Thursday, September 15, 2011

National debt Jan 2010 - Sept 2011

Click to enlarge

This graph shows the U.S. national debt from Jan 2010 to Sept 14, 2011. Viewing it with the eye it looks exponential or worse. In fact an exponential regression would suggest that the growth is worse than exponential.

Some people will say that the nominal debt is not important. They will argue that it is the debt to GDP ratio that is important. If we were to compute debt to GDP ratio it would also be increasing. The U.S. economy hasn't grown that much this decade. It is better to consider the nominal debt when considering inflation that eats away at the savings of so many people.

Bitcoin security

One major drawback of bitcoin is the technology level that's required from it's users. Now it's not that hard to download the client. But the average user will have difficulty figuring out what to do next. Coinpal was a way around this problem, but alas paypal closed this business model.

My experience was grand. I bought bitcoins with coinpal and was playing poker that evening. I used the bitcoin faucet as a test of the client, but it was not enough to play poker. I still had to deal with issues of downloading the whole block chain. In a world where everything is instantaneous. I had to learn about, and wait on, confirmations.

I then learned about the bitcoin over the counter market. Luckily I had used PGP encryption before. That got me on the web of trust, witch is quite useful if you want to deal in medium size transactions quickly. There I was a target of a scam. Someone proposed going into business. I asked for a business plan, and never got one. This was clearly suspicious, and I halted communication. Only later did I hear that the scammer did take advantage of someone. I felt bad, and tried to announce to the room that there was a scammer. The scammer had not registered his identity, a clear give sign of fraud potential. The user that had been duped would have needed to issue a command to know this though. This experience is no different than real life. If you want to go into business with someone, ask for something in writing first. Make sure the business plan is sound.

When I started with bitcoins, using Mt Gox. bitcoin exchange was difficult. Especially if you wanted to turn cash into bitcoins. Today, with Dwolla, this is much easier. Mt. Gox did a good job advertising that it was the target of a phishing attack. I was humbled to be taken by such an attack. I received an E-mail that said my account was suspended. I clicked a link hoping to find out why. There I was prompted for my user-name and password, which I entered and then I saw no notice about why my account had been suspended. I thought this was funny and looked at the address bar. Oh Crap, I thought as I saw the wrong address. I knew enough to immediately change my password. I even withdrew everything for good measure. So I was not a victim, but I was close. Again, I am left with sorrow for anyone who was actually a victim of such an attack.

One development is the emergence of panhandlers on the internet. There was a random chat applet on some page where one person was asking if anyone could "spare a few bitcents." This was funny and sad at the same time. The cyber-panhandler is much easier to ignore than the real world counterpart. This is just a dynamic that bitcoin brings.

The lesson that we should take away from this is that the best security for bitcoin is learned in real life. If someone pulls you into a dark alley and asks for $25 to execute a business plan, don't give it to him. If you receive a letter requesting personal information, verify the identity of who you respond to. Bitcoin does introduce new technical difficulties, like keeping a encrypted backup wallet, increasing virus protection. However, most security situations you can protect yourself against by being observant, and judicious with your trust.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Freedom anywhere helps freedom everywhere

Freedom anywhere helps freedom everywhere. It is a statement that should motivate anyone who values their freedom. This is a statement that is agreed to by statist and libertarians alike.

An example of a statist promoting this statement happened in New Hampshire where an "expert," Ross Gittell, was brought in to discuss the impact of a sales tax in New Hampshire. His suggestion was that New Hampshire have a sales tax that is no more that half of the minimal sales tax of a bordering state. Do you see what he did there? His recommendation was lower based on the lower taxes of bordering states. More freedom in bordering states makes tyrannical recommendations less onerous. I am glad to report that Dr. Gittell's recommendations were not adopted. New Hampshire remains without a sales tax. There's a pesky meals tax of 9% on prepared food. There is no sales tax. It's hard to express how the freedom to buy something without a tax affects your psyche.

Dr. Gittell's argument works in reverse as well. Because New Hampshire has no sales tax, there is less motivation for surrounding states to raise their sales tax. The argument is that the higher sales tax encourages people to do their shopping in New Hampshire, which is counter to raising state revenue. Massachusetts once considered lowering sales tax in towns that border New Hampshire. Freedom anywhere promotes freedom everywhere.

It makes no difference how far away the freedom is obtained. Over here, we hear of offshore bank accounts, or Swiss bank accounts, although the US government has applied pressure to make Swiss bank accounts less free. Guess it works in reverse too: statism anywhere encourages statism everywhere.

What does this mean? It means that when one place obtains more freedom everyone who values freedom should rejoice. We shouldn't be upset that we don't live where more freedom is obtained. We should rejoice. In today's world maybe we should be thinking about how we can profit from this new freedom. We should be happy when apartheid falls in South Africa. We should be happy when Estonia obtains more freedom. We should be sad when Estonia joins the EU.

How should this affect our actions? It is clear, freedom should be supported everywhere. We should still do a bang for buck analysis of what we do. What do we get compared to what do we loose (money, time, etc.) When we think this way it is clear that we stand to gain the most by working locally. Also, there is the least cost associated to working locally. So freedom lovers should work locally. Now there is some opportunity for promoting liberty elsewhere, the easiest way to do that is to donate money. So if you have a lot of bucks maybe that should be considered as well. Do your homework, don't donate to an organization without vetting them first!

What "freedom anywhere helps freedom everywhere" should mean is that we should all take joy in each others' accomplishments toward freedom. If some amount of freedom is obtained somewhere, then we all gain. We should be building a supportive community globally, and celebrate freedom however and wherever it comes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Silver in New Hampshire

There are many advantages of living with people who think as you. Especially if people who think like you value trade. Sometimes people forget about the wealth that trade brings. It is trade that allows the division of labor. This is the simple idea that a shoemaker can excel at making shoes and a potato farmer can excel at growing potatoes, and through trade both the shoemaker and farmer can have both shoes and potatoes. This specialization allows for more wealth creation than the farmer making shoes, or the shoe maker growing food.

People wishing to guard their wealth from inflation may buy gold and silver. Once bought it makes more sense to trade it then to sell it back for paper money. I will describe the extent that this has happened in New Hampshire.

Not everyone in New Hampshire accepts silver, but some do. Some people accept silver for rent. The result is demand for silver. This demand, makes silver more liquid. Specific people offer good prices for silver buying and selling. People here are acting as their own bank, buying silver when there is money to save and selling it when they need money. I have traded silver for books, bookshelves, food.

The rewards for people who have bought silver have been outstanding! The price has more than doubled since 2009. This has been a big boon for silver bugs. As USD prices go up, silver prices are going down.

Now you may not be able to get all of your needs taken care of with silver. However we are creating a nice pocket of a world where silver trades with those that will take it. For example at porcfest there was one individual who refused to use federal reserve notes. He made it just fine through porcfest. An interesting dynamic that happened at porcfest was the dynamic involving Shire Silver.

Shire silver is a laminated card that contains one or five grams of silver. At porcfest gram silver pieces were selling for about $2. Some people would only accept them for spot (around $1.20 at the time.) This setup created an interesting dynamic where some vendors were getting more business because they accepted a gram as $2. You could even get a gyro for three grams and a piece of baklava as change. Porcfest is like the rest of the year in silver transactions compressed into one week.

Other silver we trade include: one ounce fine rounds, half and tenth ounce rounds, U.S. mint silver dollars, old 90% silver U.S. mint coins, including laminated dimes, shire silver, shire gold. For big items gold can be traded.

To think that only one thousand people have officially moved. As people continue to move at an increasing clip, the Free State Project is already an interesting experiment and will only become more so.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Follow me on twitter

It's time to get with the times and have a twitter feed. I did exactly that. You can follow me at:


After the bitcoin bubble

So now here we are. Bitcoin after trading below one US dollar for two years is now trading at $5. This rise in the price of bicoin is outstanding. It sure was a rocky road to get to this point.

Much of this rocky road has been due to extreme volatility of bitcoin. This year we have seen the price go up beyond $30 and be somewhat stable at $10 before this most recent drop to $5. Because of this crazy volatility of bitcoin, people may not know what to think or expect. This should not be surprising the future has been unknown for as long as there has been a future.

The question then becomes, what next? I don't think the answer can be known for sure. One could speculate that there are two major factors that will determine this answer. Security of bitcoins, and actual bitcoin to product exchange.

The topic of security has become more important as the price of bitcoin rises. As bitcoin comes into its own, we have read about more security worries. There was news of a virus that would allow theft of bitcoins. There was a significant hack at mtgox. There was an exchange that shut down under strange circumstances. All of these events attack trust in the idea of bitcoin. It should be mentioned that a lot of these security issues have been addressed and appropriate security measures have been taken. I view this as a growing pain, as there is more value to steal more resources will be devoted to stealing. New exclusive bitcoin businesses may be viewed with suspicion. Demonstrated earning of trust is the only cure for this.

I view bitcoin as already successful, as it has helped people trade over the internet. However, if bitcoin is to become a successful competitor to government currencies then it would have to be used on a wide scale, for many products and services. keeps a wiki page that is updated with new products and services that are exchanged for bitcoin. This list has been growing steadily all year. An underutilized aspect of bitcoin is employment. Bitcoin is ideal for paying people to do small jobs that can be done remotely. The labor for bitcoin market has been growing, but there is still some growing to do.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Free state review

Last year I wrote about my moving to New Hampshire. I would like to provide an update to interested parties.

I have heard some criticism of the free state project, mostly from people who don't live in New Hampshire. I was chatting with a friend when I was surprised to hear that a person who moved for the project was disappointed and was moving away. I joked with my friend: "was he not having fun?" We struggle for liberty in New Hampshire, we win, we loose, but we also have fun.

There are many aspects to the freedom and fun that we enjoy in New Hampshire: 1) Social 2) Agora 3) Political 4) Edification. Now you might not consider the political fun, but we have all types.

The social aspects of the project are absolutely wonderful. You meet some of the most dedicated folks. There is an amazing feedback loop. Your friends encourage you when you do good activism, and in turn spurs more activism. Ideas are tossed around, and good ones find support. In another post I'll give an example of the Manchester Freedom league, and how different people have spurred this idea at different times. People who have the respect of the community have a lot of resources in their friends.

With the strong friendships comes the agora. The agora refers to exchanging goods or services without the government being involved. This means no permits and no taxes. Ignoring the drug trade, the gross product of the free state agora is probably in the tens of thousands of dollars. We're on the cusp of being able to support full-time employees. A funny thing about the agora is that we have to teach each other how to be free. The state really kills creative thought, and together we spur each others' creativity.

The political activism has been slow to show rewards, but they do come. One clear victory that can be sited is the reduction of the state budget. The state budget that passed is $700 million smaller than last year. Seven hundred million in absolute terms, not a cut to some projection that can be manipulated. This represents a cut of six to seven percent. The payouts of this move will be in the years to come. There were also other victories which help change the environment in New Hampshire. Change the environment so that it is even more friendly to liberty in the future. If all successes were listed here, this article would be nothing but successes.

Edification has also been big in my life. Moving to New Hampshire has expanded my freedom. This yields the question: what will I do with this freedom? I plan to make my life better so that I can be the best person I can be. Freedom removes any excuse I may have not to be my best.