This week we talk with Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com, and rare courageous voice within corporate America raising concern that powerful interests on Wall Street are destroying US companies for profit, robbing investors and destabilizing our financial system in the process.
Byrne has been an early advocate for digital currencies and their potential to protect financial wealth from the massive policy missteps being undertaken by the Federal Reserve. (In 2014, Overstock.com became the first major retailer to accept Bitcoin payments.)
In this week's podcast, Byrne details out the promising potential of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, as well as his thoughts as to whether they will be able or not to evade subversion by the world central authorities:
In the 1980s, I was a graduate student at Stanford in philosophy, but with a heavy quantitative and logic approach. I studied the mathematics that underlies cryptography. It’s called computation theory. It was a fascinating field, probably the only religious experience I’ve ever had in my life. I felt like I was seeing the face of God -- I loved it.
So, in about 2012, I was reading Fast Company or Wired, and I saw this blurb about this new form of money that no government was behind, based on cryptography. And, I realized, Gee, this is like an application of that math I’d studied 30 years earlier. Someday I want Overstock.com to be one of the first companies to take it.
So, on December 19th, 2013, a journalist interviewed me. Near the end of the interview, she asked, “Are you ever going to accept Bitcoin?” And, at the time I thought in maybe a year and a half I’d get around to doing it, so I said, “Yeah, I hope someday that we'll do that.” She put that in her article, and I started getting Google alerts from newspapers in Thailand, in South Korea, in Africa. I mean, that little mention got picked up all over the world. And I realized, Geez, there’s a subculture around the world who is waiting for this.
So on January 1st, 2014, we started working on it. We put 40 guys in a room, sliding pizzas under the door so they could work day and night. And, by January 9th, we got Bitcoin up. As soon as we announced it, it became global news. At that point I realized that the world was ready for this earlier than I had expected it to be.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are a form of money that's a stable field that the government can’t destroy and can’t distort. Because its creation is governed by the laws of mathematics. It can’t happen any faster or slower than a certain rate, and it all sort of self-adjusts. What that means is -- unlike Janet Yellen, who can sign something and whisk 85 billion new U.S. dollars into existence -- there’s nothing she can sign that will whisk new Bitcoin into existence. So, cryptocurrencies in general give us a stable medium through which we can communicate our information about values and prices in a way that no government mandarin can distort or usurp.
For the predators who have used our central institutions to predate on the rest of humanity, it’s a very bad development.
Special note: at the end of the podcast, Patrick extends an offer to listeners. Those interested in taking him up on it can click here to do so.
Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Patrick Byrne (46m:35s).