the crisis—while innocent people were left homeless.

Afraid of the angry citizenry, the United States, like all other states before them, went berserk on the money printer, using it to build up a surveillance system and militarize the police, to keep the people in check.

Normally, the next step would be increasing authoritarianism, which would continue, until the people dispose of the elites in a bloody revolt.

Luckily, in 2009 the Bitcoin network was launched. Giving humanity for the first time a peaceful weapon against the tyrants.
With Bitcoin, we have a chance to dry out the money fountain that is used to fund the suppression. With a combination of Gandi’s peaceful resistance and Ayn Rand’s strike of John Galt, we likely can halt the motor of their unjust, exploitative system and build a new just society on the foundations of freedom and human rights.

And hopefully this time we will do it right. Without taxes.

Bitcoin—A New Kind of Money

In the last articles, we discussed what money is and why money was invented. We found that there are different kinds of money. So, what kind of money is Bitcoin?
Is it commodity money? Is it unbacked token money? Or is it something entirely new?

Austrian economists are divided in their assessment of Bitcoin, some see it as the best money ever, while others see it as worthless fraud. As can be visualized by the below tweet from the Swedish Mises Institute.

This goes back to the unfortunate and previously discussed errors/unclarities in Mises’s monetary theory. Which leads many to believe that the only way for sound money to emerge is by means of the regression theorem out of a valuable commodity.

While I agree that the regression theorem accurately describes, how a commodity can become money, it should not be seen as a law that ONLY through it can something become money. Especially since history clearly shows that ledger money is older than commodity money.

The reason for this error according to Argentarius is that most monetary theories only describe what money does and not what it is. He thus separates the concept of money, from the token that represents the money. To make the distinction a bit easier to see, I will call Argentarius’s concept of money “Meta-Money” from here on.

As I laid out in my article “The Evolution of Money”, the reason humans invented the various forms of money, was to represent the virtual Meta-Money. The concept of Meta-Money is brilliantly explained in “The Essence of Money”, I definitely recommend you to read the full book, still let me try to summarize it here:

Meta-Money is the virtual placeholder used when a trade cannot be made directly, but rather needs to be shifted in time, space or party.

A shift in time and place is easy to understand. You deliver 10 crates of beer to your friend’s house on Friday, and the friend pays you back in food and organizing the party at the beach on Saturday.

Meta-Money in this case is the virtual placeholder in your head that says, “I delivered beer, so I am owed food and party.”

Meta-Money is thus a virtual ledger that contains both debts and credits that result from a contract which is only partially fulfilled. One could say that Meta-Money represents the right to just compensation for a service delivered, but not yet paid for.

Tracking this Meta-Money is very difficult as soon as more than a few parties are involved. Especially, if the compensation does not come directly from the person you are trading with.

In the example with the party, this could look as follows:
You deliver 10-crates of beer to your friend’s house and every one of the other guests delivers some food, drink, or snack. The whole stash is then shared at the party. In this case, you deliver the beer to your friend, but the compensation comes not from your friend, but rather from everybody else who attends the party.

Now, how do you track this debt? What do you do, if you brought the beer, but some guests fail to bring the food they promised to bring?

This is the point where money tokens come into play.

The function of a money token is to represent the Meta-Money in a standardized, quantifiable way.

For our party, this could be done by simply issuing a set of vouchers. Everybody who brought his or her promised good, gets 10 vouchers and can thus take ten other food/drink items.

The problem with this approach for said party is obvious: Those who didn’t bring anything will have no fun at all. So, you need to give them a chance to compensate you and the other reliable party goers for your goods.

Conveniently, other monetary tokens already exist, so you can agree on one of the following options:

  1. People who brought nothing can use Euro/Dollar/Bitcoin to purchase vouchers that can then be redeemed for food.
  2. You skip the vouchers entirely and set a fixed fee everybody who brought nothing has to pay to get all-you-can-eat access to the buffet.

After the party, the currencies collected can be split equally between all those who brought food/drinks.

Now, what if people bring unequal amounts? You bring 10 crates of beer, somebody else just one. Another person brings an elaborate 3D modelled cake, vs. somebody else’s $1 store bought cake.

If everybody gets the same compensation, you will rightfully feel betrayed. For beers, this would be easy to resolve. If you brought 10 crates, you obviously get 10x as much, as the person who brought one. But how about the cakes? How many $1 cakes equal the labour-intensive 3D cake?

In the small-scale party situation, this conflict can be very difficult to resolve, since valuations are highly subjective. The creator of the 3D cake may feel it’s 1000x more valuable than the $1 cake, while the dollar cake bringer thinks it’s only 10x and others may call it at 100x.

In nationwide or global economies that use a common money token or currency, this conflict of subjective valuations is resolved by price discovery in the market.

If many people buy and sell goods, even though individual valuations differ, a market price emerges. Which means nothing more than that at the current supply, demand and cost levels, you will likely find a buyer for your goods at that price if you are a seller. And you will find a unit of the good to purchase at this price as a buyer.

The problem with these market prices is that they do not only depend on the demand, supply, and cost structures in the market, but also on the characteristics, of the money token used to express the prices.

In the case of the party, this can be easily seen. If every party goer gets 10 vouchers and there are 10 people at the party, every person can get 1% of the food and drinks.

If now suddenly 10 other persons come to the party and the reckless host just also hands everyone 10 vouchers, everybody suddenly can only get half of a percent of all food and drinks.

So one criterium to measure the accuracy of any money token or currency obviously is the total quantity of tokens. If people who have actually earned a token by a partially fulfilled contract, while other people get tokens without having rendered any service, the consequence is a redistribution from people who have delivered value, to people who have not.

But what is “accurate” money?

As we saw above in the cake example, value is subjective and prices need to be discovered via the market process. Market prices fluctuate over time, so at which point in time you look makes a big difference. So, what is the “just” price?

This may seem like an unresolvable riddle. After all, for the past 100 years, central banks have desperately tried to keep prices “stable” and failed miserably.

Luckily, Argentarius made a discovery that can help us get out of the dilemma. He observed that under a hard money (e.g. gold coins) where the overall supply of money tokens changes very slowly over time, the abstract “value” represented by one token remains extremely stable.

If historically, a pair of boots cost 1 gold coin, as long as the difficulty of making the shoes remained the same, the 1 gold coin price would stay the same for centuries.

Only if it gets significantly easier to produce the boots (automation) or significantly harder (natural disaster destroying leather supply), will the price change accordingly.

This may seem a very strange phenomenon, if you learned in school that price depends solely on supply and demand. The answer to the riddle is the velocity of money.

Unlike the vouchers in the party example, a gold coin does not get destroyed/devalued when it is used. So, 1 Gold coin can be used 100, 1000 or even a million times to buy one pair of boots. The velocity of money (i.e. how often the average coin is spent per year), thus, regulates the amount of Meta-Money represented by the tokens to a consistent level. One could say that the velocity of money automatically adjusts to offset fluctuations in the supply and demand for goods.

If you studied Keynesian economics, this probably will sound like an outrageous claim to you, even though it is not a claim at all, but rather an observation made by Argentarius.

Let me try to explain to you some of the factors that enable this kind of automatic price stability under hard money:

  1. People have an uncanny ability to remember prices of common commodities. Here in Germany, even over two decades into the reign of the Euro, you will still hear people refer to the old, relatively stable Mark prices.
    “What, this costs now €10? That’s 20 Marks, this used to cost only 5 Marks.”
    This price memory is one factor that makes market prices for commodities slow to change under hard money.
  2. Another factor is that, while the velocity of money changes, hard money means that the absolute number of tokens doesn’t change. And every transaction covered in the velocity of money is done by two parties agreeing on a price for a good or service.
    While the subjective valuation, and thus agreed price, may be above or below market price, the “loss” of one party in any given trade means an equal amount of “gain” for the other party. Overall, the net results cancel out and the “value” represented by each money token remains stable.

In a nutshell, this means that hard money does not require a central bank to keep prices stable. Market processes and human psychology automatically regulate the money velocity, so each money token represents a relatively stable purchasing power or “value”.

If a hard money market price goes down long-term, this is not deflation, but rather an indication that the production of a good has gotten easier. Vice versa, if there are sustained price increases it means that it has gotten harder to satisfy the demand, harder to produce the good in question.

If a currency supply expands, the equilibrium is broken and the market will need some time to reprice all the goods in terms of the new total supply of tokens. If the monetary supply is expanding faster than the market can balance itself, the consequence is that the “value” represented, transferred and stored in each money token will be distorted.

The goods and services preferred by the ones closest to the source of tokens will get up first and higher than the goods and services preferred by those furthest from the source. This is known as the Cantillion Effect.

This mechanism is also the reason, why central banks were able to create outrageous amounts of money tokens over the past decades and yet, consumer prices remained relatively low.

The newly created money was parked in assets by the first receivers (banks and large corporations) and did not circulate. Thus, only asset prices exploded, and money velocity was artificially suppressed.

In a nutshell, this is the reason, hard money requires a stable supply to represent Meta-Money accurately:
According to Argentarius, if the supply of a money token is stable (in the ideal case, exactly constant), then that token will represent a constant “value” across the economy that uses that token. And this “value” will stay stable over time and space so that you can use the token as a universal coupon. A coupon that will give you the “just” compensation you are due for services rendered and goods delivered, no matter where, when or with whom you “redeem” it.

From Argentarius findings, it becomes clear that all the different kinds of money, be it Fiat paper money, Gold coins, Mesopotamian clay tablets or Bitcoin are only different money tokens, not different forms of Meta-Money.

The properties of a token only influence how accurately the token can represent the Meta-Money over time, space and party.

Ok, not so fast. Commodity moneys are a special case… While a Fiat money has no other value than the Meta-Money captured, commodities also have a non-monetary value.

This is a point that in my opinion has confused many economists. When you review commodity money, you need to carefully separate the uses and valuations.

If you receive a gold coin, melt it down and make electronic circuits, then you have not used it as money at all, but purely as a commodity. And your valuation of the coin will be based on how useful the commodity “gold” contained in it is to you.

If you receive a gold coin intending to spend it to get other goods, you value it according to the goods you hope to get for it and how valuable these are to you. In that case, it makes no difference (as long as the number of tokens in circulation doesn’t change) whether the coin is made of gold or paper. You value it based on the Meta-Money represented and use it purely as money, not as commodity.

When you use a commodity as money, the physical characteristics of the good do only indirectly influence the value of the money token, not directly as if consumed.

This happens in two ways:
Firstly, the commodity value of the token set’s upper and lower bounds to the amount of Meta-Money it can store.
If the commodity value of gold should get higher than its monetary value (negative monetary premium) than people will stop using it as money token and consume it instead.
If the production cost falls and availability of the commodity gets higher, then the value of the money tokens must fall because people will simply produce more tokens until equilibrium is restored.
Since a scarce good like gold can store much more Meta-Money than its value as commodity, the standard case for any commodity money is a positive and rather large monetary premium. Meaning that the use value is negligibly small compared to the monetary value.

This leads to misallocation of resources, since the monetary use forces commodity consumers to pay a significantly higher price than the “normal” market price of the commodity.
For this reason, among others, usually commodities like gold, silver, or seashells become money, since they are not a vital part of the economy. Times when food, real estate or other basic necessity gain a significant monetary premium are typically desperate times, accompanied by social unrest.

The second way the physical properties of a commodity influence its value as a money token is their usability. How scarce, how divisible, how durable, etc. is a good, determines how well it can be used as money.

Eggs are terrible monetary tokens, they are too readily available, not divisible and spoil fast.
Gold is a very good monetary token because it is scarce, lasts forever and is relatively easily divisible.
Still, gold is far from perfect. It is too valuable given its density, which is why historically small purchases were done in Silver, which is not quite as scarce as gold and almost as durable.
Furthermore, Gold is quite hard to ship globally and easily stolen, which makes it awful to carry for daily groceries or use in international trade.

A significant downside of all commodities is that the difficulty of production changes with time. Problematic are especially big technological breakthroughs that can make a formerly scarce token abundant and thus worthless (see Rai Stones, Cowrie Shells).

NOTE: Gold is not safe from this fate either, asteroid mining is probably just a few decades away and earth is not fully explored yet.

In comparison to commodities, Fiat, debt-based and ledger currencies have the advantage that the total supply is not dependent on any natural/industrial process, but in theory can be set to a fixed amount.

The problem with that however is that until Bitcoin came along, you always had to trust somebody to keep the ledger honest and not expand the amount of money tokens.
So far, every human organization in charge of the money supply has miserably failed in keeping the money honest and limited in the long run. Thus, Fiat currencies were almost always bad stores of value and extremely inaccurate in representing Meta-Money.

The best theoretical money would be a hypothetical god-money. A token, created by an incorruptible deity who ensures that a fixed number of tokens exist and smites anybody who dares try to forge new tokens.

Bitcoin is as close to god-money, as one can get, without having a trustable deity to control the money.

The great differentiator in Bitcoin is the difficulty adjustment. No matter, how efficient miners get or if countries ban mining. Every 2016 blocks, difficulty is adjusted based on the time between blocks in the last period, to keep the time at an average of 10 minutes per block.

This, combined with the overall incentive structure Bitcoin provides, makes it almost impossible to change the schedule of Bitcoin issuance or expand the total supply.

Bitcoin is an unprecedented, wholly new kind of money which has both the advantages of commodity money and Fiat money, without the individual downsides and many never before seen upsides.

This all makes Bitcoin the most accurate money token ever invented, maybe even the best token possible.

The more Bitcoin grows in usage, the more monetary premium it will absorb from commodities and other forms of money. Until hopefully in the future, we will have the whole Meta-Money of the global (or perhaps interplanetary) economy accurately represented by Bitcoin.

We will discuss this future and its implications in one of the upcoming articles. If you don’t want to miss any new articles, please subscribe to my newsletter below.

The problem with stablecoins

Today I have to write an article I hoped to never need to write. An article, where I potentially slay my heroes…

The recent crash of UST (Terra / Luna), sparked the mainstream media to also attack other stablecoins, specifically Tether. This then forced Tether CTO Paolo Ardoino to come to defend his baby. Which was done in the form of a Twitter space and came to my attention as the following sound-bite.

If you know me, it probably is clear to you that I can’t stand it when my heroes shitcoin, so I snarkily asked whether Samson Mow and Adam Back are really ok, putting their names under this message.

Unfortunately, the answer from both seems to be “yes” (see here and here) and discussions about Tether ensued. Before we get any deeper into this, let me preface it, to keep misunderstandings to a minimum:

My personal opinion is that Tether is probably the best, least shady stablecoin out there. The reason I am picking on Tether is that it was the subject of the discussion and because my issues are with stablecoins in general, so best to pick the highest low-bar to attack.

In his response to me, Adam Back linked a thread, where he defends Tether and I highly encourage you to go read it in full, here. In this article, I will address the points I consider most important only.

Yes, Tether kept its promise to redeem all its coins 1-to-1 even though an impressive $7.6 Billion were withdrawn in the recent crypto panic, caused by the UST collapse.
On the other hand, it is also true that Tether trades significantly below 1 USD at the moment.

This raises the question: How?

How can Tether remain true to its promise to exchange 1 USDT for 1 USD, when the coin itself trades significantly below $1?

To understand this, we need to understand the different types of stablecoins out there. While I don’t know every little project, the majority of stablecoins seem to fall into one of two categories:

  1. Fractional Reserve/Algorithmic Coins
  2. Full Reserve Coins

UST (Terra), which recently collapsed, was part of the first category. While it was partly backed by hard assets, like Bitcoin, a large part of it’s backing was its own coin Luna.
The way Terra tried to keep its peg to the Dollar was with an “intelligent” algorithm that trades the backing assets and issues Luna tokens, to both maintain the peg and generate profit for the issuer.

I don’t think it is necessary to explain at this point, why and how this can go wrong, since we just witnessed the dumpster fire a few days ago.

Much more interesting is the second type of coin, which Tether falls into.

Fully backed coins promise to have low risk, very liquid assets fully (or in Tether’s case allegedly even over 100%) backing the issued number of Tokens.

Tether reserves breakdown May 17 2022

For Tether the majority of this backing assets are “Cash & Cash Equivalents”, which essentially means treasury bills and money market securities.

So far, so good. Or maybe so far, so bad?

As a non-lawyer, I may be too stupid to understand correctly, but the only proof of this backing I have are periodic assurance letters , which in my layman’s understanding don’t actually give any basis for legal litigation whatsoever.

If I further look more into the legal terms on Tether’s homepage, it appears to me that there really is no legal recourse possible, should anything go wrong or should the assets listed be charts on a homepage only.

Furthermore, the terms seem to imply that the assets are not actually backing the USDT tokens directly. Rather, they appear to be the property of Tether Holdings Limited. So in case this corporation is liquidated, the shareholders will get the assets, not the USDT holders?

If any lawyer or Tether employee reads this, please reach out to me to help me understand this better and correct this article if necessary. Am I “concern trolling”?

Or are my concerns justified? Adam Back has my deepest respect for all that he has done for Bitcoin, but I am deeply worried that with Tether, he may be defending a shitcoin. Until he or anybody else can credibly answer my three questions below, we will not be able to settle this issue.

To get back into my depth, let’s assume for the rest of the article that the listed assets are actually real and Tether (or any other stablecoin), are honest.

Is a fully backed stablecoin an adequate alternative to a dollar?

Foremost, we need to talk about why we even need dollars or stablecoins in the first place, since Bitcoin is the best money token out there.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t. Unfortunately, in the world we live in three major aspects make the US Dollar and other Fiat currencies a necessary evil, we will have to deal with for at least another decade.

  1. Legal tender laws—governments force you to pay taxes and debts in Fiat.
  2. Petrodollar—vital resources are still mostly traded in Dollars.
  3. Market adoption—prices need a while to form, for a unit of account the market needs to discover and stabilize a valuation for every good out there, which can take years, decades, or even longer.

So, we need the Dollar. Why do we require a stablecoin to represent it? Adam explains it like this:

Which is unsatisfying to say the least. To Adam, Tether seems to be a tool for traders only. If this was the only use case, then I couldn’t care less about them.

There is another point that is always used in marketing of stablecoins however that I am more interested in, namely merchant adoption.
If you are a company or merchant who wants to use Bitcoin, you are facing many legal, technical and practical hurdles.

In the US for example, Bitcoin is not treated like the foreign currency that it should be according to El Salvador’s legal tender law, but rather as an asset.

So, any transaction in Bitcoin creates a taxable event, where the merchant needs to calculate as if he sold his good for Dollars, received bitcoin and sold them for Dollars as well.

A bureaucratic nightmare…

To make matters worse, Bitcoin on the balance sheet can be a real hassle, since it again is not treated as cash reserves, but as an asset.
If Bitcoin price falls below the purchasing price in any given quarter, a company needs to show a fictional loss on their earnings report.

In a nutshell, this means that while Bitcoin+Lightning as monetary networks have many benefits for merchants and corporate users, the actual BTC can be a tax and reporting nightmare.

Thus, it makes sense at this point in time, to receive payments not in Bitcoin, but just send and receive Dollars via Bitcoin and Lightning. And since—as Adam pointed out—banks are slow and cumbersome and incompatible with the digital world, stablecoins seem to make sense.

Well, kind of…

They really do not resolve the legal and tax issues Bitcoin currently has. In fact, stablecoins exist in a legal gray area that makes them even less suitable for corporate use, IMO.

The real killer argument seems to be that stable coins reduce the risk of price fluctuations. If you get paid in Bitcoin Friday afternoon, by the time banks open again Monday morning, BTC may have dropped 10%.

In my opinion, it is a weak argument.

For one, there is considerable risk that any stablecoin breaks and turns out to be redeemable not for $1, but rather $0.

Secondly, this argument holds water only if a merchant is interested in owning Dollars, not Bitcoin.
If a merchant understands Bitcoin, he will want to hold all or most of his profits in BTC and the argument is moot.

At this point, we have identified only one reason to use stablecoins, namely if for legal and tax reasons, you want to use Bitcoin the network, without BTC the token. This naturally raises the question:

Are stablecoins the best option to transfer Dollars via Bitcoin+Lightning?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is too extensive to fit into this article, so let me try to explain best I can in a few paragraphs.

A full reserve stablecoin is essentially like a pension fund with its own token. In a pension fund, you wire them money, they buy safe assets and give you a certificate that you can redeem later for money. Once you redeem your pension, the fund either pays you out of the yields the assets generated or sells some assets.

In theory, a stablecoin should be similar. You give them a Dollar, and they buy secure assets worth one dollar. When you come to redeem the token, the stablecoin issuer either has made enough ROI from the assets to pay you, or sells assets worth $1.

The difference is that the pension fund is very heavily regulated and audited and the stablecoins currently are not.
A pension fund is only allowed to invest in certain assets and needs to be extremely transparent about that.
A stablecoin can do whatever they want with the money you give them, and you have zero standardized procedures, let alone legal recourse on how they report their holdings.

For my German-speaking readers, here is an interesting article on how Tether has been avoiding getting audited for example.

But even if a stablecoin only buys so-called secure assets, like government bonds and cash equivalents, these have problems. There is a reason why pension funds are in trouble after all. Currently, some treasury bills yield negative nominal rates, all of them yield negative real rates.

So if a company sticks to these “secure” assets, it must operate at a loss against inflation. This means that necessarily any stablecoin operator needs to take enough risk to be able to make an average 15%+ return and beat inflation.

Another downside of the stablecoin approach is that essentially you are creating the same attack vector that killed gold-based currencies.

As Adam describes, the value of coins like Tether itself can be arbitrage traded vs the Dollar by exchanges. Creating the equivalent of upper and lower gold points, as described by Argentarius.

Since these points are only tiny fractions of a percent away from the 1-to-1 peg, the arbitrage opportunity is rather small. Thus, historically, banks used to fractional reserve their gold currencies to leverage the upper and lower gold points.

This unfortunately likely is being done both with Tether and Bitcoin by exchanges at the moment.

There is a significant difference between fractional reserve gold, fractional reserve Bitcoin on one side and fractional reserve stablecoins on the other, however:

In the past, if banks overdid the leverage, they would cause a bank run and go bust. This meant that a portion of those who thought they had a property right to gold, would find out they really only owned paper, the bank would be liquidated, and its asset sold. The proceeds would go to the bank’s creditors and customers.

The same would likely be the case for Bitcoin because even China admits that it is property and thus necessarily should be treated similar to gold. The big advantage of Bitcoin here is that it’s easy to withdraw from exchanges and self custody, thus reducing this counterparty risk to zero.

No matter if you hold physical gold or your own Bitcoin private keys. In both cases, the collapse of a bank or exchange has zero influence on the actual asset you hold.

Not so much with stablecoins.

Firstly, these coins are less legally mature than Bitcoin and often their mother company is based out of obscure jurisdictions, so you can’t be sure that you have any recourse at all. Should a company decide to stop honouring the redemption promise or go bust, you likely have no legal binding agreement with them at all.

Secondly, even if the company does nothing wrong and third parties leverage up with paper stablecoins, the ensuing crash may tear the issuing company to shreds.

In case that happens, it’s not clear that your token has any legal value at all. To my understanding, the issuer may simply stop the redemption, point to fraud by a third party they can’t be blamed for and walk away with the assets.

I hope I made it clear, why stablecoins are a very risky solution to the problem. The next question then is:

Are there better ways to transact in dollars via Bitcoin?

Certainly, no perfect solution exists. The dollar system is deeply flawed, after all, so how could there be flawless ways of using it?

I am convinced however that there are better ways to solve the problem, which we Bitcoiners should build.

The first thing that comes to mind is simply using a classical bank and just hooking it up to Bitcoin. If a bank offers to be the on and off ramp and operate 24/7, the problem disappears. If this bank were to do Bitcoin to Dollar and Dollar to Bitcoin conversion automatically for a fixed fee, say one percent, you would not need stable coins at all.

So, why has nobody done it yet? I assume that it’s similar to why Google, Twitter, Facebook and co. are “for free”. People are used to being the product of giant corporations and seem to be willing to pay the hidden price, as long the official price is zero.
Since, few want to pay for a service and the hidden business models are more profitable anyway, it’s no wonder that the “honest” solutions don’t thrive.

We can only hope that more people fall into the rabbit hole and create a growing market for honest business models.

What do think? Are stablecoins a good solution, for a real problem? How would you solve it? Let me know in the comments, please. If you liked this article, please consider subscribing to my newsletter below.

United States of Bitcoin—How the US can save their empire

In my previous articles, I discussed how China is trying to bring down the Euro-Dollar system and how this may lead to the fall of the US empire.

Today, I invite you on a journey into a hypothetical scenario explaining how the USA can utilize Bitcoin to escape this fate.

Imagine that right now, the United States treasury is secretly putting Bitcoin on their balance sheet. In a few months, they will announce that they managed to acquire 5 Million BTC.
Soon after a law is passed, recognizing Bitcoin as legal tender and guaranteeing a fixed one-to-one peg of Dollar to Satoshi (One Bitcoin is 100,000,000 Satoshi or Sats for short).

This immediately sparks panic on the international money markets. Many creditors want to quickly have their debt paid off, before the Dollar inevitably loses value. The United States government offers every claimant that they will pay USD debts in coins with a million, a billion, or even a trillion denominations.

Some take the coins, many take the Sats.

Since the USA are still the biggest military power and the Dollar is still the world reserve currency, other nations face a tough choice. Should they keep their Dollar reserves and trade in USD? Or should they switch?

US adversaries that have over proportionally large holdings of gold or silver will switch to various gold and bi-metallic currencies. Most notably China and Russia.
Countries low in gold reserves will choose Bitcoin.

By this bold action, the United States would effectively get rid of their debt and at the same time establish the hardest currency imaginable as the world reserve asset.

Granted, this scenario is not very likely for many reasons. The US might already be too weak, the corruption in Washington too big and economic understanding too close to zero.

But let’s roll with it for now, to see where it could lead.

The United States effectively defaulted on their debt in 1971. Due to their enormous military might, no country dared challenge them to pay back the debt, and everybody accepted the worthless paper Dollars.

Unfortunately, the “exorbitant privilege” turned out to be an exorbitant curse eventually.

Every transaction ultimately gets settled in goods and services.

So, while the worthless paper Dollars lead to a massive influx of cheap goods into the States, creating the illusion of a privilege, the international circulation couldn’t contain all these Dollars forever.

It’s all nice and fun, having USD on your balance sheet, while the economy is hot and growing fast. When the music stops, however, no investor with more than two brain cells wants to be the one holding unbacked paper or even worse, unbacked ones and zeros in a computer, which can be deleted at any time.

How fast this can happen, could recently be seen, when Russian central bank assets were frozen.

This moment, in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, essentially marked the second default of the US. The US of A admitted that their Dollars are just empty promises that they never intended to actually fulfil when the going gets tough.

A wider occurrence of such freezes is just a matter of time. The reason for this is simply that the US have run out of assets.

For years, the Chinese and other nations have been expecting the music to stop and started exchanging their USD reserves for physical gold and other hard assets, like US companies and real estate.

Essentially, the price for cheap goods, paid for with unbacked FED dollars, was the capital stock of the United States.

The more exorbitant the valuations of US stocks and real estate got, the less powerful the United States became. This problem was exasperated by the fact that so much cheap money leads to malinvestment, corruption and a rotting of the capital stock.

Thus, the US military (the only thing actually backing the USD) got more and more expensive, while its combat power declined.
The military industrial price inflation, is probably the worst inflation for a Fiat nation imaginable because it chips away at the very foundations of the system.

So, for every clear eyed witness, it’s obvious that the US military hegemony is very close to falling apart and being replaced by the Chinese empire.

From my perspective, the US have only three options how to continue:

  1. Yield to China → very undesirable
  2. Break the East militarily → WWIII, likely nuclear, extremely undesirable
  3. Rebuild their economic power → only possible with monetary reform

If history is any guide, the only viable option for the United States would be a monetary reform. Historically, this would be done by a fractional reserve gold peg, which was used in Weimar (albeit much too late) and ended the hyperinflation within one week.

The US do not have this option.

Remember, Nixon only suspended the gold standard. If the States wanted to return to a gold peg, at any level apart from the old ratio, they would essentially declare that they are not a trustable debtor.
Of course, you may say that implicitly that was already what Nixon did, but stating it explicitly, especially in a time of weakness, like the current geopolitical situation, this would likely result in WWIII, just like option 2.

The only other real alternative is Bitcoin.

If the US government had read Argentarius and thus understood money, it would be obvious, why Bitcoin is the one weapon that can overthrow China.
(Or overthrow the US, if China should be the first mover.)

In monetary history, there was seldom a second best. The hardest currency always drains the monetary premium from alternatives. The only reason that gold and silver bi-metallic standards existed is the limited practicality of gold for very small transactions.
If you tried to compete with a silver standard versus a gold or bimetallic standard, this would cost you dearly, as medieval China learned the hard way.

Bitcoin is for many reasons a better monetary token than gold. The most important advantages are the hard-coded, transparent supply, as well as it’s decentralized nature. Furthermore, Bitcoin can be transferred globally at almost zero cost (more on why Bitcoin is the ultimate currency, in my next article).

If no unforeseen calamity happens to wipe out Bitcoin, the 99% likely scenario for this century is that gold and silver will lose their monetary premium to BTC.
A trend, US adoption, would greatly accelerate.

Assuming that China has little to no Bitcoin reserves, an outsized US stack could easily tip the global power scales in favour of the Stars and Stripes banner.

Not only would such a bold move into a Bitcoin standard, essentially wipe out all the Chinese dollar reserves, it would also reverse the “exorbitant curse” dynamics of the Euro-Dollar system.
The world would still need to trade in the USA currency, be it Bitcoin backed USD or Bitcoin directly, but suddenly, they would find themselves in a situation, where there is more purchasing power in the US than current economic power.

This first mover advantage would allow the US to interest rate free finance the rebuilding of their broken economy and infrastructure.
Furthermore, it would likely topple the already cracking Chinese real estate market, leading to a monetary crisis in China.

In a nutshell, this means that a surprise Bitcoin standard has the best risk/reward profile, of all available options, from a United Stated perspective.

So, even though I am not a big fan of the US empire, I think the best chance to keep our freedom is if they win the currency war. Otherwise, a Bitcoin standard might be preceded by decades or even centuries of CCP style social credit dictatorship.

What are your thoughts?

The Evolution of Money

How was money invented? Why do we need currencies? What is the best money?

In a previous article, I explained the differences in monetary theory between Mises (Austrian School) and Argentarius.
Recent discussions between me and proponents of Mises’s theory have shown me that there are several points that are not entirely clear. So today I would like to dive a bit deeper and show on practical examples, how and why money evolved and what good money is.
Furthermore, I will try to show exactly at which points the two theories diverge and where I see the problems with Mises’s explanation.

Throughout all our examples, we will use the four Persons A, B, C and D. You can see the goods they start out with, in the below picture.
The transaction we want to resolve is that Person B wishes to buy a pair of shoes from Person A.

Example 1

The First Example will be simple. Person A and B do a direct barter trade. So, A and B simply draft a contract. Since C and D are not involved in this trade, we will omit their balance sheets for now.

NOTE: Historically these types of trade were done verbally, so the contracts and balance sheets in Examples 1, 2 and 2a are only for visualization. Practically, they would usually be in memory only.

Once the contract is signed, the goods are exchanged. Once both have delivered, the debts from the contract are erased and the trade is done.

Example 2

In the next example, we increase difficulty. Person A now doesn’t want eggs, but rather grain, which only Person C can provide.
To facilitate this trade, Person A negotiates a three party barter contract.

To fulfil the contract, first A and B need to exchange goods, and then A and C exchange goods.

As you can see, arranging a three party barter trade is already rather difficult, and if not all goods are available at the same time, the Person facilitating the trade must take quite some risk, since they need to trust their partners and give them credit.

This method of trading gets impractical quickly once more than three parties are involved.

Example 2a

So, if Person A is not willing to set up a three-party contract, the other option for B is to acquire the goods A wants in a separate trade.

To reduce the risk of giving credit, the three parties meet at one place and goods are exchanged directly.

While this is a safer way to trade, it’s even less practical to arrange, the more parties and different types of goods are involved.

Example 3

To resolve this issue, humanity invented the balance sheet and the debt transfer.
Archaeologist have found clay tablets, showing such trades were done as much as 5000 years ago.

Let’s have a look how such a clay tablet trade works:

This is much more practical, but since clay tablets are not too easily edited, another trick needed to be invented.

Example 4

Instead of rewriting clay tablets to represent who owes who, we will now simply use a Coupon redeemable in grain, signed by Person C as medium of exchange.

To spice things up a little, we will assume now that A doesn’t want to redeem the grain coupon, but they rather want Gold, which is available from D who in turn wants grain.

Such a coupon system is already the beginning of a commodity money, slowly turning into a currency.

The main evolutionary step from coupons/commodities functioning as money to currency, is the market process by which a commodity—like gold—becomes so widely accepted that everybody accepts the commodity as payment, even without any intention to directly exchange it for a good they actually need.

Example 5

If we do the same exchange of goods like in Example 4, but with Gold as widely accepted medium of exchange, it will look like this:

As you can see, this is a way easier way to trade that does not require any balance sheets or tracking of debts.
With this system, it is also possible to have the commodity money—Gold—change hands thousands, even millions of times, before the commodity actually reaches somebody who wants the Gold as a commodity itself and not for the monetary function.

Up to this point, the theories of Argentarius and Mises agree. The differences begin, once there is a standard medium of exchange.

Mises would now argue that you can simply write the transaction from Example 1 as follows:

Argentarius however would argue we would still need to take the full chain into account as shown in Example 5. If this example was rewritten to just show Person A’s and B’s direct trades, it would look like this:

This way of looking at things may look like nitpicking to you, but it is crucial, once inflation and changing production methods come into play.
If you use the Mises style analysis in times of high inflation, you will be selling yourself poor.

As Argentarius records, during the Weimar inflation days, business owners accounted by simply adding a profit margin to their costs.
While this is quite a common practice and not necessarily harmful in times of low inflation, as soon as inflation becomes faster than your business cycle, it will lead to the “selling poor” effect.

What this effect means can be seen in the chart below. The grey line represents the material costs, which after 1 year of no inflation start to inflate at 10% per month.

The orange line is a merchant who has a 3-month production cycle and calculates his prices based on 30% margin on cost.

The yellow line is a merchant who calculates his prices after production by what he expects to be the next month material cost.

As you can see, at such high inflation rates, the orange merchant rapidly falls into the “selling poor” zone, where despite a 30% profit on paper, his stock dwindles, and he has to go out of business.

Of course, it is not always possible to accurately predict inflation and such high inflation rates are rare.

Nevertheless, this example highlights the differences between Mises and Argentarius.

Mises operates under the framework of Praxeology. While this is a great tool to evaluate economic processes, like any model it makes simplifications.
These simplifications are necessary to have any chance at analysis of complex systems.
In edge cases, such simplifications can lead to erroneous results, which is why you always need to stay aware of these assumptions.

As Rothbard explained, Praxeology, unlike Psychology, does only concern itself with how people act, not with why they act as they do.

This can be a problem, when it comes to analysing contractual relationships. A contract is nothing more than a declaration of what two parties want.
So, when judging the quality of a contract, it’s important to check whether all parties received the result desired from the contract.

Unfortunately, humans are not always fully aware of their intentions, so contracts can be written in a way that looks acceptable to all parties, but in fact turns out to have been contrary to the intent of the parties.

This can be clearly seen in the above example.

The merchant, who calculates 30% profit on cost, does so, not because he wanted to have the money, but because he wanted to restock, pay his bills and maybe save or invest a little.

Basically, he wanted to do a multi party barter trade. He intended not to have any money token or currency, but rather to exchange finished goods, for raw materials, factories, machine depreciation, etc.

He only used money as a placeholder, due to convenience. Since the money worked for a while, the merchant fell into the trap where he forgot that the money was not the good he actually desired and thus sold himself poor.

Money tokens were invented to facilitate multi party barter trades. Their function is just a placeholder. Thus, the best money token is the one that most accurately transports a barter “value” over time, space and party.

In the next article, we will discuss what this means for the engineering of sound money.

Rome Falls—Euro-Dollar Hyperinflation

When analysing the current macroeconomic environment, there seem to be two camps. One compares the current state of the Euro-Dollar system to the 1970s, the other to the 1940s post-war inflation.

In my not so humble opinion, both are wrong.

While the current situation is historically unique, as I have laid out previously, the only remotely comparable situation in history was the Fall of Rome.


If you give me a few minutes of your precious time, I will explain to you, why Rome is about to fall, again.

To understand what is currently going on, we need to have a look at which economic and cycles are currently converging.
The first such cycle is the civilizational cycle, which lasts around 1 to 2 millennia and is accompanied by large shifts in how society is structured.

The last such cycle began with the rise of the Greek and Roman empires and ended when Rome fell, so one could say that cycle ran about from 600 BC to 600 CE.
Since this turning point, humanity has been busy recouping the losses in knowledge from Antiquity and in many areas we have now managed to be near the heights of Roman civilization, in others we are already beyond and declining.

While the sociological implications of this cycle are very intriguing, for clarities’ sake, we will focus on the purely economical aspects today.

The great rise of Rome was possible, thanks to a hard currency on a gold and silver bimetallic standard. The most important coin was the Denarius, which was a Silver coin which was the backbone of Roman and international trade, until it began to be debased and was literally copper with silver traces by the end of the third century CE.

By Nicolas Perrault III – Own work, CC0,

Later, the Denarius was accompanied by the smaller Sestertius and the golden Aureus. The Sestertius was launched as a silver coin, but after the Roman Republic had become the Roman Empire, within a few generations of Imperators, it quickly became a brass Fiat coin.

Let us pause history here for a moment and draw some parallels and highlight some differences:
Like in Rome, the Dollar also started as a gold and silver currency and later became devalued.
In Rome, the authoritarian push that allowed for the devaluation was the power grab of Julius Caesar and his successors, who ended democracy. In the US, it was the establishment of the undemocratic FED and thus the slide into oligarchy.
The FED devalued the Dollar, by artificially expanding dollar supply, through fractional reserve banking (with an ever decreasing backing). Up to the point, where countries who had entrusted the US with their gold reserves got nervous and requested their money back. Being unable to actually fulfil the gold promises on the circulating Dollar notes, Nixon had to pull the plug and turn the Dollar into an outright Fiat currency in 1971.

The most significant difference between ancient Rome and the modern Euro-Dollar system, is that the Dollar is a “world reserve currency”. In contrast, the Denarius, Sestertius and Aureus certainly were accepted and held by major traders all around the then known world, international trade was largely done based on the metal content of individual currencies, however. The actual backbone of the financial system were precious metals.
The Dollar, on the other hand, was forced upon the world in 1944 at Bretton-Woods. A condition by the USA, who then held the other Allied Nations in their hands, as only they had the economic and military power to defeat Hitler.

This led to the unique situation that in the 1970s, with the Dollar now a Fiat currency, the IMF launched a crusade against gold, thus leaving us, for the first time in history, with a purely Fiat world.

Back to ancient Rome.

After Rome had slipped into currency debasement, the government played a hypocritical game. While they paid their soldiers and trade partners in Fiat as much as they could, taxes would be collected in gold and silver.

This is again a move that can be seen today, where Russia will accept only a gold pegged Rouble, gold, or Bitcoin as payment for their energy, while trying to keep their citizens from holding either.
The same can be seen in Ukraine, where the government begged international donors to donate to them, gladly taking Bitcoin, but trying to hinder their citizens from rescuing their savings from the war into Bitcoin.

In Rome, the Fiat system, coupled with the bimetallic tax system, eroded the morals, infrastructure, and power of the Roman Empire. Something that could be seen again—in a fast-forward mode—during the Weimar Hyperinflation.
This ultimately lead to Rome being invaded several times and the Empire ultimately breaking into two, where the Western Part completely dissolved, while the Eastern Part lasted for a while longer in the form of the Byzantine Empire.

Why the difference?

The Byzantine emperor Constantine was smart enough to copy the Aureus and launch a gold currency in the form of the Solidus. This made Byzantium one of the most powerful trade hubs until well after the year 1000, when the solidus was again debased.

Can you already see the pattern?

The long civilizational cycles tend to be synchronized with the shorter cycles of empires by the debasement of currency. The main difference between the cycles being that when an empire falls, this is largely contained in the nation and its colonies, while the demise of an era like the Greco-Roman age of philosophy, throws back human culture around the world.

One of these 100+ year cycles is also coming to an end now, due to the US Empire loosing its grip on their debt colonies.

The next smaller cycle converging with the others is the 4-generational cycle, called “Fourth Turning”. Such a cycle is often aligned with a smaller cycle of monetary and currency rise and decline, as laid out by Argentarius.

Finally, a fourth economic cycle is currently coming to an end, namely the boom-and-bust cycle induced by Keynesian economics. These last usually about 7 to 10 years, but after the financial crisis in 2008, the central banks around the globe have warped the economy with quantitative easing.

As real economists have warned the Keynesian clowns for years, QE does not solve any crisis, but rather only delays and multiplies the negative consequences.

Having laid out the parallels and differences, let’s start conjecture time… How will the Fall of Washington likely go?

From my perspective, the demise of the US hegemony is already in full swing. And the attack of Russia on Ukraine, as well as the lockdowns in China, are part of the East stealthily launching economic war (as I laid out → here).

These attacks, combined with the already disrupted global supply chains, are poised to bring about the worst economic disaster in recorded history. I fully expect Western economies to decline at rates comparable to the Great Depression this decade, while at the same time, one national currency after the other will fall and go into hyperinflation.

What makes this process so hard to predict, is that—as I explained above—a world without gold currencies is unprecedented. Normally, the harder currency nations raise severe tariffs against the debasing states, thus draining their adversaries of intellectual property and capital.

Under a Fiat to Fiat system, this is not as straightforward, but it turns out that the biggest loser is the reserve currency nation. Having the reserve currency is called an “exorbitant privilege” because initially the world needs your currency. So for the first years the US was able to export their worthless paper and get back real goods and services.

If you stop there, it really may seem like a great deal. You just have to print, and others will work for your painted paper. This is a common error that even economists as great as Ludwig von Mises have made. (See my article about this → here)
Money tokens or currencies, are never the actual ends desired by market participants, even if the market participants aren’t aware of this. As Argentarius correctly stated, every transaction ultimately gets settled in goods or services.

In Weimar Germany, the nation exported cheap goods, to get enough gold to pay their war debt, which led to other nations exploiting the weak Mark and purchasing German stocks, real estate, etc. at dumping prices.
For the US, it has been China who sent them worthless junk in exchange for worthless Dollars, which the Chinese then sold for Gold, US and EU company shares, as well as real estate.

This process can be expected to pick up speed, as more and more nations dump their Dollar reserves on the market to diversify their holdings, as can be seen in Israel. Secondly, since the US stock and real estate market are already in a Bubble, China and Russia are bound to focus more on doing the same attack on the Euro. This strategy has, of course, been hampered by the Western sanctions on Russia, among other things by the freezing of Russian foreign currency assets.

A move that surprised me and probably also Russia, it being a de facto declaration by the US and several EU countries that both the Euro and Dollar are IOUs that can be voided arbitrarily and instantly.
To this day, I am uncertain whether this move was out of hybris or sheer incompetence. No matter which is the case, in the mid- to long-term, this will likely turn out to be one of the biggest blunders the Euro-Dollar governments could have possibly made.

Russia promptly took advantage of this mistake by simultaneously asking for their energy to be paid in Roubles and coupling the Rouble to gold at a fixed rate.

This essentially puts Germany—which is highly dependent on Russian gas—in the same trap, as the Weimar Republic was in due to the Versailles treaty. The difference being that this time, Germany is coupled to the rest of Europe via the Euro.

Thus, the ECB is in the worst catch any central banker can imagine. On the one hand, Germany is subsidizing Southern Europe and stabilizing the Euro with its strong economy. Something that is only possible due to low interest rates and ECB asset purchases.
On the other hand, the energy price inflation thanks to the gold-pegged Rouble can quickly grind Germany’s economy to a halt. Which needs to be addressed with higher interest rates and a stop to asset purchases.

As we will see later, there is a way out with Bitcoin, but I doubt the EU will take it.

Rather, I expect the ECB to first continue on their suicidal printing spree, well into a German depression and then steer back too hard, crushing the whole EU economy. The end game for the Euro will probably be another 180° swing towards QE and a Euro hyperinflation.

Before the Euro hyperinflates, however, I expect weaker currencies to be crushed in a similar manner. The Turkish Lira is already bordering on hyperinflation, many others will follow. The interesting thing will be to see, if the Bank of Japan manages to hold out longer than the Euro, but I doubt it.

Historically, the only way a nation can get out of hyperinflation is a monetary reform. Such a reform only works lastingly, if it is towards a gold or silver standard.

This time there is a another, even harder currency to turn to—Bitcoin.

While Bitcoin will still be a bit too young to have the same trust as gold, when this global monetary crash plays out (most likely this and next decade), there are many reasons for nations to prefer Bitcoin to gold.

The first is simply that Bitcoin is a better, harder currency. Some may even argue that it is the hardest theoretically possible currency.
The reason most countries will be led by is more of a practical nature. Most nations have gold reserves that are smaller than their share of the global economy. If they switch to a gold standard, they are thus at a serious disadvantage against a China or Russia, who have over proportionally much Gold.

The nation worst of are the United States themselves.

They had to declare gold bankruptcy already in ’71 and since then, the US has dumped so much physical gold onto the market to stabilize the dollar that I fully expect the national and international reserves in Fort Knox and co. to largely exist on paper only.

To make matters worse, Nixon didn’t really end the gold peg, he only “temporarily” paused it. This means, if the Dollar was to return to a gold standard, creditors of the US would likely demand to get the old value. Something that probably all the gold on the planet wouldn’t suffice to do.

The big chance the US (and other gold poor nations) have is to use Bitcoin. At about one Trillion Dollar market cap, BTC is still cheap enough that a government can easily acquire a large stake.

The first big nation to announce that they have a stack of 5+ Mio. Bitcoin and declares it legal tender, will be the dominant economic force of the century, if not the millennium.

If the US does this, before the Dollar hyperinflates against a gold backed Chinese currency, then they can avoid a lot of the pain they otherwise get and simultaneously rid themselves of most of their debt.

They could simply declare that a Dollar is henceforth exchangeable for Bitcoin at one Dollar per Satoshi (or 100,000,000 Dollars per Bitcoin). This would leave creditors with the choice to either accept the Bitcoin valuation and take the hard money, or take the dollar and sell it before it reaches that valuation by sheer self-fulfilling prophecy and US economic power.

The biggest danger for the US is, if China should manage to acquire more Bitcoin than the United States and pegs its currency to it (or maybe a double gold and Bitcoin peg). If this happens, the Dollar will soon enter hyperinflation and the US Empire will be over.

If the latter happens, we can only hope that the consequences are not as devastating as when Rome fell. Unfortunately, I expect that, if China wins, we will enter a very dark age of global surveillance and totalitarianism.

Next time we will take a deeper look, at how the best case for the US might go on a Bitcoin standard. If you don’t want to miss it, please consider subscribing to my Newsletter.

China declared economic war and no one noticed*

*This is of course just my conjecture. I do not say that it can’t all be an innocent accumulation of accidents. I am just trying to see if there is maybe another explanation better fitting to the James Bond principle:

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

The year 2022 may turn out to be one of the most significant years in history. Even though it is not even a full four months old, this year has already changed the world forever.
With Russia invading Ukraine, the West declaring economic war on Russia and the (hopefully) final waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, this is definitely one of the “[…]weeks when decades happen” sort of years. 
So, with all these once-in-a-lifetime events happening in just a few short weeks—after two years of wild geopolitical crises—it’s almost no wonder that the public seems to have missed the biggest event of them all:

Quietly, China has started the largest economic attack in recorded history. 

While all the mainstream media focussed on the double whammy of Corona and the invasion of Ukraine, China launched the economic equivalent of a nuclear first strike.
Under the guise of Zero-Covid, the Chinese authorities began to systematically mine and torpedo the already weak global supply chains.

First, the Chinese government halted the semiconductor industry because of “power shortages”. A woe that the communist leaders had intentionally provoked, when they declared Bitcoin mining to be illegal, which had been the economic backbone for much of China’s more rural power plants. 

“Wait a minute”, you may think, “Chinese government cracking down on Bitcoin is just them wanting control.”

You may be right, but what’s ringing my alarm bells is twofold:
The first part is that the crackdowns came under the pretence of power shortages, but the large scale power shortages and shutdowns of factories only occurred after the miners had left the country. 
Secondly, there were many articles popping up about Chinese hydro-power plants going bankrupt soon after the BTC mining ban, which quickly were purged from Google.

Let’s recap:
Strike one—China shuts down Bitcoin mining, creates severe power shortages (happenstance).
Strike two—China shuts down critical wafer and semiconductor fabs in an already disrupted semiconductor supply chain situation, due to Covid-19. (coincidence)

So far, so bad. And there is more…

One aspect to look into further is the origin of the novel Coronavirus itself. Whether or not the virus leaked from the Wuhan lab or occurred naturally, the Chinese response certainly hints at the CCP having had plans ready on how to turn this thing into an economic and political weapon. (Strike Three—Enemy Action!?!)

While I certainly cannot decidedly tell, if the mounting evidence that there indeed was  a cover-up by high-ranking healthcare officials in the US, means China released a virus on purpose, the background on the cover-up—which supposedly was due to the research jointly funded by the USA and China—is more than just a little suspicious in light of how well the pandemic played into China’s cards.

It’s hard to create a better Sun Tzu style move than to lure your enemy to conspire with you and then having him hide the fallout of what is to become your first strike.

Especially if these moves also help you hide the preparations of an all out war, as well as the first skirmishes.

Let us examine how China used Covid-19 against the West:
To do so, we need to go back to early 2020, when videos of people collapsing dead in the streets leaked out of China. 
After two years of a global pandemic, we can say with a high degree of certainty that these videos were staged to create panic. Had these been real videos, we would have seen this happening all over the globe. A virus may affect countries differently based on the national demographic and healthcare system, but not with entirely different symptoms. 

So, if the CCP staged these videos, what was their goal?

In my opinion, the goal was trifold:
One, they wanted to create fear, to get their own population back in line, which had been getting a bit nervous over Xi’s plans to stay in power indefinitely.
Two, the CCP wanted to create a justification for their crackdowns on their population, so the West would keep quiet.
And finally three, the long-term plans of the CCP had matured to a point, where they felt powerful enough to attack the US of A, but not quite daring enough to do so in the open.
Thus, if they could carefully guide the West to destabilize itself, they could bring their economic troops into position undercover.

And this plan—if it indeed was planned—worked out perfectly. Under the pretence of Corona, stoked with fear from the exaggerated messages out of China, the Western leaders were encouraged to copy China’s response and launch ever more authoritarian counter measures. 

No matter if this was all Xi Jinping’s plan, a Klaus Schwab conspiracy or mere happenstance, in its Covid-19 response, the West laid the groundwork for its own economic demise.

The constant mumbo-jumbo of lockdowns, travel restrictions and quarantines, thoroughly scrambled up the delicate global supply chains.
Something Europe and the United States depend on, while China and its allies are largely self-sufficient.

With natural disasters like earthquakes in Japan or human made disasters like a ship blocking one of world’s most important channels (Maybe Strike Four???), the “First World” in later 2021 suddenly became looking more and more like the Soviet Union in 1988. Shelves were barren, borders closed. People were locked in or out of countries, sometimes even their home countries.  

Unfortunately for authoritarians worldwide, the Omicron variant of the virus appeared and quickly drove out the other, more lethal variants.
With a virus less deadly now than the flu, it became harder and harder to justify the extensive human rights violations.
So, after a final propaganda push, trying to declare the winter of 21 to 22 a “winter of severe illness and death” for the unvaccinated, almost all countries lifted the restrictions during Q1 of 2022.

This came at a terrible time for China.  They had been increasing the pressure on Taiwan for a while, likely hoping to use the global chaos to find some excuse to take over. Which would have given them control over some of the most important semiconductor fabs in the world. 

What to do now?

If the CCP waits, fabs in construction around the world would get finished, making both China and Taiwan less critical as semiconductor suppliers. If they move now, they would likely receive a hefty response from the NATO.

“Luckily”, Vladimir Putin came to the rescue and invaded Ukraine. This not only pulled the media attention and wrath to Russia, it also allowed China to shine, simply by not openly declaring support for Russia. Furthermore, it made Russia dependent on China to launder its goods and money.

As a cherry on top, Russia and Ukraine combined are the world’s top suppliers of e.g., Gas, Oil, Grain, and Neon. The last being especially important, since it again affects the crucial semiconductor industry. (Come on, this is definitely another strike!?!)

If all of this wasn’t enough, China decided to still treat the milder Omicron, as if it was the “people dropping dead in the streets” plague they had first portrayed it as. In fact, the recent shutdowns in Shanghai are even more hardcore and influential than what they originally did in Wuhan.
Shanghai is one of the most significant industrial hubs in the entire world and one of the busiest harbours. With the measures taken by the CCP in this region, they can not only again halt semiconductor factories, but also automotive manufacturers and many other industries. 

Port of Shanghai Vessels – April 19 2022

On top of these factory closings, the seemingly random openings and closings of parts of Shanghai, lead to trucks and ships piling up around the metropolis, leaving the thin global supply chains short of containers, staff and other essentials.

This could lead to a supply shock of a very different kind in many industries, again, especially semiconductors.

While many suppliers right now ask their customers to place orders for chips on the entire 2023 demand, some even well into 2024, more and more chip customer’s factories have to stop production. In China due to Covid-19, in Ukraine due to the war and in Europe, due to parts missing from either of the aforementioned countries. 

If this chaos continues, automotive Tier 1 and Tier 2 subcontractors, will soon be forced to cancel or delay semiconductor orders. This will lead to a bizarre situation, where we have simultaneously a shortage of chips and chips stacking up in warehouses.

If you think inflation is bad already, wait what this will do to the CPI.

And China is not done yet. They want to lock down more and fight out their Zero Covid fight to the max.

To sum this long article up:
China has found a way to break global supply chains, drive Western economies into a historically unique combination of double-digit inflation and depression. In short, the economic equivalent of nuclear winter.

So, how do we tell, if this was all just a series of unlucky coincidences or an evil master plan?
We will probably never know for sure. But if one or more of the following things happen over the next few years, we can be rather certain:

  1. China taking control over Taiwan
  2. China adopting a gold standard (more on this in my upcoming article on hyperinflation)
  3. More proxy wars breaking out

Monetary Theory—Argentarius vs. Mises

What is money? Many economists have tried to define this omnipresent tool of human trade. Few have come close to a comprehensive analysis. The two men who in my opinion did the best job so far were Ludwig von Mises and Alfred Lansburgh (better known under his pen name “Argentarius”).

Mises as one of the most famous representatives of the Austrian School is of course more well known than Lansburgh, but while I greatly admire the man, this time I need to side with Argentarius.

The two theories are rather close and not entirely incompatible, but a few key differences exist, and I think they are due to Argentarius seeing what Mises overlooked. Let me explain…

While Mises traces money back to the value of the underlying commodity (Regression theorem), Argentarius adds another layer to the analysis. He does not dispute the history, how commodities became monetary tokens, he rather claims that the concept of money is entirely separable from the underlying commodity and much older.

While I cannot lay out in a few lines, what Lansburgh explained in an entire series of books, let me try to rephrase how he claims money evolved.

Why are money tokens even necessary?

Whenever you trade with other people or render them services, one side will inevitably need to grant the other side credit at some point. Few goods can be exchanged one to one at the spot.
If you pay for a pair of shoes with eggs, for example. It will neither be practical nor helpful, if you deliver the payment of a thousand eggs at once in exchange for the shoes.

Rather, you will make a deal with the shoemaker, where either you deliver 1000 eggs first, in household quantities, over say a year (i.e., you give the shoemaker credit) or you get the shoes first and then pay off the debt with eggs over time (the shoemaker gives you credit).

In ancient human history, such debts were either remembered by people or chalked down. We know that as much as 5000 years ago, people would use clay tablets to record ledgers of such commodity debt contracts, e.g., in Mesopotamia.

This debt is what Argentarius calls “money”. Or more precisely, the debt that results from a contract that has been partially fulfilled. Looking at archaeological findings, it seems that Argentarius is indeed correct, and these ledger-based debts go back further than commodity money.

Of course, we need to note here, that what we colloquially call “money” is different from Lansburgh’s definition. In day to day life, we usually equate the money tokens or currency with “money”.
So, when we compare the different theories, we need to keep in mind that Argentarius calls the virtual debt “money” and the physical currencies “money tokens”.

Why and how did humans even switch from a virtual, ledger-based debt “money” to token money?

The answer lies in the growth of civilization. While, a debt denominated in individual goods and services and recorded in virtual or physical ledgers, may work for a city or even a state, the bigger and wider trade networks become, the less practical it becomes—especially for small transactions.

Just imagine either a harbour innkeeper having to know all his customers and remember their tabs, or a central national clay-tablet database recording every beer drunk in the nation and not yet paid for.

Thus, tradesmen started to seek for a standardized medium of account, similar like kings standardized length measurements to multiples of their foot. The problem with value is that it is subjective, however.
As Mises correctly points out, all humans rank their possessions hierarchically, but cannot quantify them because there is no SI unit for “value”.

Your kid is hopefully more valuable to you than a donkey you own, but if you had to put a numerical value on either, you wouldn’t be able to. Unless, of course, you compare it to a good or service you need right now that is of equal or greater value to you.

If there is a famine, you will probably first sell your donkey for grain because the grain is more valuable to you than the donkey. And the grain and donkey are both less valuable than your kid, so you don’t even consider selling the kid at first.
If the famine continues, however, you may come to a point, where you start to think about how much food you could get—for you, your wife and your four eldest children—if you sell the fifth and youngest kid.

I know, this example may sound cruel to us today, but it was a tough choice people often faced historically and even in Central Europe as recent as 150 years ago children were still occasionally sold to feed families.

So, how exactly do we calculate values, prices, debts in a standardized way then?

How many money tokens equal one child, and how many money tokens equal one loaf of bread? If we want to express values comparably, we need to develop a solution to this, we need to find a common denominator.

This is especially important for an economy, since something as valuable as a child, is worth more than a single merchant can supply in useful goods. If we wish to trade extremely high-value goods, for relatively low-value ones, we need a standardized way to express value and debt, so we can defer a transaction in party.

What do I mean by that?

In our example, even if the grain merchant offers you 5 tons of corn for your child, this will not help you feed your family. You are unable to transport and store 5 tons of grain, and you will need other goods, like drinkable water, basic shelter etc. that the corn trader cannot deliver.

A good money token thus needs to allow not only for the monetary functions of the historical ledger-based money (transferring a transaction in time and place), but also to transfer a transaction in party, i.e., a way to collect debts from another person than the one you are directly trading with.

One way this has been achieved is that traders of staple commodities, like grain, would give out coupons redeemable for their good instead of the good itself.

In our example, this means that instead of 5 tons of grain, the father receives 5000 coupons redeemable for 1 kg of grain each.
With these coupons, the father can then pay the shoemaker for new shoes, the well owner for some drinking water etc. This works because all of these merchants also need grain.

While this coupon money, solves the problem of transferring a transaction in party to some extent, it still does not solve the issue of a universal medium of exchange. Only people needing grain and trusting the merchant issuing the coupons will accept the coupons as payment.
(Of course, some will also just trade the coupons, but for brevities’ sake, we will exclude this from our analysis here.)

Furthermore, the validity of such coupons will be limited geographically. A merchant 500 miles away, is not likely to take a coupon he can only redeem by travelling to a far away city and redeem with a merchant, he does not personally know.

Thus, the market found a solution in money tokens which had some market value independent of the exchange value guaranteed by some central entity. Historically, precious stones, cowrie shells and metals like Gold and Silver were chosen. Why and how specific goods were favoured over others, is explained brilliantly by Mises, so I won’t go into it here.

Once a money token or commodity money gets dominant in a region, either by market choice or by government decree, it finally evolves further into a “medium of exchange”. This means nothing more than that the money token (e.g., a gold mark or paper mark) is universally accepted as a placeholder in transactions and every good or service over time establishes a “market price”, denominated with the token.

The market price of a good or service, is the closest approximation one can objectively make to the subjective concept of “value”. This does not mean that every person values the same good or service at this market price, but rather that on average the marginal utility of both sellers and buyers of the commodity meet at this price, under current conditions.

So with the “market price” a medium of exchange finally allows us to express the “value” of things in a standardized, quantifiable manner and transfer transactions in time, space and party.

In a nutshell, this means that whatever good or service you are trying to exchange for whatever other good or service, you can just use the dominant money token instead.

The implication of this being that instead of having your employer pay you for your work in shelter, food, clothing, etc. You can receive your salary in the money token and then exchange the token for the desired goods at any merchant.

Up to this point, Mises and Argentarius largely agree, even though they place their emphasis on different aspects of the process.

Let us recap:
Argentarius traces the history of money back to “contractual debt”, tracked mentally or on clay tablets, which then became coupon money and then commodity money and then by choice or decree a medium of exchange.
Mises, on the other hand, traces the evolution of commodity money, by a free market process. Defining this type of money token as “money” if it is used as “universally employed medium of exchange”.

Both economists agree that a monetary token dominant in a given market/country becomes a universal medium of exchange. They disagree in the core definition of money.

To Argentarius, “money” is an abstract concept. A placeholder for a debt in an open transaction. Money gets born when somebody renders someone else a service and has not yet received the compensation. As soon as the transaction is completed, i.e., the debt is paid, the virtual money disappears. A money token in this context is used only to represent and quantify the abstract money.
The implication of this is that any given transaction is only finalized, once both parties have received the actual goods and services desired by the transacting individuals.

So, in the case of the shoemaker, it does not change the transaction, whether the shoes are paid for in eggs or whether the eggs are sold for a money token and then the shoes bought for such a token. The transaction is only finalized once the shoemaker in turn has exchanged the money token for eggs.

Mises, on the other hand, attests the monetary token a marginal utility of its own, reflected in the market prices of all goods and the monetary premium the token has over the commodity it consists of.

Here I see the flaw in Mises’s argument.

If a monetary token is accepted as payment for its own sake—as a commodity—and not to be re-traded for something else, then in this case it has not acted as “money” at all, but as common barter.

When a money token is used as a placeholder in a transaction—to transfer a transaction in party—it is not valued by the parties for its commodity value, but exclusively on its monetary premium.

This monetary premium arises not by the market pricing of the underlying commodity, but rather by the act of capturing the market price of the desired goods.

We do not use a money token because we want to own it, and we don’t price it for its own sake, rather we use the money token because we want to buy something that our trade partner cannot deliver, and we expect the token to have the same “value” as the good we desire.

So, why is the view of Mises—namely that a transaction is finished once a money token has been handed over for a commodity—problematic and factually incorrect?

To see this, we need to study an extreme example:
Let’s say two people, called Alice and Bob, want to do a barter trade. Alice exchanges a Picasso painting for a serial-number-one sports car of Bob’s.

The Picasso is delivered to Bob, but Bob’s wife hates it and immediately trades it for a van Gogh. The sports car is put on a lorry and shipped to Alice.
Unfortunately, the truck has an accident and the car is damaged beyond repair.

Now Bob is in a difficult situation. He does not have the one of a kind commodity he owes, and he also doesn’t have the one of a kind commodity he received, for the transaction to be reversed.
Naturally, Bob offers Alice the van Gogh painting, since to his family it had the same value as the Picasso. Unfortunately, Alice hates van Gogh as patently as Bob’s wife hates Picasso.

How does Bob pay his debt?

The common way to resolve such a dispute is to involve a mediator, often a court. Given that the two parties are unable to agree on a fair substitute for the car, the judge will need to get an appraiser who determines the “value” of the lost vehicle.

According to Mises’s school of thought, this price should be denominated in the dominant medium of exchange of the area, while Argentarius would call for the money token dominant or decreed for the area.

If the two parties come from regions which have different media of exchange, the customary thing to do would be to use Alice’s medium of exchange, for she is the one who is the creditor.

If I explained this case well, you, dear reader, will have probably come to the conclusion that in most cases the two schools of thought will arrive at the same monetary token and valuation in this case.

Yet, the two cases could not be more, different. The problem I see is both of a philosophical and practical nature.

Let us start with the philosophical problem:
Under Mises’s doctrine, a free market process should be completely voluntary. Since he furthermore attests a marginal utility to the monetary token itself, the only way to view a court’s decision as “just” is, to ask Alice whether the marginal utility of the money token is equal or greater than the marginal utility of the lost car. If Alice does not value the possession of the money token itself, the marginal utility of the token is zero and Alice has, in fact, been robbed by the court.

If Alice, however, attributes a value to the money token solely based on the expected resale value, this means that she does not really attribute any marginal utility to the token itself, but rather values the token based on the marginal utility of what she expects it to buy her.

So in the first case, a “just” solution is impossible. In the second case… well, in the second case Argentarius was right all along.

Now, philosophical and moral implications aside. What are the practical issues with Mises’s theory?

To understand the significance, we need to first call to our attention, why economic theories are important.
Over the past few centuries humanity’s standard of living has been rising steadily, thanks in large parts to the advancements of science. If you have a better understanding of how the world works, you can create better products to enable you to satisfy your basic needs easier and to also address higher order needs, otherwise unsatisfied.

In economics, one of the most important pieces of understanding required, is how scarce goods can be best allocated. The best process discovered for this so far is the “free market”. The free market according to Hayek is so good at this because the market price effectively is an aggregate of the knowledge and information possessed by the market participants. With billions of people participating in a free market, it seems obvious, why this process must be better informed than any group of central planers.

But what if market participants are missing a piece of information or collectively share a piece of wrong information?

The inevitable consequence is a misallocation of goods and services. Sub par products will win out over better products, and many innovations will never come to fruition.

This is particularly devastating to humanity, if the error lies in the very tool itself used to express market prices, namely the monetary tokens.

With Mises’s theory of money, you can understand what a “good” token is only to the extent at which it is accepted by market participants as a commodity.
Failing to see the function of a monetary token to quantify and standardize the underlying abstract concept of “money”, it is likely that suboptimal tokens are chosen by market participants and that better tokens only emerge by accident or not at all.

The key difference in the two theories thus is that Argentarius requires a “good” token to be stable in “value” from the time a contract is made to the time it is finalized, which in this case is not the moment the token is handed over, but rather the moment the token itself is redeemed.

Let us look at an example of where the fatal consequences of Mises’s theory become visible, namely the Weimar Hyperinflation.

As early as the year 1921 Lansburgh saw that the majority of people in Germany were confusing monetary tokens with “money”. They bought and sold goods using money, thinking the transaction was finalized when they handed over the Mark bill and overlooked that in reality their intention was not to have a Mark bill, but to spend it.

The consequence of this error was what Argentarius calls “selling themselves poor”. Shopkeepers and industrialists priced their products in Marks, based on the current market value of the Mark, instead of on the expected market value of the Mark when they needed to restock.

Thus, shops often found out only after they had sold their whole inventory that the Mark had fallen so much in value that they couldn’t afford filling up their shelves and had to go out of business.

Enough for today.

Thank you, dear reader, that you stayed with me for this long. In one of the following issues, I plan to go deeper into what a “good” money token is and why the Euro-Dollar system is currently going into hyperinflation.

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