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Money as a System of Control (2017) (thedistillery.pub)
243 points by TheDistillery 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 205 comments



Not sure if he needs this intro on HN, but the speaker in the video, Andreas Antonopoulos, is the author of two very technical books detailing everything about bitcoin and ethereum (Mastering Bitcoin/Ethereum).

Even if you think crypto is a fad, stupid, or whatever, I think they're still great reads explaining the why of the decisions, how of the implementations, and the challenges for these two technologies. If this video is your first impression of him, the books are much less abrasive(?).


What would explain why he completely overlooked a key primary function of money, something that decentralized crypto cannot, by design, satisfy : money is transferable debt.

Crypto currency view of money is that money is a store of value. Money is far more subtle and interesting than that. Money is has always has been a system of control. Those that can issue money, wield incredible power of the economy, and have done so since monies inception.


The article makes a much more interesting point, which is that now that money is mostly electronic it is an incredible tool for control by governments, particularly the US government. The US government can squeeze Iran now, for example, because it controls SWIFT. It's a very down-to-earth point.

Your point is something much vaguer, and not really true. Commodity money, like Spanish pieces-of-eight, has an intrinsic value. Commodity-backed and fiat money are debts of the government, but for you they are assets. If you held a US gold certificate, the government owed you gold. With fiat money, the government basically doesn't owe you anything, but it's still a debt for the government and an asset for you in accounting terms. Before electronic money, the government had very little control over what purposes that money was put to, so it wasn't much of a power.


> With fiat money, the government basically doesn't owe you anything, but it's still a debt for the government and an asset for you in accounting terms.

You don't understand how money works. “Money is created by the government” is a myth. In western countries (and most of the world, including China!), money is created by private banks and the money on your bank account is a debt from some guy somewhere (likely a mortgage, a student loan or some corporate debt).


There are multiple definitions of money. You are using what the Fed calls the "M2" definition. I have in mind the "monetary base" definition.

Why are bank accounts denominated in units of currency? It's because demand deposits are an extremely close substitutes of actual currency. Anyway, they work the same way. Money in the bank is an asset to you, and a liability to the bank.


> I have in mind the "monetary base" definition.

This is incompatible with your previous statement:

> it's still a debt for the government and an asset for you in accounting terms.

You don't own a single dollar of reserve money as an asset.

And the monetary base is a tiny fraction of money. The vast majority of which is debt.


Cash is base money. The Fed lists it as a liability on its balance sheet.


And cash is a tiny fraction of the money supply. (There is not a single bank in the US that could withstand a bank run, there's just not enough bank notes in circulation).


Under fractional banking, almost all money is created via debt. Government issues debt which is bought up buy banks which allows the government to issue new money including cash. It is purely created from thin air.

The asset I put in bank as deposits are too derived via this mechanism. It is an asset to the bank because they have lent it to the government. Part of it is a liability to them because i have lent it to them to further loan it out in multiples which become their assets ..... infinite recursion.

It is turtles all the way.


> Under fractional banking, almost all money is created via debt. Government issues debt which is bought up buy banks which allows the government to issue new money including cash. It is purely created from thin air.

Except fractional reserve banking isn't an accurate model of how money works today. Money is created by bank loans, not deposits - a bank with zero deposits could still lend money.


Agreed, still it needs some base reserve to not run afoul of regulation - the initial capitalization based on which it could lend out that first loan.

Even for a central bank, the government has to capitalize it first with some amount to kickstart the process so that it can borrow more from it.


In such a system, bitcoin would be the equivalent of gold coins in the gold standard (ie a pure asset, no debt). But you could issue transferable denominated in bitcoin or gold.

That's what private banknotes used to be in eg Canada or Scotland before they were outlawed.

Add a transfer feature to some bitcoin-exchange balances, and you are getting close. Have different bitcoin exchanges agree to accept each others balances, and you are getting even further.

(It's in a bitcoin-exchanges profitable interest to accept a transfer from another bitcoin exchange: they can demand real bitcoin from the competing exchange, and just have to give their receiving customer an entry on their own balance sheet for the time being.)


> But you could issue transferable denominated in bitcoin or gold.

Correct. As a matter of fact, this already exists: some Swiss Bank has started issuing certificates of ownership where the underlying is BTC.


Interesting. Do you have a link? I guess they are operating a 100% reserve system?

My prediction: bitcoin will become successful iff it evolves a fractional reserve ecosystem.

Where successful means something like it's being used not just for speculation, but routinely for eg making every-day transactions.

(Originally, I was only going to predict fractional reserve as a necessary condition for success. But thinking about it, I realized that no-one would bother with the legal complexities in the non-success case.)


If it turns into a fractional reserve system, it'll be just another system of control, run on centralized databases with as much surveillance as today.

The only way to achieve the level of freedom Antonopoulos is talking about is with real scaling, so people can directly use cryptocurrency in everyday transactions.


I’m not sure about this. The fractional reserve we have today is based on a system where the underlying monetary base can be created out of thin air.

A Bitcoin based fractional reserve would be based on something which fundamentally can’t be created at the whim of any single government at the base monetary level.

So yes, you could still over promise Bitcoin but the difference is you cannot be bailed out on a whim.

This is an important distinction that would lead to (IMO) healthy outcomes like banks genuinely going bankrupt if they can’t get a ‘real’ bail out of hard Bitcoin instead of bail out socialised by future tax payers’ money and inflation.


But what the article talks about isn't money printing for bailouts. It's about the government's ability to monitor transactions, freeze accounts and confiscate funds.


> Interesting. Do you have a link? I guess they are operating a 100% reserve system?

https://structuredproducts-ch.leonteq.com/valor/36663487

They claim that the underlying is 100% in custody, yes, but as with all paper, who's to really know in the end...

They certainly don't provide any sort of crypto verification mechanism so the bearer can verify that the underlying actually exist and is uniquely bound to the paper.

[edit]: nevermind. now that I actually look at it, it's cash-settled.


You're talking about Bitcoin specifically here. Look at the decentralized finance space currently emerging around Ethereum where smart contracts are used to construct similar debt-based constructs that we have in the traditional economy.

People will still lock up cryptocurrencies like BTC on the Bitcoin chain and wrap that in debt-tokens on chains that enable this, for example Ethereum.

Bitcoin maximalists who don't agree with debt-based economy are obviously not happy about this. To better understand that point of view, The Bitcoin Standard by Saifedean Ammous is a great read, whether you will agree with it or not.


You can also build similar constructs on the Bitcoin blockchain.


If you mean with similar on-chain guarantees, do you have a source? Haven't seen anything like it.


I am talking about Colored (RGB) coins


>> money is transferable debt >> Crypto currency view of money is that money is a store of value. Money is far more subtle and interesting than that.

I would say, modern money is debt, transferable or not. It is interesting in a sly way as the true nature is hidden from the populace at large so that money as a system of control remains effective.

I think the major problems we face w.r.t money are due to this dual nature of money. You cannot simultaneously satisfy both the creditors and the debtors.


The view that money is just a store of value is only held by BTC maximalists, because BTC is too unreliable expensive to be a good medium of exchange. When they say store of value what they really mean is investment vehicle.


Can anything store value without having another use, even if its supply is fixed? Would the demand for precious metals and precious metal money as a store of value disappear without the industrial, cosmetic and artistic demand for precious metals?


That's kind of what value means, being useful. Random hash algorithms are not inherently useful, thus, have no value. At least I could wipe my ass with a dollar bill or use the bill as kindling for a fire. I'm all for a currency system based on beans or corn. Especially corn. Corn has loads of value in multiple ways. Food. Fuel. Fertilizer. But oh, it decays, thus, you better use it before it goes bad and is useless.

Not in the case for gold. The reason gold was used so much has a long term storage was due to it's stability. Gold doesn't decay in generational lifetimes. Doesn't really rust and reacts with very few chemicals. Silver was actually used as an everyday currency more than gold. But gold was the main body.

The use of precious metals as a form of currency was not an accident. Yea, it has value largely based on "faith". Any currency will. No cryptocoin is immune from that. You have to have faith that it has value. I find it weird that people just say "crypto has inherent value unlike fiat currency". Yea, what value? If you want to argue "Well, gold has no real value, so bitcoin is no different from that. They both lack real value. Why can't bitcoin be a currency?" Good question! That's a good point! We're getting somewhere!

It peeves me when people take a shit on thousands of years worth of social trial and error and dismiss it all because they watch a youtube cartoon about "the truth behind money".


Expensive?


I meant that transaction fees are unreliable, sometimes they can be extremely expensive (in 2017 they reached as high as $50 per transaction!). Currently the next block fee is $1.36[0], which is very expensive compared to alternative payment networks.

[0]: https://bitcoinfees.cash/


Fair.


Crypto can perfectly be used as transferable debt. As a matter of fact, smart contracts can handle this use case much better than traditional money can.


> Those that can issue money, wield incredible power

Only if they can issue the money at will. If the issuance of money is controlled by a distributed transparent cryptographic algorithm, then the power from issuing the money is not in the hands of the issuers (miners, in the case of cryptocurrencies). And that's a good thing.


And this is at the heart of what crypto currency advocates fail to understand what money is.

Money is a social construct. It isn't a thing, mined out of the ground or a cryptographic nonce that satisfies a a constraint on a hashing algorithm. Money is a social agreement that expresses credit worthiness as assessed by people regarded as reliable assessors credit worthiness.

Crypto, which repudiates centralised control, cannot be money. Not until someone figures out a way to guarantee that credit worthiness can somehow be reliably encoded into a trustless p2p algorithm. Given that crypto currency can barely scrape through with a solution to the double spend problem, extending to a solution to assessing credit in a decentralized, anonymous way might as well be on the other side of the galaxy. It is impossibly inaccessible.


It is simply a wicked problem, and not the one Crypto is intended to solve.

Crypto is intended to automate the role of the trusted third party. Bitcoin's ledger is much less intelligent than even the dullest central banker, but it has no self-interest. In cases where the trusted third party to a transaction has a reason to abuse their power - see e.g. 2008 bank bailouts - having a transparent algorithm handle that role is a massive savings. The problem of assigning creditworthiness remains, it's just that there is one less party whose trustworthiness needs to be assessed (and compensated). It's not that it solves the creditworthiness problem, but it makes the problem easier for others to solve.


Money can also be transferable equity.


I met him twice this year (I'm a patron and that gives access to his Happy Hours).

His views are pretty extreme but I suspect they will become more mainstream as the time goes by. Not that he will change his mind, but most of us will realize many of the things he says were right.


I’ve experienced it first hand. One day my card was declined while paying for dinner. I paid cash and thought something was wrong with their card reader.

I checked my bank account, and it had $30k in it (my life savings at the time). So I thought nothing was wrong and went to bed.

Next morning I try to pay for groceries and my card is again declined. I call my bank. They say my account has been flagged and it’s frozen. They can’t tell me why, or how to appeal.

I go into the bank. I ask why I wasn’t notified my account was frozen. They said they “oh sorry someone should have called you”. I ask what I did to get my account frozen. They said they don’t know, it’s part of some social security electronic audit. They say it’s all automated and because it’s the government it was out of their control. I ask how long will it take to unfreeze they say they don’t know. They tell me to call an 800 number, and that nobody in the physical branch has any power over really anything.

I tell them my rent check is going to bounce, they said “we’re sorry”.

Long story short: 2 weeks later my account is unfrozen for no reason. I was never given a reason. I missed rent. I couldn’t buy food.

I committed no crime, and was never accused of committing any crime. This was a personal account not involved in any business. I deposited paychecks into it and bought food and paid my rent. That’s mostly it.

Just FYI money in the bank is not yours. If the government wants to freeze it for no reason they can, despite all the people who say otherwise. It happened to me. This was at Chase bank in US. I now keep thousands in cash hidden in various places, and bought some bitcoin as well. At least if the thugs in the federal government want it they’ll have to fucking physically take it.


That really is awful, and I'm sorry that happened to you.

I also moved to hoard a few types of liquid assets, and also have accounts with three banks (and multiple cards) to reduce the risk of a single-bank causing this level of impact to me.


Of course, trying to work around regulation like that, is probably against some other regulation.


Not really, but the government may freeze all accounts of a person in all banks in the world.


I was thinking of something like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structuring


I see, but what I know is that it's allowed to use multiple banks for the purpose of increasing the amount of money under FDIC insurance (which is more like $100k/bank, not $10k/bank).

There are services that split your money between multiple banks just for this reason.


FDIC deposit insurance coverage limit is $250,000 per depositor, per FDIC-insured bank, per ownership category.

https://www.fdic.gov/deposit/covered/categories.html


In the U.S. yes, I'm from the EU though where there's a similar insurance (EDIS) which has a 100k EUR limit.


> Long story short: 2 weeks later my account is unfrozen for no reason. I was never given a reason.

it is illegal for the bank to inform you of any AML investigation undertaken whether internally or the FBI or fincen or any of the other federal bodies. if you don't like the way this is done, i suggest you take it up to your congressmen.


That seems like absence of explanation is an explanation in and of itself.

If the bank can give you a straight answer, it's clearly not AML. If they start giving you no answer, it's presumably that. Id' expect if you were seriously in that game, that's one of the clear signs something's awry and you'd better start activating panic measures.

I'm also sort of confused about the concept of freezing accounts during an investigation. If it was late stage and they were saying "okay, shut it down, we'll be sending over the cops with the arrest warrant within an hour", that's one thing, but any sudden movement on accounts is likely to change the behaviour you're trying to monitor and document. The darkweb market seizures seemed smarter in that regard-- they let some of them run with no obvious changes so they could gather data, only taking it down once the case was completely built.


I don’t even know what agency in the government did this. Or that I was part of an investigation. Or anything. Different people at different positions in the bank would say the same thing “the computer says your account is flagged” “the system says your social security number is flagged” etc. When I would ask what “flagged” means they would just repeat nonsensical shit. All they would really tell me is that they had no control because a government system had flagged it.


> you don't like the way this is done, i suggest you take it up to your congressmen.

I wish they would listen. Everyone in congress right now supports an unconstrained federal government that does things like freeze your bank account without any reason or due process. Both parties are hellbent on expanding their power at the expense of liberty in the name of safety or security.


I think US politicians' failure to act effectively in the interests of US citizens is caused more by the concentration of political power than it is by bad people. The US isn't alone among developed countries in having this problem, but there are plenty of developed countries that manage to avoid it. The answer is more democratic accountability, in the form of measures such as proportional representation.

This Jennifer Lawrence video summarises some desirable reforms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfQij4aQq1k

See also Lawrence Lessig's "Our democracy no longer represents the people. Here's how we fix it": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJy8vTu66tE


Which is why some (e.g. Bitfinex) use warrant canaries [1]. I would love if we have a warrant canary button tied to all our accounts of any kind (banking, social media, netflix subscriptions etc.)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warrant_canary


The article you linked explains why warrant canaries aren't trustworthy.


> it is illegal for the bank to inform you of any AML investigation

Is this an actual law that was voted by congress, or just some regulation that the FBI pulled out of their ear one bright Monday morning ?

> i suggest you take it up to your congressmen.

That'd assume the answer to my first question is yes. Citation needed.


I think there's a third possibly: namely that Congress has somehow allowed the FBI to make such rules, but could reclaim control in the future.

As I understand it, a lot of things work like this in some unitary (as opposed to federal), parliamentary (as opposed to presidential) democracies. In at least some such countries all governmental power ultimately depends on the elected legislature, but it can be delegated to other bodies (including to the executive and to local government) as the legislature chooses. The legislature can reclaim its power, too, even from directly-elected local authorities.


Or buy Bitcoin.


Why on earth were you keeping $30,000 in the account you use to pay for groceries?


Where else would I keep it? In the stock market where it can disappear overnight?

Where do you keep your savings?


I would suggest researching how to invest your savings, otherwise it's being eaten away by inflation, and there is no savings account that has enough interest to match that rate currently.

It's harsh to say it, but that statement is a demonstration of your ignorance.


I see this a lot online, but this is not good advice. Savings are meant to provide liquidity in an emergency. If you have $20,000 in a savings account, you can walk to an ATM and withdraw some of that immediately. If you have $20,000 locked up in mutual funds, well... you’d better hope your rainy day has some lead time.

Investing is great. Put $10,000 in something diverse and passive and sit on it. But also keep a savings account for immediate emergencies, and keep some cash on hand for even more immediate emergencies.


Yes, that is called an emergency fund. I didn't want to go into a big explainer of how a typical pre-tax & post-tax index fund savings brokerage works + cash emergency fund in savings works to a random on the internet while there are many other better resources out there.


I can wire money out of my Vanguard (mutual funds) account before 4 PM today and it will be in receiving bank tomorrow mid-day.

I can withdraw money from my ETrade or IB margin accounts using the debit card that came with those accounts (or write a check on them), same as you can with a savings account.

I do keep a few thousand at a local bank and have a separate checking account at USAA that I use for most daily/monthly transactions, but that's for convenience not access/liquidity reasons.


What emergency requires $20K in less than a week? A kidnapping?


The number was illustrative. If it helps, feel free to imagine a different one.


Losing 2-3% per year is better than losing 10/20/30 % or god forbid >50% of your savings - which you cannot recoup.

It depends on what they are saving for - if they need the 20-30K a year down the line it is alright to keep it in the savings account.

If it is for general long term asset building - may be they haven't yet figured out how best to start investing. Again no harm to keep it parked till you figure it out instead of investing in haste and then regret later - for the rest of your life.


I know people who have been sitting on the sidelines afraid to invest in what must be the tail end of the longest bull market we've ever seen.

One in particular has been sitting on the sidelines since before the 2016 election season. They have foregone about a 50% gain that they'd have gotten over that period. That money also can never be recouped.

https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2014/02/worlds-worst-market...


It’s not a gain unless it’s realized.

If one owns a stock and the price goes up 10% they don’t make any money. They would have to sell to make money.

At some point “Bob” needs to retire, hopefully that’s not during a downturn.


Yup. You’ve got it right. I am far more interested in preserving capital than chasing returns at this point. So keeping it parked while using it to capitalize cash flow from businesses and real estate is more to my liking than making one giant bet on an index fund over 30-40 years. Don’t get me wrong I’m not knocking index funds they have their place.


May be you can start with small steps to test the waters. Amount that you are ok to lose in an extreme event. Which might cause you some inconvenience but not great distress. Perhaps 5-10% of your savings in equities. Watch how you repond to the market swings (both up and down) and factor that in for your future investments.


This kind of thinking is creating a dangerous bubble at this time


Thanks for providing insults rather than enlightenment.


Though I am not there yet, the Permanent Portfolio [1] makes sense to me. The key insight is that for the money you have lost, you can never recover the energy/time/life you have spent in earning it. So, capital preservation (wrt inflation) is more important than chasing higher returns - which frankly are not under your control.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Permanent-Portfolio-Long-Term-Investm...


This is the loss aversion fallacy. (The irrational belief that losing something you already have is worse than losing a chance to getting something you don't have yet.)

You can never recover the time you spent earning money to make up for missing investment gains.


This is not a fallacy, and certainly not an irrational belief :). It is a very rational response to things you have no control over.

May be this needs some elaboration. For me, the low probability event of blowing up your life's worth of saving beats the ephemeral gains you would expect to get from a higher risk investments, every single time. For me, it is irrational to think otherwise, something I can't understand why people do. I will invest in the riskier investments only so much as I am comfortable to lose completely.

And there is the rub, with the modern banking systems, it is very difficult to achieve that unless you use real hard assets like gold which is becoming difficult, real estate which is quite illiquid.

Is one missing out on potential gains ? Perhaps, but one is ok with that.

P.S >> You can never recover the time you spent earning money to make up for missing investment gains.

I didn't quite understand this. The investment gains are not certain or guaranteed. You talk as if they are a certainty.


You could also take a look at portfoliocharts.com, which shows you how that and other portfolios have worked out over the past 50 years, in both the US and Japan. You can play around with your own variations too.

The PP does pretty well at limiting drawdowns. A variation that works especially well is the "Golden Butterfly," which just takes the PP and weights a little more towards stocks. In my own experiments on the site, I've found it also helps a lot to include international stocks, and weight towards small value.


CD, T-bills, bonds?

Also, the stock market doesn't disappear overnight.


In a savings account.That way if the checking account gets compromised, the majority of your money are safe. A common way for a checking account to be compromised is for someone to steal the debit card associated with it. That way is has access to most of your money. There are withdraw limits that kind of limit the impact of such scenario, but you can still loose plenty of money. Also, money associated with a debit card are your own money, so if you loose them the bank can not do many things, in contrast to credit cards, where they can cancel transactions.

The main idea is to keep separate accounts for "everyday life" and savings.


I am sorry this happened to you. In future, at the minimum, you should have 3 accounts.

* In bank 1, a current account, for everyday use. This should not have more money than 1-2 months of expenses.

* In bank 1, a savings account, which is your primary savings.

* In bank 2, a savings account, which has enough money for a few months of rent.

* Stash somewhere in your house, in cash, enough money for a week of outside food and transport to family/friends who can take you in, in case of you losing your primary accommodation.

This all depends on you being rich enough to afford all of this, but I imagine 30K in the bank account is rich enough. Also, as others have pointed out, you should consider investing.


> In future, at the minimum, you should have 3 accounts.

Or have no account at all and pay cash. Which is not very convenient with physical money. But becomes fairly workable with something like Bitcoin.


We make a point to have backup accounts with some small but non-trivial amount of money in them for cases like this. Normally when we run into it is if our debit card for our main bank gets compromised.


This sounds like it was an anti-money-laundering law-enforcement action, in which case all of your accounts would have been frozen.


Good to know... very interesting.


This is a good post. Why is it grayed out?


Nobody knows. HN has downvotes for a secret group of users. HN weights votes using a secret algorithm, so some users may have the ability to grey out posts with a single click.


All you need is a certain amount of karma - which you currently don't have. There is no other criteria.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html


Now your post is grayed out.

Someone is watching...


I was tempted to downvote both of you just to cause untargeted suspicion :P


The money equivalent of when the super smart AI spam filter sends email from your business clients to /dev/null ?


This is pretty poor behavior from the bank. But for it to be a form of control, their actions must lead to you doing something what they want. And I don’t see that here.


Did you own crypto before this happened? If not, I can't even imagine how you got on the government's radar.


Probably bank incompetence.


It's an outrageous story, and I'm sure it was bank incompetence, but what triggered it? Law enforcement wouldn't order their account frozen for no reason -- it was probably a stupid reason, but still there's some reason.


> How many people in this room are accredited investors? What a lovely bunch. That puts you in the one-tenth of one-tenth of one-tenth percentile of the world.

No, it doesn't. Accredited investor (by the meaning the author most likely intended) is $1MM net worth (ex residence) or $200K in income for each of the last two years and an expectation for that to continue. There are 42 million millionaires or about 0.55% of the world population. There is an additional population who have the income but not the net worth to qualify, so it's possible that nearly 1% of the world adults would be accredited investors.

~1% is a lot more than ~0.001%, a thousand times more in fact.


I think you misunderstand what "percentile" means here, though it is indeed worded obtusely. When you say you're in the "tenth percentile", that means you're in the top 10%, not the top 0.1%. As such, when the author states "one-tenth of one-tenth of one-tenth percentile of the world" he's referencing the top 0.1%, not the top 0.001%.

By your reckoning, he's admittedly still off by a factor of 10, but not by a factor of 1000.

(note: the phrasing is made needlessly confusing by his use of "one-tenth percentile" instead of just "tenth percentile" - I suspect this is merely a transcription error, as there seem to be a number of these)


When you say you're in the "tenth percentile", that means you're in the top 10%

The tenth percentile is actually the bottom 10%. The top 10% is the ninetieth percentile.


While technically correct, this distinction is often muddied in colloquial speech when saying that a particular point is "in" an Xth percentile. I suppose it might also depend on which direction you orient your scale on the axis ;)


I doubt anyone would identify a population as the “top one-tenth of the tenth percentile” rather than simplifying that to a single percentile. That leads me to conclude that 0.001% was said and intended.


You might, if you wanted to make the number sounds more impressive... the smaller the perceived value, the stronger the point he's making, so he's trading clarity for more punch. Not saying that that's a good move, but I think it's more likely he's trying to use impressive sounding language than that he's off by three orders of magnitude on a topic that he's clearly reasonably well versed in.


From my viewpoint, he's trading being wrong for more punch.

The clip starts at 4m42s. He clearly says "one-tenth of one-tenth of one-tenth percentile". One percentile is 1 part in 100. One tenth of that is 1 in 1000. One tenth of that two more times makes it 1 in 100,000. Across the world population, that's ~75,000. (There are more millionaire households in Kentucky than that figure.)


If percentile refers to tenths, what does decile mean and what's the difference between the top percentile and the top decile?


> if percentile refers to tenths

It doesn't, percentile refers to percents. Tenth percentile means is the 10%, twentieth percentile means the 20%, etc.


$100 says Arnt knows that fact perfectly well.


Indeed, looking back it seems likely that there was a joke here that WHOOSHed over my head :D


Anyone willing to lie on the form can be an "accredited investor". I know people who have done that in order to invest in private placements. Some firms do very little to verify income and assets.


an acreddited investor loses some judicial privileges (e.g., they are assumed to be sophisticated enough to understand the prospectus and/or can pay to have it explaine to them).

The gov't will not protect accredited investors the same way they do the general public. Therefore, firms only need to ask on their forms, and no need to actually verify imho.


>There are 42 million millionaires or about 0.55% of the world population.

Do you have a source for this statistic? Do you know if that excludes residences?


It was a Credit Suisse report IIRC, basically what came up from a quick google search because the cited stat in the article was obviously wrong by at least two decimal orders of magnitude.


Was rhetoric always like that, or are people stretching their points harder nowadays?

For example: Monday "can be confiscated at whim, frozen by any banker at any point in time". Oh really? Any banker can confiscate any customer's money on a whim?

There's more. I find it very annoying.

"How many Greeks do you think had insurance on their bank accounts? All of them. What happened to that? Poof, in one afternoon. Vanished. 20% haircut." He makes it sound as if deposit insurance is supposed to insure against a tax claim by the state (in this case a rather sudden, surprising tax).

It's admirable, in a way, how some people manage to make weird things sound reasonable.


You're negating your own point. The "claim by the state" was the justification used to confiscate the money. The confiscation was demanded by bankers, and the state was acting as their enforcer.

There are other examples. Such as the foreclosure mills set up around 2008 which literally stole some people's houses - even if they didn't have a mortgage.

And in the UK the banks make a lot of their profits from excessive "overdraft fees", which they claim - on a whim, just because they can - unless legislation is passed to prevent them.

And in times of financial stress, banks have the option to prevent withdrawals of customer funds. That's not a permanent confiscation, but it's a very bad thing if you need to buy food and have no idea why your card isn't working.

These can all be fought through the courts, but most individuals have neither the time nor the resources to fight them.

The bottom line is that banks like an unofficial branch of government. From the Fed down, they control the money supply - and since there is no such thing as "money" in any tangible sense that isn't symbolic of political power, that's identical to being able to exercise immense power over people's lives with no political accountability.


No, banks do not have the legal right to withhold a customer's funds with an account freeze if they don't have a warrant signed by a judge. It's still "your money" on loan to the bank. The silliness of being scared of a big-bad bank needs to end.

If a bank does this to you, you call up (in the USA) the OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency). They do a check on you to make sure no law enforcement agency considers you a terrorist. Once cleared, they tell the bank to release the funds. No court needed. This literally happened to me after depositing a check for my business.

I agree, banks, especially the top 5, can be cunts. But don't go all tin foil hat about it. Don't watch 10 minute youtube cartoons about "how money really works because the lizard Illuminati actually control it". It's bad for your mental health.


Is there a time delay where the OCC can't in fact make them release funds? Several major banks have deposit limits of 5-days or even 30-days for funds inside of a new bank account to prevent check fraud.


From what I understand, most verifications are done because the OCC regulated them to do so. Maybe an agency here and there added other stuff. But at the end, the OCC is the one who knocks if a bank fucks up on information due diligence.

But 30 day is still beyond me as to where that comes from. 3 to 5 day. Sure. But 30 makes zero sense. My situation was a bit unique due to the account being frozen out of the blue.


I'll bite once more. I'm not negating my own point. First, a digression.

I can't read Greek and haven't read that particular insurance policy's scope. But I've read all of mine, and they all say "insures against <list> and only that". They don't insure me against generic other mishaps, and exclude force majeure.

If the legislature decides to expropriate all or part of someone's property, that act doesn't extend the list of protections afforded by an insurance policy. Perhaps the legislature shouldn't have done what it did, I'm not arguing that point. But a legislature is sovereign, it can do things.

If a bank or someone else tricks, cajoles, persuades the legislature to expropriate all or part of someone's property, that act still doesn't extend the list of protections afforded by any insurance policies.

That they banks could have done other things instead of going to the legislature is entirely correct, but not relevant. Once the legislature acted, the thing that actually happened was out of scope for the deposit insurance, because the legislature's sovereignty is a unique force.

And after that digression, my point is that the original article bends the truth too much. In this case by making it sounds as if an insurance policy was worthless ("poof") because it didn't protect citizen against expropriation ordered by the legislature of the citizens' country, without arguing that what happened was in-scope for that insurance.

He didn't argue either that the legislature was acting beyond its powers, or that the insurance policy covered the what happened. He could have argued, but didn't, he just put words next to other words. The words are spatial connected, not causally, and my point is that that's ugly and misleading.

It sucks for the Greek who lost part of their deposit, but that doesn't license anyone to be bend the truth about what a particular insurance covers.


>Any banker can confiscate any customer's money on a whim?

That's the point behind the OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency). They're to make sure that does not happen. Broad brush stroke, SEC for the banks. Chase bank actually tried this on me after depositing a check from a client. They wanted to hold the check for 31 days and they froze my account (which included my payroll and day to day funds). Granted, it was a big check and the biggest one I ever got by a large amount. But verification of legality for that amount was only supposed to be about 3 days (which I don't have problems with). Anyways, did about 5 minutes of extreme panic research and discovered the OCC. Literally that easy to find. Called them up, explained the situation and they said they need to do their due diligence with my info. 2 days later (they researched the payment, fyi I was sub-sub-contract on a gov job) they scheduled a call between me and Chase bank at a branch. They forced the funds released and account back in working order. Chase gave me a huge apology. I literally told them to shove their apology in their ass and to cash out my company's account so I could open a new one elsewhere. They claimed they can't cash out in such short notice, the guy from the OCC on speakerphone speaks for me and goes "Your office has 30 minutes to figure it out."

Literally, my favorite gov agency since I did feel pretty baller going against Chase bank. The Chase branch had 2 lawyers and a regional vp with their branch manager waiting for me. I think the CFPB got involved too, on my side, but OCC took lead. At least the guy I always talked to was OCC. I was just surprised how fast acting these people were. From account freeze to walking out was only 3 days.

Makes me wonder though, what other agencies are out there, that baller, that protects the public?

Now Greece, sure. Not like they truly have a functioning government to begin with.


You may not have been locked out of your money by an arbitrary decision of a banker, but I don't follow how you are "annoyed" that I have.


Oh, I'm not. But I may be annoyed if you say that happened "at a banker's whim" when in fact it happened because of written regulations.


Often it's neither whim nor regulations, but simply bureaucracy. Mistakes happen.

Cryptocurrency advocates promise you freedom from everyone else's action, but at the cost of no way to correct mistakes. So if your computer security is ever 100% less than perfect, or you're defrauded by your counterparty, there's no way to recover the loss. (Well, there's legal action, but "freedom from legal action" is also cited as a benefit..)


I was about to argue that cash is just as susceptible to "theft". But then you brought up the freedom from legal action. That's a good point. At least with my dirty-dirty fiat dollars, you rob from me, my "forcefully taken money" (taxes) funds a group of people that will at least go after that person. Obviously, that's not a guarantee. But it's better than a system where it sums up to "Yea, sucks for you. We don't believe in legal action of any form and built it up in a way where you're screwed."


No often it is at a whim of an individual. For instance, as the system is based upon trust and not security, I can transfer $10,000 from your account to mine. There are dark markets where you can do this at a 5% rate.

You can dispute the charge, and an individual will decide whether it is valid or not. That decision, as the author put it, is based upon the relative privilege of the two parties. If I am a weird kid on the internet, the bank will always give you your money back. But what if I am a utility or a city government? You will almost always lose your money without months of beurocracy or legal work. In fact, they don't even have to take it from your bank account. They can merely send you a sheet of paper which says you owe them, and your credit rating (money privilege) will rapidly erode if you disagree with their assessment.

It is not even about crime or errors all of the time either. Have you ever tried to buy a car from a private party on a Sunday? Even with $1M in the bank, you have no access to your money due to arbitrary decisions of local bank branch managers. Buy from a privilleged seller (dealer)? No problem. In fact, they can invent the money with which you purchase it (assuming you are privilleged enough, of course)


Well, my wife was suddenly and unexpectedly locked out of her money for a day just because someone in a local branch fucked up. It's good that it's rare, and as long as the economy is stable in your country you can trust that - but the "as long as" here is the worrying point.


I had money stolen from my account on a bankers whim.Wasn't enough to go to court over, but it was a significant amount.


Could you elaborate ? How did you figure out ? Just with the missing amount, or was there a line about this debit in your bank statements ?


Australia. Yes, there was a line. It was lodged as a fraud reversal charge due to them having another customer account hacked. Payment was made for a sale and cleared from that account. Since it was interbank, they decided to help themselves to the cleared payment, despite my asset already having been sold.


Sorry, Intrabank.


What country? If it's the USA, you have either the OCC or straight up the FBI to rectify it.


I think he's mistaken Cyprus for Greece. I can't find reference to Greece having a "bail-in". As far as I know the only place it happened in the Euro banking crisis was Cyprus. If I'm reading the correct bit of wikipedia:

> "Remaining good assets and deposits below €100,000 with Laiki Bank would be saved and transferred to Bank of Cyprus (BoC), while shareholder capital would be written off, and the uninsured deposits above €100,000 – along with other creditor claims – would be lost to the degree being decided by how much the receivership subsequently can recover from liquidation of the remaining bad assets. As an extra safety measure, uninsured deposits above €100,000 in BoC will also remain frozen until a recapitalisation has been implemented (with a possible imposed haircut if this is later deemed needed to reach the requirement for a 9% tier 1 capital ratio)"

It was not a tax by the state. It was the other way round: it was the refusal (or rather inability) of the state to act as lender of last resort and cover a private company (in this case a bank) which had gone insolvent.

The average Cypriot, not having €100k in their bank account, was not affected. Some local business owners were. The majority of victims were those using Cyprus as a tax haven due to its low corporation tax rate: https://www.taxjustice.net/2017/10/26/21561/


Yeah he s probably talking about greek cypriots.

The bail in was carried out by the bank though. The stolen haircut amounts was converted to BoC shares.


Taxes are not meant to be sudden and surprising.


Is that a valid reason to stretch the truth when one tells something that's meant to be heard as a factual description?


His phrasing could be worded better, but I still agree with the message he is trying to convey.

In this context, I interpret the word "insurance" as the belief that the government will "defend" their savings.


It wasnt a tax. Deposits in euro countries were/are insured up to 100k. Those accounts were not affected, the bank bail in affected amounts beyond that

Confiscated a whim? Not really in western countries

Frozen at whim? Why yes, many countries implement capital controls.


Money is a system of control in a more generic way - it allows you to make people do things for you and give you resources.

It can make a plane come for you to take you to a different city where a room will be waiting for you, people will give you food etc.

It's downright magic if you ask me. Without the magic of money, nobody would lift their finger to help you unless they're a friend or a relative


I'd agree except for the last sentence. A measure of civilization is precisely just how much things strangers would "lift a finger" to help you with without money getting involved.


You don't need money to have have property and wealth or power over others generated by it.

You don't need money to have prices either. It's just convenient.

Money is just extremely convenient, it has no magical properties.


Money as a medium of exchange has no magical properties. But you need to think about what money represents - how it ties different people together. Some people make money, then spend it on their own subsistence. Others are able to use money to make more money.

If you can stop working for 8 years and not end up on the streets, then you're ultimately working for someone who _can_ stop working for 8 years. This is why less than 10 people own more collective wealth than the poor half of the world population. This is not even considering monopolies, corruption, state intervention, etc.

As for what we can do about it, I don't think redistributing wealth is a great idea. Instead I think we should encourage an entrepreneurial spirit, i.e. encourage people to do what so many in Silicon valley have done: start their own business in their garage. I suspect people find entrepreneurship to be worthwhile despite the risk because their work can translate to profits directly, and they're able to use e.g. LISP instead of Java, make an entire system instead of just writing the tests.


> Others are able to use money to make more money.

They don't make more money. They make more wealth.

You are confusing metaphorical use of world money as synonym of wealth to what actually happens.


I’m not sure what wealth is. Let’s use the term value i.e. when raw materials (eg ones and zeros) are transformed to a useful form (eg a computer program). The programmers at amazon create value and then use most of their wage on subsistence eg supporting their family. The board of directors buy, ultimately through a chain of command, workers who are able to make more value than they consume in wages (otherwise no one would hire her). They also use money for subsistence, but they consume part of their accumulated value on creating more value. The programmer takes risks in agreeing to work, because if he is layed off then he won’t be able to provide for her family. So how can the programmer also use value to create more value? Entrepreneurship, ie being paid based on the profits she generates, rather than what the board of directors is willing to let go of. Or perhaps investment, which ultimately means profiting off the value creating labour of others in a indirect way.


Wealth is what you own.

Jeff Bezos is not owning much money. Warren Buffet id not owning money. Neither is Bill Gates. Money is just one asset you can own and most people hold very little of it.


Thanks to what is nowadays generally attributed to evolutionary selection, not all humans are that much devoid of empathy.


What Andreas gets wrong is that he thinks that money being a system of control is a new thing. Emperors have long understood how to use money as a system of control. They would take slaves and have them mine gold or silver. They would then stamp their face on coins and hand them to soldiers. The soldiers would conquer people and institute a tax requiring the conquered people to return those same coins back to the empire. Why make this game? Now the local populations start doing things for the soldiers and the empire. Markets form. And suddenly, people who were free are now under the control of the empire. Money has always been a system of control. Money is a carrot, taxes are the stick.


Control was more with knives than with money back then. Empires worked with many different coins , different metals etc. The taxman was happy to take whatever was deemed worthy in the area. Those people weren’t free, they were just subjects of another ruler


We do a poor job of being inclusive. I think most of that is not intentional.

If it's written in English, it's not because the author seeks to exclude people who speak something else. It's because I the author knows English.

Getting anything to work at all is hard. It's made harder in a highly multicultural world of billions.

If you think only of your culture, you get a colonial system. Europeans came to the US and saw wilderness. They did not recognize lands actively managed by a mobile society with a completely alien culture.

Trappers would show up first. Natives felt there was enough to share and saw no reason to forbid their activities or kill them. The trappers operated much like the Natives.

Settlers followed. Settlers did not operate like Natives. They laid claim to specific plots of land, usually the best plots. They often showed up while there was no current presence of people. When Natives returned to the area, as they tended to do seasonally, the settlers saw them as trespassers. They didn't recognize that they were the trespassers.

Agricultural societies can readily outcompete hunter-gatherer societies. You produce more per acre if you cultivate the land. So the conflict was probably inevitable.

I don't know the solution here. But I don't think that seeing the exclusion of the masses as intentional despotism is particularly helpful.

Everyone decries the downside of regulation when they have it. They fail to recognize the benefits.

Before we had regulation, fire fighters from neighboring towns couldn't help in a serious emergency because their equipment wasn't compatible. They would show up, then find they couldn't connect their hoses because it was a different size.

When I was a child, the Swiss were famous for their neutrality during WW2. That was seen as virtue. At some point, that narrative changed and I began seeing stories about how the Swiss were guilty of being Nazi collaborators due to their neutrality.

Most things are a two-edged sword. We laud them when we can see how it benefits us. We attack them when we are the ones getting hurt.

Designing good systems that work well for everyone is tough. It's made all the tougher when you want it to serve billions.

That's not nefarious intent. That's just how it is.


> Before we had regulation, fire fighters from neighboring towns couldn't help in a serious emergency because their equipment wasn't compatible

Establishing conventions solves this problem, and doesn't imply any regulation.


>> But I don't think that seeing the exclusion of the masses as intentional despotism is particularly helpful.

This may be true of the examples you cited for the more distant era. However post WW2, with the invention of technologies of mass control, this has really become a default case now.

>> Designing good systems that work well for everyone is tough. It's made all the tougher when you want it to serve billions.

If one is aware of this then one should factor that into the systems to minimize the harm or refrain from building such systems. We don't see any evidence for that.


It's extremely challenging to envision the path not taken. Even in cases where you can, it's more challenging still to effectively communicate the other path and that you are, in fact, correct.

I don't know that the world would be a better place had we not done x, y or z. When people decry a thing, they routinely focus on the harm it has done without accounting for the good it did.

Maybe the path not taken is far worse than the problems we currently struggle with.

They built wells in India and Bangladesh, iirc. The intent was to stop a quarter of a million deaths annually from contaminated surface waters, such as collected rainwater.

Some of the wells caused arsenic poisoning. The scale of this new disaster was compared to Chernobyl and pronounced worse than that.

This comparison largely ignored the millions of lives already saved by the wells.

We solve a problem. We find some new bug in the system. We iterate.

That's how progress works.


Yes we cannot re-simulate the world or do A/B testing with different versions of it. It is what it is.

I find Progress to be a nebulous/relative term. Defining it depends whether on you can measure things. Things that cannot be measured are outside its purview. For all our pervasive data gathering capability we lack intuitive understanding of how the complex interconnected adaptive system, that is the real world, works. Some change one would consider minor or harmless might balloon into a crisis years down the line, because the conditions have changed or we didn't consider feedback or were not even aware of it.

I agree with you that whether to act or not is indeed a dilemma. But when we do, the question is, are we acting with this humbling awareness, or are we just arrogantly tinkering with it. In hindsight, we find it has been mostly the latter, at least for the last 500 years.

And you are right, that is just how it is.


Sorry to bring this up again but this is more as a note for posterity.

Often we don't measure what we have lost, except may be weight or net worth.


"Everyone decries the downside of regulation when they have it. They fail to recognize the benefits."

Most of us recognized the benefits of regulation, and then we recognized those systems being brutally and hopelessly overwhelmed.

The regulatory state has not withstood history: the regulatory capture that goes all the way back to the earliest of political machines, the two-tier justice system (as the speaker mentioned, and as the Holder doctrine confessed), the russian-doll configurations of persona ficta (corporations, universities, non-profits, etc) that hide the personal agendas of wealth behind faceless platitudes.

It's just like the libertarians who go, "If only we returned to our founding priciples..." In other words, regression, but with the expectation that things will work out differently this time.


Absolutely right. Much of this isn't so much "system" as adhoc conflict. Swiss neutrality is particularly relevant because, as a neutral, they offered banking services beyond seizure to both sides of the conflict. To both Jews fleeing persecution and Nazis fleeing justice - often the latter banking wealth that had been stolen from the former. Some of this was eventually cleaned up in the long legal fallout of WW2.


The comments on this tell me that the HN system is broken. All the top comments are about % and percentile. They ignore what the talk is about. At best this is clickbait. If the comments were described as “debate about % and percentile” I would not have clicked


No one on HN actually reads the the article. It actually works because you get to signal how you think, and that’s what everyone cares about.


Discussing in generalities can be more fun anyway


China built an alternative to SWIFT (China International Payments System, CIPS). Russia joined that network.

I think the system has no other purpose but to circumvent sanctions.


> China built an alternative to SWIFT

Competition is a good thing.

The day the US dollar loses its reserve currency status will be a very bright day for the world.


What is the deal with being an accredited investor, anyway? What kind of advantage does it give you if you're just trying to Bogle your way into buying mutual funds until retirement? Should you be trying to become "accredited" as soon as you can prove your net worth / revenue is high enough?


Accredited investor effectively means you can invest directly into a company as an angel investor. To legally do this you need a certain level of assets or income. As a result it locks a lot of people out of the high risk/high reward investment market. Kickstarter et all try and get around this, but early donations in Kickstarters like the Oculus DK1 don't get paid when the company gets bought by Facebook for a billion dollars. Accredited investors can invest $1000 and then get money back out of the deal if/when the company is bought


> Accredited investors can invest $1000 and then get money back out of the deal if/when the company is bought

Scale is off though, any startup worth investing in will want investment lots 10x to 1000x larger than that. Any investment willing to accept $1000 would be a large red flag. Thus the accredited system IMHO is super reasonable. Anyone with enough capital that investments of 10kUSD to 100kUSD into high risk investments makes sense must have significant other capital. Meanwhile it saves the regular Joe from getting scammed out of his $1000 emergency fund.


Sounds a lot like a system for controlling Regular Joe.


I think it's more a system to protect Regular Joes from having small amounts of money stolen from them by shysters hawking get rich quick investment schemes. Many of those are now federal crimes, making the risk-reward unappealing.

The assumption is accredited investors are more capable of doing their own diligence and better able to weather the loss of a $50K angel investment than Regular Joe.


A US government trying to prevent "Regular Joe" from becoming rich would have an infinite number of better ways to do so.

Not running lotteries, for example. Or regulating the health care market to bring doctors' and lawyers' salaries down to European levels. Or taxing income in the 6-digit range at the rates of comparable countries. Or taxing investment returns at levels comparable to incomes.

But there really isn't even a theory of why "regular Joe" striking it rich is in any way threatening to the status quo, is there?


The point of locking people out, is to avoid scam artists stealing retirees life saving by convincing them to “invest” in some fake company. It seems reasonable to put a barrier given the high risk of scammery, tho one based on being rich rather than informed seems like a bit of a miss.


I think it's just a way to segment people who can afford to lose more. The government wants to protect people from getting screwed out of their money, but can't strictly define "this is good, this is bad." So they just say "okay, you can afford to lose more, so you're (relatively) on your own. Go ahead and invest in those crazy schemes if you really think it's a good idea."


If you're just buying index funds, it doesn't help you.

If you want to swing for the fences with angel investing, you need to be accredited.


If you don't qualify to be an accredited investor, 'swinging for the fences' by angel investing is simply foolish... you can't hope to make a return unless you can make lots of bets, and making a lot of bets requires a lot of money.

Investing in an angel phase company as a normal wealth individual would be like if someone asked you if you wanted to be the house at a roulette wheel where someone is going to bet $100,000 on red. Sure, the bet is in your favor, but there is a good chance you are going to lose it all. Most of us can't afford that.


It seems to me that a million bucks wouldn't really enough to be wise, either. I mean, even if you had a 10% chance of getting 50:1 upside (and a 90% chance of losing everything)... you'd still have to bet 29 times to have a 95% chance of getting your upside. I mean, can you be an angel investor by investing as low as $5,000?

(Not sure if 10% and 50:1 is anywhere close to what angel investors shoot for.)


> can you be an angel investor by investing as low as $5,000

Yes. Not so much on your own, but as part of a friends&family pool of investments.


I recently passed the threshold for being an accredited investor. Personally, my next steps are to get access to invest in IPOs, I don't plan to invest in startups much unless someone comes at me with a genuinely good idea and doesn't need much money. Still, I'd rather just buy stocks.


>What kind of advantage does it give you if you're just trying to Bogle your way into buying mutual funds until retirement?

I'd guess none? I think it just gives you access to riskier forms of investment like hedge funds.


> And what do millennials say to that? “Dude, I don’t have any fucking money. All I have is my creative potential, my spirit, my productivity, and I can sell that directly for Bitcoin without an exchange, without an on-ramp, without an off-ramp. And when I need to buy something, I’ll use my digital currency directly without reentering your system to which I was never invited. Shut down the on-ramps, shut down the off-ramps and I will stay on board. I will stay digital. I won’t touch your gilded cage anymore because I don’t need you. I exit.

Yeah in some fantasy Bitcoin world millennials say that. Who might say shit like this is Venezuelans or the Iranians. Don't know if BTC is working for them at all these days.


Ha, what? Haven't read the article yet, but yeah most millennials definitely do not know how to obtain Bitcoin without going through an exchange and/or anyone in their network who'd be willing to pay them in Bitcoin for the work they typically do, and even if they did they also don't generally have the ability to use it as a method of payment for most of the things they typically purchase.


It’s true, that’s why cryptocurrency advocates attempt to sell you the money they minted and then gimp the mint so no one else can produce the supply for the same work energy.

Anytime someone advocates cryptocurrency x, ask them if you’re allowed to mint the money for the same amount of work as they (the sellers, speculators, advocates) are/did.

Presumably people wouldn't want a cryptocurrency as plutocratic and centralized as Bitcoin has become. Some lessons were learned with BTC as an experiment, and as we can see there's evolution taking place and plenty of more advanced alternatives are making prior software like bitcoin obsolete. It's especially troubling how centralized the minting and mining has become. And it's easy to forget there's the problem with energy consumption related to the PoW algorithm eating almost 1% of the entire world's energy simply for an accounting database. The major reason you don't see payment processors dealing with cryptocurrencies is because the major usecase for most cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Monereo, and Ethereum is money laundering. One important point: if we actually include all 7 billion people on the earth, most of whom have zero BTC or Ethereum, the Gini coefficient is essentially 0.99+. And if we just include all balances, we include many dust balances which would again put the Gini coefficient at 0.99+. Thus, we need some kind of threshold here. The imperfect threshold we picked was the Gini coefficient among accounts with ≥185 BTC per address, and ≥2477 ETH per address. So this is the distribution of ownership among the Bitcoin and Ethereum rich with $500k as of July 2017.

  In what kind of situation would a thresholded metric like 
  this be interesting? Perhaps in a scenario similar to the 
  ongoing IRS Coinbase issue, where the IRS is seeking 
  information on all holders with balances >$20,000. 
  Conceptualized in terms of an attack, a high Gini 
  coefficient would mean that a government would only need 
  to round up a few large holders in order to acquire a 
  large percentage of outstanding cryptocurrency — and with 
  it the ability to tank the price.

  With that said, two points. First, while one would not 
  want a Gini coefficient of exactly 1.0 for BTC or ETH (as 
  then only one person would have all of the digital 
  currency, and no one would have an incentive to help boost 
  the network), in practice it appears that a very high 
  level of wealth centralization is still compatible with 
  the operation of a decentralized protocol. Second, as we 
  show below, we think the Nakamoto coefficient is a better 
  metric than the Gini coefficient for measuring holder 
  concentration in particular as it obviates the issue of 
  arbitrarily choosing a threshold.


  ...However, the maximum Gini coefficient has one obvious 
  issue: while a high value tracks with our intuitive notion 
  of a “more centralized” system, the fact that each Gini 
  coefficient is restricted to a 0–1 scale means that it 
  does not directly measure the number of individuals or 
  entities required to compromise a system.


  Specifically, for a given blockchain suppose you have a 
  subsystem of exchanges with 1000 actors with a Gini 
  coefficient of 0.8, and another subsystem of 10 miners 
  with a Gini coefficient of 0.7. It may turn out that 
  compromising only 3 miners rather than 57 exchanges may be 
  sufficient to compromise this system, which would mean the 
  maximum Gini coefficient would have pointed to exchanges 
  rather than miners as the decentralization bottleneck.


  Conversely, if one considers “number of distinct countries 
  with substantial mining capacity” an essential subsystem, 
  then the minimum Nakamoto coefficient for Bitcoin would 
  again be 1, as the compromise of China (in the sense of a 
  Chinese government crackdown on mining) would result in 
  >51% of mining being compromised.
  
  - Balaji S. Srinivasan (the CTO of Coinbase) 
-https://news.earn.com/quantifying-decentralization-e39db233c...


Money is not a system of control. Debt is a system of control.

When you take out a loan, you are now obligated to pay the money back with interest at some time in the future. Some part of your future efforts are no longer yours to do with as you choose, but have to be directed towards an economically productive activity that will raise the money to pay the lender.

Debt is the real whip that drives the workforce in the capitalist system based on hourly and salaried compensation. Ownership of slaves and physical whips are no longer needed. The debt and employee system is more efficient, since workers can be laid off and not supported when not needed.

Debt is also older than money. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt:_The_First_5000_Years


If you read Debt The First 5000 Years and don't think money is a system of control, then you really haven't read that book. Also, Money IS Debt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxJW7hl8oqM).


David Graeber on basic income - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEb4Bda_06c

David Graeber: "DEBT: The First 5,000 Years" | Talks at Google - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZIINXhGDcs


> Money is not a system of control. Debt is a system of control.

As if money and debt are unrelated. Debt is a function of money, and most of us are born in debt because the country we are born in keeps lending money(trillions). We have to acquire money to get and stay out of debt.


Money in the form of coin, currency or emoney is a medium of exchange and store of value.

Debt, although denominated in amounts of currency units, is a contractual obligation to pay money at a future date. It's a legal contract enforceable at law using the machinery of the state.

For example, if a bitcoin holder lends you bitcoin to buy a house, the mortgage is still a contract between you and the bitcoin lender. The mortgage has nothing to do with the bitcoin system. It is still registered by the government, and the sheriff still comes to evict you if you don't pay up.


> Debt is the real whip that drives the workforce in the capitalist system based on hourly and salaried compensation.

Even without any debt I still have to work to feed and shelter myself though..


I'm amazed at the inflexibility of work and massive variance in pay. I have two compsci degrees and a good number of years in computer security. There aren't really any part time work options for me. I could go to a big N and make 250k+ per year, but there aren't any jobs where I can work for 3 days a week and make 100k per year.

As well, if I'm looking to switch fields, I'm pretty confident I could get comfortable in a new domain in a month or so. Still, I don't think anyone would hire me in those domains (e.g. GIS / remote sensing).

Then there is the option of if I wanted to get out of computers all together. Yoga instructors don't make enough for me to justify that career move to myself.

Where are our 3d printed houses and autonomous indoor farms? With that I could probably figure out what I actually wanted my life to be and what would make me happy, rather than just playing in the system of maximizing income and telling myself I'm doing well.


I agree by now we should have more flexible work options at companies but I think they're held back by a combination of corporate policies that make them annoying to work with at the manager level (at my workplace we have them but they have to be renewed every year by you, your manager, and their boss) and a certain culture that favors butts in seats for ease of access and plain simplicity (eg: if the person is important in your decision chain or knows how to do something working 3 days a week can mean a 4 day delay for any work/communication if it comes at the wrong time).

> Where are our 3d printed houses and autonomous indoor farms?

The shell or frame is the single most expensive part of the house but there's a lot more that has to be done to turn the concrete shell into a livable home: utilities, interior fixtures, interior finish, exterior finish, foundation, site readying.

As for the farms there are some but they're toys because open air farming is so much cheaper that there's no real money behind the indoor farm idea at the moment, until land or transport becomes much more expensive the cost of providing all the light for the plants is going to lose out to getting it for free. Also robotic handling of small plants isn't really there yet, partially because there's cheap labor that can do everything already and partially because it's a hard set of problems to generically pick and handle all types of produce.


Apart from contracting, you can try 2 years working, 1 year leisure. But this will impact your career, if you care about that kind of thing.


Thought about contracting/consulting?


Not totally sure where to start with it. That might be the right answer though.


All money is debt. The ones in your pocket are borrowed, the ones that you put in the bank dont even exist


If you get rid of the part where you have to repay your debts, it's just theft.


you say that like it's a bad thing. if people are starving and some person has excess food that they can't even eat, it's good to steal that person's food.


No, it's not. Because life isn't that simple.

Investors and lenders play an important role in the economy. If theft makes what they do impossible it will cause a drop in the total productivity of the country as a whole. Which is to say stealing from them, especially at scale, is likely to cause far more starvation than it will solve.

Your idea has been tried: the peasants were hungry, it was the Kulaks with the excess food and money and the process of taking it from them was called dekulakization. Between 500,000 and 5,000,000 people died. This also led to the Holodomor with its estimated 7.5 million dead.

This all started with the observation that there were rich people and poor people right next to each other, and that taking from the rich to give to the poor must be a good thing. But it turned out to be one of the worst events in human history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dekulakization https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor


that's pretty hilarious if it's actually the way you think. according to you, having progressive taxation is exactly the same thing as millions of people dying due to a natural disaster. how am i even supposed to have a conversation with such an irrational position.


Could you open up the logical process on how it's okay to steal someone's hard earned food?


That is actually well established by legal and moral doctrine with necessity as a defense and lesser harms. Just as nobody would be charged with vandalism if they cut open a drain cover to rescue a trapped child - someone dying of starvation is a far greater harm than petty theft. The reason why mugging can be responded to with lethal force but not shoplifting for instance is because the previous includes a threat to another's life and there is no hard guarantee that compliance will save the victim.

There are plenty of aspects of nuance with it of course including 'stealing to save yourself from starvation and causing someone else to starve' isn't morally right along with 'stealing when there were other viable alternatives without harm' is wrong.

And of course messy matters of scale when things get really messed up like the Great Depression where farmers may have had plenty of food but were fiscally precarious - and many of the hungry couldn't afford it - one person shoplifting bread may be a lesser harm but if farms were robbed enmasse could cause them to go under.

TL;DR - It is complicated and circumstantial.


Hey Nasrudith,

I think you are on a interesting topic, but seems like you are comparing some quite different things.

In your example cutting open a drain cover is not directly away from anyone, where as stealing food is.

The thing you seem to be missing in your case, is that you are not taking into account the time factor and only looking at a single action.

I agree that cutting open a drain cover (vandalism) is less bad when saving a trapped child. However, I do not agree that there should be nothing bad happening to the cutter. Imagine if instead of a drain cover it was someone's house.

Would breaking a window and then being absolved of all responsibility be okay? Should there not be a middle ground where nobody is solely at a loss.

Perhaps the breaker could pay for part of the new window? Perhaps the city could pay for the window as appreciation for the effort of saving one of their citizens?

Perhaps here instead of stealing, the bread could be loaned, or sold at a cheaper price to those in need.

Do you see what I am saying here?


The fed has said that they use monetary policy to help “labor adjust to market forces.” This is what inflation does. It weakens the buying power of wage earners. Do it slowly enough and they won’t notice it happening. Our ancestors who fought in the labor movement for significant concessions from the capitalist class must be rolling in their grave at the state of the proletariat today. Promoting globalization while not also requiring counties we trade with have equivalent labor laws is just insane, yet people seem to love the idea of globalization and inflation. All I can do is shake my head.


> Promoting globalization while not also requiring counties we trade with have equivalent labor laws is just insane

This should be an ideal, and I think we can agree on some basic level of human rights (no forced labor, for instance). But refusing to deal with countries who don’t adhere to our moral code would just lead to a bigger bifurcated market. As examples, we did this to Cuba and North Korea, yet neither of them have changed to meet our demands. Short story is that boycotts have limited power when the group you’re boycotting has an alternative.


Isn't there a salient difference between boycotting and not-enabling? I can understand your point that a boycott is not necessarily the tool to bring about change.

However, as China has so amply shown, there is a recipe they pioneered that others can now follow to engage globalization's benefits without dragging in the accompanying democratization precepts. In light of that, it is far from clear that globalization from now on will bring about the kinds of change liberal democracies desire to see. There may even be an argument to be made that China is leading the way to demonstrate how to co-opt most of the benefits of globalization, while blocking every attribute they deem subversive.

So if globalization has become just another tool to accelerate despotic/adverse power consolidation (and there is an argument to be made that there is adverse power developments even in "advanced" economies from globalization), boycotts aren't about/solely a moral action, and add a dimension as a realistic response to avoid further anti-pattern enablement.


I agree we shouldn’t directly sponsor immoral behavior.

I think we were naïve to believe that globalization would automatically expand democratic government, but don’t think it will automatically lead to a despotic one, either. A moral code exists on top of whatever form of commerce you engage in.


I suspect boycotts galvanize tyrants. They need an "us versus them" narrative to justify their actions and prosecution of their enemies. It provides a wonderful scapegoat for domestic issues too-- I suspect the Cuban government could write off mediocre economic growth for years as "hey, the biggest most obvious trading partner won't deal with us."

It's a lot harder to get people rallied against an "enemy" who supplies your food/favourite consumer goods.


> Requiring trade with countries with equivalent labor laws

That's impossible IMO.

A) Labor laws reflect local requirements, e.g. the agricultural / fisheries sector won't benefit from rigid work hours.

B) Labor is affected by more than laws, e.g. a weak currency affect the affordability of imports more than minimum wage.

C) Transshipment, e.g. Singapore / Vietnam makes skirting trade restrictions trivial.


Inflation? What's that? The inflation rate has been the lowest it's been since the early 1960s.

There's an inflation-unemployment trade-off. You want to ensure that there's never any inflation? Get used to regular periods of 10% unemployment.


It's time to rejoice then. We have deflation and stagnating wages at the same time.


Why is this being downvoted? I can see discussion growing out of this comment, and that's a good reason to not downvote.


Because it's standard inflation drivel. It's almost word to word the standard spiel that your old cranky uncle writes in their FB page. You can see the same logic with almost sentence to sentence several times a day in reddit discussions. Incidentally both left and right ideologues use the same reasoning.

It attributes too much blame for the monetary system, never attempting to quantize how much the alleged harm is caused by monetary system. If you dwell even little deeper you discover that it's not even wrong. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong


The original article can be described as "standard spiel that your old cranky uncle writes in their FB page"?


Upvotes & downvotes here utterly mean nothing and often are mean-spirited and/or impulsive.

As a result, people become increasingly entrenched in using votes to promote certain ideologies or norms and attempt to hide or obscure competing or contrary views, often without even thinking, just party politics applied to every distinct idea spectrum.


People who support pro inflation monetary policy think they know more than those of us who still value the Austrian school of economics. They treat Keynes as settled fact.


Oh, if you want to go that route, you shouldn't just rail against inflation. You should demand proper deflation. See https://mises.org/library/less-zero-case-falling-price-level...

You seem to hold a very curious combination of opinions? In favour of globally regulating labour markets (and threatening trade restrictions to enforce that), but also in favour of Austrian economics?


It pretty much is settled fact. There were some hold-outs, but we recreated the conditions of the Great Depression, and then we had a crash as large as the Great Depression. Countries pursued more or less Keynesian policies in response, and the countries that pursued the most Keynesian policies recovered the fastest. It's as close to an experimental test of Keynesianism as we're ever likely to see, and it came out in favor of Keynesianism.


Or maybe the Austrian economics fans are downvoting you for your suggestion of labor protectionist policies.


> Promoting globalization while not also requiring counties we trade with have equivalent labor laws is just insane, [...]

The American economy already suffers enough from having lots of complications like banning of low paying jobs.

No need to make their lives even harder and stop trading with them. Trade is good for everyone involved.


Its often forgotten that it was the liberal consensus that grew during the seventies out of an aversion for gunboat diplomacy, where the US as global policeman was forced to enforce trade of resources vital to us all, that instead should be replaced by a rule-based order agreed between government elected by their people where market mechanics as information discovery inform where resources have to go.

There is a storm coming, wether it is migration, climate change or some other malthusian trap. We see these problems coming and direct resources to prevent or alleviate these ill. The old problem of "who should do what, when, how and why" is left be be decided. That is what politics is for. The self evident truth that all men are created equal, and that human-rights do not stop at the border. Where are the neocons now that we need them? To me all this talk about monitory policy and therefor bitcoin is a side-show.




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