I’ve attended a number of FreedomFests. This year’s edition had more energy than I remember. FF impresario Mark Skousen and coordinator deluxe Tami Holland were dealt a terrible hand with Caesars moving the conference location from the company’s signature property to Planet Hollywood at the last minute. However, Tami and Mark are pros and all is well that ends well. Planet Hollywood is a hip property appealing to a younger clientele which provided the perfect atmosphere for liberty lovers.
Bally’s, which hosted the event in the past, can only be described as tired. Its convention center was a long dreary walk from the action on the casino floor. Planet Hollywood is full of life and a quick ride up the escalator from the gaming action put attendees right in the heart of FreedomFest.
However, while the venue was young and hip, the investment advice at FreedomFest was old school. Yes, the dollar is doomed, just as the Roman deranius ultimately was. But as I made the point during the Bitcoin Panel (with Jeffrey Tucker, Amanda Billyrock and Jeff Berwick), when the dollar ultimately dies, we likely will not be digging out our gold and silver coins to trade with.
In the electronic age people carry libraries of books around with them in a single tablet. We constantly communicate in dozens of ways with a tiny handheld device that was inconceivable only a decade ago. The same device holds our calendar, allows us to watch movies and even take pictures. So when the dollar goes poof! do we honestly think we will return to pulling heavy coins out of our pocket to trade with: The trading equivalent to rubbing two sticks together? Not hardly.
In the digital age Bitcoin or one of its competitors is what will be traded. That same device we can’t live without will hold our money. Just as we carry our libraries, TVs, and secretaries around with us, we will be toting our banks around as well.
However, other than our Bitcoin panel there was virtually no mention of the crypto-currency at FreedomFest, despite being “The world’s largest gathering of free minds.” At the close of the Austrian Economics for Investors panel, the five investing gurus offered up places to park one’s wealth. Stephen Mauzy suggests agricultural land. Academic Harry Veryser said cash and coal stocks. Money manager Adrian Day likes gold. Ty Andros said to never store wealth in paper again and that the gold market is at the same place the stock market was in March of 2009. Mark Skousen isn’t wild about gold but is wild about regional banks.
Serial entrepreneur and budding politician Wayne Allyn Root, listed a number of ways to protect your wealth and happiness in the coming years, after first convincing the audience that Obama had used the IRS to come after him. First and foremost, buy precious metals he said. He’s also big on agriculture, medical stocks, energy stocks, and urges everyone to live in states with no income tax.
I’m all for gold, but while Jeffrey Tucker bought pizza somewhere in Planet Hollywood with bitcoin, I challenged our audience to try and make a deal on the casino floor with a gold coin. No chance. Plenty of speakers at the event said gold is money. At the moment it is not. Bitcoin is more marketable than gold and silver. Neither is as good as the dollar at the moment, but that will change.
All the investment advisers said invest in things the government can’t print. But, gold is the only thing they can think of. However, bitcoin has with the added advantage of digital age transportability. The difficulty of mining bitcoin matches that of producing gold. Just as gold is property that can’t be duplicated, each bitcoin is a non-reproducible piece of digital property. Gold is hard to counterfeit, bitcoin’s strict mathematical algorithm makes it equally hard to copy. Every bitcoin is specific property, fractionalized banking being impossible.
George Mason economics professor Peter Boettke made his first FreedomFest appearance and presented some harrowing statistics pointing to the demise of the United States. However he made the analogy that the economy is like three horses. The Adam Smith horse drives prosperity through gains from trade. The Joseph Schumpeter horse provides constant innovation from technology. The third horse, what Boettke calls the stupid horse, is government. Boettke’s point is that as long as the Smith and Schumpeter horses are in the race they will outrun the stupid, government horse. For the moment prosperity is winning.
Both the Smith and Schumpeter horses created bitcoin and as much as the government tries to rein it in, those horses will stay ahead. The government horse is too slow and stupid.
Since the crypto currency is flying below everyone’s radar one wonders if it is a good investment. Saturday’s price was $94, just over a third of its high price versus the dollar made in the Spring, but many times the $14 it traded for a the beginning of the year. While the Fed does its best to make dollars out of nowhere by the billions, bitcoin miners can only crank out 25 every ten minutes on the way to a total of 21 million in 2040.
I mentioned in my talk that the Winklevoss twins are the Hunt Brothers of the bitcoin world, owning one percent of all bitcoins. They have also sought approval for a bitcoin exchange traded fund (ETF) to allow investors to easily gain exposure to the crypto-currency. Approval may take months or years or may not happen at all. But, if it does, it may do for bitcoin, what the gold ETF (GLD) did for the gold market. People could stuff their IRAs with bitcoin.
It’s possible the stupid horse will win and if it does, you better have gold. However, if you believe in markets and freedom, make a bet on the Smith and Schumpeter horses, bet on liberty and bitcoin.