The Bitcoin Bubble and the Future of Currency by felix ...
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Felix Salmon on NPR – On The Media: “The Bitcoin Bubble”
LINK: http://www.onthemedia.org/2013/ap05/bitcoin-bubble/ So, I'm driving to work and, during this phase in which I'm actually listening to the radio intermittently after a long period full of quiet car rides, I hear that next up, there's going to be a story about Bitcoin. My ears perk up, interested in hearing for the first time about Bitcoin both in mainstream media and on the radio. But as I continue to listen for what the reporters have to say, this is what I hear:
“It's a way of paying for...illegal things on the internet.” “...so what you've found was a bunch of people in Cyprus starting to talk about Bitcoins, a bunch of people in the media starting to talk about the people in Cyprus who are talking about Bitcoins, and then you started getting cycles of hype which always happen when you get an asset bubble like we're seeing with Bitcoins right now.” “Bitcoin bubble pearl” “the scope of the bubble” “...it's got so many 'Man Bites Dog' elements to it...” To understand this reference, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_Bites_Dog_(film). “...but this is dangerous territory for reasons that have more to do than with buying drugs from silkroad.com.” “...every time people talk about Bitcoin, all that does is fuel this ridiculous bubble...” “Reporting about Bitcoin is a fluff piece which the vast majority of people are going to go, 'That's crazy, I can ignore that.'”
Ironically, this piece is supposed to be a criticism of how poor media reporting can have a direct and negative impact on the circumstances being reported. Towards the end, Felix, with tongue-in-cheek, says, “We are absolutely part of the problem.” I think he's right. I am interested to hear criticisms against Bitcoin, but not once did I hear a well-reasoned substantiation for the “dangers” of Bitcoin and the “bubble” that it supposedly is. Does anyone have an explanation for how this piece of FUD makes it's way to NPR (seriously, any insights into how a story gets run on NPR)? In my search on NPR.org, I found several other articles that were more curious in nature rather than overtly dismissive, and I ended up having to look elsewhere for this actual piece. Planet Money, also on NPR, seems to be gearing up for a story and other redditors seem to like the prospect. Just wanted to get some of your thoughts on the variations. Thanks! TL;DR Bitcoin FUD on NPR. How does a story, especially one of low quality, make it through to broadcast on NPR? Note: I tried looking for the medium.com write-up mentioned in the segment, but didn't find anything except this. EDIT: Formatting.
There is a constant war being fought between goldbugs, like Peter Schiff, and Bitcoin enthusiasts so I decided to make an outline, with links, comparing and contrasting gold and Bitcoin. I made this in November of 2019 (thus the information therein is based on figures from that time) but, being scatter brained, neglected to post this for the Bitcoin community to see. The yardsticks I used to compare the two assets included the following: shipping/transactions costs, storage costs, censorship factor, settlement time, stock to flow, blockchain vs clearing house, validation, etc. I will also touch on Roosevelt's gold confiscation executive order in 1933, transporting gold during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and the hypothetical cost for Venezuela to repatriate its gold more recently. I will provide a brief summary first then follow that with the outline I made. This information can be used as a tool for the Bitcoin community to combat some of the silly rhetoric coming from goldbugs such as Peter Schiff and James Rickards. I would like to make it clear, however, that I am not against gold and think that it performed its role as money very well in a technologically inferior era, namely Victorian times but I think Bitcoin performs the functions of money better than gold does in the current environment. I have been looking to make a contribution to the Bitcoin community and I hope this is a useful and educational tool for everyone who reads this. Summary: Shipping/transaction costs: 100 ounces of gold could be shipped for 315 dollars; the comparable dollar value in Bitcoin could be sent for 35 dollars using a non-segwit address. Using historical precendent, it would cost an estimated $32,997,989 to transport $1 billion in gold using the 3.3% fee that the Soviets charged the Spaniards in 1936; a $1 billion Bitcoin transaction moved for $690 last year by comparison. Please note that the only historic example we can provide for moving enormous sums of gold was when the government of Spain transported gold to Moscow during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. More information on this topic will be found in the notes section. Storage costs: 100 ounces of gold would require $451 per year to custody while the equivalent value of Bitcoin in dollar terms could be stored for the cost of a Ledger Nano S, $59.99. $1 billion USD value of gold would cost $2,900,000 per year while an Armory set up that is more secure would run you the cost of a laptop, $200-300. Censorship factor: Gold must pass through a 3rd party whenever it is shipped, whether for a transaction or for personal transportation. Gold will typically have to be declared and a customs duty may be imposed when crossing international borders. The key take-away is gatekeepers (customs) can halt movement of gold thus making transactions difficult. $46,000 of gold was seized in India despite the smugglers hiding it in their rectums. Settlement time: Shipping gold based on 100 ounces takes anywhere from 3-10 days while Bitcoin transactions clear in roughly 10 minutes depending on network congestion and fee size. Historic confiscation: Franklin Roosevelt confiscated and debased the paper value of gold in 1933 with Executive Order 6102. Since gold is physical in nature and value dense, it is often stored in custodial vaults like banks and so forth which act as a honeypot for rapacious governments. Stock to flow: Plan B's stock to flow model has become a favorite on twitter. Stock to flow measures the relationship between the total stock of an asset against the amount that is produced in a given year. Currently gold still has the highest value at 62 while Bitcoin sits at 50 in 2nd place. Bitcoin will overtake gold in 2024 after the next halving. Blockchain vs clearing house: gold payments historically passed through a 3rd party (clearinghouse) in order to be validated while Bitcoin transactions can be self validated through the use of a node. Key Takeaway from above- Bitcoin is vastly superior to gold in terms of cost, speed, and censorship resistance. One could theoretically carry around an enormous sum of Bitcoin on a cold card while the equivalent dollar value of gold would require a wheelbarrow...and create an enormous target on the back of the transporter. With the exception of the stock to flow ratio (which will flip in Bitcoin's favor soon), Bitcoin is superior to gold by all metrics covered. Notes: Shipping/transaction costs Gold 100 oz = 155,500. 45 x 7 = $315 to ship 100 oz gold. https://seekingalpha.com/instablog/839735-katchum/2547831-how-much-does-it-cost-to-ship-silver-and-gold https://www.coininvest.com/en/shipping-prices/ 211 tonnes Venezuela; 3.3% of $10.5 billion = 346,478,880 or 32,997,989/billion usd http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/08/23/how-to-get-12-billion-of-gold-to-venezuela/ (counter party risk; maduro; quotes from article) Bitcoin 18 bitcoin equivalent value; 35 USD with legacy address https://blockexplorer.com/ https://bitcoinfees.info/ 1 billion; $690 dollars https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/09/someone-moved-1-billion-in-a-single-bitcoin-transaction/ Storage costs Gold .29% annually; https://sdbullion.com/gold-silver-storage 100 oz – $451/year $1 billion USD value – $2,900,000/year Bitcoin Ledger Nano S - $59.00 (for less bitcoin) https://shop.ledger.com/products/ledger-nano-s/transparent?flow_country=USA&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI3ILV5O-Z5wIVTtbACh1zTAwqEAQYASABEgJ5SPD_BwE Armory - $200-300 cost of laptop for setup https://www.bitcoinarmory.com/ Censorship factor (must pass through 3rd party) Varies by country Gold will typically have to be declared and a customs duty may be imposed Key take-away is gatekeepers (customs) can halt movement of gold thus making transactions difficult $46,000 seized in India https://www.foxnews.com/travel/indian-airport-stops-29-passengers-smuggling-gold-in-their-rectums Settlement time Gold For 100 oz transaction by USPS 3-10 days (must pass through 3rd party) Bitcoin Roughly 10 minutes to be included in next block Historic confiscation-roosevelt 1933 Executive Order 6102 (forced spending, fed could ban cash, go through and get quotes) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_Order_6102 “The stated reason for the order was that hard times had caused "hoarding" of gold, stalling economic growth and making the depression worse” Stock to flow; https://medium.com/@100trillionUSD/modeling-bitcoins-value-with-scarcity-91fa0fc03e25 (explain what it is and use charts in article) Gold; SF of 62 Bitcoin; SF of 25 but will double to 50 after May (and to 100 in four years) Blockchain vs clearing house Transactions can be validated by running a full node vs. third party settlement Validation Gold; https://www.goldismoney2.com/threads/cost-to-assay.6732/ (Read some responses) Bitcoin Cost of electricity to run a full node Breaking down Venezuela conundrum; http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/08/23/how-to-get-12-billion-of-gold-to-venezuela/ “The last (and only) known case of this kind of quantity of gold being transported across state lines took place almost exactly 75 years ago, in 1936, when the government of Spain removed 560 tons of gold from Madrid to Moscow as the armies of Francisco Franco approached. Most of the gold was exchanged for Russian weaponry, with the Soviet Union keeping 2.1% of the funds in the form of commissions and brokerage, and an additional 1.2% in the form of transport, deposit, melting, and refining expenses.” “Venezuela would need to transport the gold in several trips, traders said, since the high value of gold means it would be impossible to insure a single aircraft carrying 211 tonnes. It could take about 40 shipments to move the gold back to Caracas, traders estimated. “It’s going to be quite a task. Logistically, I’m not sure if the central bank realises the magnitude of the task ahead of them,” said one senior gold banker.” “So maybe Chávez intends to take matters into his own hands, and just sail the booty back to Venezuela on one of his own naval ships. Again, the theft risk is obvious — seamen can be greedy too — and this time there would be no insurance. Chávez is pretty crazy, but I don’t think he’d risk $12 billion that way.” “Which leaves one final alternative. Gold is fungible, and people are actually willing to pay a premium to buy gold which is sitting in the Bank of England’s ultra-secure vaults. So why bother transporting that gold at all? Venezuela could enter into an intercontinental repo transaction, where it sells its gold in the Bank of England to some counterparty, and then promises to buy it all back at a modest discount, on condition that it’s physically delivered to the Venezuelan central bank in Caracas. It would then be up to the counterparty to work out how to get 211 tons of gold to Caracas by a certain date. That gold could be sourced anywhere in the world, and transported in any conceivable manner — being much less predictable and transparent, those shipments would also be much harder to hijack. How much of a discount would a counterparty require to enter into this kind of transaction? Much more than 3.3%, is my guess. And again, it’s not entirely clear who would even be willing to entertain the idea. Glencore, perhaps?” “But here’s one last idea: why doesn’t Chávez crowdsource the problem? He could simply open a gold window at the Banco Central de Venezuela, where anybody at all could deliver standard gold bars. In return, the central bank would transfer to that person an equal number of gold bars in the custody of the Bank of England, plus a modest bounty of say 2% — that’s over $15,000 per 400-ounce bar, at current rates. It would take a little while, but eventually the gold would start trickling in: if you’re willing to pay a constant premium of 2% over the market price for a good, you can be sure that the good in question will ultimately find its way to your door. And the 2% cost of acquiring all that gold would surely be much lower than the cost of insuring and shipping it from England. It would be an elegant market-based solution to an artificial and ideologically-driven problem; I daresay Chávez might even chuckle at the irony of it. He’d just need to watch out for a rise in Andean banditry, as thieves tried to steal the bars on their disparate journeys into Venezuela.”
Planet Money Episode 891: Who Won The Bet Over Bitcoin?
I don't know if anyone here listens to "Planet Money", a pop economics podcast by NPR. Their most recent episode was about widespread adoption of Bitcoin. Specifically, it was about a bet between Ben Horowitz, a venture capitalist who believed that Bitcoin was on its way to becoming a widespread payment platform, and Felix Salmon, a finance journalist who thought it was going to go to zero. They made a bet 5 years ago, whether or not 10% of Americans would be using Bitcoin at least once a month, and they finally got the results today:
GOLDSTEIN: As promised, we went out and got Ipsos, a real polling firm, to ask 900-and-some Americans - a representative sample of Americans this question. Have you purchased anything using bitcoin as your payment in the last month? The percentage of Americans who said, yes, is three - three. HOROWITZ: All right. GOLDSTEIN: Now, they did ask those people - the people who said they had, they said, at what merchant did you make the purchase? And I have some of those answers. And it suggests that the 3 percent is a little high. HOROWITZ: Yup. GOLDSTEIN: If you go down this list, somebody said Gaia Ethnobotanical, which I looked up - in fact, does accept bitcoin. Subway - I think some Subways accept bitcoin. But there's also a bunch that say - this one says Litecoin. A few say Coinbase, which is a bitcoin cryptocurrency exchange. So these people are using bitcoin to buy other cryptocurrency.
Horowitz ended up admitting to something that a lot of people on this sub have been saying for a while as well:
KESTENBAUM: That's what Ben thought would happen with bitcoin. He thought the code that powers bitcoin would just get better and better and, very quickly, it would obviously be this safer, faster, more private, cheaper way for people to buy stuff online. That did not happen. GOLDSTEIN: No. Bitcoins just became so valuable that the people who worked on the system didn't want to make it any better. They just wanted to lock everything down and keep it the way it was. HOROWITZ: I think that what happened with bitcoin is that there is kind of one very, very strong need among the kind of investors/miners, which is that the code and the meaning of the code would not change.
And Salmon, the guy who bet against Bitcoin, hits on the real paradox of Bitcoin:
SALMON: I - honestly, I was looking back. I mean, there were two things which I expected would happen which didn't happen. One is I expected the price would probably go to zero, and it didn't. It went way up and to the right. And the other is that I expected that there would actually be use cases over the following five years that, even if people weren't using it to buy stuff in stores, and that was my side of the bet, I imagined it would be used for remittances, or, somewhere along the line, it would have evolved. Especially if it had grown to be worth thousands of dollars per bitcoin, then it would be used for something. GOLDSTEIN: So it's more valuable and less useful than you thought.
List of Scott's most influential twitter followers
It seems like Scott/SSC has gotten much more mainstream recognition over the past year, so I was curious to know who the most influential SSC readers are now. Using twitter follower data for this isn't perfect (follower count is not a perfect proxy for influence, not all SSC readers follow the twitter account, etc.), but it's the best I could think of and I figured it would be a fun exercise regardless. As an aside, a few interesting stats I learned about Scott's twitter followers (scraped on 12/30/17):
Of the top 100 most-followed followers, the gender breakdown (by my count) is 82 men vs 8 women (along with 10 organization or anonymous accounts). Among the top 50, it's 43 men and 1 woman (Liv Boeree)
385 followers (2% of the total) have bios including either "bitcoin", "ethereum", "crypto" or "blockchain"
There are 67 followers whose bios include either "@Google", "@ Google", "at Google", or "Googler"
Note: When constructing the top 100 below, I excluded accounts that had extremely large Following counts, since I wanted the list to just consist of (likely) actual SSC readers. My exact rule was to exclude any account that follows >20K, include any that follows <10K, and include accounts in the 10K-20K range iff their following/follower ratio was less than 10% (this last condition was mostly just because I wanted to keep @pmarca on the list). Anyway, below is the top 100. I also constructed lists for Eliezer, Robin Hanson, and gwern, and I can post those in the comments if anyone's interested.
Editor-in-Chief, @FiveThirtyEight. Author, The Signal and the Noise (http://amzn.to/QdyFYV). Sports/politics/food geek.
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It is always interesting to me to hear from intelligent people that are on the opposite side of the coin. Who are some of the most intelligent people that are bearish on bitcoin? The names that come up for me are founder of ruby on rails David Heinemeier Hansonn, Reuters reporter Felix Salmon and Peter Schiff. Would love to compile a list of the most well reasoned arguments against bitcoin, especially as we soar to new highs.
Reuters: Why payments won’t ever be anonymous by Felix Salmon
I think that this criticism of bitcoin misses the point because bitcoin doesn't really need to be mainstream in order to be successful. One measure of the potential market available to bitcoin is the vast parallel economy that functions on paper cash today. In some developed countries, like Greece and Italy, this is estimated at 40% or more. http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/12/16/why-payments-wont-ever-be-anonymous/
Felix Salmon’s Bitcoin FUD. Felix Salmon has a very good job. He gets paid—and paid well—to pretend to think. He’s very good at it. You have to respect anyone who’s good at his job. But if by some misfortune you are actually capable of thinking for yourself and, worse, enjoy it, you cannot have Felix’s job or any job like it. A few days ago, the value of all the bitcoins in the world blew past $1 billion for the first time ever. That’s an impressive achievement, for a purely virtual currency backed by no central bank or other authority. It’s also temporary: we’re in the middle of a bitcoin bubble right now, and it’s only a matter of time before the bubble bursts. Bitcoin is a distributed, worldwide, decentralized digital money … Press J to jump to the feed. Press question mark to learn the rest of the keyboard shortcuts. r/Bitcoin. log in sign up. User account menu. 18. Felix Salmon: "Why bitcoin’s rise is nothing to celebrate" Close. 18. Posted by. u/BobbyTendinitis. 6 years ago. Archived. Felix Salmon: "Why bitcoin’s rise is nothing to ... Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Barry Silbert, founder of SecondMarket Inc., and Felix Salmon, senior editor at Fusion Magazine, debate the outlook for bitcoin digital currency. Carter Dougherty moderates. Felix Salmon. Waiting for bitcoin to get boring. By Felix Salmon. November 30, 2013. Something of a milestone was reached very early in the morning of Friday, November 29, a time when most Americans were either sleeping off their Thanksgiving excesses or out seeking Black Friday bargains. At the end of Wednesday, the price of gold, on Comex, had closed at $1,240 per ounce; that market would ...
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