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Jeff Deist and Stephan Livera: Swan Signal Live E34

Posted 10/22/20 by Brady Swenson

Jeff Deist, the Presi­dent of the Mises Insti­tute, and Stephan Livera, the host of the Stephan Livera Podcast, hold a fasci­nating discus­sion about Austrian Economics and Bitcoin. These are two of our gener­a­tion’s greatest Austrian economics thinkers and educa­tors.

We discuss the history of the Bretton Woods agree­ment, the IMF’s recent call for a new Bretton Woods agree­ment, the immorality of central banking, how national curren­cies increase inter­na­tional tensions, and the insid­ious rise of central bank digital curren­cies.

As always Brady Swenson, Swan’s Head of Educa­tion, hosts the lively discus­sion.

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0:00 Intro­duc­tion

2:30 History of Bretton Woods

10:31 The IMF and Bretton Woods 2.0

14:34 What would the world like on a hard money standard?

22:10 Moral compo­nent of monetary policies

29:44 What is the Cantillon Effect?

35:41 Is Bitcoin any fairer than fiat?

37:48 Do fiat curren­cies increase nation­al­iza­tion and tensions?

45:48 How does Bitcoin change the way we govern ourselves?

55:33 Central bank digital curren­cies

1:06:02 Best intro­duc­tions to economics

1:09:25 Wrap up


Brady Swenson:

That’s great work. All right. Welcome back to Swan Signal Live This is a produc­tion of Swan Bitcoin, the safest and best way to accumu­late Bitcoin with automatic recur­ring buys at swanbitcoin.com. Swan Signal Live is a weekly show. We pair up great guests for compelling discus­sions about Bitcoin and economics. I am your host, Brady Swenson, Head of Educa­tion at Swan. We have a great show for you today here with Jeff and Stephan. We’re going to get to that here in just a moment. But first, before we dive in, an exciting announced from Swan, daily bys are up and running. We’ve been running them for about a week now. We’ve rolled out to about 400 people who are on the beta list. There’s still about 1500 people left on that list to get through.

We are rolling it out slowly just to make sure every­thing’s working right, crushing a few bugs here and there, which is what we do with the beta program. We will keep rolling those out steadily, a couple hundred at a time over the next couple of weeks. If you are on that list, stay tuned, watch your inbox for an email from us. If you want to get on that list, you still can, at swanbitcoin.com/dailybuys. We are laser focused on Bitcoin, no distrac­tions from unproven alt coins. We are dedicated to coin educa­tion as well.

For example, through this show, you can help us spread that Bitcoin educa­tion by liking this YouTube video right now, if you’re on YouTube, help spread it on YouTube, get more people watching this great show with Jeff and Stephan. So, we’ll get into it now. Jeff Deist is Presi­dent of the Mises Insti­tute. The insti­tute is doing, in my opinion, heroic work. Carrying the torch for Austrian economics and teaching about what money really is. I person­ally have learned a ton from the content avail­able at the Mises Insti­tute over the past few years since I found Bitcoin. Jeff, welcome to Swan Signal Live.

Jeff Deist:

Hey, thank you very much, Brady. I appre­ciate it.

Brady Swenson:

Of course, we have Stephan Livera, host of the Epony­mous Podcast, the Stephan Livera Podcast. It’s the best Bitcoin Austrian econ podcast in the world. Of course, Swan is proud to sponsor it. Stephan, thanks for joining us today, man.

Stephan Livera:

Hey, thanks for having me, and it’s a pleasure to chat with you both, Brady and Jeff.

Brady Swenson:

All right, let’s start with this news from the IMF, all right? Bretton Woods 2.0, this call for this Bretton Woods moments, a new Bretton Woods moment. Now, I want to get into that, I want to talk about that call to action about the conse­quences of that for our present situa­tion. But for context and just for my own educa­tion, I think it would be really fun to hear you guys talk about the history of the original Bretton Woods agree­ment. Who were the key players, the competing ideas that were advocated during that several week long conclave, and then how did the dollar prevail as the monetary standard? Jeff, you want to take a first shot at that?

Jeff Deist:

Well, yeah, that’s an inter­esting question. First and foremost, we have to under­stand the Bretton Woods Agree­ment is respon­sible for a good deal of the American material abundance throughout the 20th century, and also the American military might. It was a confer­ence designed to settle the world’s monetary system and to estab­lish the dollar, essen­tially as the world’s reserve currency, whereas before, gold had been the de facto, under­lying means of settle­ment of curren­cies prior to that. The French minister Giscard d’Estaing used to call the dollar standard that came out of the Bretton Woods Agree­ment, he called it our exorbi­tant privi­lege.

What he meant was that the United States enjoyed a material benefit that it had not really earned because its currency coming out of Bretton Woods became the 800 pound gorilla in the room. What happens as with most inter­na­tional conclaves, is a restruc­turing comes out of it, and more often than not, that restruc­turing benefits the haves over the have nots.

I think we’ve seen that with dollar supremacy, and I think what the IMF is talking about doing is going to further that, but in some ways, they’re probably bad for the United States, which is a whole inter­esting other topic. But it really is something where you don’t need inter­na­tional bodies or inter­na­tional regula­tion to create a currency, you just need markets to figure it out for themselves.

I don’t like to view this so much as an inter­esting fact of history as more of an inter­ven­tion, a form of global regula­tion, and one that really pre-staged the trend of the 20th century, which was supra national govern­mental organi­za­tions.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah. In that conclave, the original 1944 Bretton Woods, as far as I under­stand it, there were two in the end, competing ideas. One was creating some sort of basket of commodi­ties or other national curren­cies called the bancor, and then the US dollar, and there was a fight between those two standards. The US dollar emerged as the victor. Was there any stories or drama, about that fight, and that battle that led to the US becoming the victor there? It seems like the more inter­na­tional approach would have been more favored. How did the US come out on top in that negoti­a­tion?

Jeff Deist:

Well, let’s not forget, we’re talking about the periods running WW2. There’s an implicit military capability that the US had, that was under­lying all of this. We also have to under­stand that two huge world wars were fought not entirely, but primarily on European soil, with all the destruc­tion that caused. The United States, other than the attack on Hawaii at Pearl Harbor, which was not yet that estate, suffered no actual loss of produc­tive capacity, and virtu­ally no loss of life at home.

In a purely military sense, at the time of the Bretton Woods Agree­ment, the United States were really militarily much stronger than the rest of the world, and frankly, this is a Europe that is worn out from suffering through two world wars, and probably looking for the munif­i­cence of the United States. We need a new inter­na­tional order, we need to get over these constant wars, we need to get over these nation­alist tensions, which Hitler exhibit, which Russia was about to exhibit.

You can under­stand the war weari­ness of the time, and you can also under­stand the power of FDR, and how the United States then… The three of us may be a little more jaundiced today, but at the time probably didn’t look like a shining city on a hill by contrast.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah. Stephan, in your studies of Austrian economics, what have you learned about the lessons to be drawn from the Bretton Woods Agree­ments, the outcomes that we’ve seen over the past, what is it now, ’60s, and the ’80s? Then we’ll get into the present and what the possible outcomes are for this Bretton Woods 2.0 specif­i­cally in this present moment.

Stephan Livera:

Yeah, sure. A couple of points that come to my mind. Well, when we think about, even look at what Mises says, he talks about how sound money is, in some sense, a similar category to other protec­tions against govern­ment tyranny. That’s how we should think of it. The practical reality in the past was when countries were irrespon­sible, they would be subject to net gold outflows, right? If they were basically spending it up a lot, then gold would be draining out of their country.

Stephan Livera:

They’re looking… If we’re zooming out, and we’re thinking, well, what are they trying to do? They’re looking for ways to remove that constraint. Gold is acting as a natural check on their ability to spend. That’s why over this last 100 years or so, it’s progres­sively taken more and more away of the role of gold, and they essen­tially were looking for ways to neuter that, and remove the constraint that it reflected on their spending, because as a politi­cian, you want to promise things and somewhat. That is, I think, the way to look at it from a very macro perspec­tive.

We have to under­stand that paper money does not just sponta­neously emerge and get used by society, it’s actually that we are forced into using it with legal tender laws, capital gains tax laws, and the like. That is the direc­tion that a govern­ment will try to push in. It’s not like there’s some deep dark conspiracy, people in the board­room. It’s more just like, it’s a conflu­ence of inter­ests. The people and the politi­cians and the people in certain large banks, it suits them to have this system. This is funda­men­tally why that’s not really reflec­tive of what the actual market of volun­tary people would have chosen.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah, absolutely. Now, I think the people in the bloated banking industry around the world, the finance indus­tries propped up by this fiat money, access to cheap money to cancel on the effects that we all know about, they don’t neces­sarily know what’s going on. They don’t neces­sarily have an under­standing in this maybe ethical objec­tion or whatever to what they’re actually involved in. But we do have the creature from Jekyll Island, the meeting of a few people, a conclave there, the results in the Federal Bank Act. We have Bretton Woods, which was a conclave of a small number of people, right?

These things do seem to start with a small number of people, and then spread out, like you said, metas­ta­size from there. Let’s take a look at the IMF Managing Director in Washington, D.C. she gave a speech about five days ago. In the speech, she said, today, we face a new Bretton Woods moment, a pandemic that has already cost more than a million lives and an economic calamity that will make the world economy 4.4% smaller this year, and strip­ping an estimated $11 trillion of output by next year, and untold human desper­a­tion in the face of huge disrup­tion and rising poverty for the first time in decades.

The speech is citing the economic shutdowns in the wake of this pandemic as the cause of this new Bretton Woods moments, this call to action. Keynes is cited twice in the speech, I think he’s the only person who’s actually quoted or cited in the speech. So, two part question, and, Jeff, I’ll start with you. One, how would the situa­tion be different if the world was on a sound money standard? How would this present situa­tion that we’re in, these economic shutdowns, how would the world be prepared and then react to this situa­tion?

Jeff Deist:

Yeah. Well, first, we probably wouldn’t have an IMF, because people would be using gold and creepy, self-appointed NGO bureau­crats like her would have to find honest work. That’d be nice. But look, if Bretton Woods repre­sented in effect, the end of gold, really, in a sense, World War I repre­sented the end of gold. But if we imagine that the Bretton Woods period repre­sented the end of gold, the begin­ning of the fiat era, western govern­ments took advan­tage of that fiat era over the last 100 years, and they whipped their curren­cies, they whipped him, they whipped him like a racehorse, they got every­thing they could out of them. Western govern­ments were able to create vast entitle­ment states. One Western govern­ment in partic­ular, the United States was able to go on military excur­sions that it couldn’t pay for via taxes, and it really created a century of fiat and all the things that come from that. All kinds of fiat indus­tries as a result.

Now, it seems like we’re at a tipping point, and these IMF types, they love to announce the new paradigms, the new shifts, because they imagine that they’re the ones who are going to run these shifts. I think what we’re talking about now is going from a pure fiat, which is still somewhat nation­al­ized, although dominated by the United States into more of a consol­i­dated fiat, which may, in fact, be digital, which may or may not take the form of special drawing rights, or some other super currency.

The IMF is positioning itself to be the central banker’s central bank. In other words, the original notion behind the Federal Reserve, at least osten­sibly, was that it would be the bankers bank, and it would backstop the national banks in America. Well, now we have an Inter­na­tional Bank backstop to all the different central banks.

That’s what the IMF wants to be. That’s how it sees itself. This is the new era, and I think, in a sense, Bitcoin is a project aimed at offering an alter­na­tive and a diver­sion to this, because whether we like it or not, there is a feeling of inevitability to what the IMF is doing. Because if you look at all these different countries issuing currency, you look at all these sover­eign debt crises, which happened during 2007, 2008. Individual countries are not just issuing currency, and fiat, they’re also issuing debt. They’re all doing so willy nilly, and now there is an inter­na­tion­alist or globalist argument to say, well, gee whiz, we have all these indepen­dent actors pursuing their own immediate, short-term, self-interest, it’s chaotic. Because curren­cies like the United States dollar are so ubiqui­tous, if they go south, every­body gets sick.

There­fore, it makes sense to have an inter­na­tional regula­tory agency. That’s where I think they’re going. People like that Buchanan, people like James Rickards have been talking about this for a long time.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah. Stephan, let’s assume for a moment in a much different and obviously prefer­able world, that we have some sound money standard that came out of Bretton Woods. We agreed instead of the dollar that we were trusting you as govern­ment to retain on a gold standard, that we had some sort of, I don’t know, less easy to centralize gold standard, inter­na­tion­al­ized, and it was still present today. How would that situa­tion be different, or how would our situa­tion now be different on a sound money standard, do you think? The reaction to it, and just the way that it’s playing out?

Stephan Livera:

As if we were to go back to gold today kind of thing?

Brady Swenson:

No, if we had already been on it, and we have this pandemic situa­tion. How would it be different, the response to it would be?

Stephan Livera:

I think high level, one way to think of it is, if you remove that constraint of the check that gold repre­sented, govern­ments are able to more easily expand their power. It’s probably also true to say that govern­ments were able to enact a lot of the things they did during this recent COVID hysteria, a lot of that was because they were so much more powerful, and had so much more of an enforce­ment arm of the state to be able to do all of these different things.

Absent this huge funding advan­tage that they have had, the existence of these cheap debt markets, the ability for them to easily fund their projects by basically pushing the cost to the future. Many of the things that govern­ments are doing today, yes, we all as taxpayers will be paying for that, but not just us, it’ll be our children, and maybe even our grand­chil­dren who are paying for that. How else can you push that cost on to people then to have an easily avail­able debt market that would not have existed so easily? It wouldn’t have been so easy for them to do these kinds of things.

Also, I think it’s been a bit of a corrup­tion of educa­tion also. A lot of people have been propa­gan­dized into believing that the govern­ment can stop this thing. There’s been a very strong focus. It’s been almost this idea that if something went wrong, the politi­cians should have done something about it, and that they could have done something about it. Whereas maybe another alter­na­tive perspec­tive is more like, look, this thing is just going to happen, we just have to best manage to the extent that we can, rather than thinking, oh, I can manage every little case, and I can contact trace every little person who’s got it.

It’s like this false pretense. It’s like a pretense of knowl­edge, to use the term that Hyack would use. It’s a massive pretense. They’ve been able to maintain a pretense, partly because of the fiat money standard that we live on today, as opposed to, let’s say, a gold or a Bitcoin standard, if we were to live under that kind of standard.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah, it’s a conceit, right? It’s a conceit that, first of all, the central banking is a conceit that humans can better manage money than just letting the economy, the free market run on itself, or have a free market money. I see a similar concede on just central­ized reactions to crises like this. But people will push back and say like, all right, well, if we didn’t have access to all that cheap debt, how would we be able to recover from the devas­ta­tion of a World War II, or of a global pandemic? Wouldn’t it be 10 times worse if central banks didn’t have these monetary policy tools, and the fiscal tools of govern­ments combined with monetary tools of central banks, wouldn’t it be a lot worse? What would you say to that?

Stephan Livera:

Yeah, that’s a great point. The way normally to counter that is to think about, for example, the point that someone like Guido Hulsmann would make in infla­tion and liberty, he would say, “Well, hold on a second. If we’re going to be going through this defla­tionary environ­ment, it’s not that the produc­tive resources of society are being destroyed. In the case of a war, yes, they are liter­ally being destroyed. But absent that, it’s the houses and the computers and the cranes, and the construc­tion equip­ment and whatever, it still exists, it’s just a question of who owns them, and where it’s being coordi­nated in the economy.”

Really prices and the market test is essen­tially what helps coordi­nate these different resources in society. It’s not that we needed more money to be created, it’s that we needed to allocate those resources in a more effec­tive way. As those of us from the more free market schools of economics believe that, well, you need the prices to allocate that capital more effec­tively, and not just in the here and now, but also across time to help the struc­ture of that produc­tion. I think that’s how we would typically respond on that kind of point.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah, Jeff, do you have anything to add on to the answer to that question of push back, which I hear from friends and family when I talk about a sound money standard and Bitcoin.

Jeff Deist:

Well, yes. Sometimes the fiscal and monetary tools you mentioned do give govern­ments the ability to push pain off into the future. But is that what we want? Do we want future gener­a­tions or even ourselves 10 or 20 or 30 years from now to have a drag on, is almost like debt that we run out and incur? Is that really what we want, or do we want to pull the band aid off quickly, and allow defla­tion to give us a painful reces­sionary year or two, a restruc­turing of assets, a repricing of assets, new owner­ship, new boards of direc­tors, new manage­ment, whatever it takes, and get back to having an economy with a firmer footing?

I would argue that, yes, that is what we’d want. But that requires something called low time prefer­ence, and it also requires people who have a less polit­ical view of the world. In other words, is awfully hard to run for office promising pain, right?

In the United States, Jimmy Carter famously tried to do that in ’70s, and he was wearing a sweater in front of the fireplace, and everyone turn your thermo­stat down, and save energy. Everyone in America is like, screw that we’re Ameri­cans, let’s crank the heat, come on. We never sacri­fice, we want it all. This spreads throughout society in a lot of perverse ways.

There’s a moral and cultural compo­nent to how we operate monetary policy, I hope we get into that a little bit. It sends all kinds of tremors throughout the economy, it’s awfully hard to know. But, whenever it comes to a question of pain now versus pain later, I think we should always choose now.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah, I think… The problem is then, once you kick the can down the road enough, and you’ve been doing this 50 years, then the pain gets more and more and more, because you pushed that pain to other gener­a­tions. How long can you do that? This is what Austrian econo­mists, gold bugs have been talking about for so long, and now Bitcoiners are learning about, is when does that come due? When does that bill come due? Events like World War II or a global pandemic seemed to bring that bill forward, even more than the spending does, right? Well, because it results in spending.

But let’s talk about the moral and ethical compo­nent of these monetary policies. Jeff, you brought it up, it’s a topic that I think is extremely impor­tant. Our friend, Robert Breedlove, who calls it time theft, when he’s talking about the ethical impli­ca­tions of monetary policy. Please, give us your thoughts on the ethics of monetary policy.

Jeff Deist:

Yeah, such a huge topic. First of all, if science continues to find new devel­op­ments, and life expectancy, at least for some lucky people on earth continues to expand, and we’re living 100 years plus, that affects every­thing. To me, that should make us even more long term oriented, because we’ve got longer lifes­pans and hopefully, a healthier last 20 or 30 years of our lives. We’re going to individ­u­ally need more money and savings, and we’re going to need to work longer, but collec­tively, as a society, we’re going to need that too.

That’s first and foremost, we have to be thinking in terms of a long term future. That’s the opposite of what govern­ment and central bankers do, they encourage us to think only in short term, and only as a policy applies to a certain group. Right now, Joe Biden is going to raise my taxes or whatever it might be. That’s the kind of thinking that prevails.

The ethical compo­nent of it is obvious. Hopper writes a lot about this, he says, saving money, putting aside capital, rather than consuming it, initi­ates the engine of civiliza­tion. That’s something Bitcoin attempts to do by having a hardness which means that the value of the currency is going to increase in the future, relative to goods and services, you can purchase with it, or clearing house, whatever you assign to Bitcoin. It’s in my interest to hold on to it, rather than get rid of it now.

That’s the idea that the harder money is, the more disci­pline it imposes on society, and that there’s a moral compo­nent that a lot of people hate hearing that sort of language. They don’t want to enter­tain any concep­tion of morality or ethics in govern­ment policy, certainly not in monetary policy. That’s inter­esting that that’s viewed as right wing crankary? But if you look at the kind of things the IMF says, how come all of their mission creep is viewed as left wing crankary? All of a sudden they’re talking about well, we’re the IMF, but we need to be involved in climate change and racism and gender equality, and all these other things. It’s like, what does that have to do with the IMF? I thought you guys were like a central bank for the world? I thought you guys were helping African countries grow crops or something? Well, all of a sudden you’re in terms of climate change?

You can’t escape ethics. I’ll use ethics instead of morality, because I think it’s a term we can grasp a little easier, and it is maybe less subjec­tive, less individ­u­al­ized. You can’t escape it. No matter how much we don’t want to admit it, there are winners and losers in these policies that our central banks pursue. We ought to be clear eyed about it, we ought to fess up to it. I think more than anything, we ought to point out what I would consider almost the crimi­nality of it.

Stephan Livera:

Yeah. I want to add to that, as well, I think, essen­tially, living under a fiat money, it takes away a lot of the constraints that normally would exist. We stopped thinking about planning for our own retire­ment, we stopped thinking about living in more a family environ­ment where we look after our parents or grand­par­ents, and now it’s more like, oh, okay, now there’s a big welfare state that’s been funded through fiat money. So, now, I’m less inclined to think of that. It also, in some sense, what would normally occur is that maybe over time, let’s say, we lived under a hard money standard; gold or Bitcoin, perhaps over time, people’s time prefer­ence would lower and actually the real interest rate would lower.

But really what we’re doing right now is almost like we’re faking it. We’re faking it’s a low interest rate, when really, it’s central banks, and all of these inter­ven­tions that fake having a low interest rate, which in some sense, does us no favors, because it means the entre­pre­neurs of society are planning things as though the time prefer­ence is low, when really it’s not.

That’s actually almost going the other way. Also, we’ve got to think about what fiat money does in terms of the leverage effect. It changes the game in terms of the way people invest and run their lives. A typical story will be that people will finish univer­sity and they’ll go into debt, and they’ll get a mortgage to buy a big house.

Because of the leverage effect, they have this strong incen­tive to do that, because over the course of their life, they will be repaying back in dollars that are worth less than at the start of that loan in 25 years time, right? It changes the whole game as well, it changes society. We can also think of it as it will change the way patronage works, because if you can’t so easily plan for the long term, you’re not going to be able to under­take longer projects.

Bringing it back to patronage, we can think of it like there would naturally be some kind of satura­tion point in terms of capital and projects that you can do. Because of that, histor­i­cally, we used to see this idea of wealthy benefi­cia­ries who would patronize the arts and have long term… Building big cathe­drals and big artwork and things like that, because there was a natural satura­tion point. But now in the fiat world, with leverage and you just keep going and keep going and keep going, you could argue also that it has stopped some of that patronage that would other­wise happen.

That’s why I like to talk about how when we go back to a Bitcoin standard, we’re going to bring back patronage, we’re going to have arts and rich, wealthy Bitcoiners who are patron­izing different artists and other cultural things that they would like to see.

Brady Swenson:

I like that idea. One of the reasons why on my other podcast, Citizen Bitcoin intro with The Dawn of the Bitcoin Renais­sance, and that’s one of the ideas. When you see a sound money standard, when you see debts that are actually held to repay, the debtors are held to repay­ments, and it’s not re-hypoth­e­cated over and over and over again, then you have wealth that actually builds over time. Then if you have wealth that is building for the wealthy, you’re also building that wealth for the poor. It’s getting redis­trib­uted through patronage and building businesses, and that money that the poor are making is actually worth money to gaining value, as Jeff said over time, and purchasing power.

With fiat, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. With a sound money standard, it’s true the rich might get richer, but the poor will also get richer over time and lifts every­body up. That’s why I think it makes… Bitcoin is the fairest money, and people will complain that people are early to Bitcoin, and these early adopters are going to have all the money. But that’s not how it’s going to play out. In fact, I think Bitcoin is more fair than not by far.

Jeff, what do you think about, we talk about Kantian effect in Bitcoin a lot as a way to describe the uneth­ical aspects of money produc­tion. Could you give us your descrip­tion of what the Kantian effect is if somebody out there watching, we have lots of new Bitcoiners who come to Swan. What the heck is the Kantian effect? I don’t want to gloss over that kind of thing, because it’s impor­tant. Can you describe that for us?

Jeff Deist:

Well, I guess I’d start with a famous quote from Ludwig von Mises, where he says money is never neutral. What he means by that is money never enters society all at once, distrib­uted equally among everyone numer­i­cally, or propor­tion­ally, that’s just not how it works. Even back when new money meant gold being mined and minted, or now, when new money means… To an extent currency being created physi­cally, but more likely currency being created digitally, that starts out somewhere.

For the most part in the United States anyway, it starts out at the Federal Reserve, at the Treasury, and then ultimately with Fed primary dealers, and it winds its way out into society from that. What that means, the Kantian effect, named after the econo­mist himself, is the idea that earlier recip­i­ents of new money benefit from it, whereas later recip­i­ents, which would be the poorest folks gener­ally, in society, when they finally receive or feel the effect of newly created money in the economy, they’re getting it at the tail end, they’re paying more, their savings are worth less, their paychecks worth less. So, they suffer.

If you’re, let’s say, in a private equity fund, and you’re a wealthy guy, and COVID-19 comes along, and all of a sudden, there’s a bit of a housing bust in overheated cities like Seattle, and San Francisco and New York, because a lot of the charm has gone out of those cities, when you can’t go to restau­rants and all that, well, real estate values drop, and private equity guys, who are very close to the Goldman Sachs, the invest­ment houses of the world, are able to borrow from them to finance deals and buy up a bunch of real estate very, very cheap or relatively cheap, relative to a year ago. So, they benefit early on in the process of that increase in newly created money.

So, they’re going to buy up a bunch of proper­ties. Assuming the rental markets come back, and those cities I mentioned, they’re going to benefit a lot from them. Whereas the less affluent people in New York City and Seattle and San Francisco, might ultimately find their rents rising again in two or three years, but their paychecks not rising.

It’s an insid­ious effect, it’s real, but like so many things, from our perspec­tive, or I would imagine the perspec­tive of the three of us is that there’s a scene in the unseen. On the fiscal side, the US Congress can create a bunch of stimulus simply by ordering the Treasury to produce new debt, and use money on programs, give that money to people basically. On the monetary side, the Fed can rapidly increase it’s balance sheet, put a lot more money with primary dealer banks, and they can leverage off of that.

But, we can see the effects of that immedi­ately. You can say there was a fiscal stimulus act, and we gave unemploy­ment benefits to many millions of Ameri­cans for weeks and weeks and weeks. As a result of that they had an extra $600 each week, and were able to pay their rent or buy food or whatever, and that’s tangible, you can put your finger on it, you can gauge it, you can weigh it, you can judge it, you can see it. But the task of social scien­tists, which includes econo­mists, is to show us the unseen.

What are the unseen effects of this new money and credit creation over time, over a long period of time, as it applies to everyone in society rather than the short term effects on just a small group of people? That’s what we face, and that’s what politi­cians use, I think very skill­fully, to gain polit­ical support, gain electoral support for stimulus.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah, Stephan, anything to add to that? How would you describe Kantian effect to a new Bitcoiner watching today?

Stephan Livera:

Yeah. I think Jeff gave a great expla­na­tion, I think really it comes down to that idea that money is not neutral. It matters where you insert it into the economy. Those people who get it first, they get a huge advan­tage. Also, another way to think of it, and a great article by Daniel Sanchez is called How infla­tion Sips your Milkshake.

You can imagine that it’s like you’ve got this milkshake, but really, the infla­tion is in there sipping also out of that same milkshake, and you are just subtly losing produc­tivity or losing purchasing power just over time. It’s hard to artic­u­late that to a new person to this, because they might only be looking at the nominal CPI rate, but what we will have to do is consider, as Jeff mentioned, the seen and the unseen.

Imagine if we didn’t live in a fiat infla­tionary world, we might have actually seen prices fall as opposed to prices… Because the baseline actually isn’t zero, because over time, technology and entre­pre­neurs are working to find ways to basically get more for less. In that world, we would expect what’s called growth defla­tion. Meaning, the purchasing power is rising over time. For the same amount of money, you should be able to buy more stuff over time.

In some way, that produc­tivity of society is being stolen from all of us collec­tively, and being directed towards the people who are more polit­i­cally connected and insider. That is one point. Actually, we got a question here in the chat from Reed. The question is, if money isn’t neutral, and Bitcoin first to miners, how would you answer the critique that Bitcoin is just as unfairly released as fiat?

It’s an inter­esting question. I think, I would say, it’s one of those things where as we speak today, the current number of bitcoins already released is something like 18.5 million of the 21 million. Most of it has already been released. Yes, it’s true to say that the miners in some sense were, I guess, recip­i­ents of a Kantian effect in the earlier years of Bitcoin and anyone who held it early, obviously, has a benefit. But I guess the main point I would come back with is that Bitcoin is like a positive sum game. You can join this game and everyone can benefit from it.

Sometimes people get this sense, sometimes it’s a common newcomer question, new coiner question is, but you guys who got into Bitcoin got it so early. Well, think about it this way. If I came to you and said, “Oh, hey, there’s this cool new technology, it’s called the internet, and by using it, you get a great benefit.” You wouldn’t say, “Oh, but I’m late to the internet. Oh, no,” No, by joining the system, by joining the Bitcoin network, in some sense, you’re still getting a huge, huge benefit out of it. The real benefit from my point of view is stopping fiat money and stopping central banking. I guess that’s how I would overall answer that point.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah, Reed, I would add to that, that, first of all if we call the issuance of Bitcoin as similar to Kantian effect, one, it’s decreasing over time, it’s getting smaller and smaller with each having, because the money issuance is decreasing. Secondly, it’s not issued by a central party. Bitcoin was avail­able to everyone equally at launch. Unlike govern­ment money, fiat money, it is only avail­able to a select few when it’s printed.

Brady Swenson:

That to me, is the major differ­ence between the issuance when you’re talking about fairness issuance of Bitcoin and fiat money. I wanted to talk about Hazlitt for a second and he brings up this point now. Now, Hazlitt was really impor­tant writing edito­rials against the ideas of the Bretton Woods Agree­ment, advocating going back to a gold standard ended after World War… Well, after FDR had confis­cated gold. He started writing for The New York Times in 1934. I learned all this by the on the Mises Insti­tute, so you should go read the Mises Insti­tute.

Was writing for The New York Times. It was later collected into a book. He was writing under the New York Times Penlight, the edito­rial board. No one really knew who was writing this stuff, neces­sarily, but these letters were collected later on, attrib­uted to him. One of them he writes that, the action… Going back on a gold standard would symbolize a return to inter­na­tional collab­o­ra­tion in a world that has been steadily heading toward more and more intense nation­alism.

This was written before World War II happened. So it was quite prescient. Do you think that we’re seeing a move, and, Jeff, we’ll start with you on this one, do you think that we’re seeing a move away from inter­na­tional cooper­a­tion now? I know that the IMF obviously is just trying not to let that happen. But do you think that that is happening anyway, and do you think a move to a global sound money standard would help stave off the poten­tial risks of increasing the nation­alist world?

Jeff Deist:

Well, they’re terri­fied of it, I think that’s true. What we’ve seen with the Euro is when you try to yoke a bunch of countries together under a single currency, and that currency is fiat, rather than chosen. In other words, gold was the universal currency. The market­place chose that, the world used it, and it worked quite well. But when you force people polit­i­cally under an arrange­ment, whereby they all share the same fiat currency, it actually has inflamed, I would argue, nation­alist tensions since World War II.

In other words, 30 years ago before the Euro, maybe the Germans joked about the Greeks being a little lazy, and maybe the Greeks joked about the Germans being a little uptight. But that was that, people under­stood the differ­ences. But when they’re brought together under the Euro, and then on top of that, they continue to have their own individual central banks issuing sover­eign debt as opposed to just Euro bonds, that’s a recipe for disaster. I think that disaster actually exacer­bates tensions throughout Europe. I think we’ve seen that. I think the dollar reserve status exacer­bates tensions between the United States and the rest of the world, because they under­stand that we’re able to spend profli­gately and have military adven­tures that in a sense they’re paying for because they own so many dollars on their own balance sheets.

I don’t think fiat curren­cies have done much to soothe tensions, or nation­alist impulses amongst countries. I think if anything, it makes people suspi­cious of each other because they get a sense, they may not under­stand it fully, but they correctly sense that something’s being rigged. The IMF creating some sort of global world reserve currency would be the ultimate rigging. I think if that meeting were to happen, if this proposed Bretton Woods type agree­ment were to happen, I think you’d have to look very carefully at the players involved. The location of the meeting, who is involved, who is behind the scenes, because I think, people are going to under­stand that winners and losers come out of that.

Are third world countries going to be absolved of a lot of their debt in such a meeting, or are they going to remain on this hamster wheel of constant repay­ments? Is the United States going to remain the king of the world in the monetary sense, or is the rest of the world, especially the BRICS going to get what it’s always been wanting, which was, to topple the dollar, and put the inter­na­tional economy on a more fair footing.

It’s very, very fraught, and this kind of thing can’t be done without polit­ical intrigue. I don’t know how you would do it. I don’t know who you would trust to make this process fair or trans­parent or anything else. The IMF and other NGOs, other supra­na­tional organi­za­tions, they’re always talking about a global order. They make it sound like it is the antithesis of a nation­alist order. But at the end of the day, if you look at the 20th century, if you look at the second half of the 20th century, you look at the begin­ning the 21st, I don’t think it’s working.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah, that’s great. Stephan, I’m going to kick over this half of the question to you, do you think a return to a sound money standard, if we concede that gold is not a viable option for reasons of confis­ca­tion risk, and basically states able to co-opt it through hoarding. Would you say, let’s say, a world on a Bitcoin standard would help stave off the risks of nation­alism? If the risks of nation­alism are war, and disagree­ments and trade wars and hard wars, hot wars, et cetera, do you think a Bitcoin standard would alleviate those concerns somewhat?

Stephan Livera:

I think the point would be that it costs a lot of money to go to war and to sustain a war, and there’s a lot of things that go into that. It takes a lot of propa­ganda to make people hate non-elite people of one country want to go kill non-elite people of some other country. How do you do that? Well, takes a lot of propa­ganda, takes a lot of funding, how do you fund that? Typically, people, I think histor­i­cally might have been more… They might have been more gung ho at the start of a war, but after a while, after they’ve seen people, their family or friends die, and horrific things of war, they don’t want to keep it going.

Ultimately, it’s about how would you fund that kind of thing? I think it comes back to that point we were talking about earlier about having cheap debt, basically, that allows the govern­ment to sustain these projects so that they can pay the massive bill that comes for that kind of thing. Ultimately, having a better money would hopefully facil­i­tate more trade, and actually, I think this might be Hazlitt who made this, I think he made the point, when goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will. Or it might have been Bastiat actually.

But never­the­less, the point remains that if we have a better money, then hopefully then that means it will be easier for people to trade and get what they want from that, as opposed to trying to go to war about it. I think one other point as well, that fiat money has enabled is very much an entitle­ment culture, and that’s going to be diffi­cult, because a lot of politi­cians are going to be stuck between, even if they wanted to try to return to a sound money explic­itly, there’s going to be some initial pain because someone somewhere is going to not get paid back, they’re going to have to not receive some, “entitle­ment” that they think they deserve, or someone somewhere is going to get screwed out of, let’s say, their bond holder, and now they’re not going to get paid back honestly, they’re only going to get paid back in more inflated fiat money. So, their purchasing power that they’re actually getting back is much worse. It’s like a default in another name.

There are some inter­esting impli­ca­tions to come of this kind of thing, and we’ll see what happens with central bank digital curren­cies and things like that, that are most likely coming.

Brady Swenson:

Yes, we’re going to talk about central bank digital curren­cies. But I want to wrap this up first with one question. Matt Snow asked this in YouTube, and it’s similar to the one that I had on deck. How do we govern ourselves? How does a Bitcoin standard a global Bitcoin standard change the way that we govern our society legally, morally, ethically? Matt phrases it like this, do you believe Bitcoin will success­fully transi­tion the world towards a decen­tral­ized govern­ment or anarcho-capitalism? Jeff, what do you see in that regard? It’s a big question. I know, it’s a lot of specu­la­tion.

Jeff Deist:

Yeah, that’s a big question. Could I do the time honored tradi­tion of answering the question I want to answer instead of the question that’s asked?

Brady Swenson:


Jeff Deist:

That’s my favorite technique. No, I under­stand the question, and I think the question as stated by Matt Snow with the grateful dead thing there, the answer is no. The answer is no, and here’s why. My impres­sion of Bitcoin people has a filter, and that filter is basically what I’ve experi­enced at a couple of confer­ences, and on Twitter. We all have our super­fi­cial level, which we see the world. That’s how I see the Bitcoin world, that’s been the extent of my involve­ment, and then also a personal friend­ship with Saifedean.

I think a lot of Bitcoiners need to grow up. The world around you matters very much. Bitcoin is not enough. Even if Bitcoin is wildly successful, it’s not enough. You have to live with your physical body, your corpo­real body in an analog world someplace. Even if Bitcoin is essen­tially non-confis­cat­able, even if you can’t impose capital controls over it, even if you can’t seize it, you still have to be somewhere, you still have to get calories in your body, kilowatts of energy into your abode. You have to have some sort of physical security. You have to live somewhere.

Human beings can always be confis­cated, right? Even when someone had an airtight wealth protec­tion plan, in the old days, a Swiss bank account, maybe some offshore holdings in the Caymans, they think no matter what happens to me, I can flee and I’ve got a few million dollars in Switzer­land or whatever it might be. Okay, that’s great. But, if you’re coming back to the US into an airport, and you’re seized by author­i­ties, then all the Bitcoin in the world isn’t going to help you.

The point is that you have to care about the culture and the economy and the govern­ments surrounding all of this. You can’t just sit back and chuckle and say, it doesn’t matter if the world burns because I’ve got a bunch of Bitcoin, it does matter. It does matter if there’s literal warring, it matters if states are oppressing people, because at some point, despite all the things that Bitcoin encour­ages, which is the creation of capital, you still need produc­tion. To have a good life, you need a lot of other people, complete strangers to get up in the morning and produce stuff so you can have a Cadillac Escalades, or you can have a nice condo in Sydney or whatever it is that you want out of life. That requires a lot of trust, and it requires a lot of produc­tion by other people.

What govern­ments and central banks and these crazy people that hold so much power in places like the IMF, what they’re doing is still going to matter. Sometimes I get a little tired of the Bitcoin mentality that Bitcoin holders are going to be able to skate away from all of this. I don’t think that’s the case.

Brady Swenson:

Events will change if we’re on a sound money standard. Obviously, like Stephan said, profli­gate spending will decrease and less likely to have wars, et cetera, which is a great point. Do you think though that we’ll see more decen­tral­iza­tion as opposed to the central­iza­tion of federal power, that trend that we’ve seen, basically, since the founding of the country, really. Do you think we’ll see a decen­tral­iza­tion trend maybe back toward more of a republic, state power, city power, or county power, et cetera?

Jeff Deist:

I don’t think they’ll ever give up that kind of control willingly. It takes some sort of crash, or some sort of real ugliness, hopefully, not a war of any kind. But, they’re either going to try to co-op Bitcoin, or if I were a central banker, I’d be buying as much Bitcoin as I could right now and holding it on the central bank’s balance sheet just did with gold. If I were a central banker, or at least in a relatively prosperous country, I’d buy all the Bitcoin I could at any price, because that’s how you co-opt and control something and bring it under your control.

No, I don’t think the powers that be in any Western countries are just going to sit back and say, you know what, Bitcoin came along, and it’s better than our money, and people have adopted it, and there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s not something they’re ever actively going to say. They’re going to fight it tooth and nail, and you got to view it that way, and you have to say that none of this might benefit us. It might benefit our kids or grand­kids, it might be a long way off. But it’s not about whether they fight it, it’s about whether it’s just inevitably better. There’s lots of things that have been fought by govern­ments, but still over time, they ultimately prevail, because, maybe on some level, human beings are just sensible enough to stop fighting and want more prosperity among themselves.

I think you got to be hopeful, but be hopeful about the right people. Don’t be hopeful about sociopaths, just try to get them at arm’s length.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah. Stephan, I know, you’ve thought about this, I wonder if you have any slightly different takes on how a Bitcoin standard might affect the way we govern society now?

Stephan Livera:

Sure. Certainly, Bitcoin is not the only thing, there are lots of technolo­gies that will be required. I think, my view is something like we will see, over a longer time, Bitcoin plus other technolo­gies that will enable people to slowly reduce the power of the state, even if they can’t entirely elimi­nate it. They’ll start to do things like move overseas, or they’ll start to do things like, eventu­ally start trying to change the way that govern­ments… By changing the way govern­ments are funded, they effec­tively reduce some of the size of the state. But it’s going to take some time, there’s going to be some fighting, some govern­ments will fight it. I think it’s a patience thing, but it’s also a recog­ni­tion that this is a funda­men­tally game changer technology.

I think, over time, it’ll get to a point where, for example, more people can work remotely, people can start going to, for example, working in lower tax juris­dic­tions, and maybe that is a longer term phase or transi­tion process that people can go through such that we may eventu­ally end up with something closer to small city states, that are still a govern­ment, but just maybe less restric­tive on people’s lives. They’ll probably be, obviously, still large states as well, but there might be more options in terms of small city state places that offer something… An idea I’m thinking about here something like Free Private Cities by Titus Gebel or Charter Cities, things like that, that perhaps those ideas become a little bit more feasible over the coming, call it decades that give people some options.

But certainly, I think it is also impor­tant to point out that polit­ical philos­ophy and ideology, these things also matter. The way people think about things. Because other­wise, with technology, you can go the other way as well, it can become a technoc­racy. It can become more like, oh, we can manage. We have all this crazy technology. So, now we can manage things better. It matters whether people funda­men­tally believe you have the rights to your own body and your own life and the fruit of your own labor and so on. As opposed to someone who’s coming more from a perspec­tive that’s more a collec­tivist view of we should use central bank digital curren­cies to control the economy. You have these more top down, author­i­tarian style. Whether it’s a social credit system or a vaccine control or things like that, that is an element that people still have to want some freedom.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah, I hear you. Maybe Bitcoin will help people in that effort to try to win back some more freedom. But I agree with Jeff, that you’re not going to see a funda­mental change in the inertia of the way the world is governed anytime soon or quickly. I do think that the money is the basis of the civiliza­tion, and we will see some changes over time, and I think they’ll be positive.

Let’s talk a little bit about central bank digital curren­cies. We know China’s testing theirs. We have digital curren­cies already, obviously. We have old rails that are being used, and maybe this will make things more efficient. I think the big thing to talk about out is the merging of the monetary policy with the fiscal policy. Basically, central banks take the role of govern­ment to control fiscal policy in directly issuing money to citizens, to businesses, and basically being able to have a scalpel with monetary policy more than they do now. That’s my main concern. Jeff, do you have concerns, do you share that concern or any other concerns about central bank digital curren­cies?

Jeff Deist:

Well, something like 70% or 80% of all US dollars produced today are digital. So, we already have digital currency. The idea that Bitcoin is somehow scary, because it’s digital is absurd. If you’re using fiat every day with your bank card or whatever, you’re already using a digital currency, it’s just a bad one produced by your govern­ment. I do think it’s a concern because it makes central banks a little nimbler, and it would make central banks and treasuries and politi­cians and cops more capable of shutting you off with a flip of a switch maybe, or seizing you with the flip of a switch and really shutting down your economic life. That’s a little bit of a concern.

But my larger concern, and I’ve talked to Caitlin Long about this, she’s creating a full reserve private digital bank in Wyoming and helping foster some new crypto friendly laws there. Is that I don’t want third parties from the invest­ment banking world getting involved. I don’t want the Goldman Sachs of the world. I’m as worried about them as I am about actual central banks, because to me, they’re basically the first cousins. It’s a revolving door between the Fed the Treasury and Goldman Sachs, and there’s a reason for that.

They would love to get in probably on what they still see as the early stages of Bitcoin and other cryptos and control it that way. It’s concerning, it’s definitely a concern. But look, MMT, the financing of govern­ment activ­i­ties, expen­di­tures by direct creation of money is basically happening to an extent now in the United States. Now, we don’t have what they used to call green backers, which was where Congress before a central bank simply told the Treasury, you print up some money and go spend it on this program, we’re not going to tax people, just create it.

Green­backers never quite prevail, but what we have is a form of Ersetzt Green­back­erism, where Congress autho­rizes expen­di­tures for which it does not have the money. The Treasury goes out and prints bond debt, that bond does get bought up on private markets, but always with the implicit backstop that the central bank will come buy it. Indeed, the central bank since QE started, the crash of 2007 has indeed bought a lot of that debt. It’s a little more circuitous. There’s a few more steps than simply printing up money. But that’s effec­tively what Congress does.

This last fiscal year, which just ended at the end of September, about three weeks ago, Congress spent about twice as much as it brought in taxes. We had a three point something trillion dollar single year deficit. That’s effec­tively half of every­thing the federal govern­ment did last year was financed using debt. That’s awfully close to what the MMTers argue for. Because if we can do 50%, why not 60%, why not 80%, why not 90%, why not 100%?

MMT just contem­plates using taxes not to raise revenue, but as a tool to either put the brakes on the economy or heat up the economy. This is obviously crazy. There’s a great article by Bob Murphy at mises.org, which really gives a thorough­going review not only of MMT as a concept, but also a book written by Professor Stephanie Kelton, which came out earlier this year, called The Deficit Myth, and it’s all about why deficits don’t matter, and we can just… Govern­ments have unlim­ited money, as long as they’re sover­eign, they can just create it, and fund any kind of project or entitle­ment you might want.

As long as there’s not infla­tion, no problemo. If there is infla­tion, just raise taxes. This kind of simpleton argument, I think, is highly attrac­tive to a lot of people, a lot of Bernie bros, a lot of people across the west are starting to believe in this. In a weird way, it’s actually brought some new light to the Austrian school because they think that they are debunking an old, outmoded, 1800s way of thinking, just like Bitcoin has brought a lot of atten­tion to the Austrian School.

It’s real, and I actually welcome it, because I think we ought to get down to it, I think we ought to get down to brass tacks to what govern­ments really want to do, which is just print up money and spend it at will, and let’s examine that, and let’s show the public what that really is in its naked form. Let’s not hide it with this circuitous process I mentioned. All of this is, I think, at play. I think having a central bank currency become digital, just makes all of this a little easier for good or bad.

Brady Swenson:

Fasci­nating comments. Lots to chew on there. Stephan, I’d love to get your reactions.

Stephan Livera:

Yeah, sure. I think I agree with what Jeff was saying, I think we are going to see the central banks of the world play copycat. They’re going to try and say, “Well look, the world’s going digital, we’re just going to make our own central bank digital currency.” It won’t be that much of a change in all things said, because really, they’re not going to copy the scarce limit of Bitcoin, they’re just going to be basically recre­ating the current system, but into their own propri­etary system.

Whether that means the central bank is admin­is­tering it themselves, or whether they are still pushing that out to say commer­cial banks and other retail banks to manage the system that they create. It is funda­men­tally not going to change much in terms of which medium of exchange has a predictable supply cap, for instance. What we are going to see is a lot more technoc­racy. We’ll start seeing these things like, oh, this kind of spending is not allowed with this central bank digital currency.

Over time, we’re seeing the war on cash happen. They’re taking away the ability for people to use cash notes, to be able to try and spend things in some semblance of privacy. What do you look at? Well, it’s like the war on cash trend is happening. But at the same time, more and more people are going to… Because of that, they’re going to learn about Bitcoin, they’re going to start looking at options.

It’s just going to be another vector for censor­ship, it’s going to be effec­tive for money printing, we’re just going to see a lot more… I think in a word, it’s technoc­racy. We’re going to see this kind of, “I can centrally manage every­thing.” Also, one other point to bring up is, I really like the point in that article that Jeff was mentioning by Bob Murphy, which is that some of these MMT people are operating under this frame of mind that, oh, every­one’s just always going to use the US dollar. So, fine. But the point he’s making is hold on, remember, it’s only if you are the one being able to print more dollars that everyone else uses.

But what’s the point here? It’s that not everyone has to use the dollars you create, and this is what happens in some of the more basket case nations, which is why I think like Argentina weren’t able to borrow in their own currency, they had to borrow in US dollars, because people didn’t trust that they would just keep printing it up.

It’s a similar kind of thing, people can just make, they can print more of their own currency, but the point is, other people will stop holding it if the infla­tion expec­ta­tions go up too much, and that’s tradi­tion­ally what we’ve seen in these high infla­tion episodes, is that at a certain point, we can’t exactly predict when that is, but at a certain point, people will sense that, okay, I’m not just going to start looking at infla­tion over the last year, I’m going to think, I’m going to predict, I’m going to try and antic­i­pate infla­tion. At that point, they’re going to start looking for options, and at that point, they’re going to start looking at Bitcoin.

Brady Swenson:

We have a free market alter­na­tive now that has a monetary policy set in stone that’s been proven over 11 years of people trying to change that, poten­tially, and proven that the notes are going to defend against that as the number one priority. 21 million is non-negotiable. Money comes down to trust, right? If people start losing trust in the dollar, there is a free market alter­na­tive, there are other sover­eign curren­cies that are probably more trust­worthy as well, over time, and those will also be in compe­ti­tion with the dollar.

I love Jeff’s point that he brought up, that MMT, he welcomes it, which makes sense, and I hadn’t really thought about it this way. But if you have both options in stark contrast to one another, you’ve really swung the pendulum all the way to this direc­tion of just absolute central­ized inter­ven­tion in monetary policy, and then you have Bitcoin, which is the exact opposite, it makes a very stark choice that might make it easier for people to under­stand and adopt Bitcoin. I love that idea.

Well, we’re about out of time. I want to finish up, Jeff, getting your opinion on a question I’m sure you’ve been asked before, many times, but let’s say that somebody wants to go down. They’ve watched this podcast or another podcast, they’ve discov­ered Bitcoin, they’ve discov­ered Austrian economics, and they want to start going down that rabbit hole. What’s your recom­men­da­tion for the first touch point for someone to start going down the Austrian rabbit hole?

Jeff Deist:

Well, that’s a good question. You mentioned Hazlitt earlier, his book, Economics In One Lesson is probably as good an intro­duc­tion, not neces­sarily to Austrian economics, but to good economics that you could want. If you go to mises.org/onelesson, spelled out slash onelesson, you can order copies of this book, you can order as many as you want. It’s a beautiful little hardcover, we just came out with, it’s entirely free. You can get as many as you want, get 10 of them, give them to your friends.

That would be an excel­lent starting point for anyone who’s truly new to thinking about economics, because the intro­duc­tion to that book explains the seen and the unseen in just something like three and a half pages. Then the chapters that follow, and it’s a slim book, it’s not going to overwhelm you. The chapters that follow, you can read them as stand­alone chapters, or give them to your friends. There’s a chapter on rent control, there’s a chapter on tariffs, there’s chapters on infla­tion.

It’s beautiful in that sense, is that if you or your friends and family are not really inclined to read a lengthy book, it’s just absolutely perfect for that purpose. I would also start with Murray Rothbard’s, What has Govern­ment Done to Our Money? Again, an even slimmer volume, less than 100 pages, you could read that on a couple hour flight. You could read that over the weekend. If you go to mises.org and just type in What Has Govern­ment Done to Our Money, you can get that for free in an HTML format.

Those would be the couple of things I would suggest for starters. If you’re inter­ested, just follow the Mises Insti­tute, follow me on Twitter and you might occasion­ally find something to click on that helps turn on a light bulb for you. Read other stuff. Go read Wealth of Nations, read Das Kapital. If you’re really a glut for punish­ment, go read Keynes’s General Theory.

I would say we’re… What really separates people who are of Austrian bent from other schools is that we read them, they don’t read us. I think that’s critical too.

Brady Swenson:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. Those are my top two choices or recom­men­da­tions as well. Stephan, do you have a third option? The next step down the rabbit hole after those two?

Stephan Livera:

Yes. Those are great choices. Typically, economics in one lesson is what I say first read, and then a nice one… If you’re inter­ested in the Bitcoin aspect of it, yeah, What Has Govern­ment Done to Our Money, The Ethics of Money Produc­tion, Defla­tion and Liberty, those are great ones to read. If you’re inter­ested in learning a bit more around the actual, how Austrian econo­mists think, I would say actually read Choice by Bob Murphy. It’s a great one in terms of giving you an easy to read version of Mises’ Human Action, if you will. Then you can work your way up to eventu­ally getting to reading the proper human action, but it’s a nice short one that gives you a nice flavor on that.

Brady Swenson:

Nice. That’s great. All right, follow these guys @mises, M‑I-S-E‑S, @jeffdeist, @stephanlivera, dropping knowl­edge on Twitter all the time. Go to mises.org and learn the Bitcoin version of mises.org, nakamotoinstitute.org, both of them contain just a ton of hours and hours of free liter­a­ture, audio formats and formats.

Do yourself a favor, learn what money really is. Become a part of this sound money revolu­tion that is really just getting started. Now that we have a horse in the race, another horse in the race that we hope that can maybe be the fastest horse in the race as PTJ, Paul Tudor Jones called it earlier this year. Thanks again, guys, really appre­ciate your time. Swanbitcoin.com, start accumu­lating that Bitcoin slowly and surely over time, it’s the safest and best way to do it. We’re doing it daily now. That’s exciting. A lot more coming down the pike too. We have some exciting announce­ments coming in the next couple of months. So, stay tuned Swan. Super excited of what’s going on. I’m swannish, feeling swannish. Thanks, everyone. Take care.

Stephan Livera:

Thank you.

Jeff Deist:

All right. Thanks, Brady.

Past Episodes

Episode 8 –Andy Edstrom and Ansel Linder

Episode 9 –Rockstar Devel­oper and Jeremy Rubin

Episode 10 – Bitcoin TINA and CK Snarks

Episode 11– Gigi and Knut Svanholm

Episode 12 –Adam Back and Preston Pysh

Episode 13 –Alex Gladstein and Matt Odell

Episode 14 –Robert Breedlove and Tuur Demeester

Episode 15 –Isaiah Jackson and Max Keiser

Episode 16 –Gigi and Udi Wertheimer

Episode 17 –Aleks Svetski and Jimmy Song

Episode 18 –Stephan Livera and Marty Bent

Episode 19 –Mark Moss and Ben Prentice

Episode 20 –Samson Mow and Parker Lewis

Episode 21–Lyn Alden and Jeff Booth

Episode 22– Robert Breedlove and Cory Klipp­sten

Episode 23 — Saifedean Ammous and George Gammon

Episode 24 –Jameson Lopp and Eric Martin­dale

Episode 25 –Preston Pysh and Andy Edstrom

Episode 26 –Lyn Alden and Nic Carter

Episode 27 — Erik Townsend and Yan Pritzker

Episode 28 — Max Keiser and Tone Vays

Episode 29 –Preston Pysh and Andy Edstrom

Episode 30–Raoul Pal and Vijay Boyapati

Episode 31–Dan Tapiero and Dan Matuszewski

Episode 32–Robert Breedlove and Parker Lewis

Episode 33– Danielle DiMartino Booth and Michael Saylor


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This blog offers thoughts and opinions on Bitcoin from the Swan Bitcoin team and friends. Swan Bitcoin is the easiest way to buy Bitcoin using your bank account automatically every week or month, starting with as little as $10. Sign up or learn more here.

Brady Swenson

Brady is the Head of Education at Swan Bitcoin, the best place to buy Bitcoin with easy recurring purchases straight from your bank account. Brady also hosts Citizen Bitcoin, a podcast focused on documenting his journey learning Bitcoin, featuring some of the biggest names in the Bitcoin world.

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