Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I think this moral panic (for lack of a better term) is omnipresent because it's actually true to some degree. You can't seriously claim these groups wouldn't benefit from anonymous, secure payment systems. However:

- They already have anonymous, secure payment systems (cash, drugs, jewels, shell companies, etc)

- The cat is out of the bag, so they're going to have it anyway

- These proverbial Horsement do more than just move money around; there's still plenty of room for detective work.

Splitting the atom gave us nuclear power, viable cancer treatment, smoke detectors, and also Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the threat of radiological terrorism. The proverbial sword is always double-edged.

To make an actual point: I think we'd do well as a community to acknowledge the degree of truth these moral panics hold, because I suspect we frustrate a lot of people by being dismissive of what they perceive to be an apocalyptic problem.

I agree that we shouldn't be dismissive. However, I still think you are being somewhat dismissive when you say "The cat is out of the bag, so they're going to have it anyway."

This is binary thinking but crime isn't binary. There are varying levels of crime. New technologies can make criminal behavior easier or more difficult. Just giving up on money laundering isn't something most people are willing to think about, particular for an experimental payment system that they don't care about and probably won't use.

For someone who doesn't understand the benefits of a new technology and is rounding it to zero, the cost/benefit tradeoff isn't hard to decide, and making an analogy to splitting the atom is unlikely to be persuasive.

>Just giving up on money laundering isn't something most people are willing to think about, particular for an experimental payment system that they don't care about and probably won't use.

But nobody is actually advocating this, least of all me. The argument is that tracking every financial transaction is no longer viable, whether we like it or not.

Moreover, digging your heels into the sand and saying "but it's not right to give up on money-laundering" doesn't change the reality: there exists technology that makes arbitrary, anonymous payments trivial to perform. What do you propose we do?

>These proverbial Horsement do more than just move money around; there's still plenty of room for detective work.

This. Taking away everyone's privacy because somebody might use privacy to break the law is dumb. You want to bust drug dealers? Bust them for selling drugs.

The response to this will be "yes, but it's only natural to give up some privacy for the greater good", and they'll be right insofar as there's a lot of precedence for this.

- We have driver's licenses, passports and all manner of ID's

- The IRS can audit banking records to ensure there's no tax fraud, sans warrant.

- You can be filmed and photographed in public places for security purposes

The list goes on, and the argument will be that new technologies require new compromises. Yours is hardly a constructive (or even correct) approach to the problem, because it (a) dismisses valid concerns and (b) implies a warped interpretation of privacy law. There is no absolute right to privacy; there cannot be!

That said, we're largely in agreement -- restricting privacy is probably the wrong approach in this particular case, but I think the counter argument should instead be made as I previously described, rather than by a knee-jerk opposition to restricted privacy.

"Taking away" is interesting language. The ability to transfer money without either meeting in person (meetings can be surveilled) or generating records subject to disclosure (shell companies and laundering schemes can be deciphered through forensic accounting) is unprecedented. We've never lived in a time when people had cryptographic certainty of the secrecy of their transactions.

Cash and dead drops provide both of those properties. There are many other ways to investigate crimes. Just because the internet is new doesn't mean that human rights don't apply for this new communication medium.

Government-impervious money transfer as a human right is nebulous at best. The internet has not changed the legal or ethical status of money laundering. At best you could say it has always been a human right, but it's certainly never existed in the US or Western Europe.

Cash transactions carry substantial risk: both parties must be physically present in some place to make the deal. They can be tailed, the meeting place can be under surveillance, they can be raided, they can murder each other and run, etc. It's also impractical to deal with large amounts of cash due to the risk of robbery/theft (including civil forfeiture), and legitimate entities won't take suitcases full of cash for large purchases. Infiltrating and exfiltrating large amounts of money from the legitimate banking system is also very likely to leave traces that can be understood by sufficiently skilled/motivated forensic accountants.

Whereas flipping some bytes in the firehose of cryptographically secure bytes already coming in and out of every home is undetectable and basically risk-free.

Some much more concrete human rights are ensured through taxation: food, shelter, water, health care, police, education, national defense, etc. If you make taxation effectively optional by running a perfect, free money-laundering system, some of them may have to go.

You clearly don't understand how money laundering works or what it is. Anonymous payment systems do not make it any easier to launder money, tax offices can still figure out that you have unregistered income.

It may be easier to give money to people you don't meet, but cash never left records.

Surveilling and busting in-person deals with suitcases full of cash was the bread and butter of law enforcement for decades, so much so that it's a Hollywood trope.

Sure, but it's not like we're all keeping records of cash transactions for the mandarins to go through later when they become annoyed.

Businesses which operate mostly or exclusively in cash are pretty much guaranteed regular IRS audits, which they'll need damn good records to survive.

Doing a significant volume of cash transactions with any financial institution also causes it to send a Suspicious Activity Report [0] to the federal government, which greatly increases your chance of being selected for an audit.

It's true that you don't need records to explain your personal spending, but you will need to produce records justifying any deductions/benefits claimed, and if your lifestyle appears to be large for your reported taxable income, you'll need to account for that too. Recently the IRS has started using public social media posts indicating lavish spending against people who are only paying taxes on meagre incomes.

Laundromats are actually classic tax fraud vehicles. There was an article on HN recently about how the government will pull their water/electric bills to see if the volume of business they claim their doing is in line with their actual resource usage.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact