My Latest Interview with Financial Survival Network – Creating a Decentralized World

Creating an ever connected, yet increasingly decentralized world is no easy task. Nevertheless, it is something I believe humanity must do in order to traverse the current challenging times and come out the other side better off than before.

Yesterday, I highlighted what I believe is an extremely important article on the worker co-op movement. Earlier in the week, I sat down with Kerry Lutz of Financial Survival Network to discuss everything from Bitcoin and crony capitalism, to marijuana legalization and local food.

You can listen to the interview here. Enjoy!

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What is Payment Protocol “Ripple” and How Does it Allow for Physically Backed Digital Gold Currency Exchange

I’ve known about Ripple for close to a year now. I’ve been meaning to write a post on it for several months, but since doing so is such a difficult effort I kept putting it off. The most accurate expression I’ve seen to-date describing the daunting task of explaining Ripple to someone who has never heard of it is the following line published in a recent Bitcoin Magazine article:

If you’re ever explaining Bitcoin to someone and they’re getting it, start talking about Ripple, just to confuse them again.

That was precisely how I felt when a friend of mine first introduced me to Ripple. I had only recently really gotten behind Bitcoin, and now I had to try to understand something else? Even worse, something that seemed far more complicated. While I was interested in the idea right off the bat because I have a huge degree of trust in this person’s opinion on technology, it seemed overwhelming so I put the entire thing to the side.

My perspective changed later in the year when another friend of mine asked me if I knew about Ripple. It turns out he is friends with the head of Markets and Trading at Ripple Labs, Phil Rapoport. Since Phil is based in NYC, and I was headed there, I decided to set up a meeting and develop a more informed opinion on the subject.

By the time I met with Phil, I had put a lot more thought into Ripple in order to ask good questions by the time he showed up. I was highly skeptical for many reasons.

Ripple is not particularly embraced within many areas of the Bitcoin community, and I can understand why. Going in, I had many doubts. It is first and foremost a payment protocol, and secondly a “math based currency.” Since I couldn’t grasp the payment aspect until my meeting with Phil, I had spent all of my time thinking about the currency aspect of it, and that part was not appealing to me when compared to Bitcoin.

First off, the currency is pre-mined. This means that all the units are already in existence from day one and controlled by the creators, as opposed to Bitcoin, where the currency is mined over time by computers confirming transactions and ensuring the system runs smoothly. The distinction is important since the distribution process for Ripple is entirely opaque, while the distribution process for Bitcoin is far more transparent. While you do not know who exactly receives the bitcoins as each block is created, you do know how many are being distributed and at what pace until that moment in 2140 when the very last BTC is mined. With Ripple (the native currency of the protocol is known as XRP), the only thing we know is that there are 100 billion in existence (the most there will ever be) and that the founders kept 20 billion for themselves. The remaining 80 billion have been allocated to a company called Ripple Labs, which is in charge of distributing the remaining XRP as they deem appropriate. To-date, about 9.5% of the 80 billion have been distributed and you can track the progress here.

From a business standpoint, I can understand why this would be the case. They can sell some of it into the market to pay day-to-day expenses (Ripple already has a total valuation of about $1.4 billion), they can allocate it to employees as compensation, they can give it away via charity such as their partnership with the World Community Grid, and most importantly they can gift them to strategic ”Gateways” (more on those later) in order to grow the payment system into what it needs to become in order to succeed.

One of the things that I and many others in the Bitcoin community have loved about Bitcoin is the fact that some poor computer nerd could have started mining bitcoins from his home computer several years back and now be a millionaire. It is very grassroots in that way. The people who saw its potential early on had the ability to participate in what was kind of like a decentralized IPO. All you needed was a little vision and some computer chops. There is something brilliant and beautiful in that distribution process. While mining is now a very expensive affair and out of the reach of the average person, this wasn’t the case in the beginning when there was far more risk involved in the entire experiment.

With Ripple, a somewhat equitable early distribution process was never on the table. The founders have/are allocating the currency in a highly centralized and opaque manner. There’s something about this that rubs many in the crypto-currency community the wrong way. Moreover, because Bitcoin is such a grass roots creation, it is simply much more political than Ripple is or ever will be. Buying Bitcoin and supporting it is for many of us an expression of disgust with the Federal Reserve in particular, and the legacy banking system in general. While many supporters of Ripple will most definitely harbor similar sentiments, buying XRP isn’t really a statement, while buying and spending BTC very much still is.

So those are some of the “negative” aspects of Ripple. I think they represent much of the skepticism in the Bitcoin community. They certainly reflect many of my own sentiments before I learned more about the tremendous potential of the payment system.

I will now explain how I overcame my initial skepticism on Ripple and saw the enormous power and benefit of the payment protocol itself. Earlier, I described some of the main differences between Ripple and Bitcoin. I called your attention to many of the aspect of Ripple that folks within the Bitcoin community tend to dislike. I think it is also important to understand some similarities they share.

One major similarity is that they both represent new payment systems that at their core allow for transfers of value from one person to another across the world at essentially zero cost. Both run on open source code and empower merchants and economic growth generally by eliminating the middlemen currently taking anywhere from 2%-3% for merely processing payments. The tens of billions of dollars spent on such fees can be repositioned as fuel for the global economy and put to more productive uses.

They were both released to the world for free. This represents a huge revolution not just in payments, but in potentially how some startups might choose to fund themselves in the future. Within Bitcoin, the unit of exchange, BTC, is needed in order to participate in the payment protocol. In that way, bitcoins, can be seen as the equity of the network. Early adopters bought or mined bitcoin, and as they increased tremendously in value, many of them have used their wealth and knowledge to greatly advance the protocol to where it is today.

Ripple also has a currency, called XRP, which can also be seen as the “equity” of the payment system. Here is where we start to see a major difference between the two systems. Within the Bitcoin network, you will use BTC, whereas the Ripple network is currency agnostic for the most part. The system does not discriminate between one currency or the other. Using Ripple, you can send payment to someone quickly and at essentially no cost whether it is USD, gold, XRP, or bitcoins.

That said, the currency XRP does play two major roles in the system.

1) Since it is the native currency on the protocol, it is the only currency traded or exchanged on the system that does not have any counter-party risk. Anyone with a Ripple wallet can send anyone else XRP at any time with no exceptions, sort of like Bitcoin. By contrast, in order to receive any other currency or asset of value on the system you must trust certain “Gateways.”

2) There is also a certain amount of XRP that is destroyed with every transaction on the system. The amount is a negligible .00001 XRP (a extraordinarily tiny fraction of a penny), and is used to prevent spam transactions from clogging the protocol. As such, each wallet on Ripple needs to have a minuscule XRP reserve balance of 20, which is at total of $0.28 at current prices.

In a nutshell: XRP has value as the reserve currency of the payment system. It is the grease in the wheels of the whole thing.

Ok, so I probably lost a lot of you above with the whole “Gateway” and “trust” concept. Let me explain.

First of all, no other currencies or items of value are actually held within the Ripple payment system. Gold traded on Ripple will be held in a vault somewhere, and U.S. dollars (USD) traded will be held in some sort of external financial institution, a bank, credit union or whatever. This is where “Gateways” come into play. “Gateways” are essentially companies that serve as the custodians for non-XRP assets that trade on Ripple.

To make this easy to understand, I will use the USD example. If you are a U.S. citizen and want to hold USD in your Ripple wallet the best “Gateway” to use at the moment is SnapSwap. SnapSwap has a bank account at Bank of America and you “fund” your Ripple wallet with USD by sending the currency to SnapSwap’s bank account. At that point your USD enters the Ripple network and you can purchase XRP and send it to anyone, or you can send your USD to anyone on the Ripple network who also “trusts” SnapSwap. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t need “trust” to send or receive XRP, you only need “trust” to send other items of value that have counter-party risk. Since there is obviously counter-party risk associated with your USD (risk resides at both SnapSwap and Bank of America) a Ripple user must conduct due diligence to determine whether or not they “trust” SnapSwap in order to receive USD via Ripple. The choice is yours.

For more information on how SnapSwap funding works, I suggest reading this explanation.

This brings me to what I think is one of the most exciting parts of Ripple, the ability to trade physically backed, deliverable precious metals. All you need is a “Gateway” with a vault (or access to one) that is willing to allow the metals to trade instantaneously and in fractional amounts on the payment system. While my mind was already excited about this potential after I met Phil in NYC, one of the things holding me back from writing this article was the lack of a solid option for doing so. Well that option arrived in January with the launch of Ripple Singapore as a “Gateway” in late January.

In the press release describing the service they explained:

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Highlighting the LLC IRA – Own Gold, Silver or Bitcoins for Your Retirement

I have brought the guys at Perpetual Assets to your attention once before, following my meeting them at the Liberty Masterminds conference in Dallas (check out my speech here)( this past summer. While these guys sell bullion, they do a lot more than just that. In fact, what separates them from others relates to the innovative products they bring to the table for precious metals holders and others who merely want to take control of their individual financial destiny.

One of these which I have highlighted in the past is the company’s LLC IRA product, which allows you to truly be your own asset manager for your retirement. You know, kind of the way it should be. With this product you can hold almost anything you can imagine in your retirement account. From gold and silver, to Bitcoin. In fact, they will even accept payment in Bitcoin to get the whole thing set up.

Ever since Barry O came out with his latest used car salesman gimmick, the MyRA, the guys at Perpetual Assets have told me interest and sign ups for their LLC IRA product have exploded.

Click on the banner below for more information and definitely feel free to get in touch with them. They’ll be happy to walk your through the whole process.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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Video of the Day: F*ck the Fed

On this day, when the banker-cartel commonly known as the Federal Reserve is set to announce its latest decision in central planning, I thought it would be wise to revisit an old, yet classic video which calls out this neo-feudal institution for the state-sanctioned criminal enterprise it is.

Neal Fox summarizes my sentiments exactly with three simple words that say it all: F*ck the Fed.

Enjoy.

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Inaugural Interview with Hard Assets Alliance – India’s War on Gold, Bitcoin in China and More…

This past week I sat down with Andy Duncan of the Hard Assets Alliance for an inaugural podcast and we discussed a variety of timely topics. From India’s “war on gold,” the emergence of new political parties around the world and, of course, Bitcoin.

This is the first interview in which I discuss my view that the Chinese attacks on Bitcoin are actually a sign of the regime’s weakness, and I take issue with certain gold bugs hoping for a Chinese run gold standard or something similar. I am of the adamant belief that we need to separate money from the state. Enjoy!

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GoldMoney Adds Bitcoin to its Suite of Services

The explosion in the price and popularity of Bitcoin over the past six months has caused a major rift within the precious metals community. It is quite clear which side I am on, and quite frankly, I am having a hard time understanding the outright hostility toward Bitcoin from many gold and silver stackers. The disdain toward Bitcoin borders on dogmatic religious type hostility characterized by a “gold and silver or nothing” mentality, while the attitude from folks in my camp consists of a “let’s support this experiment and see how it works” mentality, while still maintaining a very positive stance on the precious metals as a store of value. As I have said many times before, gold is a store of value, while Bitcoin is primarily a disruptive technology and innovative payment system that is now in direct competition with the traditional financial system. Seeing value in one, doesn’t preclude seeing value in the other.

It appears that the folks at GoldMoney understand this, and have just announced Bitcoin cold storage as a new service.

From the the UK’s Independent: 

One of the UK’s leading precious metals storage firms is adding an altogether more unusual commodity to its vaults – Bitcoin.

GoldMoney Group, which holds $1.4 billion worth of precious metals for customers, is setting up a new business specializing in “cold” storage of Bitcoin, an increasingly popular digital currency. Netagio will encrypt Bitcoins and store them on offline storage devices in secure vaults.

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Inaugural Interview with Miles Franklin – Gold, Bitcoin and Oligarch Theft

Last week, I sat down for a chat with my fellow Coloradan and friend Andy Hoffman, Media Director for precious metals dealer Miles Franklin.

Many precious metals focused people have taken a very aggressive, and in my opinion ignorant and short-sighted negative perspective on Bitcoin as of late. I personally feel that this is rooted in either a simple lack of research, or resentment that Bitcoin has experienced a performance many in the precious metals space thought would be reserved for gold and silver alone. As such, I give Andy a lot of credit for having me on and having an open mind.

Enjoy!

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Video of the Day: Greenspan Calls Bitcoin a Bubble

I have to admit I was starting to get a little worried in recent days as certain folks who’s opinions I hold in very low regard started to rethink their prior clearly poorly researched opinions on Bitcoin. Personally, I would prefer small thinkers and professional media trolls to continue to mock and bash Bitcoin at every step.

Fortunately, many of my concerns were completely eliminated today, as the most destructive person in American history, Alan Greenspan, went on Bloomberg television and called Bitcoin a bubble. The best part is the way his obviously senile mind attempted to legitimize government fiat by comparing it to a very rich person writing a check. What is this nut job even talking about? In any event, if there was every a reason to hold on to your Bitcoins, this may be it.

In Liberty,
Mike

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Gold Smuggling Increases 7x in India and Surpasses Illegal Drug Trade

The absurd “War on Gold” that India has launched this year has been covered many times on this site. From the moment I read about it, it was obvious that if Indians want their gold, the Indians will have their gold. You can’t break thousands of years of tradition and culture because of the ignorant whims of a few bureaucrats.

Earlier today, Reuters published an article detailing the extent to which Indian smugglers will go in order to bring the money of kings into the country. This includes hiding it in underwear, swallowing it whole and even painting gold staples gray. What is most disturbing is the lengths authorities are willing to go to in order to stop a supposedly free people from buying a brick of metal. From Reuters:

(Reuters) – Indian gold smugglers are adopting the methods of drug couriers to sidestep a government crackdown on imports of the precious metal, stashing gold in imported vehicles and even using mules who swallow nuggets to try to get them past airport security.

Stung by rules imposed this year to cut a high trade deficit and a record duty on imports, dealers and individual customers are fanning out across Asia to buy gold and sneak it back into the country.

Sri Lanka, Thailand and Singapore are the latest hotspots as authorities crack down on travelers from Dubai, the traditional source of smuggled gold.

Stop one and another will rise. As always.

In a sign of the times, whistleblowers who help bust illegal gold shipments can get a bigger reward in India than those who help catch cocaine and heroin smugglers.

Because that makes a so much sense.

“There has been a several-fold increase in gold smuggling this year after restrictions from the government, which has left narcotics behind.” 

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Gold Supplies in India Disappear Despite Continued Record Premiums

I first reported on record high gold premiums in India a couple of weeks ago. Since then, the story has become even more interesting as Reuters reports that gold supplies have completely dried up just ahead of major gold buying festivals and despite continued record premiums. While it is clear that Indians are finding a way to buy gold anyway via black markets, this is still a very interesting story to keep an eye on.

More from Reuters:

India has imposed several restrictions on imports of gold, the biggest non-essential import item, to curb a record trade deficit. Gold imports in September fell to 7 tonnes from 162 tonnes in May.

Of course, if additional demand wasn’t being met via black markets the price of gold would be far lower than it is.

“Still gold is not available, and they are charging $120-130 (an ounce) of premiums,” said Bachhraj Bamalwa, director with the All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation.

Most of the demand is being met by recycled gold or through unofficial or illegal supply channels, traders said.

“Sales have dropped by 50 percent… and everything is happening according to the wishes of the government,” said Harshad Ajmera, proprietor of Kolkata-based wholesaler JJ Gold House.

I’m sure this will all work out just as the government anticipates…

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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