The big online retailer Overstock.com now accepts payment in Bitcoin. That's good news for lovers of liberty because Bitcoins give us an alternative to government-controlled money. Bitcoins are a currency created by anonymous, private tech nerds, not by government.
Governments don't like competition, and our government sometimes bans competing currencies. But as more of us use Bitcoins, and more businesses accept payment in Bitcoin, it becomes harder for government to dismiss the currency as illegitimate, or ban it.
There are two advantages to Bitcoin.
First, it's harder to trace transactions back to people who make trades. I don't particularly care about that, because at the moment, I don't hide anything from my government.
But I do fear government destroying the value of my dollars by printing more of them, the way governments in Germany before World War II and in Zimbabwe in recent decades did, forcing people to make trades using wheelbarrows of nearly worthless bills. Given how my government spends money, and the way the Fed enables this by buying trillions in government bonds, I fear my dollars may someday be worth pennies. So I bought Bitcoins.
Bitcoins are digitally created -- or "mined" -- at a slow, fairly predictable rate. An incomprehensible (incomprehensible to me, anyway) computer algorithm limits their number.
"Bitcoins are not controlled by anybody," explained Mercatus Center senior research fellow Jerry Brito on my TV show. "It's a new Internet protocol, like email or the Web ... a digital, decentralized currency that allows you to exchange money with anybody in the world fast and cheaply without the use of a third party like PayPal or Visa or MasterCard."
I bought Bitcoins even though I don't understand how Bitcoin mining works. I also worry that someone will hack into my Bitcoin account and steal my money, or maybe hack into the whole system and devalue Bitcoins by creating millions of new ones.
But risky as this new currency may be, I still trust it more than I trust politicians. When my fellow baby boomers demand our promised Medicare payments and discover that government promised trillions more in benefits than it can ever pay for, I assume politicians will print dollars until they are nearly worthless.
So, I put my savings into Bitcoins when they sold for $140 each. I was late to buy -- smarter people bought for much less. But today each Bitcoin is worth more than $800. So, yippee for me! I'm so glad I put all my savings into Bitcoins.
OK, I didn't really. It's just (SET ITAL) part (END ITAL) of my savings -- but it's good to hedge against political venality!