All posts by Joshua Goldblum

Buy Bitcoins at MtGox? Be Careful…


When You Buy Bitcoins, Make Certain They’re Genuine

This article will explain some very important details regarding the “buying of Bitcoins” on the MtGox exchange.

While this author is VERY dedicated to the success of Bitcoin and the benefits it will bring, there is a very real risk invovled in using MtGox.com.

In short, while you may think you are buying Bitcoins on MtGox – and that once you’ve made your purchase you are then the owner of the Bitcoins you’ve just bought – this is an incorrect assumption.

Just because you’ve “bought” some Bitcoins using the exchange at Mtgox.com, does not mean that you own any Bitcoins at all.

This author queried Mtgox.com regarding this issue using the support desk provided by MtGox.com. All of the evidence of the above claims have been provided by Mtgox itself, in the form of answers to questions submitted to the MtGox support desk.

Before I explain my questions and the responses from MtGox, it is important to define exactly what a genuine Bitcoin is.

A genuine Bitcoin is a digital, encrypted unit of currency that has been issued by the Bitcoin network, collectively verified as genuine by the network, and the record of such is part of the network’s ledger. The ledger, which is also called the block chain, “is a shared public transaction log on which the entire Bitcoin network relies.”

Bitcoins are stored in wallets, which themselves are part of the network.

When you “buy” any amount of Bitcoin, you are involved in a “transaction,” which “is a transfer of value between Bitcoin addresses that gets included in the block chain.”

To summarize some basic points (there are many other points regarding Bitcoin that are not included here in order to simply focus on the “buying” of Bitcoins on MtGox.com):

1. A genuine Bitcoin will have been created by the Bitcoin network.
2. A genuine Bitcoin is part of the verified and accepted Bitcoin ledger (the block chain).
3. A person takes ownership of a genuine Bitcoin when a genuine Bitcoin, that has been verified and is part of the block chain, is transferred into a wallet owned by said person.

It is the opinion of this author that a promise to send you Bitcoins is not at all the same as having genuine Bitcoins in your wallet.

When you buy a car from a dealer, new or used, the title of that vehicle will be transferred to you. The title is the “proof of ownership” document that establishes you as the owner. It is difficult to imagine that a person would go to a used car dealer, buy an automobile, pay for it by giving the money to the dealer, and then leave the title of the vehicle in the dealer’s name with the understanding that if the person wants the title transferred to them at any point in the future, the car dealer will do so typically within a 24 hour period.

When you buy a vehicle and pay for it, you want ownership of it at the time you pay for it. You want to be listed as the legal owner of that vehicle from the time you bought it. It would be foolish to leave the ownership of “your” vehicle with the dealer, in effect leaving the dealer as the legal owner of the car. (Remember, if you leave the dealer as the owner, he can sell that car to another person!)

According to MtGox itself, that’s EXACTLY what you are doing when you are “buying” Bitcoins at MtGox.

Let me now focus on the questions that were submitted to the MtGox support desk.

I initially asked two questions:

1. Why do I not have a static wallet address?

2. When I deposit bitcoins into my “wallet” at mtgox, do those bitcoins go into an actual wallet that is my own, or do those bitcoins get deposited into an account that is controlled by mtgox?

Mtgox support questions

Here are the answers I received:

1 – Please note that the bitcoin address will be changed from time to time, however the old address will be still linked to the account and it can be used for the transactions.

2 – Once you send the bitcoins to MT Gox account they will be stored under your account wallet. We will not have direct access over your account and only you will be able to make transactions in them.

Mtgox support answers 1

The answers that I received prompted a follow-up response from me:

Your answer to my first question, “Please note that the bitcoin address will be changed from time to time, however the old address will be still linked to the account and it can be used for the transactions” DOES NOT answer my question. I know that it changes from time to time, that is the reason for my question. My question is WHY DOES IT CHANGE?

Regarding your answer to my second question, you stated that “they will be stored under your account wallet.” I have a question regarding that portion of the answer:

Is my “account wallet” at mtgox part of the blockchain, or is my “account wallet” at mtgox an internal system to mtgox that holds my Bitcoins?

Mtgox support questions 2

And this was the response that I received from MtGox:

It is the internal MT Gox system that holds the bitcoins and MT Gox deposit will keep changing as this is how the bitcoin system is designed.

Mtgox support answers 2

I must admit that i was very disappointed by the answer that I received.

What this means is that when you “buy” any Bitcoin from Mtgox, you are not actually buying genuine Bitcoins. What you are “buying” is a promise by MtGox to send you genuine “Bitcoins” in the event that you ever decide to request them.

This is VERY IMPORTANT.

A genuine Bitcoin is Bitcoin that has been created by the Bitcoin network, and is part of the Bitcoin ledger (verified by the network). If you want to buy and become the owner of genuine Bitcoin, then the third requirement, in addition to these two, would be that the genuine Bitcoin has been transferred into a wallet that you own.

MtGox has admitted that when you “buy” Bitcoin on their system, whatever it is that you’ve just bought gets held in the “internal MT Gox system that holds the bitcoins.” It is very important to understand that the “internal MT Gox system” is not part of the Bitcoin Network.

MtGox may have its own genuine Bitcoin Wallet. When you “buy” Bitcoin on the MtGox exchange, MtGox may hold the equivalent amount of genuine Bitcoin in its wallet on your behalf. HOWEVER, those Bitcoins are not in YOUR wallet, and you are not the owner of those Bitcoins because those Bitcoins are not in your wallet. You are relying on MtGox sending genuine Bitcoins to YOUR wallet upon request.

If something happens to MtGox, you are simply an unsecured creditor, without your Bitcoins.

Let me repeat, at the time that you “buy” Bitcoins on MtGox, you have NOT bought Bitcoins. What you have bought is a promise from MtGox to send you genuine Bitcoins in the event you ask for them. MtGox may or may not have allocated genuine Bitcoins on your behalf. But that is not the point. The point is that you do not have any genuine Bitcoins as long as MtGox is “holding” them on your behalf.

I really don’t like the fact that MtGox makes is seem as though “your Bitcoins” are in a genuine wallet that is part of the Bitcoin network by using the phrase, “they will be stored under your account wallet.”

They use the same term “wallet,” which can lead most people to assume that “account wallet” and “Bitcoin wallet” are identical. That is a completely false assumption.

An “account wallet” is a term used for the accounting of transactions within the internal MtGox system. It is completely and totally separate from a “Bitcoin wallet” which is part of the Bitcoin network and verified by thousands and thousands of computers running the Bitcoin software.

When you “buy” Bitcoins on MtGox and leave them there, it is like buying a car from a used car dealer and allowing the dealer to keep the title to that vehicle in his name.

That exposes you to a great deal of risk.

If you do choose to do business at MtGox, for goodness sake, take delivery of those Bitcoins into a genuine Bitcoin wallet that is yours and is part of the block chain. I think it is far more prudent than leaving those “Bitcoins” under the ownership of MtGox.

***

On another topic, it is now clear to this author that genuine Bitcoins are not what are being bought and sold on MtGox, but merely promises to deliver genuine Bitcoins upon request. This is very similar to the paper trading of gold and silver. Traders or investors can buy and sell paper promises to deliver genuine gold and/or silver. This opens door to the possibility of price manipulation on MtGox in the same manner that is claimed of the Comex.

This will be covered in a future article.



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Today’s Bitcoin Crash and the Health Ranger Hit Piece


Bitcoin Crash – Who, Why, and What’s Next

Bitcoin Crash
Bitcoin Crash

Early this morning, at approximately 8:30 am eastern time, Bitcoin reached a price of $266.00. Thirty minutes later, from about 9:00 am onward, an above normal supply of Bitcoins begin hitting the market on mtgox.com. Every 15 minutes between 2,000 and as much as 7,000 Bitcoins were dumped on the exchange. This level of selling continued for the remainder of the day.

Bitcoin trading is a tiny market, and a relatively small amount of buying or selling can cause the price to rise or fall significantly. Today we saw an above average number of Bitcoins sold without regard to price. In watching the trading on mtgox, it appears to me that the seller simply wanted to sell, and took absolutely no measures to maximize the total proceeds from the sale.

I have no first-hand knowledge of the identity of the big seller or sellers who dumped more than 60,000 Bitcoins on the market today in a span of  less than 8 hours. It may have been several people who simply wanted to cash out. It may have been purely the result of the free market functioning properly, but if so, it was a rank amateur – or several – who doesn’t/don’t understand how markets function and the proper way to get the most for the items one is selling.

Or, it may have been a seller whose intent was to dump Bitcoins en masse in order to drive the price down.

That type of seller was clearly described in an emotional hit piece published today by the “Health Ranger” on the website Natural News.

I welcome discussion on the benefits and risks of Bitcoin. The Mises Institute, named after the great Ludwig Von Mises, has published several articles on Bitcoin, such as “The Money-ness of Bitcoin.” While I don’t agree with some of the points made in the article, I welcome open, public discussion in a reasonable, logical thought inspiring manner.

I do hope to address some of those points in the above referenced article in the near future. However, the article published today on Natural News was so illogical, unreasonable, and emotionally provoking that I felt the need to respond to it before responding to the Mises Institute article.

I could find almost nothing in the article by the Health Ranger that was based upon reason and logic. This was simply a hit piece. I have never met the Health Ranger and have no knowledge of why he would publish a hit piece on Bitcoin, but i can certainly recognize a hit piece when I see it.

Nearly all of the language used in the article is of an emotional nature. The words chosen will illicit strong emotions. There are virtually no facts, simply accusations, and then those accusations are referenced as proof of the article’s thesis, then this proof is used in an attempt to inspire an emotional response. This is an age old strategy.

The title of the article written by the Health Ranger is “How the looming bitcoin crash will be exploited by globalists to outlaw decentralized crypto currencies.” The article starts off by warning “of the financial harm that will be caused when the Bitcoin bubble finally implodes.”

I don’t agree that Bitcoin is a bubble, and will be publishing an article shortly on the reasons why.

The Health Ranger linked to his Bitcoin bubble article, and I read that one as well. It was also a hit piece full of emotionally-charged verbage but very little facts. Here are some of the emotionally charged claims made in Health Ranger’s Bitcoin bubble article:

“The reputation of bitcoin will be destroyed.”

“Bitcoin is headed for a disastrous crash.”

“Bitcoin has now become a casino.”

The Health Ranger offers virtually nothing in the way of factual evidence to support his claims. His entire article is based upon emotions, rather than facts. He even states that central banks will accumulate Bitcoins, then, “when the timing is right, start SELLING billions of bitcoins” in order to create a crash in the price of Bitcoin. this crash will lead to panic, and all Bitcoin holders “will sell at any price.”

Note to Mike: there aren’t billions of Bitcoins, and there never will be. 21 million is the maximum limit, and that level will not be reached for many decades. There are only about 11 million Bitcoins currently in existence. You should not only check your facts before hitting the publish button, you should also include a few in your articles in order to make them more credible.

The Bitcoin bubble article published by the Health Ranger had nothing in it that would convince me in any way that Bitcoin is in a bubble.

So, getting back to today’s Bitcoin crash article published by the Health Ranger, he states two simple steps that could be used to cause a crash in the price of Bitcoin:

“Step 1) Central banks buy up massive quantities of bitcoin currency, driving the prices into the stratosphere and encouraging millions of people around the world to jump on board the “get rich” bandwagon.

Step 2) Once bitcoin valuations reach a sufficient level of insanity, start a massive selloff by dumping the bitcoins you already bought onto the market, offering them for sale at any price (i.e. sell into falling prices, accelerating the loss in valuations).”

I do agree that those steps could happen, and it’s entirely possible that step #2 was witnessed today.

However, while the central banks certainly can create volatility in the price of Bitcoin, what they cannot do is create Bitcoins themselves and flood the market with billions of Bitcoins they’ve created instantaneously the way they do with the currencies they own.

Yes, they can accumulate Bitcoins which will drive the price up. and it follows that yes, they can in the future – days, weeks, months or longer – engage in a wholesale dumping of the bitcoins they previously purchased. It’s also true that a big price dip will demoralize a portion of the Bitcoin community.

However, the reasons for getting into Bitcoin will remain, even if central banks drive the price up and then crash it back down.

The FACT is that Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer, and is an honest currency, free of the theft by debasement that central banks do with their dishonest currencies. Even if the dishonest central bankers drive up the price and then crash it, Bitcoin will remain an honest alternative to dishonest, corrupt, central bank currencies.

Just because the central banks may try to demoralize me with wide price swings in Bitcoin will not make me lose faith in Bitcoin and go back to using their currencies whereby I would once again be subject to their corruption.

The Health Ranger’s article claimed that Bitcoin is “almost a perfect reflection of the tulip bulb mania of 1637 in these two ways: 1) Most people buying bitcoins have no use for bitcoins (just like tulip bulbs), and 2) The rapid increase in bitcoin valuations cannot be substantiated in any way that reflects reality.”

I fully, wholeheartedly disagree.

as to point 1, everyone should have some money in savings. I realize there is a whole lot of poverty in the world (the vast majority of it is a result of central-bank-issued, dishonest currency), and that many people spend every last cent they earn just to try to provide life’s most basic necessities. For the very poor, saving money is not an option. But saving money is something we should all do, even if some cannot. The question becomes, where to hold the money that has been saved?

In an honest currency or a dishonest one?

In a currency that is continually being diluted in value, or one that isn’t?

In an account that can be seized by the bankers (like Cyprus), or in an account that is beyond the reach of the bankers?

I can live my life just fine without tulip bulbs. I would have great difficulty living my life without using any currency.

I would prefer an honest one.

I would prefer one that isn’t being debased.

I would prefer one that I, and I alone have access to, and is not in the hands of anyone else. Let alone a dishonest banking system.

Mr. Health Ranger, EVERYONE that is holding Bitcoins has a very strong “use” for those Bitcoins:

It is a form of savings held in a currency that is not being diluted.

It is an honest currency, based upon mathematical protection and community verification.

It is a method to store one’s wealth outside of the grasp of the greedy, corrupt, criminal banker control freaks.

Mr. Health Ranger, to say that “Most people buying bitcoins have no use for bitcoins” totally ignores the incredibly strong reasons for choosing to hold some savings in Bitcoin in the first place. You’ve lost any credibility by making such an outlandish statement.

Regarding your other statement that “The rapid increase in bitcoin valuations cannot be substantiated in any way that reflects reality,” I completely disagree.

While Bitcoins are gaining in popularity, there is a long, long way to go before they capture a major share of all financial transactions. They may never reach that point. But the 4 year track record of Bitcoin is impressive. The trend is clearly towards greater acceptance.

Mr. Health Ranger, you claim that the current price of Bitcoin doesn’t reflect reality. I disagree. The reality is that the 3 reasons I listed above are very, very strong and offer great appeal. The reality is that Bitcoin is limited by design. The reality is that Bitcoin is not being debased by an central bank. The reality is that more and more people are discovering the appeal of an honest currency. The reality is that Bitcoin has tremendous room for growth in demand. Mtgox recieve about 78% of all Bitcoin exchange volume. Three weeks ago, the daily volume on mtgox was about $7 million.

Today that volume has grown to about $20 million. Twenty million in daily transaction on the largest Bitcoin exchange. Apple stock trades that much value every 75 seconds that the stock market is open. That’s just one stock. Daily currency trading is $4 trillion. If Bitcoin captured a mere 1% of daily global currency trading, the price per Bitcoin would be in the range of $400,000 per Bitcoin.

Whether or not Bitcoin will somehow be prevented from gaining a market share equal to 1% of daily global currency trading is certainly a valid question. Given an honest playing field in which Bitcoin was allowed to freely compete against the dishonest central bank currencies, there’s no question in my mind that Bitcoin would capture far, far more than 1% of the currency market.

The majority of people prefer an honest currency to a dishonest one.

Of course, we all know that Bitcoin will not be allowed to freely compete against the central-banker currencies. We know it will be attacked. But each attack has resulted in a strengthening of Bitcoin. And each attack gains publicity for Bitcoin; that publicity doesn’t always result in people being frightened away from the honest currency.

The reality is that today’s valuation of Bitcoin, unlike nearly any other market, genuinely reflects  real-world conditions. Bitcoin is currently a pure market, undefiled by the bankers with their phony supplies created out of nothing, their derivatives tail that wags the dog, their iron-fisted control over price discovery, and their army of regulators protecting their cartel activities.

Bitcoin is simply a tiny, but growing market based upon honesty. I submit that Bitcoin trading is as real as it gets. Organic buyers and organic sellers getting together in an honest exchange to freely determine the price at which a transaction will take place. Bitcoin prices reflect reality.

The commodity markets, the precious metals markets, the bond markets, those all are detached from reality. The prices in those markets are controlled by Wall Street firms and the central banks themselves.

The reality is that the very, very alluring reasons for getting into Bitcoin remain, even after today’s price smash and even after your hit piece which seems designed to invoke fear and steer people away from an honest currency.

Yes, Bitcoin will come under attack. it has before, and it will again.

The reality is that people prefer a currency that is honest to a dishonest one.

The reality is that people seek a place to store their money where it will not be subject to a Cyprus-style seizure of their savings by the bankers.

Yes, the central banks can have their pet governments deem that holding and using Bitcoins is a crime. But if they are going to do so, I suggest that they do it pretty darn quick, before too many people understand and adopt Bitcoin for themselves. Once Bitcoin reaches a certain level of acceptance, the corrupt central planners will have a mutiny to deal with if they attempt to outlaw and steal the people’s currency.

Yes, the central planners can steal from thousands of people like they did with MF Global and like they did in Cyprus and get away with it. But if they try to steal from millions and millions of people all at once, well, that’s not likely to receive a warm welcome.

Bitcoin is going viral. If your central planner masters want to kill it, they better outlaw it quick. Today’s price smash isn’t enough to counter the valid reasons for getting into Bitcoin.


Is Bitcoin a Ponzi Scheme?


Is Bitcoin a Ponzi Scheme?

Is Bitcoin a Ponzi Scheme
Is Bitcoin a Ponzi Scheme?

Some critics of Bitcoin are claiming that it is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. The evidence argues otherwise.

Let’s take a look at what a Ponzi Scheme is, and see if Bitcoin fits the definition.

Wikipedia defines a Ponzi Scheme in this way, “A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to its investors from their own money or the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from profit earned by the individual or organization running the operation. The Ponzi scheme usually entices new investors by offering higher returns than other investments, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. Perpetuation of the high returns requires an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors to keep the scheme going.”

Here are some characteristics of a Ponzi Scheme taken from the above definition:

1. Fraudulent investment operation

2. Pays returns to investors from their own money

3. Entices new investors by offering higher returns than other investments

4. Abnormally high or unusually consistent returns

Let’s look at Bitcoin in reference to each of these elements present in any Ponzi Scheme.

1. Fraudulent investment operation – Bitcoin is not fraudulent, as it is open-source code, completely transparent. There is no attempt by Bitcoin to deceive anyone. Additionally, Bitcoin is not an investment operation, it offers and promises absolutely NO RETURN. Bitcoin is merely a digital, peer-to-peer currency. Bitcoin never has, and likely never will offer to pay an “investment return.” It is simply a currency.

Bitcoin does not fit this aspect of a Ponzi Scheme.

2. Pays returns to investors from their own money – There are no returns paid by Bitcoin. Because Bitcoin is not offering to pay investors a return, there is no way that Bitcoin is taking money from current investors and using that money to pay earlier investors. It is simply not happening. Again, Bitcoin is not offering or paying *ANY* returns whatsoever. It is simply a currency.

Bitcoin does not fit this aspect of a Ponzi Scheme.

3. Entices new investors by offering higher returns than other investments – Please see the previous point. Bitcoin is not offering any returns. There is not enticement by Bitcoin to earn any type of investment return whatsoever. There have been no been not attempts to pay above market interest rates to lure in investors. Bitcoin doesn’t pay interest. It does not offer any investment returns.

Bitcoin does not fit this aspect of a Ponzi Scheme.

4. Abnormally high or unusually consistent returns – There are NO returns paid by Bitcoin. None.

Bitcoin does not fit this aspect of a Ponzi Scheme.

Based upon the definition of a Ponzi Scheme, Bitcoin simply is not one. It is not a fraudulent activity set up to deceive and lure in investors. On the contrary, it is highly transparent, and set up to be used in the traditional manner as any other accepted currency.

Bitcoin is merely a currency, a peer-to-peer form of instant payment. It is not backed by gold, but neither are any of the current central bank currencies. The U.S. Dollar is not backed by gold. The Canadian Dollar is not backed by gold. The Japanese Yen is not back by gold. The Bristish Pound is not backed by Gold. All of those currencies are “fiat,” meaning “by decree.” They have no tangible items backing their value whatsoever. Their only value is derived from their acceptance as a currency.

Bitcoin also fits into the category of a “fiat” currency, with some very important differences. One of the primary factors that sets Bitcoin apart from sovereign fiat currencies is its hard limit on the number of Bitcoins that will ever be created: 21 million. The Federal Reserve is creating billions upon billions of new Dollars each month, and there is NO limit on the number it can and will create. This dilutes the value of Dollars that are already in circulation.

Not so with Bitcoins. The appeal of Bitcoin is that it will NOT be continually diluted in value by a central bank which manages the currency for its own best interest and the interest of all its cronies.

This factor presents VERY strong appeal in favor of Bitcoin over other fiat currencies. Which would you prefer, a currency that is being continually diluted in value each and every day, or one that isn’t?