JACKSONVILLE, Fla., March 24, 2015 – Fascinating. Riveting. A real page-turner. Normally words like these would describe a spy novel, not a finance book. But there’s always a first time for everything.
Case in point: Jose Pagliery of CNN Money has written the most comprehensive account of Bitcoin thus far. His book, “Bitcoin and the Future of Money” (ISBN10: 1629370363, Triumph Books), received a ringing endorsement from no less than Jim Rickards, one the world’s leading monetary experts.
(Publisher Triumph, by the way, is an imprint of Chicago Press – very impressive.)
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Bitcoin might seem like a game to some people. But “Bitcoin and the Future of Money” is a serious and sober look at what might be coming in the future when the U.S. dollar goes away (which will be soon).
Jose Pagliery is neither Bitcoin fan nor foe. He presents the facts in a clear and logical manner. If anything, he is a Bitcoin skeptic. Unlike many finance books that are ghostwritten, Pagliery penned this one all on his own. It’s obvious from his writing style that he did not have a crack team of researchers and computer geeks giving him ideas and making suggestions. He did all the legwork himself. In fact, the narrative of his experience buying an actual Bitcoin is worth a read in its own right.
Pagliery launches his narrative by exploring the fundamental principle of Bitcoin: the block chain.
“The block chain is everything. It’s a record of every Bitcoin transaction ever made.”
In other words, when a Bitcoin is created, it shows up on the block chain and remains there, like a new house added to a growing neighborhood. Bitcoins never move.
The owner controls the Bitcoin with a digital wallet, which is assigned a “public key” and a “private key.” The public key is the owner’s address on the block chain, which shows total Bitcoins held by the account holder. The public key is like a bank account number, into which deposits can be made.
The private key, on the other hand, authorizes sending Bitcoins out (as in the case of purchases), so this key obviously must be kept private.
In some ways, a Bitcoin transaction is like a real-estate transaction. When a house is sold, the house doesn’t move. It gets a new owner. When a Bitcoin is sold, the Bitcoin doesn’t move. Like the house, it gets a new owner. The private key is like the title. While real-estate transactions show dates, names and addresses as a matter of public record, Bitcoin histories only show dates and addresses, not names.
The block chain makes sure that the same Bitcoin can’t be spent twice. Satoshi Nakamoto, the individual (or individuals) who originated Bitcoin, knew people would run for the hills when they heard the term “digital signatures,” so he nipped that problem in the bud early in the game. In the first paragraph of his white paper (included in the appendix of this book), Nakamoto explained how transactions would be time-stamped, or “hashed” onto the chain, thus forming a permanent record that can’t be changed.
The strategy seems to have worked. In the five years that Bitcoin has been around, not a single Bitcoin has been double-spent.
In case you were curious, by the way, Bitcoin does have competition. Dogecoin, Isracoin, Zetacoin, Auroracoin and other competitors are all mentioned and discussed in Pagliery’s book.
In addition to explaining the ins and outs of Bitcoin, the author imparts his own personal wisdom by warning, “Don’t mistake currency for money.” How true. (This premise was also explained back in January 2015 in the first installment of this CDN series, “Bitcoin, Currency, and the Nature of Money.”)
Pagliery also burrows into the deep, philosophical aspects of money itself, even citing Aristotle in the process. When comparing physical money to digital money, he correctly asserts that digital money is software code that “can be adjusted at a moment’s notice.” He finally draws an analogy to the function of transactions in gold, wherein the engraving of an inscription on a gold bar changes that unit of physical gold into a “contract,” which, simply stated, is the agreement between buyer and seller. The idea he’s actually conveying is that the inscription on a gold bar transforms it into currency.
The book concludes by describing some of the ways that Bitcoin has been abused and how governments are responding to the whole scenario, including some choice words on the subject from New York superintendent of financial services Benjamin Lawsky, whose opinions make this book even more interesting.
“Bitcoin and the Future of Money” is well-documented, rational and at times even laugh-out-loud funny − unusual and appealing in a book on finance. Speaking of laughing out loud, the book’s section on the dreaded problem of hyper-inflation includes a photo of the one hundred trillion dollar bill issued by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
The author’s recounting of the ill-fated Mt. Gox saga is even funnier. You can almost see Mark Karpelès (aka “MagicalTux”), the CEO of that doomed Bitcoin exchange, ordering out for pizza from his motel room in Tokyo, then feeding some to his dog to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. There’s also a reference to the movie “Star Wars,” where the now-defunct website Silk Road is compared to Mos Eisley spaceport on the planet Tatooine.
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Speaking of “Star Wars,” one of the final chapters of this intriguing book is entitled: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Money?” an obvious reference to the film “Blade Runner” and its novelistic forerunner. In this chapter, we are transported into the future, where Bitcoin is hacked, sabotaged and eventually rendered worthless.
If you’re interested in Pagliery’s book, you also have the choice of purchasing it in a Kindle version on Amazon.com. But since you asked, no, Amazon does not accept Bitcoin. Neither does Barnes & Noble. We won’t hold that against them. Just pay for the book with your soon-to-be worthless Federal Reserve Notes.