Due to popular demand, we are working on a podcast about Bitcoin. Last night, I interviewed Marc Andreessen on the subject. His v.c. firm has invested roughly $50 million in Bitcoin-related companies, including CoinBase, and they are looking for more. It was a fascinating interview, in part because Andreessen has been personally involved in so many major digital events of the past 20 years.
In light of today’s news about the meltdown of Mt. Gox, the most prominent Bitcoin exchange to date, here is a preview of a section of last night’s interview with Andreessen. His view is vigorously contra the notion that the end of Mt. Gox would mean the end of Bitcoin; in fact, he would take that as a sign of progress: Read More »
We get a lot of e-mails with requests/suggestions for podcast and writing topics. These days, the most popular request by far is for Bitcoin. I am still not sure we’ll do it but I’m thinking about it. If so, what do you want to know? Please be specific. Also: do you really care? It strikes me that, at the moment, Bitcoin is one of those things that a small number of people care about hugely but that most people couldn’t care less. (Freakonomics readers aren’t, of course, “most people.”) The rapid spikes and drops in value of course invites lots of news coverage but that is among the least-interesting aspects of a cryptocurrency, isn’t it?
Planet Money reports on the surprising destination of most U.S. $100 bills:
In fact, as of 2011, roughly two-thirds of all $100 bills were held outside the U.S., according to an estimate by Ruth Judson, an economist at the Fed.
The article explains why the high demand for U.S. currency is a good thing:
As Bruce Bartlett recently pointed out, when foreigners hold U.S. dollars, they are effectively giving the U.S. government an interest-free loan.
More broadly, foreign demand for U.S. currency (and U.S. Treasury bonds) in times of crisis is a sign that people in the rest of the world still see the U.S as the home of one of the safest, most stable economies on the planet.
(HT: The Big Picture)
Inflation is a term most often employed to describe prices. A too-high inflation rate results in a devalued currency. But what about the inflation of other things in our world? The Economist reports on this trend:
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Price inflation remains relatively subdued in the rich world, even though central banks are busily printing money. But other types of inflation are rampant. This “panflation” needs to be recognised for the plague it has become.
Take the grossly underreported problem of “size inflation”, where clothes of any particular labelled size have steadily expanded over time. Estimates by The Economist suggest that the average British size 14 pair of women’s trousers is now more than four inches wider at the waist than it was in the 1970s. In other words, today’s size 14 is really what used to be labelled a size 18; a size 10 is really a size 14.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may know that I am devoutly anti-penny. This includes a rant on 60 Minutes in which I argue that the penny should be killed off, as inflation has rendered it worse than worthless.
The U.S. government remains unpersuaded, but our good neighbors to the north are about to take the leap (following the lead, it should be said, of several other countries). Read More »
If you’re wondering what our cash-free future may look like — what will it do, e.g., to panhandling? — consider a trip to Sweden. The Associated Press reports on that country’s progress towards phasing out hard currency:
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“In most Swedish cities, public buses don’t accept cash; tickets are prepaid or purchased with a cell phone text message.
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In return for his expert labour [as an electrician], Mavridis received a number of Local Alternative Units (known as tems in Greek) in his online network account. In return for the eggs, olive oil, tax advice and the rest, he transferred tems into other people’s accounts.
It pleases me to no longer be the only guy complaining about the penny.
This anti-penny rant was quite good.
But this one is even better: Read More »