Why do some people believe everything is a conspiracy?

It help us understand a world we do not live in.

Now sure how I ended up there, but there I was reading a question post at Yahoo Answers.

I’ve heard some really stupid **** over the years and one of the worst things I have ever heard is conspiracy theories. One of the worst ones I’ve heard is the 9/11 “inside job” conspiracy. It seems like some people will believe any amount of **** they are told by anyone. No conspiracy makes ANY sense. The US would never destroy its own buildings and murder its own people because there wouldn’t be any reason what so ever. There is NO hidden agenda.. Why do people believe in any of this? There is never any factual evidence that would ever allow them to say “it all adds up” or “exactly!”. So why do these idiots believe this? I’m sorry if I came off as a bigot. I have this problem where I have a hard time dealing with stupidity…..

Have you ever heard the expression, you can’t fix stupid?

I’m thinking that might apply to you. Look my friend, you might have a high IQ but if you don’t get that 9/11 was an inside job then you’re being obtuse which is a special kind of stupid… it’s the kind of stupid that only smart people get to be…

Wise up. You don’t know what you don’t know… but you damn well ought to know by now that the government lies.

First, all your question is weak.

As the old saying goes, “Never say Never.” And why not? because a intelligent person knows there is an exception to every rule. Before we make a statement we can’t supported, we’d do well to remember two things, A) we don’t know so much, and B) the universe has a sense of humor. In other words, just when we think we know all the answers, they go can change the questions.

Best AnswerAsker’s Choice

Obi Wan Knievel answered
People believe in that stuff for two reasons. 1) It’s fun. 2) Most of them don’t understand how stuff works in the real world, so they make this stuff up.

What’s that? This was chosen as the best answer?

Reading the entire page was painful, but I forced myself to do it anyway.  Based on the server time-stamp I could see the question asked by Toxin and replied to by Obi Wan Knievel were now seven months ago. Scrolling down the page I could see there were three replies, each one making his or her logical and reasonable contribution to their collective group think.

We get it.

Sad that some people don’t get.

“Why are some people so obtuse?” I asked my self in reply. The world conspire means “to breath together,” so the only question is if this conspiracy constitutes a criminal act. Was it a criminal conspiracy when Russia and Cuba plotted to place missils 90 miles of the coast of Florida?

You can’t blame people who believe that stuff, because most of them are very young. Did you know everything that’s involved in running a household (never mind a major government) when you were a teenager? Of course not, and you weren’t expected to. Heck I’m in my 40’s, and I still don’t know how to run a government! To kids, facebook and youtube and MTV aren’t the most important things in the world, they ARE the world. So to them, this illuminati crap makes perfect sense.

Think of it… when you were four and afraid of the monster under your bed, did it help when all those adults assured you it wasn’t real? No! That monster made perfect sense to you, because you were four years old. Same thing with teens and conspiracy theories. The only true idiots are the adults who believe in that crap, because they can be expected to know better.
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Shredder answered 7 months ago
there’s a certain satisfaction people get out of believing they are the special few who are “in the know”, unlike the rest of us, the “sheeple”. It’s an ego thing ultimately.

That’s not to say governments shouldn’t be questioned though, as the government has been proven to have told major lies before (some of which have been excuses to enter wars) but these people are obsessed to the point that they’ll see things that aren’t there. I’m glad these people exist though, because even if they’re wrong most of the time, they make it harder for the people at the top to tell lies.
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Shae answered 7 months ago
I imagine that they’re just bored. Or they have something naturally in them that wants to rebel against government. Or maybe they’re just paranoid. You’d be surprised with what a paranoid person could believe.

I read the question again. “Why do some people believe everything is a conspiracy?”

Look, smart guy, everything is a conspiracy.

Was it a criminal conspiracy when Russia and Cuba plotted to place missiles 90 miles of the coast of Florida?

The Manhattan project was a massive secret, but was it a criminal conspiracy? Those scientist who helped create a nuclear bomb were working for a government that wanted to end the war. This was a massive secret program, but was it criminal? That is an open question and the answer depends on which false authority you happen to be in submission.

On August 6, 1945, during World War II (1939-45), an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure.

You see, its all becomes a relative question based on your particular point of view. Who you are, or of whom you’re asking the question, or who you imagine yourself to be. Certainly back in 1945 no citizen of the United State America thought building a nuclear bomb was a criminal enterprise.

Of course, that’s because they didn’t know about it.

It was only after the fact–after the crime, that American’s learned “we got the bomb.”

Yeah, we got the bomb and we used it. Perhaps it was a criminal conspiracy against humanity, but at the time no one could see that. The nuclear option to end the war with Japan was sold as necessary to save American lives. It was on this basis we justified the taking of so many human lives.

It was only three days after Hiroshima, and a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb. This time the target was Nagasaki, After American killed another 40,000 people with a bright flash of light, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”

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UNSPY, we wanted to make sure you know we’re removing the “Who can look up your Timeline by name” setting.
This setting controlled whether people could find your Timeline by searching for your name. We’re removing the setting because it isn’t as useful as it was before, and now there are better ways to manage your privacy using your privacy shortcuts.
 
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We’re removing an old Facebook setting called “Who can look up your Timeline by name.” We’d like to give you more info about this change.
What’s changing:  We’re removing an old search setting called “Who can look up your Timeline by name”—but this won’t change who can see what you’ve shared on Facebook.
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Anyone will be able to look up your Timeline by your name — but if they go to your Timeline, they’ll only see what they already have permission to see. Removing this setting doesn’t change who can see your photos, status updates or other things you’ve shared.
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Zerocoin reduces proof size by 98%, plans to release as altcoin

A few months ago an extension to Bitcoin called Zerocoin was proposed. 

As you know, Bitcoin is the first digital cash system to see widespread adoption. While it offers the potential for new types of financial interaction, it has significant limitations regarding privacy. Specifically, because the Bitcoin transaction log is completely public, users’ privacy is protected only through the use of pseudonyms.  Zerocoin would change that. 

Yesterday, Matthew Green from Zerocoin project posted this tweet:

Matthew D Green on Twitter

Zerocoin

“We designed a new version of Zerocoin that reduces proof sizes by 98% and allows for direct anonymous payments that hide payment amount.”

“We’re going to release it as an alt-coin. It will take a few months to get it to that point. Bitcoin can do what it wants.”

“We need a few months to clean up the code. We plan to release the client and an alt-chain.”

“Hide payment amount from anyone but the Payer/Payee is the goal. It’s not anyone else’s business.”

In August,  I wrote Cyrpo-Keys are Free Speech and in that article touched on Zerocoin when I wrote:

Bitcoin may seek favor with government regulators and opt for more transparency, but then some other crypto-currency could implement the Zerocoin protocol. We might see LiteCoin or FeatherCoin go full-throttle in the direction of total anonymity, and if that happens the debate (about privacy) will be over. It seems inevitable that at some point one these emerging forks in the Bitcoin road will become an anarchist’s wet dream

For those who are uninitiated, Zerocoin is not intended as a replacement for Bitcoin. It’s actually a separate anonymous currency that’s designed to live side-by-side with Bitcoin on the same block chain. Zerocoins are fully exchangeable on a one-to-one basis with bitcoins, which means you could use them with existing merchants.

Look Out #1, Here Comes ZERO

In the beginning…  the idea was to add the Zerocoin protocol to the blockchain making it possible to redeem Bitcoins anonymously.  Just as paper currency once gained its value from being redeemable for gold, Zerocoins wold gain their value from being redeemable for Bitcoins. It now seems this model may be changing and Zerocoin may soon coin itself.

The problem was that the proofs needed for Zerocoin took a lot of processing power. In addition to the computation cost being high is also seemed Zerocoin required too much storage space to be practical. With the announcement this week that there has been a 98% reduction in proof size, that means Zerocoin is now lightweight enough to be implemented into Bitcoin (or any other cryptocurrency). 

The big news is that Zerocoin is now talking about moving forward as it’s own alt-coin, perhaps as early as a few months from now. This is a radical chagne from the “road ahead” published on the Zerocoin website, it still reads, “Get someone [to] integrate it into bitcoin/litecoin/*coin.”  

Yesterday, Matthew Green said, “Bitcoin can do what it wants.”  

This makes perfect sense because this isn’t a simple change in the Bitcoin protocol. It’s a huge, all-encompassing change, which definitely deserves its own crypto-currency. Having said that, some serous thought need to be given to this new direction. 

The Heat Is On The Street

In the past those individual who were behind eGold and Liberty Reserve were both “done in” by government money laundering laws. In the case of the Liberty Dollar the crime was imitating the USD and in the Post-9/11 World this is also called a form of “domestic terrorism” (whatever that means). The point is Matthew Green needs to lawyer up.

Ross Ulbricht, even if the charges of hiring killers and laundering funds that were held in escrow were dropped, he also allegedly ran a site that facilitated anonymous communication between dealers and users, and he is absolutely in deep water from that, because he knew that that is what was going to happen on the site he created. All he did was create the site, and as a result of everyone using it, he will be charged for helping enable those crimes. The owners of Liberty Reserve were in spain at the time they were arrested too so the US definitely has long arms. Liberty Reserve was also used for many legitimate uses, as what happens with all money, but Zerocoin is very specifically tailored to strip identity from it’s transactions and Bitcoin can and will be able to ensure a high level of privacy, but it doesn’t have the total anonymity that criminals desire, so that means that Zerocoin’s main useful feature is going to be to facilitate illegal activity.

Now Bitcoin also enables crime, but the creator is nowhere to be found, the bell can’t be unrung, the Bitcoin genie is out of the bottle and there’s no-one to blame, and so all that is left is to arrest those that do use it for crime. Satoshi is long gone, unharassable, unarrestable. Matthew Green however, knowing fully well his alt-coin would be used to instigate all manner of illegal activity is actively creating an untracable currency, not a feature of Bitcoin, but his own currency, which means he will be the creator, issuer of coins and the facillitator when this thing goes live.

If this were just math, simply a protocol integrated into Bitcoin (or MegaCoin) then it would be the tens of thousands of miners that would essentially be the issuers, facilitators and creators of this anonymised coin. However, if Zerocoin becomes it own alt-coin then the creator is likely to experience some real serous government heat.

CoinValidation vs Zerocoin

Meanwhile, CoinValidation efforts are gaining steam. Basically, the idea is to build a centralized service that ‘redlists’ (blacklists) every Bitcoin addresses not authorized by this system. In effect, keeping good coins out of the hands of bad people or tagging other coins for having ties to criminals, hackers, and drug dealers. Proponent of such a system will help “keep the bitcoin economy from being a hotbed of crime.”

This CoinValidation and blacklisting taint, are both completely against what Bitcoin was designed to be and the ideals it was founded upon. The more I read about it the worse it sounds. Some have started to call this CoInvalidation based on this Reddit post. This misguided movement to “taint” Bitcoins with even less privacy features isn’t likely to fade away. Some people argue that even the limited anonymity of Bitcoin is too much, calling this its only flaw. The debate is getting quite heated.

How It Works

Here is quote from zerocoin.org

The Bitcoin payment network offers a highly decentralized mechanism for creating and transferring electronic cash around the world. Unfortunately, Bitcoin suffers from a major limitation: since transactions are stored in a public ledger (called the “block chain”) it may be possible to trace the history of any given payment — even years after the fact.

So here is the problem, since the Bitcoin ledger is public, any party can recover this information and data mine to identify users and patterns in the transactions. In other words: Bitcoin transactions are conducted in public. The most common solution to this problem is to use Bitcoin laundries – services that mix together many users’ bitcoins in order to obfuscate the transaction history. Laundries suffer from a number of potential drawbacks, however, as they must be trusted to return coins. Moreover a compromised or malicious laundry offers no anonymity.

Zerocoin achieves this by creating a separate anonymous currency that operates side-by-side with traditional Bitcoin on the block chain. Zerocoins can be thought of literally as coins. They’re issued in a fixed denomination (for example, 1 BTC), and any user can purchase a zerocoin in exchange for the correct quantity of bitcoin. This purchase is done by placing a special new “Zerocoin Mint” transaction into the block chain.

Here is a link to Matthew Green giving a talk about this. As he explains, this system uses standard cryptographic assumptions and does not introduce new trusted parties or otherwise change the security model of Bitcoin. Matthew details Zerocoin’s cryptographic construction, how he envisioned it would be integrated into Bitcoin, and he examines its performance both in terms of computation cost and impact on the Bitcoin protocol.

Dark Wallet

“We believe Bitcoin is fundamentally subversive” said Cody Wilson, “We here to force the conflict.”

In a recent episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser interviews Cody Wilson about living in a trifecta of disruptive technologies as a citizen of the future in which bitcoin means a thousand silk roads and fanfare for the common man. If you want to understand the impact the Zerocoin is going to have on the world, watch this interview:

 

Bitcoin Price Hits $500, a 50x Increase in Just 12 Months

Those bitcoins that made you gasp at $300 just a couple of weeks ago? They were a bargain — the value of 1 BTC has now passed $500.

Prices hit this record and landmark figure at 11.50am GMT on 17 November, and at the time of writing were trading at $503.10 on Mt. Gox.

That means: if you bought a stash of bitcoins at their absolute highest peak price of $266* in April 2013 and then felt nauseous as the price plunged to $65 the same week, you have now almost doubled your investment. Provided you didn’t cut your losses and sell prematurely, that is.

Image

The bitcoin value began rising again almost immediately after that, breaking through the $100 mark again before May and hovering around that region throughout the northern hemisphere summer. It broke through $200 in late October and since then the price charts have been close to vertical, hitting $300 on 6 November and $400 on all exchanges by 15 November.

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There are currently 12,003,175 bitcoins in existence. The total market cap is $5,581,140,286 according to the Bitcoin Price Index, with 1,212,833 bitcoins changing hands in the past 24 hours. An average of 50,535 bitcoins are transacted every hour.

bitcoin price hits $500
The bitcoin price has reached $500 on Mt. Gox. Source: Bitcoincharts

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Why is this happening?

Bitcoin has survived some bumps in that time, most significantly the shutdown of the Silk Road online black marketplace and a number of chilly statements from government representatives. That it has continued to rise despite these setbacks could well be pushing values even higher, as investors sense a more resilient asset than previously thought.

The FBI seized a total of 171,955 BTC from Silk Road in October 2013, an amount so significant there were rumors it could influence bitcoin’s value. It is still unclear what the Bureau intends to do with its haul, if anything.

Nearly every piece of bad news about individual cases heralded more expectations that bitcoin would pay the price.

An asset with more significant value has also meant higher-profile hacks, scams and thefts. Companies like Australia’s Inputs.io found themselves out of their depth as its now considerable deposits came under attack.

What had been worth a few thousand in 2012 was suddenly worth millions, and people with plenty of experience finding naive security holes wanted it.

Rather than face their customers’ wrath, the proprietors of such businesses simply took fright and ran away. As recently as last week, the (supposedly) Hong Kong-based GBL also disappeared, along with its customers’ funds.

Yet the value never fell. Nearly every piece of bad news about individual cases heralded more expectations that bitcoin would pay the price. That it has continued to rise despite these setbacks could well be feeding back and pushing values even higher, as investors sense bitcoin is a more resilient asset than previously thought.

The government has been paying as much attention as the hackers and scammers. The US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) will begin hearings on Monday 18 November with representatives from five wary federal agencies and representatives from the bitcoin advocacy community. Another Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs will also hold a bitcoin hearing on Tuesday 19 November.

Again, the news of these hearings have had no negative impact on bitcoin’s value.

Silk Road shutdown effect on bitcoin
Silk Road’s shutdown on 2 October 2013 caused only a small dip in the bitcoin price.

Around the globe

BTC China Bitcoin Exchange
ate 2013 also saw an axial shift towards Asia, as BTC China became the highest-volume bitcoin exchange with its own record-setting prices. Reports of media attention and rampant mining activity have made some wonder if China is driving the rise. Even in April, when most gave credit for the bitcoin rise to government bank account confiscations, the factories of Shenzhen were busy cranking out mining hardware and selling it to locals.

The two week shutdown of the US Federal Government in October 2013 over a debt ceiling dispute did little to boost faith in government-backed money, especially the one acting as the world’s reserve currency. Every time the word ‘default’ is even mentioned in this context, no matter what the expected outcome, eyes begin to search for alternative assets.

There have been other alternate theories, including the one that bitcoin value is being driven up by the unfortunate millions desperately acquiring the currency to rid themselves of CryptoLocker malware.

Bubbles

The air in April was thick with the gloating of digital currency cynics and attempts even by technology media to analyze the factors behind bitcoin’s ‘fate’ and look for alternatives. But bitcoin has proved to be more Amazon.com than Pets.com and if it’s a bubble, it is one with a tendency to respawn.

Now, as $1,000 will get you only two bitcoins, the cries of ‘bubble!’ have not gone away.

Garrick Hileman, economics historian at the London School of Economics, said it’s too early to tell whether we’re seeing a bubble in bitcoin. He believes lots of factors are driving the price increase, including pure speculation, increased media coverage and attention from regulators.

“The growing regulatory attention which bitcoin is receiving is likely having a positive effect. This may seem counterintuitive, but to go mainstream, bitcoin needs more regulation, not less.”

Hileman said the US Senate hearings next week will not only bring more publicity to bitcoin, they may also lead to additional regulatory guidance.

“The lack of legal clarity is arguably the single most important issue facing bitcoin right now. For example, banks are scared of bitcoin, and reluctance by banks to work with the growing bitcoin ecosystem is a significant barrier to wider adoption,” he added.

Suggestions of a bubble will probably continue to increase and it’s wise to not get to carried away simply by a rising price. It might be equally prudent to stay ready to pounce on another price drop to $65.

Or we may be laughing at this story a year from now — not because the price has crashed, but because it has soared to even more unimaginable levels. Someone from November 2012 would probably find the idea of $500 quite hilarious too.

* Prices on BTC China were actually over the equivalent of $300 in April 2013, but the exchange trades only in Chinese RMB.

Everything You Know About Money Is Wrong

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/05/Barter-Chickens_for_Subscription.jpg

 We Can’t Fix What We Don’t Understand

Bloomberg notes this week that the conventional theory of why money was created is wrong:

There are, broadly speaking, two accounts of the origin and history of money. One is elegant, intuitive and taught in many introductory economics textbooks. The other is true.

The financial economist Charles Goodhart, a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, laid out the two views in a 1998 paper, “The Two Concepts of Money: Implications for the Analysis of Optimal Currency Areas.”

The first view, the “M View,” is named after the Austrian 19th century economist and historian Karl Menger, whose 1882 essay “On the Origins of Money” is the canonical statement of an argument that goes back to Aristotle:

As subsistence farming gives way to more complex economies, individuals want to trade. Simple barter (eight bushels of wheat for one barrel of wine) quickly becomes inefficient, because a buyer’s desires won’t always match up with a seller’s inventory. If a merchant comes through the village with wine and all a farmer has to offer is wheat, but the merchant wants nuts, there’s no trade and both parties walk away unfulfilled. Or the farmer has to incur the costs of finding another merchant who will exchange wheat for nuts and then hope that the first merchant hasn’t moved on to the next village.

But if the merchant and the farmer can exchange some other medium, then the trade can happen. This medium of exchange has to be what Menger calls “saleable,” meaning that it’s easily portable, doesn’t spoil over time and can be divided. Denominated coins work, shells and beads also fit the bill. So do cigarettes in POW camps and jails and Tide laundry detergent for drug dealers. This process, Menger argues, happens without the intervention of the state: “Money has not been generated by law. In its origin it is a social, and not a state institution.” [Menger’s view is the commonly-accepted theory of  money.]

Goodhart points out, however, that Menger is just wrong about the actual history of physical money, especially metal coins. Goodhart writes that coins don’t follow Menger’s account at all. Normal people, after all, can’t judge the quality of hunks of metal the same way they can count cigarettes or shells. They can, however, count coins. Coins need to be minted, and governments are the ideal body to do so. Precious metals that become coins are, well, precious, and stores of them need to be protected from theft. Also, a private mint will always have the incentive to say its coins contain more high-value stuff than they actually do. Governments can last a long time and make multi-generational commitments to their currencies that your local blacksmith can’t.

But why oversee money creation in the first place? This brings us to the second theory of money, which Goodhart calls the “C View,” standing for “cartalist” (chartalist is a more common spelling). To simplify radically, it starts with the idea that states minted money to pay soldiers, and then made that money the only acceptable currency for paying taxes. With a standard currency, tax assessment and collection became easier, and the state could make a small profit from seiginorage.

The state-coin connection has far more historical support than Menger’s organic account. As Goodheart points out, strong, state-building rulers (Charlemagne, Edward I of England) tend to be currency innovators, and he could have easily added Franklin D. Roosevelt’s taking the U.S. off the gold standard in 1933 or Abraham Lincoln financing the Civil War with newly issued greenbacks. The inverse is true too: When states collapse, they usually take their currencies with them. When Japan stopped minting coins in 958, the economy reverted to barter within 50 years.  When the Roman Empire collapsed in Western Europe, money creation splintered along new political borders.

If money came about independent of states, as according to the M View, one would think it would outlast transient political structures. Historically, however, this tends not to be the case, a strong argument in favor of the C View.

Anthropologist David Graeber – who has extensively studied the history of money and debt – agrees:

There’s a standard story we’re all taught, a ‘once upon a time’ — it’s a fairy tale.

***

Rather than the standard story – first there’s barter, then money, then finally credit comes out of that – if anything its precisely the other way around. Credit and debt comes first, then coinage emerges thousands of years later and then, when you do find “I’ll give you twenty chickens for that cow” type of barter systems, it’s usually when there used to be cash markets, but for some reason – as in Russia, for example, in 1998 – the currency collapses or disappears.

***

Taxes are also key to creating the first markets that operate on cash, since coinage seems to be invented or at least widely popularized to pay soldiers – more or less simultaneously in China, India, and the Mediterranean, where governments find the easiest way to provision the troops is to issue them standard-issue bits of gold or silver and then demand everyone else in the kingdom give them one of those coins back again. Thus we find that the language of debt and the language of morality start to merge.

***

How did this happen? Well, remember I said that the big question in the origins of money is how a sense of obligation – an ‘I owe you one’ – turns into something that can be precisely quantified? Well, the answer seems to be: when there is a potential for violence. If you give someone a pig and they give you a few chickens back you might think they’re a cheapskate, and mock them, but you’re unlikely to come up with a mathematical formula for exactly how cheap you think they are. If someone pokes out your eye in a fight, or kills your brother, that’s when you start saying, “traditional compensation is exactly twenty-seven heifers of the finest quality and if they’re not of the finest quality, this means war!”

Money, in the sense of exact equivalents, seems to emerge from situations like that, but also, war and plunder, the disposal of loot, slavery. In early Medieval Ireland, for example, slave-girls were the highest denomination of currency. And you could specify the exact value of everything in a typical house even though very few of those items were available for sale anywhere because they were used to pay fines or damages if someone broke them. But once you understand that taxes and money largely begin with war it becomes easier to see what really happened.

Graeber provides an example:

We tend to forget that in, say, the Middle Ages, from France to China, … money was … whatever the king was willing to accept in taxes.

Graeber also notes that the first word for “freedom” in any language is the word for “debt-freedom”, and that much of the language of the great religious movements revolved around forgiveness of debts.  And the founders of the Christian and Jewish religions focused on the importance of debt jubilees.

In addition, most Americans don’t realize that our current money system does not serve the public good, but instead continuously sucks the prosperity and vitality out of our economy.  As Henry Ford noted:

It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.

Some claim that public banking is the answer. Others look to gold or Bitcoin as a saner alternative to fiat currencies.

As we noted in 2011, maybe we should get beyond all systems which keep track of exactly to the penny who owes what to whom … in the manner required for warfare and slavery:

Graeber hints at one possibility [for a way out of the money-debt trap]:

[French anthropologist Marcel Mauss] was one of the first anthropologists to ask: well, all right, if not barter, then what? What do people who don’t use money actually do when things change hands? Anthropologists had documented an endless variety of such economic systems, but hadn’t really worked out common principles. What Mauss noticed was that in almost all of them, everyone pretended as if they were just giving one another gifts and then they fervently denied they expected anything back. But in actual fact everyone understood there were implicit rules and recipients would feel compelled to make some sort of return.

What fascinated Mauss was that this seemed to be universally true, even today. If I take a free-market economist out to dinner he’ll feel like he should return the favor and take me out to dinner later. He might even think that he is something of chump if he doesn’t and this even if his theory tells him he just got something for nothing and should be happy about it. Why is that? What is this force that compels me to want to return a gift?

This is an important argument, and it shows there is always a certain morality underlying what we call economic life.

In other words, in communities or webs of human interaction which are small enough that people can remember who gave what, we might be able to set up alternative systems of money and credit so we can largely “opt out” of the status quo systems of money and debt measurement.

I’m not arguing for becoming Luddites and living in mud huts (but that is fine, if you wish to do so). Nor am I suggesting that we all have to become selfless saints who give away all of their possessions without any reasonable expectation of something in return.

I am arguing that it might be possible to empower ourselves – and create our own systems for keeping track on a local or people-centered basis, and create our own vibrant economies using the resources we have – by moving away from the national and global systems dominated by the biggest banks and oligarchs, and towards a system where we “spend” resources and goodwill into our local communities in a way in which trust is built from the ground-up, and the energy of trade and commerce can be re-started. [Trust is – after all – the basis for all prosperous economies.]

Postscript: Mainstream economists will argue that we need a universal, fungible type of money in order to trade on a global basis. But because currencies are now unpegged from anything in the real world and are traded on the currency markets, their values fluctuate wildly in the modern world. In other words, one of the essential characteristics for money – that they represent a universal, fixed yardstick – has disappeared. And fiat currencies have a very short lifespan. So how valuable are they, really, for anyone but forex speculators?

Until we learn what money, credit and debt really are, we will remain victims … getting poorer and poorer.

Postscript: The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil.  On the other hand, the father of modern economics (Adam Smith), Ronald Reagan, economist Milton Friedman, Wall Street titan Ivan Boesky and students who take economics classes all say that greed is good.

Both are naive.

Money and currency are good to the extent that they help create abundance for ourselves and our communities.  They are bad to the extent that they are used to promote warfare and slavery, and that they suck prosperity out of the system.

Big Banks Are Not Really In the Banking Business

Everyone thinks of banks as holding our deposits safe, and extending loans based upon the amount of deposits they hold in their vaults.

This is no longer true.

The big banks currently do very little traditional banking. Most of their business is from financialspeculation (which, sadly, metastasizes into manipulation and criminal behavior).

For example, less than 10% of Bank of America’s assets come from traditional banking deposits.

Time Magazine gave some historical perspective in 1993:

What would happen to the U.S. economy if all its commercial banks suddenly closed their doors? Throughout most of American history, the answer would have been a disaster of epic proportions, akin to the Depression wrought by the chain-reaction bank failures in the early 1930s. But [today] the startling answer is that a shutdown by banks might be far from cataclysmic.

***

Who really needs banks these days? Hardly anyone, it turns out. While banks once dominated business lending, today nearly 80% of all such loans come from nonbank lenders like life insurers, brokerage firms and finance companies. Banks used to be the only source of money in town. Now businesses and individuals can write checks on their insurance companies, get a loan from a pension fund, and deposit paychecks in a money-market account with a brokerage firm. “It is possible for banks to die and still have a vibrant economy,” says Edward Furash, a Washington banks consultant.

Indeed, even though the taxpayers have thrown trillions of dollars at the “too big to fail” banks, they largely stopped loaning to Main street … and it was only the smaller banks that kept making loans.