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The first paper money systems date back to 11th century China. All of those ended in inflation and currency disaster. Only the Ming Dynasty survived an experiment with paper money – by voluntarily ending it and returning to hard commodity money.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-02/schlichter-bitcoin-cryptographic-gold

Schlichter: “Bitcoin Is Cryptographic Gold”

Submitted by Detlev Schlichter via DetlevSchlichter.com,

The Bitcoin phenomenon has now reached the mainstream media where it met with a reception that ranged from sceptical to outright hostile. The recent volatility in the price of bitcoins and the issues surrounding Bitcoin-exchange Mt. Gox have led to additional negative publicity. In my view, Bitcoin as a monetary concept is potentially a work of genius, and even if Bitcoin were to fail in its present incarnation – a scenario that I cannot exclude but that I consider exceedingly unlikely – the concept itself is too powerful to be ignored or even suppressed in the long run. While scepticism towards anything so fundamentally new is maybe understandable, most of the tirades against Bitcoin as a form of money are ill-conceived, terribly confused, and frequently factually wrong. Central bankers of the world, be afraid, be very afraid!

Finding perspective

Any proper analysis has to distinguish clearly between the following layers of the Bitcoin phenomenon: 1) the concept itself, that is, the idea of a hard crypto-currency (digital currency) with no issuing authority behind it, 2) the core technology behind Bitcoin, in particular its specific algorithm and the ‘mining process’ by which bitcoins get created and by which the system is maintained, and 3) the support-infrastructure that makes up the wider Bitcoin economy. This includes the various service providers, such as organised exchanges of bitcoins and fiat currency (Mt. Gox, Bitstamp, Coinbase, and many others), bitcoin ‘wallet’ providers, payment services, etc, etc.

Before we look at recent events and recent newspaper attacks on Bitcoin, we should be clear about a few things upfront: If 1) does not hold, that is, if the underlying theoretical concept of an inelastic, nation-less, apolitical, and international medium of exchange is baseless, or, as some propose, structurally inferior to established state-fiat money, then the whole thing has no future. It would then not matter how clever the algorithm is or how smart the use of cryptographic technology. If you do not believe in 1) – and evidently many economists don’t (wrongly, in my view) – then you can forget about Bitcoin and ignore it.

If 2) does not hold, that is, if there is a terminal flaw in the specific Bitcoin algorithm, this would not by itself repudiate 1). It is then to be expected that a superior crypto-currency will sooner or later take Bitcoin’s place. That is all. The basic idea would survive.

If there are issues with 3), that is, if there are glitches and failures in the new and rapidly growing infra-structure around Bitcoin, then this does neither repudiate 1), the crypto-currency concept itself, nor 2), the core Bitcoin technology, but may simply be down to specific failures by some of the service providers, and may reflect to-be-expected growing pains of a new industry. As much as I feel for those losing money/bitcoin in the Mt Gox debacle (and I could have been one of them), it is probably to be expected that a new technology will be subject to setbacks. There will probably be more losses and bankruptcies along the way. This is capitalism at work, folks. But reading the commentary in the papers it appears that, all those Sunday speeches in praise of innovation and creativity notwithstanding, people can really deal only with ‘markets’ that have already been neatly regulated into stagnation or are carefully ‘managed’ by the central bank.

Those who are lamenting the new – and yet tiny – currency’s volatility and occasional hic-ups are either naïve or malicious. Do they expect a new currency to spring up fully formed, liquid, stable, with a fully developed infrastructure overnight?

Recent events surrounding Mt Gox and stories of raids by hackers would, in my opinion, only pose a meaningful long-term challenge for Bitcoin if it could be shown that they were linked to irreparable flaws in the core Bitcoin technology itself. There were indeed some allegations that this was the case but so far they do not sound very convincing. At present it still seems reasonable to me to assume that most of Bitcoin’s recent problems are problems in layer 3) – supporting infrastructure – and that none of this has so far undermined confidence in layer 2), the core Bitcoin technology. If that is indeed the case, it is also reasonable to assume that these issues can be overcome. In fact, the stronger the concept, layer 1), the more compelling the long-term advantages and benefits of a fully decentralized, no-authority, nationless global and inelastic digital currency are, the more likely it is that any weaknesses in the present infrastructure will quickly get ironed out. One does not have to be a cryptographer to believe this. One simply has to understand how human ingenuity, rational self-interest, and competition combine to make superior decentralized systems work. Everybody who understands the power of markets, human creativity, and voluntary cooperation should have confidence in the future of digital money.

None of what happened recently – the struggle at Mt. Gox, raids by hackers, market volatility – has undermined in the slightest layer 1), the core concept. However, it is precisely the concept itself that gets many fiat money advocates all exited and agitated. In their attempts to discredit the Bitcoin concept, some writers do not shy away from even the most ludicrous and factually absurd statements. One particular example is Mark T. Williams, a finance professor at Boston University’s School of Management who has recently attacked Bitcoin in the Financial Times and in this article on Business Insider.

Money and the state: Fact and fiction

Apart from all the scare-mongering in William’s article – such as his likening Bitcoin to an alien or zombie attack on our established financial system, stressing its volatility and instability – the author makes the truly bizarre claim that history shows the importance of a close link between currency and sovereignty. Good money, according to Williams, is state-controlled money. Here are some of his statements.

“Every sovereignty uses currency.”

 

“Trust and faith that a sovereign is firmly standing behind its currency is critical.”

 

“Sovereigns understand that without consistent economic growth and stability, the standard of living for its citizens will fall, and discontentment will grow. Nation-state treasuries print currency but the vital role of currency management– needed to spur economic growth — is reserved for central bankers.”

Williams reveals a striking lack of historical perspective here. Money-printing, central banking and any form of what Williams calls “currency management” are very recent phenomena, certainly on the scale that they are practiced today. Professor Williams seems to not have heard of Zimbabwe, or of any of the other, 30-odd hyperinflations that occurred over the past 100 years, all of which, of course, in state-managed fiat money systems.

Williams stresses what a long standing concept central banking is, citing the Swedish central bank that was founded in 1668, and the Bank of England, 1694. Yet, human society has made use of indirect exchange – of trading with the help of money – for more than 2,500 years. And through most of history – up to very recently – money was gold and silver, and the supply of money thus practically outside the control of the sovereign.

The early central banks were also very different animals from what their modern namesakes have become in recent years. Their degrees of freedom were strictly limited by a gold or silver standard. In fact, the idea that they would “manage” the currency to “spur” economic growth would have sounded positively ridiculous to most central bankers in history.

Additionally, by starting their own central banks, the sovereigns did not put “trust and faith” behind their currencies – after all, their currencies were nothing but units of gold and silver, and those enjoyed the public’s trust and faith on their own merit, thank you very much – the sovereigns rather had their own self-interest at heart, a possibility that does not even seem to cross William’s mind: The Bank of England was founded specifically to lend money to the Crown against the issuance of IOUs, meaning the Bank of England was founded to monetize state-debt. The Bank of England, from its earliest days, was repeatedly given the legal privilege – given, of course, by its sovereign – to ignore (default on) its promise to repay in gold and still remain a going concern, and this occurred precisely whenever the state needed extra money, usually to finance a war.

Bitcoin is cryptographic gold

“Gold is money and nothing else.” This is what John Pierpont Morgan said back in 1913. At the time, not only was he a powerful and influential banker, his home country, the United States of America, had become one of the richest and most dynamic countries in the world, yet it had no central bank. The history of the 19th century US – even if told by historians such as Milton Friedman and Anna Schwarz who were no gold-bugs but sympathetic to central banking – illustrates that monetary systems based on a hard monetary commodity (in this case gold), the supply of which is outside government control, is no hindrance to vibrant economic growth and rising prosperity. Furthermore, economic theory can show that hard and inelastic money is not only no hindrance to growth but that it is indeed the superior foundation of a market economy. This is precisely what I try to show with Paper Money Collapse. I do not think that this was even a very contentious notion through most of the history of economics. Good money is inelastic, outside of political control, international (“nationless”, as Williams puts it), and thus the perfect basis for international cooperation across borders.

Money was gold and that meant money was not a tool of politics but an essential constraint on the power of the state.

As Democritus said “Gold is the sovereign of all sovereigns”.

It is clear that on a conceptual level, Bitcoin has much more in common with a gold and silver as monetary assets than with state fiat money. The supply of gold, silver and Bitcoin, is not under the control of any issuing authority. It is money of no authority – and this is precisely why such assets were chosen as money for thousands of years. Gold, silver and Bitcoin do not require trust and faith in a powerful and privileged institution, such as a central bank bureaucracy  (here is the awestruck Williams not seeing a problem: “These financial stewards have immense power and responsibility.”) Under a gold standard you have to trust Mother Nature and the spontaneous market order that employs gold as money. Under Bitcoin you have to trust the algorithm and the spontaneous market order that employs bitcoins as money (if the public so chooses). Under the fiat money system you have to trust Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, and their hordes of economics PhDs and statisticians.

Hey, give me the algorithm any day!

Money of no authority

But Professor Williams does seem unable to even grasp the possibility of money without an issuing and controlling central authority: “Under the Bitcoin model, those who create the software protocol and mine virtual currencies would become the new central bankers, controlling a monetary base.” This is simply nonsense. It is factually incorrect. Bitcoin – just like a proper gold standard – does not allow for discretionary manipulation of the monetary base. There was no ‘monetary policy’ under a gold standard, and there is no ‘monetary policy’ in the Bitcoin economy. That is precisely the strength of these concepts, and this is why they will ultimately succeed, and replace fiat money.

Williams would, of course, be correct if he stated that sovereigns had always tried to control money and manipulate it for their own ends. And that history is a legacy of failure.

The first paper money systems date back to 11th century China. All of those ended in inflation and currency disaster. Only the Ming Dynasty survived an experiment with paper money – by voluntarily ending it and returning to hard commodity money.

The first experiments with full paper money systems in the West date back to the 17th century, and all of those failed, too. The outcome – through all of history – has always been the same: either the paper money system collapsed in hyperinflation, or, before that happened, the system was returned to hard commodity money. We presently live with the most ambitious experiment with unconstrained fiat money ever, as the entire world is now on a paper standard – or, as James Grant put it, a PhD-standard – and money production has been made entirely flexible everywhere. This, however does not reflect a “longstanding bond between sovereign and its currency”, as Williams believes, but is a very recent phenomenon, dating precisely to the 15th of August 1971, when President Nixon closed the gold window, ended Bretton Woods, and defaulted on the obligation to exchange dollars for gold at a fixed price.

The new system – or non-system – has brought us persistent inflation and budget deficits, ever more bizarre asset bubbles, bloated and unstable banking systems, rising mountains of debt that will never be repaid, stagnating real incomes and rising income disparities. This system is now in its endgame.

But maybe Williams is right with one thing: “If not controlled and tightly regulated, Bitcoin — a decentralized, untraceable, highly volatile and nationless currency — has the potential to undermine this longstanding bond between sovereign and its currency.”

Three cheers to that.

Casey Research

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-02-12/paper-gold-aint-good-real-thing

No Paper Bitcoins

But while being the portable new kid on the currency block may account for some of Bitcoin’s popularity, it doesn’t explain why Bitcoin has soared while gold has declined at the same time.

Hathaway puts his finger on the difference between the price action of the ancient versus the modern. “The Bitcoin-gold incongruity is explained by the fact that financial engineers have not yet discovered a way to collateralize bitcoins for leveraged trades,” he writes. “There is (as yet) no Bitcoin futures exchange, no Bitcoin derivatives, no Bitcoin hypothecation or rehypothecation.”

“Unlike the physical gold market,” writes Hathaway, “which is not amenable to absorbing large capital flows, the paper market, through nearly infinite rehypothecation, is ideal for hyperactive trading activity, especially in conjunction with related bets on FX, equity indices, and interest rates.”

The failure of a handful of counterparties in the paper-gold market would be many times worse. In many cases, five to ten or more lenders claim ownership of the same physical gold. Gold markets would seize up for months, if not years, during bankruptcy proceedings, effectively removing millions of ounces from the market. It would take the mining industry decades to replace that supply.

Further, Hathaway believes that increased regulation “could lead, among other things, to tighter standards for collateral, rules on rehypothecation, etc. This could well lead to a scramble for physical.” And if regulators don’t tighten up these arrangements, the ETFs, LBMA, and Comex may do it themselves for the sake of customer trust.

Jim Grant

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-02-11/jim-grant-gold-natures-bitcoin

Jim Grant: “Gold Is Nature’s Bitcoin”

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-02-11/another-bitcoin-flash-crash-imminent-second-major-exchange-follows-mtgox-suspending-

Bitstamp halt, jpmorgan

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01-05/resilient-bitcoin-surges-above-1000-zynga-confirms-adoption

Bitcoin “resilient”

As ConvergEx’s Nick Colas notes, “Bitcoin has been remarkably resilient in the face of all the bad news out of China. The strength shows a continued interest, which is a very positive sign.”

 

Euro Pacific Capital

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01-03/bitcoin-versus-gold

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01-04/bitcoin-brownstones-you-can-now-use-digital-currency-buy-new-york-real-estate

Bitcoin for new York real Estate Brownstones

NY Post reports, is Manhattan-based real-estate broker Bond New York, is “using Bitcoins to help facilitate transactions.” With overseas money-laundering as a key support, and Manhattan apartment sales setting a record in Q4 for volume of transactions (+27% YoY), we suspect the acceptance of Bitcoin will merely ease the Chinese (or Russian) ability to transfer funds directly into NYC housing – blowing an even bigger bubble.

 

 

 

Via NY Post,

The bitcoin has gained a foothold in one of the hottest business sectors in the country: Manhattan real estate.

Bond New York, a Manhattan-based real estate broker, has started accepting the digital currency for real estate transactions, The Post has learned.

Bond New York believes it is the first real estate brokerage firm to accept bitcoin.

“Real estate brokerage is a service industry,” said Noah Freedman, a co-founder of Bond New York. “Our job is to make real estate transactions easy for our customers. Bitcoins are just another mechanism to help people facilitate transactions.”

Several larger real estate brokers are not sold on the idea and have no plans to set up bitcoin accounts any time soon.

“We don’t accept them, and we have no plans to accept them,” Pam Liebman, CEO of the Corcoran Group, said Friday. “We prefer the American dollar.”

“Bitcoins could be here today and gone tomorrow,”

Art Cashin

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-23/art-cashin-poetically-laments-bitcoins-binge-viewing-boston-baltimore-and-bargaining

“Twas the days before Christmas, and all across the street, not a human was trading…” but, as tradition demands, UBS’ venerable director floor operations – Art Cashin – unleashes his annual poem. Summing up the year in amazing alliteration, Cashin takes on Bitcoins, The Fed, the Volcker Rule, and… Anthony Weiner.

Bill Gross, the previous Bond King, recently in tussle with El Erian

www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-23/bill-gross-muses-bitcoin-and-prosperity-time-central-planning-cholera

Follow

Gross:Part 1of 2: We live not in a new gilded age but a bitcoin age where artificial money (from central banks) creates temporary prosperity

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-17/us-treasurys-financial-crimes-enforcement-network-reaching-out-bitcoin-businesses

According to Reuters, a legal expert with years of experience representing digital currency firms said FinCEN seemed to be establishing a new regulatory enforcement precedent by warning individual businesses of compliance obligations before taking action. “Is this setting a new standard that in the future if there are any questionable business models there will be notice given before any action is taken?” said Carol Van Cleef, a partner with the Washington law firm Patton Boggs LLP. In response, Hudak said the letters are an attempt at gathering information. He likened them to the letters that banks sometimes send to customers seeking information about the customer’s transactions in an effort to determine whether suspect transactions are truly linked to illicit activity.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-08/bitcoin-derivatives-market-has-arrived

Having discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the crypto-currency and noted the extreme volatility of the last few weeks, it seemed only a matter of time before some ambitious entrepreneur tried to monetize the volatility. What better way to “manage the risk” of your virtual currency horde than buying (or selling) options (in a more levered way). Predictious, the Dublin-based prediction market, this week unveiled Bitcoin Option Spreads enabling both long- and short-positions to be constructed on the already extremely volatile ‘asset’. Regulatory clamp-down in 3..2..1…

 

The basic mechanism is the same as every option spread market – a fixed payoff for getting the “bet” correct, in this case 10.

In the case below, the bet was that Bitcoin will (or will not) close at $1400 on Wednesday January 1st at 12:00am,

if you believe it will (close at or above $1400) you “buy” the contract at 3.49 (and should you be proven correct you are paid 10 – thus gaining 6.51, similar to buying a call option)…

if you believe it will not reach $1400, you “sell” the contract at 0.55 (and should you be proven correct you pocket the 0.55 and pay out 0.00 – just like writing a call option)

 

Quite a skew has developed already…

As Predictious notes,

Predictious is now bringing this to the next level by offering a new type of derivative contract: option spreads on the price of Bitcoin. In the past couple of weeks, Bitcoin has been extremely volatile, and it is important for traders to be able to reduce risk, and hedge their Bitcoin position. They can now do so in an easy and cost efficient way by using option spreads.

 

Option spreads are very versatile, while still offering limited risks. A bullish investor can use a vertical spread to benefit from Bitcoin gains, while limiting risks if the price crashes.

 

On the other hand, bearish investors can use them to short Bitcoin. Predictious is currently one of the most reliable way to do so. Since losses are limited with option spreads, investors are not exposed to counterparty risks, like they would be when trading futures on competing services.

 

Aside from Bitcoin traders, miners can also use spreads on the Bitcoin difficulty to reduce risks associated with investing in mining hardware.

 

 

To date, Predictious users have deposited over $300,000 in Bitcoin on the website.

 

Traders are obviously very interested in Bitcoin derivatives, but the number of businesses accepting payments in Bitcoin has surged in the past few months”, said Flavien Charlon, Founder of Pixode, “those businesses have expenses in US Dollar, or Euro, and need to hedge their Bitcoin position. The type of derivatives we are offering will be very useful to them as well”.

 

The bottom-line is that while we can see the ‘use’ of such a market to enabling some lower cost hedging of any wealth one might have gathered in Bitcoin, we suspect – just as in the case of many other assets – that the underlying asset will see its volatility rise as the derivative (and levered) markets becomes the tail that wags the dog.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-12/producer-physical-casascius-bitcoins-being-targeted-feds

Meet Mike Caldwell. He is the maker of what seems to be the most popular physical bitcoins on the market, the Casascius coin. All Mr. Caldwell does is have people who want the coins produced send him a certain quantity of bitcoin and then for a $50 fee he puts the private key on a physical coin and sends them back. For this horrible crime of ingenuity and creativity, the U.S. government naturally, has decided to target him. Because they are too busy ignoring the real financial crimes happening out out there…   From Wired: Mike Caldwell spent years turning digital currency into physical coins. That may sound like a paradox. But it’s true. He takes bitcoins — the world’s most popular digital currency — and then he mints them here in the physical world. If you added up all the bitcoins Caldwell has minted on behalf of his customers, they would be worth about $82 million.   Basically, these physical bitcoins are novelty items

Because he runs a bitcoin-only business, Caldwell says there’s no Casascius bank account for authorities to seize. But he adds that he has no desire to anger the feds, whether he agrees with them or not. So he’s cranking out his last few orders and talking to his lawyer. He says this may spell the end of Casascius coins. “It’s possible. I haven’t come to a final conclusion,” he says. What a complete and total joke this government is. Don’t they have anything better to do? Full article here.

Dutch Central Bank

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-03/another-central-bank-warns-bitcoin-risks

Via Dutch Central Bank,

Consumers should be aware of the risks of virtual currency

 

The emergence and growing popularity of virtual currencies (like bitcoin, litecoin, etc.) are followed by the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) with attention.

 

The developments around virtual currencies go fast.

 

At present the state of affairs as follows: virtual currencies fall outside the scope of the Act on Financial Supervision. DNB thus no monitoring of these virtual currencies. Nor, she oversees companies acting herein.

 

DNB suggests that consumers should be aware of this and will have to realize the risks they run when they buy currencies like bitcoin.

 

The exchange rate is volatile and there is no central issuer which may be held liable.

 

Also, the deposit guarantee scheme does not apply.

If this small market cap vicrtual currency is such a “gimmick” as some have said, why are the world’s central banks so afraid?

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-11-21/drugs-assassinations-and-now-college-tuition-bitcoin-adoption-spreads

Cyprus’ largest university will start accepting the digital currency Bitcoin as an alternative way to pay tuition fees.

 

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