Bitcoin is for Stackers

There’s a common myth that Bitcoin allows anyone to spend money anywhere. That’s incorrect — Very few merchants accept bitcoin. Bitcoin is useful because anyone can receive money, anywhere.

As consumers, we don’t often think about what it takes to receive payments from strangers on the internet. Wanna sell firearms, fireworks, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, vapes, or any other target of Operation Choke Point? Good luck finding a payment processor. That’s where Bitcoin comes in.

The distinction between spenders and receivers may seem trivial, but it’s literally how the protocol gets decided (see also: Economic Nodes). Bitcoin’s value comes from those willing to offer things in exchange for bitcoin. That’s true of any money: The US dollar is valuable because the government accepts it in exchange for a promise not to imprison you this fiscal year. Value comes from acceptance for value.

Americans sometimes have trouble with the idea of acceptance value. As the world’s biggest consumers, we believe that others value whatever we have to spend.

Nope, it took a lot of work for the USD to become the world’s reserve currency. After Bretton Woods, nobody wanted our unbacked dollars. With his brilliant negotiation skills, Henry Kissinger convinced Saudi Arabia to accept dollars for oil, and in return we would grant them billions worth of arms deals, our undying military support, and the souls of our children. Iraq tried to sell their oil for euros, but we set them straight with a good ol’ fashioned dose of Freedom and Democracy. They’re back to taking dollars only now.

Under ordinary circumstances, Gresham’s Law dictates that bad money drives out good — spenders always dump their most worthless asset. Americans don’t spend their bitcoins, or even their actual dollars. We pay for everything with credit, most often the credit card that gives us airline miles while sticking it to the merchant. Or maybe we spend that Starbucks gift card we got for filling out surveys on the internet. That’s why spenders don’t determine the value of money.

The lack of Bitcoin-Only services is perhaps the biggest obstacle to broader adoption. No one voluntarily spends bitcoin. As long as services still accept credit cards, bad money will always drive out good.

Our Glorious Banana Republic

In the early 19th century, David Ricardo developed a model to explain how countries could increase their overall wealth by exporting the goods for which they have a comparative advantage, and importing the goods for which they don’t.

Honduras, for example. The Central American republic could devote their arable land to self-sufficient agriculture, as they did in the days of Mayan civilization, but instead they specialize in banana exports and import all their other food from the US. Division of labour ftw!

Well, it was a win for us, anyway, cuz the banana plantations were owned by Americans.

The American fruit companies, to their credit, reinvested their profits in local infrastructure. They built ports, highways, railroads, and funded a private army. So boundless was their civic involvement, that they eventually overthrew the Honduran government and installed their own banana business-friendly regime.

Back to the US. Somewhere along the line, the US decided that it would be Good for the Economy if we were to specialize in soybean production and let China do all the manufacturing. Labor costs are cheaper there, and they have millions of people willing to toil on an assembly line for lack of better opportunity. That’s how comparative advantage works – Americans have high opportunity costs, and by sending manufacturing jobs to China, we free up tons of labor that can be put to work on Something More Productive.

Specialization according to comparative advantage leads to an increase in overall wealth, but the wealth is not evenly distributed. Today, soybean exports make nary a dent in our $500 billion trade deficit with China. That’s okay; Chinese people make up for the deficit by buying other American things. Things like real estate, Reddit, Starwood Hotels, Smithfield Foods, AMC, 15% of Uber, Airbnb, Goldman Sachs, Tesla… I’m not even counting the investments made through shell companies.

The good news is, we don’t have to worry about foreign interests funding mercenary armies to execute regime change. Cuz that’s what lobbyists are for.

Chinese Cancel Culture

Every time the anti-Sinitic Sinophobes start frothing over some horrible China thing, I’m reminded of this meme:

This week, censorious commies suspended NBA broadcasts over an impolitic tweet, then banned South Park for making fun of said events. We act like China has some top-down centralized control over speech and politics, but that’s not how things work over there. Americans can’t fathom that Chinese citizens are capable of any sort of agency or independent thought.

You think our SJWs are bad? China has them in spades. Social justice is, after all, rooted in communism. China’s morally righteous warriors are legitimately offended that the Houston Rockets would express support for (what they believe to be) violent extremists in Hong Kong. No it doesn’t have to be sane or rational; SJWs never are.

So a few crybullies threw a stink and got the NBA canceled. It’s no different from that time Chinese financial institutions threatened to cut ties with UBS after one of their staffers inadvertently said something about “Chinese pigs”.

Cancel culture is great. The government claims neutrality while the brainwashed youth stamp out politically inconvenient opinions. We should be friends with China; we’re more alike than different.

See Also: 你媽死了

Intermediate All The Things!

A population that endures centuries of persecution eventually evolves to be pretty damn wily. Each successive generation gets sneakier, trickier, uniquely problematic.

gopher traps ca. 1870

I’m speaking, of course, about gophers. After futzing with old-school Macabee traps and digging enough trenches to destroy an entire lawn, I found this GopherHawk device on Amazon. Works great, clean kills. Only problem is, my gophers show up in droves, and the trap gets bent out of shape after a few uses.

Then I found the Chinese gopher trap knockoffs.

The sentimental part of me thinks I ought to support honest American small business. The rational part of me understands that The World is Flat, Patriotism is the new Racism, and the Chinaman shilling knockoffs from Shenzhen is just as deserving of my dollars as any American worker.

People complain about big tech monopolies and their greedy platforms: Amazon charges an average of 15% commission for seller listings, plus another 30% of the item’s price for fulfillment. Apple and Google take 30% of app revenue in their app stores.

Why is that a problem? Maybe 30% is an extortionate cut, but sellers could simply pass the cost onto consumers, like they do with any other tariff. The thing that prevents a price increase is the fact that American retailers will be undercut by overseas merchants Every. Single. Time.

There are online courses on how to dress up wholesale Alibaba garbage with a swanky ad, then drop-ship the lot to an Amazon warehouse. Your margin is my opportunity, says the intermediary for Chinese wholesalers.

Same with the app store: Got a killer app? Clones are sure to follow.

The only type of app that can still turn a profit is something like Spotify, which itself is a monopolistic platform. While Spotify complains about Apple’s innovation-stifling fees, musical artists complain about Spotify’s oppressive take.

Why does anyone even bother making anything anymore?

If you’re gonna make something, make it rent-taking. Manufacturing is dead and not coming back, but there is one place where we still have a competitive edge: Capitalism. In America, anyone can finance anything, from used cars to pants to an 8-year degree in humanities.

Rents on real estate make up 13% of our GDP. Foreign investors have pushed Bay Area home prices beyond middle class affordability, but online platforms open up investment opportunities in bustling metropolitan areas from Memphis, Tennessee to Gary, Indiana.

Own a piece of the American Dream by renting it to someone else!

Memphis residents who find themselves priced out of the local housing market can become absentee landlords in Mozambique or Tajikistan. That’s right, a rising flood of cheap capital lifts all boats. Instead of producing anything of value, we’ll find new ways to intermediate and extract. That’s American Exceptionalism!

Epstein’s Kompromat

I’m gonna go ahead and assume that anyone associated with Jeffrey Epstein has diddled underaged girls and there’s compromising video hidden away somewhere. Everyone’s thinking it, and the assumption has gotta be more often right than wrong.

Now, if the blackmail theory is true — if Jeffrey Epstein was in fact using young girls as a honeypot to ensnare powerful people to do his bidding — wouldn’t we have seen some of the “collateral” by now? Extortion only works if the threat is credible, which means that noncompliant targets must have their sex tapes released to serve as a warning to others.

Wait a minute. Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, Mark Foley, Dennis Hastert… there’s a long list of prominent politicians taken down by inopportune sex scandals. Were they the ones who refused to yield to their blackmailers?

We may never know. None of them can stand up and shout “I’m a patsy!” because those who attempt to out the extortionists tend to go the way of Robert Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein, and Aaron Swartz (maybe). That’s the difference between Ted Kennedy and all the other Kennedys.

Earlier this year, Jeff Bezos published a Medium post accusing The National Enquirer of blackmail. The gossip rag had gotten ahold of some Bezos dick pics and threatened to expose said pics unless Bezos affirmed that The Enquirer’s reporting was not politically motivated.

By coming forward, Bezos suffered a mild indignity over the dick pics — But that was immediately forgotten as he was celebrated as a hero of democracy. (Apparently The National Enquirer doesn’t have the ability to “suicide” their enemies.)

The Spitzers and Weiners resigned in shame, but maybe we’re wrong to denounce them. Maybe these are the guys who had the balls to say No to the blackmailers. Instead of ruining their lives, we should applaud their moral righteousness! Sure they might be pervy predators, but who isn’t these days? That’s practically a prerequisite for success! No, it’s the squeaky-clean ones who draw the most suspicion. Any successful person who hasn’t been taken down by a sex scandal must be exceptionally good at satisfying their handlers.

/tinfoil hat