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Charlie Stross hates Bitcoin

Posted December 19, 2013 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Which is news because he's something of a rubfuck mascot for digital libertarians.

He has a blog post at antipope about it and a handy link farm as below:

Mining BtC has a carbon footprint from hell (as they get more computationally expensive to generate, electricity consumption soars). This essay has some questionable numbers, but the underlying principle is sound.

Bitcoin mining software is now being distributed as malware because using someone else's computer to mine BitCoins is easier than buying a farm of your own mining hardware.

Bitcoin violates Gresham's law: Stolen electricity will drive out honest mining. (So the greatest benefits accrue to the most ruthless criminals.)

Bitcoin's utter lack of regulation permits really hideous markets to emerge, in commodities like assassination (and drugs and child pornography).

It's also inherently damaging to the fabric of civil society. You think our wonderful investment bankers aren't paying their fair share of taxes? Bitcoin is pretty much designed for tax evasion. Moreover, The Gini coefficient of the Bitcoin economy is ghastly, and getting worse, to an extent that makes a sub-Saharan African kleptocracy look like a socialist utopia, and the "if this goes on" linear extrapolations imply that BtC will badly damage stable governance, not to mention redistributive taxation systems and social security/pension nets if its value continues to soar (as it seems designed to do due to its deflationary properties).

8 Responses to ‘Charlie Stross hates Bitcoin’

beeso asserts...

Posted December 19, 2013

And it will probably wither and die the minute the Chinese government get round to dealing with it.

Bangar mumbles...

Posted December 19, 2013

They just did

http://www.theage.com.au/business/markets/currencies/bitcoin-price-crashes-by-nearly-50-per-cent-in-china-20131219-2zls5.html

Not sure it will die, to properly kill any e currency you need to ensure you cannot exchange it for "real" money, but Isuspect even so people will give it value which is what makes money work.

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Chaz has opinions thus...

Posted December 19, 2013

He was making some interesting comments about how it was in the interests of traditional banks to sink BitCoin

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Blarkon reckons...

Posted December 19, 2013

It's interesting to contrast's Stross' apparently libertarian view on stuff like copyright (that it's a civil matter only and not a criminal one that should be enforced & dealt with by the authorities) with his view on BitCoin (which he does seem to suggest should be banned by the authorities).

I understand his views re Bitcoin - there's a lot of stuff he agrees with that will not be funded if the tax base shrivels. I'm more perplexed by what I percieve his ideas on copyright and intellectual property - which I suspect if enacted would substantially undermine an information economy.

Advanced economies are moving away from primary and secondary industries in to ones based on services and information. Chuck out patents and copyright and no one pays for information. If information has no monetary value because it is infinitely replicable (and any figure divided by infinity is within an ants dick of zero) - how do you tax the information transactions that underpin an information economy?

Same with the "maker" stuff. If you can replicate anything with your maker device and all the plans for everything are "open source" that no one has to pay for, then you're tax base also seems to go away.

Lanier touched on this a bit in "Who Owns The Future" where he intimated that the "Information Wants To Be Free" crowd is taking an increasing amount of money out of the economy - especially as the advanced economies become more information based.

(Important to note that Stross plays with ideas like a cat does with a fluffy tinkle ball, so my interpretation of his viewpoints may be me simply misunderstanding him playing with an idea against an actual view he might hold)

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted January 3, 2014

Not sure if it was this thread or sheer randomness, but my new year reading turned out to be Stross' <i>Neptune's Brood </i>in which he does indeed explore these topics somewhat playfully. Not sure exactly what he is saying with it, not sure the purpose is actually to say something as such versus as you say, playing.

To be honest I think the most interesting thing about the article was the comments thread full of libertarians going on about their hero Stross betraying them (some inadvertently hilariously).

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pi puts forth...

Posted December 19, 2013

These same complaints could be said about cash. Or gold. The only thing that has changed is that now the transfer of wealth can happen electronically.

I'm actually part of a team that is developing a point-of-sale system for merchants in Australia that uses bitcoin as it's transaction manager. It's not the technology, and ever was, that is the issue. Some people just can't envisage a world in which banks don't control money. But this is only a relatively recent development. Until early last century, money wasn't controlled by central bankers. I can completely understand some people seeing their cash-cow being taken to the knackers, but it doesn't change the fact that people have always been able to do this stuff, it's just that now, like all things that have been touched by technology, it can be done mroe efficiently.

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tqft is gonna tell you...

Posted December 19, 2013

3rd time lucky maybe

Another anti-bitcoin take https://al3x.net/2013/12/18/bitcoin.html

Particularly sticking it to the Silicon Valley attitude in some of what is going on.

"Silicon Valley has a seemingly endless capacity to mistake social and political problems for technological ones, and Bitcoin is just the latest example of this selective blindness. The underbanked will not be lifted out of poverty by conducting their meager daily business in a cryptocurrency rather than a fiat currency,"

Tax: The primary objection Stross seems to make is that it is a tax avoidance mechanism. Quite possibly. But then so are balance sheet adjustments, financial accounting, hollywood accounting. Transfer pricing. Offshore banking. Double dutch sandwich. The Australian Henry tax review a few years back contemplated some of these things. They are going to get easier in the future rather than harder. Are we going to forbid companies dealing overseas so they can't hide their income? One primary thought from the review was tax the stuff that can't be moved, hidden or finagled into non-existence. Primarily land and other hard to shift assets. Perhaps the tax system should be redesigned with a view to the future rather than being a patched up mess dealing with the latest new ways to move & hide money. We already have laws about unexplained wealth and tax avoidance. Perhaps we should use them.

That doesn't address the other issues.

Also one other problem is that for some people (think Cyprus) the financial system is seen as the problem and any good it can do is being weighed against the damage done. Another blowup like that and nothing may stop wider adoption.

Disclosure: I have btc from playing around with it in 2009 so a ginormous price would see me very happy. As it is even at whatever todays price is it is pretty good.

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Dino not to be confused with would have you know...

Posted December 19, 2013

Two Minds on this one.

Is it any worse than what we've got?

I would argue no.

Will it "improve things"?

i would argue no.

I fkn hate economics.

A physicist, a chemist and an economist end up on a desert island with nothing but tins of baked beans after a plane crash. The chemist says let's start a fire and blow open a can so we can eat. The physicist says great idea and lets build a rock pile and aim the can so we can collect the beans. The Economist says-

"Let's assume we had a can opener"

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