Book review: The Bitcoin Standard

Book review: The Bitcoin Standard


The Bitcoin Customary by Saifedean Ammous is likely one of the few books about bitcoin that isn’t about buying and selling. Right here’s a overview for monetary independence campaigners.

The Bitcoin Standard by Saifedean Ammous, affiliate link to Amazon.

This image is an affiliate hyperlink. When you click on on it and purchase the e book from Amazon, I earn round 12p from the Jeff B spaceship fund. It’s not lots, but it surely’s trustworthy work.

The premise of The Bitcoin Customary

The unfastened premise of The Bitcoin Customary is that all through historical past the world has benefitted from sound cash. The “more durable” the cash, the extra economies and people can prosper. This peaked with the European gold customary, as all cash may very well be valued by its gold content material.

Now that we’re on the fiat customary, we’re incentivised to spend as a substitute of saving. We additionally make unsound funding decisions consequently.

We might remedy this downside by switching to a tough cash, exterior of presidency management, that’s extra handy than gold. That’s Bitcoin.

What’s “exhausting cash”?

Saifedean makes the case that tough cash retains its spending energy over time. Arduous cash is stuff that’s uncommon, troublesome to make, and never prone to having the market flooded with new cash.

Gold is the basic instance within the e book. Regardless of how a lot you attempt to mine, you’re barely going to influence the general gold provide. It’s exhausting to mine in economically viable portions. Gold doesn’t perish, so just about all gold ever mined remains to be in circulation. It’s additionally fairly uncommon, so the possibility of you discovering the quantity of gold you’d have to develop the general provide by 5% is… large. It’s virtually unattainable to flood the gold market. Gold is due to this fact very exhausting cash.

Comfortable cash – equivalent to seashells, fiat forex (e.g. the £GBP), even silver cash – is susceptible to inflation attributable to flooding the market with cash. For instance, Saifedean provides proof that civilisations that used seashells for cash tended to have their economies destroyed when European explorers turned up and industrially farmed seashells to commerce with these folks, flooding the market and making their seashell-based currencies nugatory.

I wrote a put up on how money is made, which could assist to elucidate why the nice ol’ GBP is mushy cash.

Why Bitcoin is tough cash

Bitcoin is tough cash for the next causes:

  1. Fungibility: you’ll be able to (just about) alternate any Bitcoin or elements thereof (referred to as “satoshis” or “sats”) for every other, with out actually noticing a distinction.
  2. Arduous to make: it is advisable to “mine” it, which is now so troublesome to do this it is advisable to make investments numerous time, electrical energy and capital to do it.
  3. Tough to pretend: the community is now suitably advanced that the “51% assault” required to trick the community isn’t economically viable.
  4. Rarity: There can solely be 21 million over the lifetime. You possibly can’t flood the market with Bitcoin for any significant size of time.
  5. Immutable. There have been makes an attempt early on to vary Bitcoin’s make-up. Expertise exists to make it a quicker, extra environment friendly community. Nevertheless, to take action requires just about all of the community validators to approve the change, which traditionally they haven’t completed. It’s principally immutable now.
  6. Trustless: you don’t have to test the purity of Bitcoin, and you’ll confirm if somebody has the quantity that they are saying they’ve.
  7. Inflation is capped: the way in which it’s mined signifies that there’s a cap on the utmost quantity that may be mined in a yr, so inflation in provide is predictable – and it’s additionally disinflationary, as provide drops ever 4 years.

Saifedean goes as far as to say that Bitcoin is the toughest cash in existence.

Bitcoin versus gold

What’s fascinating in regards to the e book is that Bitcoin doesn’t function till the previous couple of chapters. Earlier than that, Saifedean seems to easily make the case for exhausting cash, and he successfully sings gold’s praises.

Nevertheless, he identifies that Bitcoin has just a few benefits over gold.

Firstly, it’s exhausting to debase. Gold cash aren’t often 24-carat (i.e. notionally pure) gold. I’ve written about how to buy gold earlier than, and I’ve purchased bodily gold sovereigns prior to now, however these are solely 91.6% pure gold. Within the case of sovereigns, that’s primarily to toughen them up for normal use (they was once our cash!) however there’s nothing to cease an unscrupulous authorities throwing a little bit of lead into the melting pot to bulk up the provision. You simply can’t do this with Bitcoin.

Secondly, it’s extra handy. Carrying numerous gold cash is as ache within the bum, particularly for an enormous transaction. It’s additionally troublesome to conduct worldwide transactions in gold, which is why paper cash grew to become a factor within the first place. With Bitcoin, you’ll be able to carry as a lot as you need and ship it anyplace globally across the community by utilizing your private and non-private keys.

Hasn’t Bitcoin failed as a worldwide forex?

The Bitcoin whitepaper specifies that Bitcoin was meant to be a digital money alternative. Nevertheless, it has important worth volatility (means above inflation) meaning it’s most likely not going anyplace as a money alternative. It additionally struggles to hit international scale, and even the nation that makes use of it as formal authorized tender (El Salvador) is utilizing a model of a second-layer community to make it usable within the nation.

There’s a strand of thought that Bitcoin has failed to realize the unique Satoshi Nakamoto imaginative and prescient.

The Bitcoin Customary argues that Bitcoin is greatest used as a retailer of worth. It can be used for worldwide commerce and the premise of the worldwide scale financial system.

Why it could be good to change to a Bitcoin customary

By switching to a tough cash, the wealth of people may very well be maintained over time. Thus, a tough cash incentivises financial savings. With no exhausting cash, people are incentivised to spend as quickly as they’ll, and even to enter debt, as a result of inflation will devalue the forex.

Staying on unsound cash signifies that initiatives which supply no actual profit get funding, since organisations have to eliminate the money anyway. Does HS2 sound acquainted? Within the rush to spend fiat whereas it nonetheless has shopping for energy, there may be an encouragement to put money into property with out cautious prior scrutiny, since delay comes with an inflation price.

A tough cash dis-incentivises unproductive funding. A worldwide customary exhausting cash additionally removes the in any other case unproductive foreign exchange business, as you don’t want overseas alternate of money if everyone seems to be on the identical factor.

Bitcoin does this greatest and is most cost-effective in the long term. It’s definitely cheaper to settle the steadiness of commerce between nations by Bitcoin than to ship crates of gold bullion.

By switching to a Bitcoin customary, you additionally stop central banks from being to intervene within the free markets, which Saifedean believes is disastrous.

What I preferred about this e book

I actually preferred the financial historical past within the early chapters. One of many examples discusses the Rai stones, a carved possession ledger on limestones on the island of Yap. Quick model? The thought of Bitcoin is nothing new, it’s simply that cash hasn’t been digital earlier than.

I’m additionally usually satisfied on the worth of crypto as a possible sound cash. Once more, this isn’t completely novel, and it was predicted in The Sovereign Individual too.

Controversial factors in The Bitcoin Customary

Regardless of liking this e book on the entire, there have been some arguments that Saifedean makes that I simply don’t agree with.

Crypto is barely good as sound cash

Saifedean is very essential of Ethereum, which on the time of his writing was the primary useable good contract succesful platform. He goes as far as to recommend that all the things apart from Bitcoin or one thing like Bitcoin is a waste of time.

The argument is {that a} centralised database might do good contracting higher than a blockchain, and it might do it cheaper. In his eyes, there’s no level investing the capital to arrange a blockchain community except it’s to make exhausting cash.

I believe that is short-sighted. There are some issues which might be price capital funding in blockchain, notably the place they’re worldwide.

Your entire insurance coverage business – each the pooling of capital to make an insurance coverage fund and distribute threat, and the proof of protection – may very well be made extra environment friendly by blockchain.

Licences and {qualifications} distributed as NFTs (non-fungible tokens, i.e. distinctive objects) could be a game-changer in some industries.

Building warranties, a few of which final for twelve years, might additionally profit from being trustless and publicly verifiable.

There could even be makes use of that I haven’t thought of but. The purpose is that Saifedean has taken a really conservative view on the usage of the time period “worth”. This conservative strategy additionally underpins my subsequent criticism.

The humanities are getting worse as a result of we’re on unsound fiat cash

The argument within the e book is that arts, tradition and society have in some way degraded because the period of the gold customary. That is one thing Saifedean reiterates within the sequel, which I’ll overview once I’ve completed it.

The examples to which he refers are symphonic music and minimalist/ dada artwork. He says that the standard is incomparable to the previous masters, that each mediums are devolving, and now trendy music is nearly intercourse.

I want to elevate two heavily-shortened counterarguments towards this.

1. Artwork has all the time been bizarre

The few masterpieces not involving intercourse within the Louvre or the Tate are fairly distinctive, to have survived by time. Artwork has usually been about intercourse, energy or politics. Right here’s a put up from the weblog “Tradition Journey”: Painting Prostitution: 8 Infamous Portraits of Art’s Illicit Muses. One of many stuff you’ll word is that a lot of the work come from the nineteenth Century, which is just about the height of the gold customary period.

If Saifedean was proper, this sort of factor would have developed out of existence in superb artwork by then.

My suspicion right here is that Saifedean could be very culturally conservative, and his cultural bias right here is being utilized to his love of sound cash, reasonably than it being a reputable argument.

2. Classical music tended to be composed on fee, and when it didn’t… it was additionally bizarre

Saifedean is sort of rightly essential of recent music. To be trustworthy, I agree. High quality usually dropped after Metallica’s Grasp of Puppets.

OK, superb! Jokes apart although, Saifedean appears to neglect that classical symphonies had been written by fee. A wealthy man paid for them; having a composer available was severe swagger again within the days of European aristocracy. These days, your ultra-rich would possibly purchase a ship or a Lamborghini as a substitute, however this simply wasn’t open to them.

Which means classical music doesn’t really relate to the tastes of the time. The actual fact is, standard music undoubtedly existed – people music is making a resurgence, and that’s a fairly previous model – it’s simply that it doesn’t often preserve as properly.

To say that fiat money killed classical music is, properly, ludicrous.

In truth, right here’s a enjoyable factor for you. When composers weren’t on fee and simply did their very own factor, they may go bizarre. Mozart as soon as wrote a music that’s principally referred to as “Kiss my arse!“. There’s even an article by Traditional FM titled “50 Shades of Classical Music – the sexiest pieces of all time“, a lot of which pre-date the top of the gold customary in 1914.

My level is that The Bitcoin Customary is introduced as factual, however has numerous the creator’s private biases woven into it. It is best to learn it with an open but essential thoughts.

Who is that this e book appropriate for?

This e book is a good perception into the mainstream philosophy underpinning the worth of Bitcoin right now.

I’d suggest it for anybody who doesn’t perceive the enchantment of Bitcoin, whether or not they agree with it or not, because it’s definitely an authentic perspective.

Total ideas

I agree with the advantages of a tough cash system. This e book is price studying in tandem with The Sovereign Individual and A New Case for Gold, as numerous the themes appear to interweave properly.

That mentioned, the social commentary angle which the e book tries to squeeze in appears like an inexpensive try at gaining shock worth. “Our very lifestyle is in peril! Argh! By Bitcoin instantly!“. It’s not properly argued or introduced, and I believe detracts from the nice work completed on the fundamental financial arguments.

Nonetheless, the e book remains to be price a learn, and I nonetheless suggest it.

How I’m utilizing The Bitcoin Customary in my FI marketing campaign

This e book did make me rethink Bitcoin. Simply as importantly, it additionally made me rethink gold.

I take advantage of gold in my portfolio as a diversification away from equities. I can also think about investing a bit extra into Bitcoin as the same diversification measure. The benefit it could supply me is that I can lend it to generate a return, which I can’t do with gold sovereigns.

My 2022 marketing campaign plan does contain a short lived obese into crypto whereas I (probably) relocate. I intend to make a few of that allocation into Bitcoin on account of my mixed studying.

When you loved this overview and need to learn the e book your self, why not purchase by my affiliate link?

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