Bitcoin’s champion

Podcast review: Anthony Pompliano’s Off the Chain with Murad Mahmudov, the maximalist with the mostest.

You say Bitcoin is “digital gold?” That’s cute. Try “digital monetary nuclear weapon”—the preferred description of the “highest-conviction Bitcoin maximalist in the world,” Murad Mahmudov.

Mahmudov is an Azerbaijan-born crypto analyst and angel investor who’s been involved in Bitcoin since 2013. He recently made an appearance on Anthony Pompliano’s Off the Chain podcast and delivered, possibly, the strongest sermon a Bitcoin acolyte could muster for the coin’s supremacy—as well as lauding its potential for massive economic, political, and societal change across the globe.

Pompliano bestows Mahmudov with the title of world’s mostest maximalist during his introduction, presumably to prepare his listeners for the 101-minute bitcoin tour de force they are about to experience—and one which we’ll do our best to summarize here, for those of you who don’t have that kind of patience or time (though it is well worth your effort to listen in full).

The pair cover just about every possible angle on the cryptocurrency king—from its origins and its future, to its benefits and, even, potential pitfalls (theoretically, of course: bitcoin is virtually infallible, according to Mahmudov).

First and foremost, says Mahmudov, Bitcoin is money. Plain and simple. “It’s a new form of thinking about money, storing money, transferring money, and just dealing, organizing, and understanding money,” he says. Everything else is secondary.

He starts by explaining Bitcoin’s core components—blockchain, proof of work, how it solved the “double-spend” problem, governance, the works—and concludes that Bitcoin is “the soundest, hardest currency that has ever been invented in the history of human civilization.” It’s only real competition right now are the “least worst” fiat currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, euro, and Swiss franc, as well as hard assets like gold. Altcoins aren’t even in the same stratosphere, he says. In fact, he argues that the only reason your favorite shitcoin even exists is because of the “high-time preference and impatience” of Bitcoin nonbelievers—the slow and steady approach being a direct result of Bitcoin’s strict and conservative governance.

Altcoins and ICOs are mainly the playthings of the startup venture world, which embraces the “move fast and break things” philosophy—a terrible way to handle crypto, he argues. “[Cryptocurrency] is not a dog-walking app or a dating app, or a food picture app. You need to be extremely, extremely careful with this.”

And he isn’t kidding about how careful we really ought to be either. If you get serious about the “third- and the fourth-orders-game theoretic effects” that bitcoin will have “when this thing gets just a little bit bigger”—and yes, he means when, definitely not if—it’s going to “reorganize” the planet like only a “digital monetary nuclear weapon” can, he says (in the most matter-of-fact and sincere way possible.) Besides, “If there’s ever something that is actually useful and truly innovative that any altcoin does better in any capacity or function, Bitcoin can eventually adopt that,” he reassures his parishioners.

The nitty gritty economics of Bitcoin, which Mahmudov dives into at around the 23-minute mark of the podcast, is what sets the coin apart from the pack, and provides the basis for why Mahmudov believes so strongly in its potential. He argues that while mainstream Neo-Keynesian economists favor “mild inflation” in monetary policy, these systems only work within “local monopolies” in which a currency is “forced upon” the public from on-high. Bitcoin, on the other hand, is a “free-market phenomenon,” meaning that the government doesn’t force you to use it, and an “experiment in Austrian economics.”

At this point in the podcast, you might want to hit pause. Then, Google the name “Friedrich A. Hayek” and start adding a few books to your Amazon wishlist—or, at the very least, go read Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson” (available for free in PDF form here).

You’ll want a primer on the Austrian school of thought or risk being waylaid by talk of “purchasing power,” “seigniorage privileges,” or the “inflation tax.” But here’s the gist: the Austrian view of economics admonishes the underhanded way in which central banks and governments endlessly print money to fund everything from welfare to war. Why? Because every time the bankers print more money, the value of that currency goes down, and the poor and middle class—who don’t have a “diversified portfolio of assets”—get hit the worst when the price of goods inevitably goes up.

Meanwhile, since centralized fiat currency, like the U.S. dollar, incentivizes getting rid of those dollars either through spending or investing in anything other than cash (stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.), the system artificially props up Wall Street and inflates a global financial system that would otherwise be much smaller in a truly free market. In other words, central banks, fiat, Wall Street the war machine, it’s all a scam—one designed to keep the little guy down. It’s all “crazy,” says Mahmudov. But it wasn’t always so, and it doesn’t have to be in the future either.

Mahmudov points out that inflationary fiat currency is a modern phenomena and, in his view, a “temporary” one as well. “For thousands of years, gold was the predominant money, or gold and silver were the predominant two currencies around the world, until the paper notes became more widespread as a technology.” Paper money, then, can be thought of as a “layer two technology, on top of monetary metals,” he says.

And like monetary metals, Bitcoin is both disinflationary (since there is a fixed supply of 21 million) and deflationary (since the supply of bitcoin can only go down once every last block is mined). These are characteristics that Mahmudov believes could potentially make Bitcoin the “single biggest asset in the world,” or at worst, second only to real estate. This, in turn, will then lead to what he calls “a grand wealth-transfer event,” which will be “arguably the single biggest wealth-transfer event in human history.”

He makes a compelling argument that we should all dump our money in Bitcoin—if not for a sobering reminder that comes at the interview’s conclusion: while Bitcoin can be a democratizing force for good, it may not be good people who’ll find the most use out of it.

Mahmudov predicts that the price of bitcoin will be driven by the ultra wealthy, and “politicians and dictators in the second and third world” who will attempt to buy large amounts of it. “Essentially, the people and the institutions who bitcoin was designed to destroy will be precisely the people who will drive bitcoin’s price and success to the sky.”

And as for the economic inequality that may be created as a result of a bitcoin boom? Mahmudov doesn’t hide from it. “Bitcoin will actually increase inequality,” he admits. “The distribution is improving with every cycle, of course, but if hyper bitcoinization were to actually occur, the Gini coefficient of bitcoin would probably be higher than any fiat currency today.”

So much for the little guy. If this is really the best we’re ever going to do, the decentralized money future suddenly seems a lot less rosy.

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