An essay by Senator Bernie Sanders

Friends –

If you were worried by the Supreme Court’s Citizens decision, and now the McCutcheon decision, you will be sad to hear that the news is even worse than you thought it could be. Some of the richest people in America (the Koch Brothers) want to buy the government. And they have made great gains, as Senator Sanders documents.

What can we do?

There seems to be very little, aside from what this letter tries to do: talk to your friends, tell them how you see things. Tell them to be suspicious of candidates who have very deep pockets and support oligarchic views. And vote the bums out, despite their huge wealth.

I myself would rather not having to do this political work. I would like to live in a country where there were no special powers given to someone just because of their wealth. But that place is a dream place. So I write to you today, in the hopes that you will write to your friends, to warn them of the danger.

Peace –

Haj

As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires and large corporations can now spend an unlimited amount of money to influence the political process. The results of that decision are clear. In the coming months and years the Koch brothers and other extraordinarily wealthy families will spend billions of dollars to elect right-wing candidates to the Senate, the House, governors’ mansions and the presidency of the United States. These billionaires already own much of our economy. That, apparently, is not enough. Now, they want to own the United States government as well.

Four years ago, the Supreme Court passed Citizens United. A few weeks ago, they passed the equally horrendous McCutcheon campaign finance decision which gives even more political power to the rich. Now, many Republicans want to push this Supreme Court to go even further. In the name of “free speech,” they want the Court to eliminate all restrictions on campaign spending — a position that Justice Thomas supported in McCutcheon — and a view supported by the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Not surprisingly, as it will give them the opportunity to buy politicians at will, this has always been the position of the Koch brothers.

The Koch brothers are the second wealthiest family in America, making most of their money in the fossil fuel industry. According to Forbes Magazine, they saw their wealth increase last year from $68 billion to $80 billion. In other words, under the “anti-business”, “socialist” and “oppressive” Obama administration, their wealth went up by $12 billion in one year.

In their 2012 campaigns, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each spent a little more than $1 billion. For the Koch brothers, spending more than Obama and Romney combined in an election would be a drop in the bucket. They would hardly miss the few billion spent.

Given the reality that the Koch brothers are now the most important and powerful players in American politics, it is important to know what they want and what their agenda is.

Interestingly and not widely known, David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980. He believed that Ronald Reagan was much too liberal. Despite Mr. Koch putting a substantial sum of money into the campaign, his ticket only received one percent of the vote. Most Americans thought the Libertarian Party’s platform of 1980 was extremist and way out of touch with what the American people wanted and needed.

Fast-forward 34 years and the most significant reality of modern politics is how successful David Koch and like-minded billionaires have been in moving the Republican Party to the extreme right. Amazingly, much of what was considered “extremist” and “kooky” in 1980 has become part of today’s mainstream Republican thinking.

Let me give you just a few examples:

In 1980, Libertarian vice-presidential candidate David Koch ran on a platform that called for abolishing the minimum wage. 34 years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of one percent of the American people.

Today, not only does virtually every Republican in Congress oppose raising the $7.25 an hour minimum wage, many of them, including Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and John McCain, are on record for abolishing the concept of the federal minimum wage.

In 1980, the platform of David Koch’s Libertarian Party favored “the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.” 34 years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of one percent of the American people.

Today, the mainstream view of the Republican Party, as seen in the recently passed Ryan budget, is to end Medicare as we know it, cut Medicaid by more than $1.5 trillion over the next decade, and repeal the Affordable Care Act. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Under the Ryan plan, at least 40 million people — 1 in 8 Americans — would lose health insurance or fail to obtain insurance by 2024. Most of them would be people with low or moderate incomes.”

In 1980, the platform of David Koch’s Libertarian Party called for “the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system.” 34 years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of one percent of the American people.

Today, the mainstream view of the Republican Party is that “entitlement reform” is absolutely necessary. For some, this means major cuts in Social Security. For others who believe Social Security is unconstitutional or a Ponzi scheme this means the privatization of Social Security or abolishing this program completely for those who are under 60 years of age.

In 1980, David Koch’s Libertarian Party platform stated “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes … We support the eventual repeal of all taxation … As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.” 34 years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of one percent of the American people.

Today, 75 Republicans in the House have co-sponsored a bill that Paul Ryan has said “would eliminate taxes on wages, corporations, self-employment, capital gains, and gift and death taxes in favor of a personal-consumption tax.”

Here is what every American should be deeply concerned about. The Koch brothers, through the expenditure of billions of dollars and the creation and support of dozens of extreme right organizations, have taken fringe extremist ideas and made them mainstream within the Republican Party. And now with Citizens United (which is allowing them to pour unlimited sums of money into the political process) their power is greater than ever.

And let’s be very clear. Their goal is not only to defund Obamacare, cut Social Security, oppose an increase in the minimum wage or cut federal funding for education. Their world view and eventual goal is much greater than all of that. They want to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country. Every piece of legislation!

The truth is that the agenda of the Koch brothers is to move this country from a democratic society with a strong middle class to an oligarchic form of society in which the economic and political life of the nation are controlled by a handful of billionaire families.

Our great nation must not be hijacked by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers.

For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, we must fight back.

Sincerely,
Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders

Comments

Friends!

Workers in Qatar are being forced to work in 122 degree hear, and are being cheated of their wages – many have died, and FIFA, the committee which chooses the sites for the Cup, has said nothing.

Please sign at petition at

http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4432?l=DQ39ZUqYXPg

or at

http://tinyurl.com/lnhccbs

And pass the word on.

Thanks, and peace –

Haj

Comments

Time for a joke: Au Canada!

Oh Canada!

A man in a supermarket tries to buy half a head of lettuce. The produce assistant tells him they sell only whole heads of lettuce. The man persists and asks to see the manager. The produce assistant says he’ll ask his manager about it.

Walking into the back room, the boy said to his manager,

“Some asshole wants to buy half a head of lettuce.”

As he finished his sentence, he turned to find the customer standing right behind him, So he added,

“And this gentleman has kindly offered to buy the other half.”

The manager approved the deal, and the customer went on his way. Later the manager asked the produce assistant,

“I was impressed with the way you got yourself out of that situation earlier. We like people who think on their feet here. Where are you from, son?”

“Canada, sir,” the boy replied.

“Well, why did you leave Canada?” the manager asked.

The boy said,

“Sir, there’s nothing but whores and hockey players up there.”

“Really?” said the manager. “My wife is from Canada.”

“No shit?” replied the boy. “Who’d she play for?”

A present from Robo
20.VI.2012

Comments

This isn’t a democracy, it’s an auction. http://tinyurl.com/mt9ldm8

Friends –

It doesn’t remind me of the America that I grew up proud to be a citizen of.
We’re worse than a lot of banana republics.

I’m really sick of the newest Supreme Court outrage – they say that now there is NO limit on the amount a “person” can give.

How sick! Just because you make $145000 a day) Like the president of Exxon-Mobil) you should have more infuence with the politicians you can buy than I can? How unfair!

I’d like to be proud of my country again, and to elect politicians who only go into the government to make money.

If you agree, like a senator from Montana just did – Senator Walsh – go to this webpage and give some money if you casn, but spread the word: You are one of us who are sick of venal “Congress people.” Click over to

http://tinyurl.com/mt9ldm8

and tell more citizens how you feel. I think this should be OUR country, not the country of the top 500 corporations.

Peace –

Haj

Comments

An arresting video: http://tinyurl.com/ocublh9

Friends –

I have just been sent,by a dear friend, the following link:

(a shorter link is:  http://tinyurl.com/ocublh9)

It is very long – almost two hours.   I found it riveting.

It is vital that the problems which this video documents be addressed.   They are vocal for you, your children, your grandchildren.

I urge that you take the time to watch the whole thing, to assess its credibility.   I doubt that you will find that it could be a hoax.

Peace –

Haj

Comments

Are you in a committed relationship?

Are you in a committed relationship? Do you currently reside in the United States? Have you been cohabitating with your significant other for at least a year? Are you and your partner willing to volunteer completing a series of questions on relationships and emotions for 15-30 minutes online? If so, then please contact rossn789@newschool.edu and thanks in advance!

Comments

Largest cut stones ever found

http://investmentwatchblog.com/newly-found-megalithic-ruins-in-russia-contain-the-largest-blocks-of-stone-ever-discovered/

or:

http://tinyurl.com/mxysbvv

Those old guys seem to have had a lotta tricks up their sleeves that we can’t duplicate.

Could it be that all the history we were taught is a bit defective? Time for new model?

Peace –

Haj

Comments

Edward Snowden interview on ARD TV in Germany

If you have been wondering what kind of a person Mr. Snowden is, and why he released vast hordes of secret documents, may I recommend that you watch this video. I am grateful to Bruce Steven Holms (bsh@timelessvovager.com) for publicizing this thoughtful and probing interview, and I urge you all to pass it on the others who may be ready to rethink the value of letting the government spy on all of us at all times.

Peace –

Haj

BTW: click on the lower photo to see thevideo.

http://themindunleashed.org/2014/02/media-blacks-new-snowden-interview-government-doesnt-want-see.html

or: http://tinyurl.com/ne92qdl

This past Sunday evening former NSA contractor Edward Snowden sat down for an interview with German television network ARD. The interview has been intentionally blocked from the US public, with virtually no major broadcast news outlets covering this story. In addition, the video has been taken down almost immediately every time it’s posted on YouTube.

In contrast, this was treated as a major political event in both print and broadcast media, in Germany, and across much of the world. In the interview, Mr. Snowden lays out a succinct case as to how these domestic surveillance programs undermine and erode human rights and democratic freedom.He states that his “breaking point” was “seeing Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress” denying the existence of a domestic spying programs while under questioning in March of last year. Mr. Snowden goes on to state that, “The public had a right to know about these programs. The public had a right to know that which the government is doing in its name, and that which the government is doing against the public.”

It seems clear that the virtual blackout of this insightful interview is yet another deliberate attempt to obfuscate the truth from the view of the American public. The media has continually attempted to shill the official government lies about mass domestic surveillance programs, justifying them as necessary to fight the “War on Terror”, while attempting to painting Mr. Snowden as a traitor.

In regards to accusations that he is a traitor or a foreign agent, he states, “ If I am traitor, who did I betray? I gave all my information to the American public, to American journalists who are reporting on American issues. If they see that as treason, I think people really need to consider who they think they’re working for. The public is supposed to be their boss, not their enemy. Beyond that as far as my personal safety, Ill never be fully safe until these systems have changed.”

Comments

Why women live longer than men: http://tinyurl.com/oar4zh8

Thanks to Chas Pyle for this string of clear-thinking men –

http://tinyurl.com/oar4zh8

Peace -

Haj

Comments

Guess what? 1% vs. 99% was the good ol’ days

Click on:

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jan/20/oxfam-85-richest-people-half-of-the-world

or, shorter: http://tinyurl.com/o8pvex6

You didn’t need me to tell you – everyone has heard it, knows it in their bones. A while back, one percent of the world owned as much as the 99% of the rest of us. Old news. But now, because of the addictive nature of greed, a far smaller number of people – let us say, uncontroversially, 0.01% – owns more than 99.99% of the rest of us. And that split is widening, has been widening increasingly rapidly, since the 1970’s. I won’t bother to give you references, you all can find them, anyone with a computer can.
Because so many people believe that they need not only more than they can spend, but more than anyone else, the crazy race goes on, with terrible consequences for huger and huger numbers of us – who can’t get enough to eat, and therefore either stave to death, or in desperation, turn to crime, to add to the pain of starvation the sharper pain of bullet or knife wounds.

Putting this undeniable and undefined fact so clearly in the headlines is due to the fearless struggle waged by those in the Occupy movement. We owe them a lot.

What is to be done?

Amazingly, from left field, something arising from the incredibly complex mathematical field of cryptography, has been invented: Bitcoin. I owe my slender understanding of this invention to our nephew Dimas de Abreu Dutra, who has the math chops to understand it well enough to give me the basic idea. I do not have a good reference for the technical background that Dimas laid out for me, but my old friend Norm Dolph has just sent me a link to a non-technical article about the economic revolutionarity of Bitcoin – a new way for one person to buy something from another with no governments or banks being involved, As you will see, it will help us in many ways.
I may have misunderstood the following article by Marc Andreessen, but I believe that the fact that this new type of currency cannot be stolen or cheated with, and the fact that no one makes any percentage from me paying you $199.00 in Bitcoin to buy an iPad from you, instead of the 3% ± (at least) that all of us are always paying whenever we use cash from any country – those two facts are going to take a lot of money out of the hands of the super-rich, who have been getting a lot of those 3% from us without our knowledge (or acquiescence). When the world moves to Bitcoin, is is going to be a lot harder to have trillions of dollars.

I hope that I am not wrong (and that if I am, someone will be kind enough to explain to me how).

Anyway, I hope that you will find the following article as fascinating as I have.

Thank you old friends Dimas and Norm!

Peace –

Haj

Click on:

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/01/21/why-bitcoin-matters/

or, shorter, http://tinyurl.com/l34er52

Why Bitcoin matters
Marc Andreessen

• MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
• INVESTMENT BANKING
• PRIVATE EQUITY
• HEDGE FUNDS
• I.P.O./OFFERINGS
• VENTURE CAPITAL
• LEGAL/REGULATORY
ANOTHER VIEW JANUARY 21, 2014, 11:54 AM 66 Comments
Why Bitcoin Matters
By MARC ANDREESSEN
Keith Bedford/ReutersMarc Andreessen, a co-founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
• E-MAIL
• FACEBOOK
• TWITTER
• SAVE
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Editor’s note: Marc Andreessen’s venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, has invested just under $50 million in Bitcoin-related start-ups. The firm is actively searching for more Bitcoin-based investment opportunities. He does not personally own more than a de minimis amount of Bitcoin.
A mysterious new technology emerges, seemingly out of nowhere, but actually the result of two decades of intense research and development by nearly anonymous researchers.
Political idealists project visions of liberation and revolution onto it; establishment elites heap contempt and scorn on it.
On the other hand, technologists – nerds – are transfixed by it. They see within it enormous potential and spend their nights and weekends tinkering with it.
Eventually mainstream products, companies and industries emerge to commercialize it; its effects become profound; and later, many people wonder why its powerful promise wasn’t more obvious from the start.
What technology am I talking about? Personal computers in 1975, the Internet in 1993, and – I believe – Bitcoin in 2014.
One can hardly accuse Bitcoin of being an uncovered topic, yet the gulf between what the press and many regular people believe Bitcoin is, and what a growing critical mass of technologists believe Bitcoin is, remains enormous. In this post, I will explain why Bitcoin has so many Silicon Valley programmers and entrepreneurs all lathered up, and what I think Bitcoin’s future potential is.
First, Bitcoin at its most fundamental level is a breakthrough in computer science – one that builds on 20 years of research into cryptographic currency, and 40 years of research in cryptography, by thousands of researchers around the world.
Bitcoin is the first practical solution to a longstanding problem in computer science called the Byzantine Generals Problem. To quote from the original paper defining the B.G.P.: “[Imagine] a group of generals of the Byzantine army camped with their troops around an enemy city. Communicating only by messenger, the generals must agree upon a common battle plan. However, one or more of them may be traitors who will try to confuse the others. The problem is to find an algorithm to ensure that the loyal generals will reach agreement.”
More generally, the B.G.P. poses the question of how to establish trust between otherwise unrelated parties over an untrusted network like the Internet.
The practical consequence of solving this problem is that Bitcoin gives us, for the first time, a way for one Internet user to transfer a unique piece of digital property to another Internet user, such that the transfer is guaranteed to be safe and secure, everyone knows that the transfer has taken place, and nobody can challenge the legitimacy of the transfer. The consequences of this breakthrough are hard to overstate.
What kinds of digital property might be transferred in this way? Think about digital signatures, digital contracts, digital keys (to physical locks, or to online lockers), digital ownership of physical assets such as cars and houses, digital stocks and bonds … and digital money.
All these are exchanged through a distributed network of trust that does not require or rely upon a central intermediary like a bank or broker. And all in a way where only the owner of an asset can send it, only the intended recipient can receive it, the asset can only exist in one place at a time, and everyone can validate transactions and ownership of all assets anytime they want.
How does this work?
Bitcoin is an Internet-wide distributed ledger. You buy into the ledger by purchasing one of a fixed number of slots, either with cash or by selling a product and service for Bitcoin. You sell out of the ledger by trading your Bitcoin to someone else who wants to buy into the ledger. Anyone in the world can buy into or sell out of the ledger any time they want – with no approval needed, and with no or very low fees. The Bitcoin “coins” themselves are simply slots in the ledger, analogous in some ways to seats on a stock exchange, except much more broadly applicable to real world transactions.
The Bitcoin ledger is a new kind of payment system. Anyone in the world can pay anyone else in the world any amount of value of Bitcoin by simply transferring ownership of the corresponding slot in the ledger. Put value in, transfer it, the recipient gets value out, no authorization required, and in many cases, no fees.
That last part is enormously important. Bitcoin is the first Internetwide payment system where transactions either happen with no fees or very low fees (down to fractions of pennies). Existing payment systems charge fees of about 2 to 3 percent – and that’s in the developed world. In lots of other places, there either are no modern payment systems or the rates are significantly higher. We’ll come back to that.
Bitcoin is a digital bearer instrument. It is a way to exchange money or assets between parties with no pre-existing trust: A string of numbers is sent over email or text message in the simplest case. The sender doesn’t need to know or trust the receiver or vice versa. Related, there are no chargebacks – this is the part that is literally like cash – if you have the money or the asset, you can pay with it; if you don’t, you can’t. This is brand new. This has never existed in digital form before.
Bitcoin is a digital currency, whose value is based directly on two things: use of the payment system today – volume and velocity of payments running through the ledger – and speculation on future use of the payment system. This is one part that is confusing people. It’s not as much that the Bitcoin currency has some arbitrary value and then people are trading with it; it’s more that people can trade with Bitcoin (anywhere, everywhere, with no fraud and no or very low fees) and as a result it has value.
It is perhaps true right at this moment that the value of Bitcoin currency is based more on speculation than actual payment volume, but it is equally true that that speculation is establishing a sufficiently high price for the currency that payments have become practically possible. The Bitcoin currency had to be worth something before it could bear any amount of real-world payment volume. This is the classic “chicken and egg” problem with new technology: new technology is not worth much until it’s worth a lot. And so the fact that Bitcoin has risen in value in part because of speculation is making the reality of its usefulness arrive much faster than it would have otherwise.
Critics of Bitcoin point to limited usage by ordinary consumers and merchants, but that same criticism was leveled against PCs and the Internet at the same stage. Every day, more and more consumers and merchants are buying, using and selling Bitcoin, all around the world. The overall numbers are still small, but they are growing quickly. And ease of use for all participants is rapidly increasing as Bitcoin tools and technologies are improved. Remember, it used to be technically challenging to even get on the Internet. Now it’s not.
The criticism that merchants will not accept Bitcoin because of its volatility is also incorrect. Bitcoin can be used entirely as a payment system; merchants do not need to hold any Bitcoin currency or be exposed to Bitcoin volatility at any time. Any consumer or merchant can trade in and out of Bitcoin and other currencies any time they want.
Why would any merchant – online or in the real world – want to accept Bitcoin as payment, given the currently small number of consumers who want to pay with it? My partner Chris Dixon recently gave this example:
“Let’s say you sell electronics online. Profit margins in those businesses are usually under 5 percent, which means conventional 2.5 percent payment fees consume half the margin. That’s money that could be reinvested in the business, passed back to consumers or taxed by the government. Of all of those choices, handing 2.5 percent to banks to move bits around the Internet is the worst possible choice. Another challenge merchants have with payments is accepting international payments. If you are wondering why your favorite product or service isn’t available in your country, the answer is often payments.”
In addition, merchants are highly attracted to Bitcoin because it eliminates the risk of credit card fraud. This is the form of fraud that motivates so many criminals to put so much work into stealing personal customer information and credit card numbers.
Since Bitcoin is a digital bearer instrument, the receiver of a payment does not get any information from the sender that can be used to steal money from the sender in the future, either by that merchant or by a criminal who steals that information from the merchant.
Credit card fraud is such a big deal for merchants, credit card processors and banks that online fraud detection systems are hair-trigger wired to stop transactions that look even slightly suspicious, whether or not they are actually fraudulent. As a result, many online merchants are forced to turn away 5 to 10 percent of incoming orders that they could take without fear if the customers were paying with Bitcoin, where such fraud would not be possible. Since these are orders that were coming in already, they are inherently the highest margin orders a merchant can get, and so being able to take them will drastically increase many merchants’ profit margins.
Bitcoin’s antifraud properties even extend into the physical world of retail stores and shoppers.
For example, with Bitcoin, the huge hack that recently stole 70 million consumers’ credit card information from the Target department store chain would not have been possible. Here’s how that would work:
You fill your cart and go to the checkout station like you do now. But instead of handing over your credit card to pay, you pull out your smartphone and take a snapshot of a QR code displayed by the cash register. The QR code contains all the information required for you to send Bitcoin to Target, including the amount. You click “Confirm” on your phone and the transaction is done (including converting dollars from your account into Bitcoin, if you did not own any Bitcoin).
Target is happy because it has the money in the form of Bitcoin, which it can immediately turn into dollars if it wants, and it paid no or very low payment processing fees; you are happy because there is no way for hackers to steal any of your personal information; and organized crime is unhappy. (Well, maybe criminals are still happy: They can try to steal money directly from poorly-secured merchant computer systems. But even if they succeed, consumers bear no risk of loss, fraud or identity theft.)
Finally, I’d like to address the claim made by some critics that Bitcoin is a haven for bad behavior, for criminals and terrorists to transfer money anonymously with impunity. This is a myth, fostered mostly by sensationalistic press coverage and an incomplete understanding of the technology. Much like email, which is quite traceable, Bitcoin is pseudonymous, not anonymous. Further, every transaction in the Bitcoin network is tracked and logged forever in the Bitcoin blockchain, or permanent record, available for all to see. As a result, Bitcoin is considerably easier for law enforcement to trace than cash, gold or diamonds.
What’s the future of Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a classic network effect, a positive feedback loop. The more people who use Bitcoin, the more valuable Bitcoin is for everyone who uses it, and the higher the incentive for the next user to start using the technology. Bitcoin shares this network effect property with the telephone system, the web, and popular Internet services like eBay and Facebook.
In fact, Bitcoin is a four-sided network effect. There are four constituencies that participate in expanding the value of Bitcoin as a consequence of their own self-interested participation. Those constituencies are (1) consumers who pay with Bitcoin, (2) merchants who accept Bitcoin, (3) “miners” who run the computers that process and validate all the transactions and enable the distributed trust network to exist, and (4) developers and entrepreneurs who are building new products and services with and on top of Bitcoin.
All four sides of the network effect are playing a valuable part in expanding the value of the overall system, but the fourth is particularly important.
All over Silicon Valley and around the world, many thousands of programmers are using Bitcoin as a building block for a kaleidoscope of new product and service ideas that were not possible before. And at our venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, we are seeing a rapidly increasing number of outstanding entrepreneurs – not a few with highly respected track records in the financial industry – building companies on top of Bitcoin.
For this reason alone, new challengers to Bitcoin face a hard uphill battle. If something is to displace Bitcoin now, it will have to have sizable improvements and it will have to happen quickly. Otherwise, this network effect will carry Bitcoin to dominance.
One immediately obvious and enormous area for Bitcoin-based innovation is international remittance. Every day, hundreds of millions of low-income people go to work in hard jobs in foreign countries to make money to send back to their families in their home countries – over $400 billion in total annually, according to the World Bank. Every day, banks and payment companies extract mind-boggling fees, up to 10 percent and sometimes even higher, to send this money.
Switching to Bitcoin, which charges no or very low fees, for these remittance payments will therefore raise the quality of life of migrant workers and their families significantly. In fact, it is hard to think of any one thing that would have a faster and more positive effect on so many people in the world’s poorest countries.
Moreover, Bitcoin generally can be a powerful force to bring a much larger number of people around the world into the modern economic system. Only about 20 countries around the world have what we would consider to be fully modern banking and payment systems; the other roughly 175 have a long way to go. As a result, many people in many countries are excluded from products and services that we in the West take for granted. Even Netflix, a completely virtual service, is only available in about 40 countries. Bitcoin, as a global payment system anyone can use from anywhere at any time, can be a powerful catalyst to extend the benefits of the modern economic system to virtually everyone on the planet.
And even here in the United States, a long-recognized problem is the extremely high fees that the “unbanked” — people without conventional bank accounts – pay for even basic financial services. Bitcoin can be used to go straight at that problem, by making it easy to offer extremely low-fee services to people outside of the traditional financial system.
A third fascinating use case for Bitcoin is micropayments, or ultrasmall payments. Micropayments have never been feasible, despite 20 years of attempts, because it is not cost effective to run small payments (think $1 and below, down to pennies or fractions of a penny) through the existing credit/debit and banking systems. The fee structure of those systems makes that nonviable.
All of a sudden, with Bitcoin, that’s trivially easy. Bitcoins have the nifty property of infinite divisibility: currently down to eight decimal places after the dot, but more in the future. So you can specify an arbitrarily small amount of money, like a thousandth of a penny, and send it to anyone in the world for free or near-free.
Think about content monetization, for example. One reason media businesses such as newspapers struggle to charge for content is because they need to charge either all (pay the entire subscription fee for all the content) or nothing (which then results in all those terrible banner ads everywhere on the web). All of a sudden, with Bitcoin, there is an economically viable way to charge arbitrarily small amounts of money per article, or per section, or per hour, or per video play, or per archive access, or per news alert.
Another potential use of Bitcoin micropayments is to fight spam. Future email systems and social networks could refuse to accept incoming messages unless they were accompanied with tiny amounts of Bitcoin – tiny enough to not matter to the sender, but large enough to deter spammers, who today can send uncounted billions of spam messages for free with impunity.
Finally, a fourth interesting use case is public payments. This idea first came to my attention in a news article a few months ago. A random spectator at a televised sports event held up a placard with a QR code and the text “Send me Bitcoin!” He received $25,000 in Bitcoin in the first 24 hours, all from people he had never met. This was the first time in history that you could see someone holding up a sign, in person or on TV or in a photo, and then send them money with two clicks on your smartphone: take the photo of the QR code on the sign, and click to send the money.
Think about the implications for protest movements. Today protesters want to get on TV so people learn about their cause. Tomorrow they’ll want to get on TV because that’s how they’ll raise money, by literally holding up signs that let people anywhere in the world who sympathize with them send them money on the spot. Bitcoin is a financial technology dream come true for even the most hardened anticapitalist political organizer.
The coming years will be a period of great drama and excitement revolving around this new technology.
For example, some prominent economists are deeply skeptical of Bitcoin, even though Ben S. Bernanke, formerly Federal Reserve chairman, recently wrote that digital currencies like Bitcoin “may hold long-term promise, particularly if they promote a faster, more secure and more efficient payment system.” And in 1999, the legendary economist Milton Friedman said: “One thing that’s missing but will soon be developed is a reliable e-cash, a method whereby on the Internet you can transfer funds from A to B without A knowing B or B knowing A – the way I can take a $20 bill and hand it over to you, and you may get that without knowing who I am.”
Economists who attack Bitcoin today might be correct, but I’m with Ben and Milton.
Further, there is no shortage of regulatory topics and issues that will have to be addressed, since almost no country’s regulatory framework for banking and payments anticipated a technology like Bitcoin.
But I hope that I have given you a sense of the enormous promise of Bitcoin. Far from a mere libertarian fairy tale or a simple Silicon Valley exercise in hype, Bitcoin offers a sweeping vista of opportunity to reimagine how the financial system can and should work in the Internet era, and a catalyst to reshape that system in ways that are more powerful for individuals and businesses alike.

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