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Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Effect of "Sovereign Citizen" Nonsense on Family Members

Credit: see below

So what if someone is a "sovereign citizens"? One may ask. After all, we have the courts to deal with that, and it's a free country -- everybody has the right to go to hell in their own way, as the old saying has it.

A lot of what, that's what. This article -- 'The Crazy Tax Scam You've Never Heard of' -- from which the photo above is taken -- shows the effect it has on family members, here, young children. The author's father, in desperation, fell for this scam, with terrible effect on his family.

But sometimes, incidentally, they get what's coming to them. Here is a "Freeman" getting owned by a judge, who spews his nonsense right back at him: the "Freeman" insists he is the settler, the agent, and the individual David Hall (DAVID HALL?), but not the the person David Hall.

The judge notes, that, in that case, the settler, agent, and individual David Hall is staying in the county jail -- adding 'and if you meet the person David Hall, tell him he's not leaving jail either', to the laughter of the spectators.

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Who will Win "UK Freeman of the Year" Award?

This spoof video (complete with laugh track...) is a good summary of the potential winners in the "UK Freeman of the Year" award -- those UK "Freemen" who were the most annoying, amusing, or generally absurd. For more details on all of them, see the appropriate Quatloos! forum.

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John Oliver on MLMs

In case you have not seen it, here is John Oliver's Last Week Tonight's show segment about MLMs. It is very funny and, what is more, informative. I have found this video on the "MLM the Truth" web site, which -- contrary to most "the truth" web sites, which seem to be conspiracy-theory mongers... -- is an objective, well-researched site.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Israeli (Kinda/Sorta) Freemen

Credit: See Below

Curiously, there are also freemen in Israel. The above banner is from the following web page, where Eyal Lior proudly proclaims his 'Project no State in Israel', with the subheading stating  'A government is a gang of murderers, thieves and liars, no service or product should be forced on you at gunpoint'.

...but don't hold back, Mr. Lior, tell us how you really feel about the government.

While the ideology is not 100% "freemen", so far as I can tell, e.g., not having anything about the birth bond conspiracy theories, Magna Carta, etc., it is so extremely anarchist so as to amount, in effect, to the same thing.

The crucial point is that Lior does not merely believe, like anarchists on the one hand and Ayn Rand on the other, that the (or any) government is evil and should be dismantled. He thinks that he can, single-handedly, declare that it has been dismantled, and that he does not have to pay taxes, social security, etc. Apparently Rand was a wishy-washy wimp in her views about the government; Lior sets her straight.

Worst of all, he gives "legal advice" to clients suckers on how to not pay taxes, not pay traffic tickets, etc. No doubt, Israeli bureaucracies (like those everywhere) being what they are, he may well occasionally "win" for a client a remission of minor traffic fines or the like, just so that the clerk involved will not have to deal with this nudnick. But it needs not be explained here what trouble he can get his clients into.

Especially amusing is his 'deceleration of cowardice'  (lit. 'of fear') which he suggests attaching to all government forms, payments, licences, etc., so as to then sue the state for damages (good luck, kiddo). In this commendably brief form (a few lines; link in Hebrew), the undersigned declares that one is paying or requesting a license to do something because one is 'terrified by the power of the state'. Anarchists are at least better at self-mockery than "real" freemen.


Australian Freemen

Credit: See below

There has been quite a bit in this blog about American and British freemen, but little of other places. Here is a quick and amusing post, from an Australian legal blog (from which the above picture, of what they imagine a typical freeman to be, is taken), gives quite a few such cases. One can always check the Quatloos! board's relevant section, as well.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Facebook Conspiracy Theories

Credit: "Know Your Meme"

In the last few posts we noted the views of conspiracy theorist / scammer Peter of England, the seemingly truly insane "Baron" David Ward. We noted previously the action of many other conspiracy theorist 'Freemen' and similar persons, who think there is a massive conspiracy to hide the fact the government has no power to tax them.

Conspiracy theorists can be dangerous: "freemen" like John Paterson, a vile antisemite who thinks everything he dislikes is the fault of the Jews, can (say many groups) engage in terrorism. He is mentioned here not because he is an antisemitic conspiracy theorist per se, but because sued JOHN PATERSON, his government strawman corporation, for 10 billion pounds. As is so often, the belief in one conspiracy (the 'strawman' and 'birth bond' ones) leads to belief in others (here, the perennial favorite 'Jews control the world'). What would Mr. Paterson do with the money, considering that it is all worthless fiat currency, is rather unclear. But at least the Jews won't have it, so that it some consolation.

As you can see, they all use Facebook to spread their beliefs. Why is Facebook (and similar social media) such a haven for conspiracy theorists? The main reason is confirmation bias. As one repeats lies or stories to oneself and only hears the same lies from similarly-minded people, no wonder it becomes a truth in one's eyes, and all contrary evidence is dismissed as "false flag misinformation" and the like.

The Internet and social media did not invent this phenomenon, of course, as every cult in history attests. Conspiracy theory belief is in fact much more prevalent than commonly supposed, with people all across the policial, ethnic, and educational spectrum believing in conspiracies.The difference being more, research shows, in the exact conspiracy believed in, but not in the conspiracy theory mindset itself. But with social media allowing direct "producer to consumer" (so to speak) spread of conspiratorial ideas, people can -- and do -- surround themselves only with those they agree with, those who know THE TRUTH(TM), and literally block out all dissenting information.

No wonder conspiracy theories on social media proliferate.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Denver Fenton Allen's Light-Hearted Banter with Judge Bryant Durham

Source: See Below

Believing that one is immune to the law, and can make all kinds of threats and leave the court at will, can be rather dangerous to all concerned. Recently, a court case between the two individuals named above ended rather abruptly after Mr. Allen decided to 'hold himself in contempt', as he put it, by cursing at the judge, threatening to expose himself in court, and finally threatening to kill the judge's family. The quatloos! thread in the link has the photo above, as well.

To be fair, the latter threat was probably not meant too seriously, but only as part of the tactic to get himself held in contempt, since after threatening to kill the judge's children and being notified that he has no children, Allen declared that, in that case, he will kill the judge's grandchildren.

The judge, understandably, was not amused and probably rattled by Allen's antics. At any rate he said, among other things, that Mr. Allen looks like a homosexual. When Allen objected that he shouldn't call him names in court, the judge declared that he didn't say Allen is homosexual, but only that he looks like one. You can always tell when someone has a legally-trained mind, used to making fine distinctions, I suppose.

Of course, the judge did not reach that conclusion out of thin air. Allen had previously declared, in the attempt to hold himself in contempt, that he has sexual preferences that make the judge's opinion, let us say, rather reasonable. Among other things Allen compared his (own) anatomy to that of a well-known barnyard animal.

The (very NSFW) trial transcript is here. The creators of Rick and Morty had somehow heard of this case, and had created a cartoon version of the court transcript. It is very much NSFW, of course, but well worth watching. We emphasize that they added nothing. Rick and Morty are simply saying the official court transcript word for word. We pity the poor stenographer (who, incidentally, has a cameo non-speaking appearance in this video).


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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Peter of England, Flat-Earther

Credit: Peter of England's facebook page, Aug. 20th, 2016

Y'all are not going to believe this, but Peter of England, or more accurately Allan Peter Smith, has finally found the real culprits behind all the evil things going on in the world. It is BIG GLOBE: the dark evil forces that convinced us the Earth is a sphere, when THE TRUTH(TM) is that it is flat. There is a video saying so right on youtube, so it must be true!

It is THEM(TM), notes his Facebook post, who are the real reason justice does not exist, politics are unfair, elections are rigged, Hillary Clinton will (apparently) die before Jan. 2017, and, oh, incidentally, nobody will accept his fake bank's "checks", nor his fake "credit cards", nor his imaginary "Re" currency -- not even himself. (Yes, for some reason, Peter demands his followers pay him in Sterling, not in "Re").

Still, there is no doubt the "Re", Peter's invented currency, is a good investment. In these troubled times, it remained steady against all major currencies: it is still worth exactly as much as it was worth six month or a year ago: 0.0000000 Sterling, 0.0000000 USD, 0.0000000 Euro, etc. You just can't argue with that track record.

I suppose his little scam has just about ran its course, and even his most dim-witted, naive, or desperate ex-followers had finally realized the WeRe "checks" and "credit cards" are worthless, and Peter is just a two-bit scammer. Peter decided, it seems, to go out in a blaze of glory.

Either that, or the "Flat Earth" schtick is what con men call the "blow off" -- ending the scam once it was milked dry, by getting rid of the marks (victims), preferably without them even realizing that they were scammed. Perhaps Peter is trying to get his victims to believe that his "bank" failed because he is insane, getting them to pity him, instead of realizing the truth: that he was, of course, out to scam them from the start.


So, is the Earth flat? Short answer: NO. Long answer: more interesting than you might expect.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016


Image Credit: Baron David Ward's Facebook page

Above is the passport of David Ward, who likes to call himself "Baron David Ward". Naturally he is one of those "sovereign citizens" who, of course, considers himself -- as a Baron -- immune to the law. Incidentally, there is a David Ward who really is a peer, the Earl of Dudley, and Barons and Peers are subject to the law, but never mind.

From what one can understand from his blog, he had freed himself from the evils of the illegal corporate UK government by sending a bunch of self-made documents to the Queen, she had not replied, and therefore he decided that he had "won" by forfeit and she admits all that he claimed to be in those documents.

This sort of thing is rather common among the sovereign citizens' movement -- both the declaration of being not subject to the law and the claim that if some authority figure had not replied to one's letters they "agree" to whatever the letters say about one's sovereignty, freedom from taxes, or whatnot.

But this one is even weirder than the usual. First of all he is the Baron "Off" the House of Ward "Off" the Warrington Burg. He claims to be dyslectic, but you'd think that he would at least check the spelling twice on such an important document. Also, the code at the bottom of his self-made passport appears to be, for some strange reason, a widely-pirated activation key for Office 2007. He also photoshopped himself as he wants the world to see him:

Sovereign Citizens' self-made documents and claims are often incoherent, but seldom like this.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Is Peter Doing this on Purpose?

The old story -- whether true or not, I have no idea -- is that the English in the Nigerian scam emails is deliberately bad, so as to weed out those who are too alert to fall for this obvious scam. It seems Peter of England is doing the same thing, only in his videos, not his emails (not that they are much better).

He just published a video of his WeRe "bank card" on YouTube:

But -- whether deliberately or not -- as the Quatloos! posters found out within a few hours (all the images below from the Quatloos! thread here), his "card reader" is in fact an off-the-shelf machine from a company called "onliner" that uses a key fob (keychain-held activator) for financial transactions of various sorts, apparently as a sort of credit-card-on-key:

What is more, Peter can be seen palming just such a key fob in the video in which he claims the machine in the video is "reading" his WeRe card:

How do we know for sure it's the key fob, and not the WeRe "bank" "card", that is activating the "card reader"? Well, quite apart form the fact that the machine Peter is using is not a card reader but one intended to be activated by key fobs, the WeRe "card" has a different name on it, the machine "reading" the card shows the name Martina Stein -- which is the default name used as a "demo" by the key fob reading machine on their own web site -- as also seen in the image above. 

Not that someone would expect a card from a "bank" that, according to Peter himself, uses magical "energy units" and that presenting a check for payment in Re "currency" automatically will pay the debts because "of the law of conservation of energy" to actually work. But one would expect some more effort. 

Here is a youtube video that explains the entire fake in detail:

Ah well. I suppose his idea is that if you watch that video and actually think his card works, you are ripe for the taking. 

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Peter of England, and the WeRe "Bank" Scam

Credit: Peter of England's Facebook Page

Peter Smith, a.k.a. Alan Peter Michael Smith and, most famously, as Peter of England, is either insane, or else a very clever scammer. His audacious (one must admit) scam is to open his own "bank" -- the so-called "WeRe Bank".

The idea behind the WeRe "bank" is the old 'banks create money out of thin air' story, only this time Peter took it one step further and added, 'then so can I!'. Essentially, you send him a promissory note for 150,000 pounds, thus "creating" assets in the WeRe "bank", and in return receive a checkbook for your new "account". You can now, according to Peter, pay all your debts (esp. mortgage and council taxes) in WeRe checks.

This would make some economic (if not practical or legal) sense if the promissory note were real - that is, if you actually took out a loan for 150,000 pounds, got the money, and used it to pay your other creditors, although why you would use a shady character like Peter of England to do so and not a reputable institution is another issue. Peter's selling point, however, is that the mere fact that you signed a promissory note creates 150,000 pounds even if you never pay back a penny. So it is a "promissory note" that from the start you promise not to pay.

There seems to be a small flaw here somewhere - to wit, Peter "forgot" that the only reason real mortgages or other loans are treated as having value is because the lender actually pays the money back over time. The mortgage crisis (which the likes of Peter love to go on and on about) was caused, inter alia, by the fact that mortgages were given to people who the banks should have known would not be able to pay them back. Once that became clear, those mortgages became worthless, as bad loans.

If Peter's 'banks create money magically' theory were true, there would have been no mortgage crisis, since whether or not the lender actually pays back the mortgage would have been irrelevant. What's more, even if Peter were correct and the banks did create money for nothing, scamming everybody, it would still be morally wrong to do the same - just like the fact that some people make money by extortion or blackmail hardly justifies one doing it.

After all, doesn't it logically follow from Peter's own two claims:

1) 'The banks are scamming you'
2) 'I, Peter of England, can do the same thing the banks do'


3) 'I, Peter of England, am scamming you'?

In other words, it's a something-for-nothing scam of the usual type, which is seen on his own forum, the aptly-named (in its something-for-nothing intention) get out of debt free (GOODF) forum. Needless to say, as the quatloos! thread on the subject (150 pages!) notes, it doesn't work. Peter's shady past and lack of license to run a bank aside, the WeRe "bank" has no assets except for the worthless "promissory notes", nobody accepts the worthless "checks", and those who attempted to pay anything with them in the real world found out it doesn't work in short order, as the "checks" bounced.

Peter has a different explanation for why it doesn't work. Naturally, it's all an evil conspiracy involving everybody in the world except Peter and his "clients". Here is his latest Facebook post (see above for a link to his Facebook page), about the REAL MEANING(tm) of the recent meeting between American leaders and 'president Xi' (that is, Xi Jinping of China):
Roman Number Xi (XI) = 11 = President Xi
President 11 = President XIAIIB = Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank = Solomonic Kabbalistic Numerology encoded as follows:
-A = Aleph but can be Tav so 1 or 22
B = bet 2 or 21so 
AIIB = 22112 for "Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank" read as follows: This is a direct numerological clone of the 11 Symbol of Twin Towers, 11 Downing Street, Armistice Date of WW1 11/11/11

...and so on (and on and on, as one can see in his Facebook page).

When he is not discovering the REAL MEANING(tm) of everything, he is threatening his perceived enemies (the banks, most of the world's famous people, Quatloos! posters, etc.) with everything from lawsuits to arrests and summary executions for being part of the worldwide conspiracy that keeps the people in chains, presumably by not allowing them to magically eliminate their debts by saying Shazam! - or whatever the magic words that make you debt-free are supposed to be. There is some disagreement among the GOODFy, or perhaps GOOFy, community, whether those words are 'Magna Carta', 'accepted for value', 'unilateral contract', 'X of the family Y', 'wet ink signature', 'flesh and blood person, not a strawman individual', or something else.

One wonders if Peter is a scammer pretending to be insane, or truly insane. The evidence, I think, is inconclusive: on the one hand, he took a lot of naive people's money for nothing; on the other hand, he has a long record of similar (and even less logical) statements, all of them having the paranoid's mark of, as Aldous Huxley put it, 'living in a world of terrifying significance', where everything has deep, secret meaning, in this case 'Solomonic Kabbalistic Nuremological' one, whatever that is.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Quatloos down?

Does anyone know what's going on with the site? I was getting just errors last night, now i'm just getting an empty page.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Cliven Bundy -- not a Racist, but a Hypocrite...

Credit: Wikipedia
The standoff between Cliven Bundy and some of his supporters, on the one hand, and the federal government, on the other, ended peacefully, with the protesters surrendering and going into custody. The core of the fued is Bundy's long-running fight with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over grazing fees they charged him for grazing his cattle on land owned by the BLM.

Bundy is one of the freemen that think the Federal Government has no authority over the States, and that therefore the BLM doesn't actually own any land in Nevada. Bundy also got flack, and lost much support, from stupid racist comments he made about how "The Negro" was better off under slavery. However, the exact comment, if not politically correct, takes this very much out of context. His exact words were, according to Wikipedia:
They [black residents of a housing project] didn't have nothing to do ... they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom
Well, he could have put it better. He could have been more sensitive. But the point of his statement is that life under welfare with broken families is worse than slavery, where at least you had a family and work, good things in themselves, clearly not that blacks are inherently inferior or that they should be returned to slavery.

Similarly, he made comments about illegal aliens that:
They come over here against our Constitution and cross our borders, but they're here, and they're people ... Don't tell me they don't work, and don't tell me they don't pay taxes. And don't tell me they don't have better family structures than most of us white people.
In short, hardly the words -- in both cases -- of a dyed-in-the-wool white supremacist, but of a man who sees the family breakdown (in black and white communities, less in Latino ones) as terrible, and blames the federal government for it in the case of the black population.

That aside, as J. J. MacNab pointed out, he seems to be closely aligned with the Posse Comitatus views, in his views that there is no higher authority than the local country sheriff. In 2014 he "ordered" the local sheriff to disarm federal agents and deliver their weapons to him, Bundy, within an hour, later expressing disappointment that the sheriff for some reason didn't do as he was told.

All this shows us how stereotypes do not necessarily fit reality. The man is an extremist in one way -- refusing the authority of any government above the county level and "ordering" the sheriff to do his bidding -- but not in other ways, i.e., he is not a tax protester or an extreme racist, certainly not one who thinks blacks or Mexicans are subhuman.

The main moral problem (racism aside) with such views is that you can't have it both ways. If you wish to live without the government, then you cannot at the same time, as many of these protestors do. You cannot receive, e.g., federal farm subsidies, and then refuse to recognize the authority of the federal government. Some people -- such as the Amish -- do indeed see involvement with the government as morally forbidden, but they do not take federal money, for just this reason.

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sovereign Citizens -- the Parade of Idiots

Image credit: from here.

Okay, the title is a bit unfair -- some of them aren't idiots per se, but "true believers". That as it may be, to get an idea how well the "sovereign citizens" actually manage in real life, just go to Youtube and enter "Sovereign Citizen" in the search box. What will you get?

Some videos about what sovereign citizens are like; some videos of sovereign citizens complaining about how they are mistreated; and... numerous videos of these people getting arrested, tased, handcuffed, denied bail, put in prison, etc., etc. -- for trying their idiot theories in real life.

Perhaps it isn't representative. Perhaps many people like to blow smoke online / in print on how they sovereigns, Freemen on the Land, non-14th-amendment-citizens, and the like, but once they get in trouble their lawyers talks some sense into them, so those in the videos -- the ones who go full sovereign, so to speak -- may well represent the most intractable sovereigns.


Monday, November 30, 2015

How to Totally Annoy Your Family on Thanksgiving

Credit: www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com

...posted after the holiday, so as to not give anybody any ideas:

Why, by talking to them about Bitcoin, of course! (Hat tip: rationalwiki, which also has the definitive bitcoin guide).

Really, since when did Thanksgiving become the time to discuss politics / economics / similar subjects? Everybody knows its real purpose is to re-erupt the old family feuds that have simmered for the last year and gloat over distant family's failures or problems.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Derek Johnson

The website http://www.ispeedprivatelending.com/  

belongs to Derek Johnson of Calgary, Canada. He is accused, and under injunction, for real estate fraud. The story is that he preys on those in financial difficulty who've fallen behind on their mortgages, and those looking for somewhere to live.

You can read all about him, his associates,and the operations that led to legal action against him here:



Thursday, July 9, 2015

Anybody Wants to Buy a $100 Bottle of Hair Conditioner?

Credit: www.brainlesstales.com 
Another one of the 'you've got to be kidding' MLM products from Israel: a 250 ml (about 8.5 fl. oz.) bottle of conditioner in the Israeli Neways MLM web site is selling for 360 NIS -- or about $95 US at the time of this writing.

Actually, it's selling for 360 NIS and 10 Israeli cents (about 2-3 American ones) -- in order, no doubt, to make the customer think the price is somehow "scientifically" calculated and therefore couldn't possibly be made lower than 360 NIS.

The most expensive imported (apparently, flying first class) conditioner I could find from Israeli retailers online is about 80-100 NIS for a 250 ml bottle. These are high-end, fancy-hairdressers products (whether they are worth more than the regular products is highly debatable, but that's another issue). The standard, everyday products one buys in the supermarket (the equivalents of 'Head and Shoulders' or the like) are, usually, about 10-15 NIS for a 700 ml bottle, or nearly 1/100th of the price they want, per ounce.

The rest of their catalog is similar in its prices, as well. Anybody wants a quart of laundry detergent for $22? A steal at $88 a gallon!  $17 for a 6 oz. tube of toothpaste?!

Oh, but I am sure this product is just wonderful for your hair's health. Only hair is dead matter (which is why one can cut it without pain, for example).

What a deal!

No surprise that the distributors' web sites, such as this man's [Hebrew], speak endlessly about (to quote the title) 'the way to reach happiness and wealth', but quote no prices for his wonderful natural products, knowing full well what the reaction of potential customers who are not yet brainwashed by the MLM story will be.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Pyramid Scheme Alert Updated

Credit: see below

The "Pyramid Scheme Alert" site, whose logo is above, had been massively updated. Of particular interest is the fact that R. L. FitzPatrick, the creator of the site, also has a related "false profits" blog as one of the parts of the site. Well worth a look.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

An In-Depth View of MLMs and Minority Communities

Credit: http://www.kingtutone.com/pyramids/information/

Al-Jazeera America has an in-depth five-part series of how MLMs recruit, brainwash, manipulate, and hurt people -- in short, why they are a financial cult -- as well as what the government, and you, can do about it.

As can be expected from this source -- a news network whose target audience is immigrants from the middle east -- they pay particular attention to the way MLMs use what is known as 'affinity fraud' to target minorities and immigrants. The titles of the five parts are worth mentioning:

1. An army of recruits
2. Seeing green
3. Your company loves you
4. Legal remedies
5. Thinking outside the pyramid

The last part, in particular, has some good advice on how to resist the sales pitch of the MLM. But read the whole thing.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Is Bitcoin Really Money?

Image credit: www.wired.com

Unless you lived under a rock for a few years, you have heard of electronic currency known as Bitcoin. I accept that if, for some reason, everybody tomorrow (governments included) accepted Bitcoin as money, it would become money. But, I wish here to show how the Bitcoin does not fail to be money due to certain reasons that are often claimed against it, but does fail to be money in one, very crucial, aspect.

Why bother showing how some arguments against Bitcoin fail? The reason is that people are likely to believe that, if the arguments they are aware of that prove Bitcoin isn't real money fail, then it follows that Bitcoin is money. This does not follow logically: indeed, salesmen and, for that matter, scam artists (one legitimately, the other not) are experts at overcoming one's natural objections by having "an answer to everything". But that only means the answer to the would-be buyer's most common objections. Just because those objections fail does not mean there aren't other serious reasons to suspect Bitcoin.

Nothing I write here is the economic equivalent of rocket science. But this, if anything, is all the more reason to write it: the more obvious the problem and the more people ignore it, the more urgent is to show what is going on.

Let us, then, start with some obvious objections that are not, in themselves, crucial -- in the sense that, while true, real money has the same issues.

1). Bitcoin is private currency. It is -- in the sense that it is not backed or issued by any government. This is important (as we shall see later), but, historically, most money was privately printed. Indeed, until the 19th century, most bank notes were notes issued by private banks, for example.

2). Bitcoin is fiat currency. That is, there is no way to limit the amount of money printed. But this is true for government-backed currency as well. The US dollar or the Euro, indeed all modern currencies, are not backed by gold or anything else. In theory the US could print as much money as it wishes. So why should Bitcoin, whose big selling point is that it is limited in quantity, in practice at least, be less money than the US dollar? If anything, it seems it should be more valuable than government-backed fiat money.

3). People speculate with Bitcoin, and its value can therefore fluctuate wildly. Why did Bitcoin's value skyrocket recently and then fall? Because, for psychological reasons, people began to believe its value would increase, increasing demand for it, and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once people began to suspect Bitcoin is overvalued, they stopped buying and started selling -- creating another self-fulfilling prophecy.

Yet this, while true, is not in itself evidence that Bitcoin is illegitimate any more than the existence of bubbles in everything from tulips to internet startups is evidence, in itself, that the underlying commodity is worthless, and the bubble a pyramid scheme.  It is true that there were (and are) deliberate bubbles that are simply frauds -- pump-and-dump schemes for example -- and others that, in hindsight, seem absurd (the south sea bubble, the tulip bubble). But that in itself is not evidence Bitcoin is a scam.

4). Bitcoin is electronic money, and does not exist physically. This certainly be a problem in the sense that it may well be difficult to, say, stop people from counterfeiting it, but in fact most transactions with real money today do not involve the physical transfers of federal notes, let alone of gold coins. It is, in theory, possible to replace all paper money -- or gold coins for that matter -- with electronic equivalents.

The real problem is different: no government accepts Bitcoin as legal tender for the payment of debts, and in particular, of taxes. It is therefore not legal tender. In the USA, people must accept the US dollar as payment, and the government must accept it as payment of taxes. This is not so with Bitcoin. You must convert your Bitcoins to dollars before you can use them to pay any debt to the government.

You might be able to find someone to sell your Bitcoins to for dollars, or who will accept goods for Bitcoins which you can then sell for US dollars, but that is no different than anything else: it is not illegal for a private individual to accept anything whatever, including monopoly money, as payment. Indeed, James Boggs paints his own "money" and actually exchanges his "notes" for goods -- which led to him getting in trouble with the feds, but (correctly) he was acquitted of charges of counterfeiting, since no reasonable person would think his art is genuine federal bills, and he openly tells the person he gives them to that they aren't. But he can do it because people are willing to do it, considering his art collectibles, not because they have any legal duty to accept his bills.

Same with gold, in the "old days". It was not merely the fact that gold was rare that made it money, that is, legal tender (as opposed to making it valuable). It was that the government had to accept it (or at least its own gold and silver coins) as a payment of taxes. Similarly, to simplify, the original bank notes were notes the bank had to accept, legally, for gold or silver in the amount written on the note (which, to simplify, had then to be legally accepted by the government).

So Bitcoin is simply not money if by money we mean 'legal tender'. This does not mean -- in itself -- that it cannot be used for exchange, or is valueless. By definition almost everything that is valuable is not legal tender: corporate bonds, real estate, livestock, and so on. The government is not required to accept cows and oxen as payment -- livestock is not legal tender -- but this does hardly means that such commodities are not valuable: indeed, the term pecuniary comes from the latin pecus, cattle, and the Bible speaks of Abraham of being rich with cattle and livestock, despite the fact that he lived (if he existed in reality) about a thousand years before the invention of coined money.

But here, alas, is Bitcoin's second problem: if something is not legal tender, in order to be valuable, it should have some intrinsic value -- like livestock or bonds. Bitcoin does not. If something is neither legal tender that the government must accept, nor has intrinsic value, the only reason to exchange Bitcoin for legal tender or for goods with intrinsic value is the view that somebody else will want to do so in the future with our Bitcoins. They may -- or they may not. But they, too, would do so only if they think that someone in the future would be willing to do so with their Bitcoins.

Sounds problematic? It is. Bitcoin has, by definition of being "private" money, that, if this is not a contradiction in terms, the crucial bad property of fiat money -- no intrinsic value -- with the crucial bad property of commodities -- not being legal tender.


It is true that, the way this post is written, it may seem that the government can mysteriously create value out of nothing -- as if the mere fact that something is legal tender makes it valuable. Let us say only that things are, of course, not as simple as that. How money, a medium of exchange with no intrinsic value, actually becomes a "store" for value, is significantly more complicated than this. If nothing else, this can be seen by the fact that governments certainly can, and often did, make their legal tender practically valueless with hyperinflation.

All I am claiming here is the opposite: that if something is not legal tender, it by golly better be intrinsically valuable if it is to be used as a store of value. Bitcoin is not. It is not different, in this respect, than (for example) Pokemon or Magic: the Gathering cards. Some people will pay a lot of money for such cards, or for rare tulips for that matter, but...

The argument between "bitcoiners" and economists remind me of the arguments between creationists and biologists: the bitcoiners spend most of their time arguing against fiat money, arguing in particular that fiat money, despite being legal tender, is valueless (as indeed, in particular cases, it is), just like creationists spend most of their time arguing against evolution, not for creationism.

But even if it were true that all fiat money is indeed valueless (as an experiment, ask the next person who tells you that to give you all the valueless fiat money in their wallet), this would not be any evidence Bitcoin is valuable -- just like, if evolution were disproved tomorrow, it would not be one whit of evidence that creationists asre correct.

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