Blockchains: Going Mainstream, Still Revolutionary


RGBStock Binary Background

Even if you haven’t seen The Graduate, you’ve likely heard some ham recite Mr. McGuire’s pitch to Ben Braddock, immortalized as #42 on the American Film Institute’s list of most famous film quotes:

“I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics.

Probably good career advice for a newly minted college graduate circa the mid-1960s.

I suspect that 50 years later, newly minted college graduates are finding themselves cornered poolside to hear the other one word of another Mr. McGuire: “Blockchain.” Probably good career advice for them, too.

Born less than a decade ago as the backbone of a then-novel electronic currency scheme, Bitcoin, and the darling of crypto-anarchists like myself, the blockchain concept now finds itself the spoiled pre-teen adoptee of the big business and entrepreneur sets alike. It’s a simple and seductive idea:

Blockchains store information in databases distributed around the world instead of in single locations with perhaps an off-site backup or two at most. The integrity of that information is protected both by the redundancy of distribution and by strong cryptography. It’s very difficult to destroy or illicitly modify information stored in a well-designed blockchain. The blockchain is maintained by “miners” whose computers do the work of storing and constantly updating the database. The miners are paid in bits of cryptocurrency created by their own work.

How big is the blockchain market? There are more cryptocurrencies out there than you can shake a stick at, but the top five alone (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Steem and Litecoin), as I write this, boast a combined market capitalization of nearly US $10.5 billion.

There’s money in blockchains. More importantly, there’s opportunity in blockchains. While the first and most obviously killer app is processing financial transactions (and, done rightly, keeping the details opaque to busybodies), new ways of using the idea pop up daily.

Schemes like “smart contracts” and “Digital Autonomous Organizations” are emerging as tools for  moving law and corporate governance standards out of the hands of states and into the more objective universe of (theoretically) unalterable, (hopefully) ineradicable digital code.

Steem, currently fluctuating between third and fourth in cryptocurrency market cap, is a social media project built around the interactions of three cryptocurrencies. Not only “miners,” but content creators and curators as well, receive rewards from the blockchain process. Think of it as something like getting paid to use Reddit or Facebook.

Years ago, I wrote that Bitcoin might or might not be the killer cryptocurrency app, but that the idea was here to stay. I had no idea how right I was. Bitcoin is still top dog and some of its progeny will certainly fail  (some of them spectacularly). But blockchains are going all kinds of places, and society will go with them.

Will blockchains replace state control and regulation of markets? I’m less optimistic about that than I used to be. Worried bureaucrats and  big business power players are are working overtime to co-opt the technology and suppress that aspiration. But we can hope.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Holiday Greetings From Planet Elizabeth Warren

US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) addresses the 2016 Democratic National Convention [public domain via Wikimedia Commons]
It is an election year and I am a political junkie. Therefore my inbox runneth over with political emails. Recently I’ve received numerous such emails (from avowedly “progressive” organizations) alerting me to US Senator Elizabeth Warren’s latest hobbyhorse. “Election Day should be a holiday,” says the Massachusetts Democrat, “so no one has to choose between a paycheck and a vote.”

How exciting! A new “birther” controversy motoring over the horizon in our direction! Senator Warren passed on a presidential run this year but enjoyed considerable buzz and may well reconsider in 2020 or 2024. So I’d like to see her birth certificate — long form, please — with a view toward contesting her eligibility. She’s obviously not from this country, and probably not even from this planet.

The federal government recognizes ten holidays:  New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, Inauguration Day (in years following presidential elections), Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

How many of those do you get off work?

Unless you’re a government employee (or work for a bank), the answer is almost certainly  “not all of them.” And the further down the income and prestige scales your job is, the more likely the answer is “only a few of them, and usually without pay.”

Senator Warren would presumably know this if she was from, or lived in, or even spent much time visiting, the United States.

Surely she would have, at one point or another, shopped at Wal-Mart, or eaten at McDonald’s, or taken in a film (most theaters are open EVERY day, Christmas being the busiest day of the year in the movie business), or traveled by air, or hailed a taxi, on a holiday.

And when she did any of those things, how could she conceivably have avoided noticing the people who make it possible for her to do those things? You know, the workers whose job title isn’t “US Senator?”

Warren’s proposal wouldn’t it make it any easier to vote for anyone who has a hard time voting now. The people who have a hard time voting are the people who don’t get new government holidays off work with pay just because  a light bulb comes on in Elizabeth Warren’s head.

Early voting makes voting easier. Relaxed rules for absentee voting make voting easier. Voting by mail makes voting easier. Turning “Election Day” into two full days, 48 hours from midnight Friday night to midnight Sunday night, would make voting easier.

Calling for Election Day to be made a federal holiday, on the other hand, just gives people good reason to wonder if perhaps US Senator Elizabeth Warren is proof of extra-terrestrial life. And disproof of extra-terrestrial intelligence.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Election 2016: Time for Libertarians to Dump Bill Weld

Libertarian Party Logo
Libertarian Party Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t pay much attention in 1972 when vice-presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton was removed from  the Democratic ticket and replaced by Sargent Shriver after it came to light that Eagleton had a record of psychiatric hospitalizations. I have a pretty good excuse  for being distracted — I was five years old — and I’ve never looked into the mechanics of how that happened. But I’d like to see it happen again, this time in my own party.

The bylaws of the Libertarian Party’s national committee require that committee to “provide full support for the Party’s nominee for President and nominee for Vice-President as long as their campaigns are conducted in accordance with the Platform of the Party.” But they allow the LNC, on a 3/4 vote, to suspend either candidate. The suspension becomes permanent removal unless the candidate successfully appeals it to the party’s judicial committee.

Why on earth would Libertarians want to dump vice-presidential nominee William Weld? To let American voters, especially gun owners, know that the Libertarian Party still supports their rights as it always has.

Weld won the party’s nomination by a nose on the second ballot at the party’s national convention, after presidential nominee Gary Johnson pleaded for him to be chosen. One reason he was a hard sell to Libertarians was his anti-gun record as governor of Massachusetts (he supported and signed an “assault weapons” ban).

During the nomination campaign he went back and forth, telling Libertarians he had changed his views on guns one day, telling CNN he hadn’t changed his views on guns the next day.

Since the nomination, Weld has campaigned vigorously against the party’s platform — not just on gun issues but on due process rights — often spouting nonsense that makes him sound as ignorant and as nutty as Donald Trump at his worst.

Here’s Weld talking to REVOLT 2 VOTE correspondent Amrit Singh during the Democratic National Convention:

“You know the five-shot rifle, that’s a standard military rifle. The problem is if you attach a clip to it so it can fire more shells, and if you remove the pin so that it becomes an automatic weapon. And those are independent criminal offenses. That’s when they become essentially a weapon of mass destruction. The problem with handguns is probably even worse than the problem of the AR-15. You shouldn’t have anybody who’s on a terrorist watch list be able to buy any gun at all.”

None of the factual claims he makes there are true, nor is his stated position even remotely libertarian.

Libertarians support gun rights. Libertarians support due process, not presumed forfeiture of rights due to inclusion on secret enemies lists. These items are in our platform, and they’re not negotiable.

Some of my fellow Libertarians believe that removing Weld would damage Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign and possibly even irreparably harm the party itself. I disagree.

In this year of all years, doing the right thing — and being SEEN doing the right thing — is pure political gold. It’s time for Bill Weld to go.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.