I’m a bit too busy to update this very much these days, but I thought it would be amusing to update any wayward reader about the free t-shirts. My youngest, now 13, has aged into wearing my t-shirt size, and sure enough, he stole them all. I suppose most kids’ first branding instinct wouldn’t be to promote a credit union, but… there it is.
Dear progressive friends: I have the feeling a lot of you aren’t going to love this one. But if after reading this you want to find out why I don’t think that what’s in here is totally insane, please feel free to reach out, as I welcome conversation about “big picture” issues from people of good will, whether they agree with me or not. Fair enough? Okay, here goes!
Recently I was asked, “What are your thoughts on (attempting) or using cryptocurrencies to circumvent governmental dictates? Is it effective? What affect does it have on society?” The person asking included a link to an article on how Iran’s policymakers are using bitcoin to evade U.S.-led financial sanctions. My answer didn’t fit in the space provided, and I thought it might be of some general interest, so I’m posting it here. Also, I should make it clear that I’m responding in a personal capacity and not an institutional one, because as you’ll soon see, I can’t realistically go anywhere near this topic without my answer being steeped in my ideological views.
Government is like a pothole: go around it if you can, go through it if you must, but never let it stop you from reaching your destination. To that end, I’m less interested in high profile examples like whether the Ayatollahs can evade U.S.-led sanctions, and more interested in what lower profile individuals who want to maintain as much freedom as possible can do in a world where theirs is a decidedly minority opinion.
I want cryptocurrencies to be ideal for this, sure, but that desire leads to the danger of wishful thinking. Bitcoin itself clearly is not ideal or else none of us would ever have heard of Ross Ulbricht. As I’ve said elsewhere when people have suggested that Bitcoin is a haven for money laundering (which thankfully I’m seeing less and less often), I expect any system that uses a public ledger is a poor choice for such transactions, because even though accounts are not attached to names, sooner or later interfacing with the legacy banking system means some accounts have connections with real world identities, and from there the ledger is nothing more than a giant game of Sudoku that large law enforcement agencies are well positioned to solve.
That leaves privacy coins. While those might do a better job of protecting the financial privacy of those who remain within that self-contained system, there’s still the same problem of interfacing with the legacy financial system. This sort of thing has been an issue for a long time. Twenty years ago I was Director of Information Systems for e-gold, the original digital gold currency. We had the same dream of building a replacement financial system that would allow people to live more freely. Back then I referred to this as the “grocery store problem”: how does one with a balance in an alternative financial system use it for day to day needs, like buying things at the grocery store? Does that need render privacy coins less useful for their stated purpose?
I understand that if critical mass were reached in such a system that value wouldn’t have to leave it, and that if it were useful as a self-contained economy that this could change matters considerably. So perhaps the ultimate question here is how a privacy coin could reach that critical mass. I do know that the matter is trickier than it may seem, having heard for a quarter of a century now from crypto-anarchists and cypherpunks that encryption will “starve the beast” by facilitating consequence-free tax resistance. So… any suggestions? I’m all ears!
“You don’t ask, you don’t get.” — Bernard von NotHaus
I was at the credit union this morning and saw that they were having a promotion there where all the tellers and other people at the branch were all wearing really cool t-shirts. One of the lessons I’ve learned along the way is that if you want something you may as well ask for it, because generally the worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be told no. And maybe laughed at a little. So I asked whether there were any extras, just in case there were a few still in the back or something. I knew the likely answer was, “Nice try, but no.” Still, I’m always happy to shoot for a free t-shirt.
Well, things spiralled out of control. Despite my protestations that it was merely an idle question, the lady took my information to pass on to Ashley B., their marketing manager, who later called me to say that she would be happy to get me one of the cool COFCU sporty t-shirts — but in return she’d like to photograph me in it and use the pictures in social media.
It would have seemed awfully rude to have asked that and then been unwilling to do anything in return, and besides, I’m actually happy to help them out. Most of the banks I’ve ever dealt with have screwed me sooner or later, but the people at the credit union have always done their best to bend rules or make exceptions if they were unnecessary and were between me and my money. And Ashley seemed really nice. So I told her that I couldn’t imagine how using a picture of me could possibly not chase prospective members away, but that sure, she was welcome to take some if for some reason they thought it would help.
So I suppose now I’ll prepare for my fifteen minutes of fame as a D-list local credit union celebrity. And I’ll have to amend that life lesson: If you want something you may as well ask for it… but be careful what you ask for, because you may get it.
And as a message from our sponsor, if you live, work, or shop in or near Alexandria, Virginia, and you’d rather own a small piece of a credit union than be owned piecemeal by a bank, check out Commonwealth One Federal Credit Union, and tell them the t-shirt guy sent you.
“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.” — Samuel Ullman
Now that it’s spring, at least astronomically, many people’s thought turn to spring cleaning. Traditionally that’s meant tidying up the house, getting rid of all the things that accumulated during the winter when it was too cold to spend much time outside, and taking advantage of the newly returned warmth to finally clean out the car. (Those of you with kids know exactly what I mean.)
I think this spring I need to go a step further. I think this year I need a thorough spring cleaning of my brain. Lately I’ve felt bogged down by a life filled with many things to do but without a lot to show for it in terms of reaching my goals. In fact it’s a bit worse than that, sometimes I’m not even sure what my goals are anymore. Just getting to the next paycheck without having a negative bank balance isn’t enough, but that seems to be where too much of my thought every month is going. I’m too young to let things like that make me feel old.
So I’m going to think about what it is that I’m doing, and what I really might want to do instead and start finding better ways of making that happen. Everything is on the table — my approach to school, the contracts I go after, everything. It’s not that everything in my life is bad, far from it. And I do enjoy most of what I do. But increasingly, I have a rudderless feeling, like these things don’t actually add to much of a destination, and with only so many years on this earth, it’s not okay to feel like they’re being… well, not wasted, exactly, but not maximized either.
Going back and rereading this, I see that it seems a bit jumbled. But I think I’ll leave it that way and post it anyway. I expect that in future posts what I’m trying to say will be a bit clearer. Besides, jumbled is a bit how my brain feels. See? A spring cleaning is definitely in order.
“If it’s a penny for your thoughts and you put in your two cents worth, then someone, somewhere is making a penny.” — Steven Wright
Recently I posted on using gold and silver as money, and got some interesting commentary in return from Mark Herpel, editor of DGC Magazine. One of the resources he suggested referred to the use not of gold or silver, but of copper as a trading commodity, as it included a bit from a group that was planning to produce copper rounds for that purpose.
It made me think that while gold and silver get the limelight, copper too has a long history as a circulating commodity in coinage. And that reminded me of the humble penny, a coin which was 95% copper until 1982, but debased to be mostly zinc in that year because it started to cost more than one cent to manufacture a penny coin.
If you look through your spare change, however, you’ll see that a significant percentage of pennies in circulation today are still from before the Reagan Debasement. And these pennies are worth a lot more than their face value. There are about 155 pennies in a pound, meaning a face value of about $1.55. But the current price of copper is nearly three times that at $4.40 per pound!
Now, like many people, I’m not in a position to buy gold or even silver rounds and sock them away. But like anyone else, I get pennies in change. Sure, you’re not supposed to melt them down for their metal content, but might it still be worth it to sort out the ones from before 1982, roll them up, and set them aside? If inflation really goes haywire as some expect, it might not be the worst idea to take a few minutes a day to save your pennies — the real ones, anyway.
“An almost hysterical antagonism toward the gold standard is one issue which unites statists of all persuasions. They seem to sense… that gold and economic freedom are inseparable.” — Alan Greenspan
The Washington Post is reporting that conservative state legislator Bob Marshall is proposing the Virginia government study the feasibility of minting gold and silver coins to be used as money in the event that hyperinflation renders the U.S dollar unusable. Rather than address the proposal itself, the response to this from the left has been ridicule Marshall for wanting to bring back the Confederacy.
Now, I realize that Southern whites are the last remaining group in America against whom it’s still culturally acceptable to be bigoted, and I’m no fan of Bob Marshall’s social positions, but this is not a proposal for the South to rise again, and I think most of its better-educated detractors know it. It ought to be enough to damn Marshall’s proposal for the flaws it actually has, which are (1) it’s not constitutional, as Article I, Section 8 assigns the federal government the exclusive authority to coin money, (2) it’s unlikely to pass in the General Assembly, and (3) if one government is debasing its currency it’s a little foolish to trust a different government not to do the same thing.
The real solution for those who want to use gold and silver as money is to use the Nike maneuver — just do it. You don’t need to wait for some government to tell you it’s okay. If you own a store, list your prices both in dollars and in ounces of silver. If you’re a customer, offer a silver round and see what the store owner says. It wouldn’t be that hard for someone enterprising to set up an online directory of businesses that participate. If there really is enough interest, those people can have their own sound money economy just like that. It’s the sort of thing I’ve always thought I might do using simply web technologies like PHP and MySQL if I can find the time. And with “quantitative easing” and related euphemisms for running the printing presses to churn out more money coming out of Washington, maybe sooner would be better than later.