August 24th 2021.
In this interview with the Mises Institute’s Economics for Business podcast, Saifedean discusses his entrepreneurial work on academy.saifedean.com: what is the business model, why he decided to leave behind the malinvestment of academia and work independently, how bitcoin was instrumental in this move, the benefits of independent knowledge entrepreneurship, and why this is the beginning of a growing trend worldwide.
Hunter Hastings: [00:05:06] Our guest today is equally enthusiastic about the Wright brothers entrepreneurship, but he points out that there were several environmental conditions that were contributive to their success. One is [00:05:18] hard money. They could save their income and profits from the bicycle business in hard money and gold and know that it would not depreciate.
It would be there for them in the future. Even while they redirected some of their time from saleable bicycles to experimental airplanes. The second thing powered by hard money is low time preference. Because of hard money savings, Wilburn, Orville could sacrifice some of their current earning power and expend it on the unpredictable future of powered flight.
For much of the balance of the 20th century, the hardness of money has been systematically eroded by governments and their central banks. So that today there are huge incentives arrayed against a low time preference in which you sacrifice current income for future benefit. Anything you earn now will be worth a lot less soon, amidst negative interest rates and high inflation in the Austrian sense.
Our next guest is sure the 20th century is just now coming to an end. There is [00:06:18] a new hard money and a new time preference and a new era of entrepreneurship, of new business models on new platforms that co-mingle internet, blockchain, open source software and flat network decentralized organizational dynamics.
There’s a new standard emerging. Our guest characterizes as the one that’s being replaced, the 20th century one, as the fiat standard and the new one, the one that’s replacing it as the Bitcoin standard. Those nouns contain a tsunami of devastatingly incisive thinking from a great mind, our guest is of course Saifedean Ammous.
He’s an intellectual and knowledge entrepreneur. He’s creating new markets for new ideas. He’s dispensing new wisdom from which we can all benefit, and we’re privileged to have him with us today. Saifedean, welcome to the Economics For Business Podcast.
Saifedean Ammous: Thank you for having me Hunter, it’s a pleasure to be talking to you.
Hunter Hastings: It’s our on our night, I can [00:07:18] call you Saif from now on I hope!
Saifedean Ammous: Please do
Hunter Hastings: Good. You’re a renowned expert Saif, in many fields. On economics you give courses, you’ve been a university professor, you’ve written books. You’re an expert on money, both on the fiat’s side and the Bitcoin side.
You’re an expert on energy policy, and I’ve been noticing recently an expert on nutrition. And we’re going to combine all of those today, we might talk about all of them, but we’re going to focus on Saifedean as an entrepreneur. And do it from the system standpoint, how the entrepreneurial system works.
You say in chapter 12 of your Principles of Economics, that economics is, or capitalism is an entrepreneurial system. So we’re going to look through that lens. At Economic For Business, we define entrepreneurship as the pursuit of new economic value. And we define that value in the Austrian way.
It’s a subjective experience of customers. Customers create value, not [00:08:18] firms or their suppliers. Often there is innovation and disruptive creativity and everything that we associate with innovation. And you do all of those things. You do it in what I’m calling the knowledge space, although maybe we’ll find another term.
So that’s our exploration today and we like to do origin stories Saif. Let’s go back to the time before there was a academy.saifedean.com, and can I say that you are a conventional university-based academic? Let us explore your origin story.
Saifedean Ammous: Yes. I was a university professor at the level Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon.
I had a PhD from Columbia University in New York, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a bachelor of engineering from the American University of Beirut. Up until the last couple of years in my PhD, I was pretty much [00:09:18] on the straight and narrow track of, you go into the PhD and you study and you become an expert and then you get a job at a university.
But then toward the last couple of years, I started learning Austrian economics. I came across the work of Popper and Hayek, and then that led me down the rabbit hole of the Mises and Rothbard and Hoppe, and a lot of Austrian economists over the years. And that really influenced me and influenced my completion of my PhD degree.
Where it changed a lot of my ideas about what I wanted to do with the PhD. So it influenced my topic and it changed the way I think of the field and the way that I understand it, in many ways. So first of all, you have the aspect of realizing that a lot of the economics that we’re learning doesn’t make any sense, that the [00:10:18] Austrian perspective is extremely at odds with it.
And then the implications of looking at things from the Austrian perspective, when you start understanding the impact of fake money, fiat money and how it can create all kinds of malinvestments in society. And you realize that one of the major malinvestments is education in its current form, including my degree.
And you realize, when you read about entrepreneurship and about the market process, you realize, yeah there is a way to make money in the world. And the reason that this job isn’t making money is that it’s not providing value. You’re having to tick boxes for bureaucrats who are going to approve whether you get promoted or not, but they’re not consumers.
And that it’s not consumers that are [00:11:18] being happy, that are rewarding you and paying you for this. And so thinking about that made me quite disillusioned for a while, but also I realized having the PhD, I did complete my PhD, even though I did have some bumpy parts of the journey after getting into Austrian economics.
But I realized, the best thing that I could do given my skillset and my qualifications is to teach economics. And so I went and I taught economics and I enjoyed it a lot. I thought of it as really being something very important for me to get right. And I I knew this was my best thing.
This was something that I was passionate about, and it’s also the best thing that I could contribute in terms of providing value to the world. I can teach people the economics they want to learn, but I can also give them a different perspective that might hopefully help them. And so I [00:12:18] taught for nine and a half years at the Lebanese American University.
During which time I interacted with thousands of students. I enjoyed it and I think I did a good job in general with teaching and with influencing students. I was still not very satisfied with staying as an academic. I thought there was more to the world.
And couple of abortive attempts and a few years of taking the scenic routes and then eventually Bitcoin comes along and Bitcoin was just an enormous transformative power in my life. And I think in the life of many people who get into it in the sense of first of all, by having a hard money that is resistant to inflation, you start being able to save for the future.
That’s a point that I make in my next two books, which is [00:13:18] that the hardness of money influences people’s time preference. When your money is hard, you are able to provide for your future, and so you discount the future lightly.
When your money’s easy, when your money’s expected to lose value over time, you will have a higher discounting of it because it’s, the future is more uncertain. It’s not easy for you to provide value for the future. So you don’t know what you’re going to be able to do in the future. That led me to start having much more focus and discipline in my work. And Bitcoin itself was also highly motivating because it was an embodiment of the ideas that I had been very concerned with and also a practical solution to them.
So it’s a free market alternatives to the problem of easy money. And it took me some time to really get going, but eventually I think I [00:14:18] found my happy place in essentially upgrading to a Bitcoin standard, which is the topic of my book. And getting out of the fiat academic system and utilizing the joys of powerful hard money.
And from that, first I wrote the book, The Bitcoin Standard. And then when that was successful, I left my job and I started my own website where I teach Austrian economics and economics of Bitcoin to students from all over the world.
Hunter Hastings: Let me ask you about that Saifedean.
We talked about customers, customers create value. And we look at entrepreneurship through the lens of serving customers and meeting their needs. What do you think now about who your customers were when you’re doing your PhD and then who they were when you’re teaching in the university and who they [00:15:18] are now? How do you think of your customers and the value you’re providing?
Saifedean Ammous: I think, while doing the PhD, the customer is the university that is hiring you for a) cheap labor and b) more importantly for churning out papers so that they can get research grants. So I wouldn’t say that the customer was really the students in that case because it was an afterthought, the teaching part of the PhD for most people. I enjoyed it, but for most people it was just a box they had to tick.
Hunter Hastings: You said in one of your articles, I think maybe it was on the podcast, that essentially that process is customer-less.
Saifedean Ammous: Yes.
Hunter Hastings: There isn’t a customer, just a cycle of publishing unread papers and unread journals.
Saifedean Ammous: Exactly. It’s a system that doesn’t have customer feedback, and so it would have all the dysfunctions that you would expect from a system that doesn’t have that.
So then in [00:16:18] the university, I think the customers were students, because there were a lot of students that were genuinely interested. Obviously the prime customer is the university, which was also using me for teaching and for trying to get publications so they can get research grants and get the university ranking to go higher up.
But also there was a big element of students. And one thing that I enjoyed about my job is that it was not a very prestigious university, and it was not one of those jobs where you had to churn out papers and teach one class a semester or something like that. It was primarily a teaching job, and I enjoyed that.
I enjoy teaching, I enjoy interacting with students. So I had three classes a semester of about 40 students each. And I thoroughly enjoyed it, because it gave me the feeling that I was doing something useful and productive. Students would say thank you at the end of the day. And that was, for me, after learning about Austrian economics and when I [00:17:18] first got the job, this was kind of the motivation that I had. Do things that get people to say thank you to you.
When you give something to somebody, they smile and they say thank you. They’re paying money and they’re happy. And if you can even make them feel like they’re ripping you off, that’s even better. Yeah you’re giving them great value.
I did that and I think because I enjoyed it, because I focused on doing it for a very long time, it really developed my ability to explain economic concepts. Because if you’re doing it day in, day out for 40 kids, half of whom are not interested, and you still manage to do that job there, then it gets easier to do it pretty much anywhere. I think that really helped me with writing the book and helped me with building the website.[00:18:18]
And now when I think about who the customers are, it’s people from all over the world, all ages, all countries, all walks of life. People who read my book and got interested in it, or heard about Austrian economics and want to learn more. So it’s very hard to generalize any kind of other characteristics, but yeah, they’re real people that pay real money and say thank you.
Hunter Hastings: That’s value creation. So one of the elements that we include in our systematization of the entrepreneurial methods Saif, is imagination. It’s a powerful part of Austrian economics. Mises used the imaginary construct a lot in human action and in his work. And we say that entrepreneurs imagine a future, which is very different from the present.
You’ve created that future on academy.saifedean.com, but I wonder if you can go back and [00:19:18] think when you were teaching three classes every semester, how did you imagine the next stage, the next future? Did it come to you slowly? Did it come to you fast? Did you try different things? What was the imagination phase?
Saifedean Ammous: At the risk of sounding reckless. The reality is that this was not something that I envisioned doing when I left my job. Initially I was leaving my job to be working on a couple of consulting jobs on Bitcoin. That was the plan initially, and then that fell through, and while it fell through, it was actually a great thing that it didn’t happen because I was very busy with building the website and then that took off.
So it was really a fly by the seat of your pants or whatever the expression is. It was very much a spur of the moment thing where I had the basic webpage. You know, I [00:20:18] own the domain academy.saifedean.com and then I started posting blog posts on it, and I started developing a readership and I had a big audience on my Twitter.
And in a sense, it was a pretty unconventional way of doing entrepreneurship where generally you have an idea and then you look for customers. In my case, it was more like I had customers, I had a very quickly growing audience, primarily on Twitter. Now I have something like 140,000 followers on Twitter.
Back then it was much less, but it was in the tens of thousands I think at that point. Just seeing the possibilities of the internet and seeing my audience grow and realizing that there’s just so much work and value that I can do and create here on the internet, really helped me to just make the jump.
And so I just [00:21:18] ended up, I quit teaching in December and then by March or so, I had the idea of making the website and teaching courses, and then I launched the courses by July, launched the website and the courses by July.
Hunter Hastings: So there’s an interesting theory about that, sometimes goes by the term of effectuation, but it’s the idea that entrepreneurs don’t necessarily start out with ends. You’re not trying to solve a problem, or you’re not trying to meet anybody’s need, you start out with means. And that’s often defined as what do you know, who do you know, and what are your resources?
And it sounds a little bit like that’s how you got started.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. You make most of what you have. And in my case, I found a lot of people that were very interested in hearing my [00:22:18] take on economic questions. And so I started thinking of ways of doing it.
So initially I started the publishing a monthly research report, which later on grew and got adapted into my next book, The Fiat Standard, which I’m just about to click send on to the publisher. After we hang up, I’m going to be clicking send and sending it. Yeah, it’s going to the printers now. So I started with writing and then I thought a lot of people are interested in Austrian economics.
And also I enjoy teaching, I enjoy teaching a lot and I thought, yeah, I’m going to give this a try. And this was in 2019. So this was before the remote learning and zoom revolution took over the world.
It’s kind of fortunate in a way how it happened with me because I saw this in 2019 out of necessity for me, which is, I can’t teach, [00:23:18] I left the university, I don’t want to be in a university, I don’t want to be wasting my time writing papers that nobody reads. I want to be interacting with people and I want to teach. And clearly the internet is the obvious way to go about doing this because it allows me to reach an enormous number of people from all over the world.
And so I started working on this and initially, the website was very much a, how do I put this, it was really a one man show. Well, not really one man. It was me, but there was a web designer and a graphic designer and a bunch of other people, but it was very bare bones, very primitive, make it up as you go along.
My focus was on preparing the courses and I was delegating a lot of the other tasks and just expecting them to fall into place. There were a lot of bumpy stops on the road, [00:24:18] but it was a lot of fun, I learned a lot. I benefited a lot from teaching in the courses and the courses that I was teaching, one of them became The Fiat Standard and the other one became Principles of Economics, which is the next book that I’m publishing in the next few months.
So initially it was a little bit bumpy, but yeah. Then my audience kept growing and after I saw that it worked out well enough with, the, with the very primitive, simple setups that I had, I then invested in getting a better website built and hiring a lot of people and having full-timers now working with me. Well, one full-timer.
But yeah, it’s been growing and it’s been coming along nicely.
Hunter Hastings: So we might say it’s an excellent example of emergent success as [00:25:18] emergence. I’ve seen you use that word, but I don’t know whether you subscribe to complexity theory or more serendipity in emergent success.
What’s your theory behind it?
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, it’s an interesting one. I think I was definitely influenced by this discussion from Hayek and I remember reading his ideas on complexity and emergence in university, during my PhD. I think in my case it is to a large extent, a spontaneous order in the sense that I’m going along and just seeing what signals the market throws at me or perhaps another way of putting it is [00:26:18] what the universe throws in my way and just reacting to it.
This interview, I was thinking about it as we were preparing for it. I was thinking, it might be that this interview is coming a little too soon in my journey. Because I started this thing, I did the website, it’s going to be a year in a few months where this new website is launched.
It’s going to be a year and three months, it’s only been nine months. And I’ve been so swamped with writing my two books, which one is finished and one should be finished in the next couple of months. The plan was, after I’ve done the book I’m done with the book, I’m going to sit back and take a close look at what I’ve been doing so far and run the numbers and look at whether it’s a good idea or not.
Unfortunately, I should not be put on podcasts for [00:27:18] entrepreneurs.
Hunter Hastings: No we love to be at the early part of the journey, that’s fine but I won’t press you on it. I did have another couple of questions that you have hinted at, and that is you produce prodigiously.
You have three books, you’ve got multiple courses, you run Twitter, you run the podcast several episodes a week, and you talk a lot about time preference. And I think you said that Bitcoin gave you the realization that you could change your time preferences in order to be productive. How do you manage your time?
You devote a lot of time to production, right?
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. If you ask my wife, she would answer you badly, is the answer. Yeah, a lot of it honestly comes at the expense of my family. The last year or so has been incredibly hectic because I’ve just been so inspired to write with both of my books.
I was working on [00:28:18] one of them, the Principles of Economics, with a kind of normal schedule while also doing the courses on the side. And I had the idea for the other one, The Fiat Standard, but then I got inspired to finish up The Fiat Standard, and then I started writing on that obsessively almost.
Once you start seeing the finished line, you just start neglecting everything and start throwing everything behind the finish line. And in a sense, this is probably terrible advice, but there’s a feeling like when you think that you’re about to do something important, it has to come at the expense of other things.
In order to finish something, you neglect other things, it’s lack of organizations clearly.
Hunter Hastings: Opportunity [00:29:18] cost at work, right?
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. But you know, the plan is now hopefully by the end of the next few months I’ll be done with the second book and then I’m going to massively revise my work schedule and try and cut down on my working hours.
I mean, there was a bit of a sacrifice. I convinced myself and I convinced my wife that now this year, the last couple of years, working really hard is going to pay off later because then I’ll have three books and they’ll be generating steady income, hopefully. I’ll be able to relax much more, but I needed to get these out of the way.
Because I wanted to, and because my keyboard was itching me to write them out. And you know, in the last couple of years, it’s not like I had much better things to do. Everybody was stuck at home anyway. It [00:30:18] was my escape in a sense. It was my way of coping. I conditioned myself to just sit down and work instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of how things are going.
So I would just sit down and work and come at it. So the short answer to your question is yeah, I manage it badly right now, but I’m hoping to improve things soon.
Hunter Hastings: We’re going to put that in the classic sacrifice today for benefit tomorrow. So I’m sure that’ll work out that way.
Hey, one more question about innovation on academy.saifedean.com, I had a question about channels Saif, which is essentially what have you learned about channels? So you sell digitally, you sell direct, but as you mentioned, you also print your books and you’ll go into the conventional distribution channel. How has your thinking emerged about channel management as they call it in the marketing world?
Saifedean Ammous: Again [00:31:18] that’s not a very good answer that I have here, but it was really just looking along, looking at what is happening and trying out different things. So putting the courses online, then trying out podcasts. Initially I was selling the courses, then I moved towards selling a subscription into the website where you can attend the live seminars, as well as get access to the courses.
During that time I saw podcasts were taking off and I realized it’s a highly efficient way of communicating information. So I started making my own podcast.
To be perfectly frank, I don’t have a lot of strong opinions about it. I’ve done zero marketing. I’ve spent exactly $0 on marketing. I’ve built the website, I’ve hired people to build the website. I think of that more as the shop, rather than marketing, but I’ve really spent no money on [00:32:18] marketing. I’m probably beginning to think about it critically, now.
I think I’m massively underselling myself because of the marketing. I think people who have better marketing would be able to sell my content in many more creative ways and generate a lot more income from it. So I don’t think I’ve done a good job with it because I’ve always not liked marketing and I never liked advertisements and I never watched TV because of advertisements.
Because of many reasons, but advertisements was one of them. I have ad blocker on my web browser. I generally just don’t like the entire concept of advertising. So I haven’t really gotten into marketing. My idea has so far been, let’s just build a good product and then it’ll market itself. And to an extent that has worked with The Bitcoin Standard.
I’ve had Super Bowl winners and billionaires and people from all over the world who read my [00:33:18] book and loved it and promote it for me for free, without me having to pay them a dime for marketing. But yeah, it can definitely be optimized and improved in many ways.
Hunter Hastings: So we take the opposite side to that Saif, which is the marketing model you described, they used to call it when I was in that business interrupt and annoy, which is what TV commercials do. And it’s what a popups on websites do. But actually marketing, I think is very Austrian. It’s very different approach.
And I think of it as complete alignment with your customers, which means that you can find more of them if you align with them better, understand them better and know where they are, you can make them more aware in various ways, like you do on Twitter. So I think of marketing as a very positive concept, but not interrupt and annoy, as you say, which is a horrible tactic. But marketing is understanding your customer and making sure that you’re as fully aligned with them as possible.
I [00:34:18] used to have an expression that being a marketer is like an angel. You find out what people want and you deliver it to them. You’ve also introduced this whole new idea, and I want to think about ideation as an entrepreneurial concept. So you came up with The Fiat Standard and the word fiat money existed, and then you created this whole new construct of fiat life.
And I’m reading from my notes here. It’s a life of high regulation, bad science, indoctrinational education, crappy food, declining civilizations standards and a general erosion and entropy in the conduct and quality of life. And you talk about that in depth in The Fiat Standard.
So how did that concept come along? You’ve created a whole new meme or idea called fiat life.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah it mainly [00:35:18] came about on Twitter, I would say. I think the intellectual foundation for it has been laid by reading Austrian economists and thinking about hard money and easy money.
I would say in particular, Guido Hülsmann’s work, The Ethics of Money Production and In Defense of Deflation are quite revealing in that Hans Hoppe’s work as well of course, on time preference and democracy and fiat money and fiat property and all of these ideas. And then I think the really fascinating thing, the way that it developed is Bitcoin on Twitter is now, it’s getting big and it keeps getting bigger.
But a few years ago it was just a few weirdos from all over the world who were out there talking about this weird internet game that’s going on. [00:36:18] And yet, people from all over the world, from every country and every culture, we’re all getting into Bitcoin. And you start seeing a lot of similarities and a lot of commonalities in a lot of the things that they do.
And it’s quite eye-opening. You start seeing this shift in time preference. It’s very prevalent. Once people get into Bitcoin it’s like an addiction to self-improvement and to long-term thinking. So it’s very common. They start getting married, they started thinking about starting families, they start reducing their drinking and their drug intake.
And they start just prioritizing things that matter for the longterm rather than the short term. And you see this culture developing in things around diet. Kind of parallel and similar to Bitcoin in many ways overlapping with Bitcoin, there’s a [00:37:18] similar kind of revolution going on in the diet world of people who are no longer listening to what their doctor and their nutritionists have been telling them and have figured out how to cure themselves from all kinds of ailments, simply by not eating poisonous junk.
Which you know, is something your doctors probably never mentioned. And even when they do mention diet, they tell you what they learned in med school, which is essentially advertisement for junk food. So they tell you, reduce the meat, reduce the saturated fat, reduce all the things that don’t have high profit margins for our agro industrial producing sponsors.
And eat all of their highly addictive junk in moderation. Which is an excellent way to get people addicted to things by telling them, just have some in moderation. So you see the parallels where people snap out of that mindset of listening to authority, trusting all these institutions and going by the word of the [00:38:18] experts.
This is the blue pill version of reality. And then you take the orange bill. The Bitcoin orange pill, where you start thinking for yourself. And if you saw it, if all of these people are wrong about money, if all of these authorities are wrong about money, clearly they are because why the hell does our monetary system need us to hand out a trillion dollars to banks every couple of weeks in order for it to not crank over.
Whereas Bitcoin just continues to operate without having any of that stuff. You know, clearly that rings bells for people who are critical thinkers. So they start snapping out of this entire mentality. And people will generally mock Bitcoiners and Bitcoiners just turn this around and mock fiat people.
When you think about it, fiat people, they like to look at Bitcoin and say, oh these newfangled [00:39:18] toys and these kids and all their crazy ideas, they think they can reinvent money, get off my lawn kids. But in reality It’s the fiat generation, it’s the 20th century that is the crazy uppity kids with their crazy unworkable stupid disastrous ideas.
All of human history, humanity has been searching for the hardest money that they can find. All of human history has been leading up to harder and better money. And the one exception is the 20th century and the fiat generation that has not had that disciplining force of hard money to guide it in life.
And instead it has had easy money that is controlled by government and that’s allowed government to dictate reality in so many aspects of life. And so fiat food is what government tells you that you should be eating, which so happens to conveniently be all of those things [00:40:18] that are highly industrial in their production methods, which means that they are not very price sensitive.
And so when there’s inflation, these are the things that are not going to rise very quickly. So they’re promoting that stuff. They’re promoting all kinds of crazy wishy-washy science in order to get all kinds of methods to control people. Whether it’s climate hysteria or virus hysteria, science always has reasons for you to be scared and solutions by handing over your money and consent to people to rule over you.
All of these things help develop the thinking of fiat as a system. And I studied Bitcoin from scratch and I studied a bunch of the altcoins, a bunch of [00:41:18] the digital currencies that are, well I think they’re essentially all useless, I think Bitcoin is the only one that matters.
So I’ve studied these and the idea came to me that maybe I should look at fiat in the same way that I looked at Bitcoin and these altcoins, and think of it as a digital currency and thinking about how it’s operating properties reflect on the real world.
And it turns out to be a very powerful framework because once you understand how it works at the protocol level if you want, at the basic implementation level in terms of how the money is created and how the money is moved around and how the central banks manage the money, once you figured out how that works, then you can see how that would reflect onto society as opposed to a gold standard or as opposed to a Bitcoin standard.
That was [00:42:18] really the kind of motivating idea behind The Fiat Standard. And I think it’s a very powerful idea and it’s got legs because it clicks with people. I’ve seen a Bloomberg journalist keep riffing on it, which shows you that it has some kind of staying power in the minds of people that think in this way.
I think it’s it’s very powerful because once you start seeing it, you look at architecture, why is it the 19th century buildings look nice whereas 20th century buildings all look like matchboxes? You just can’t unsee that. And then you think about food.
Americans use to eat a lot more meat in the 19th century than they eat today. Why is that the case? Why do they eat all of these industrial things? Whose idea was it to tell people to eat all this [00:43:18] grain and skim milk in the morning, which is what they used to feed the hogs in order to fatten them?
Hunter Hastings: Yeah, you go through that a lot in your book, you trace all those origins.
So one of the parallels there that mentioned Saif was, you’ve talked about a return to entrepreneurship. You talk about, hey if you go back to the late 19th, early 20th century, the innovators were engineers, they were practical people, they were tinkerers, they built things. And if the things didn’t work they built another one and somebody else built one that was better.
It wasn’t coming out of the universities or research think tanks or that kind of thing. And you’ve suggested that there may be a return to that kind of entrepreneurship in the bitcoin world on the internet. Tell us about your thinking there. Are we entering a new age of entrepreneurship, do you think in a positive sense?
Saifedean Ammous: I would think so. I think Bitcoin is sowing the seeds for something [00:44:18] remarkable. If you deal with Bitcoiners, you’ll see this. In The Bitcoin Standard, I discuss the golden era, La Belle Époque, the late 19th century and early 20th century. And it’s quite amazing because we grew up in the 20th century and grew up immersed in 20th century propaganda we tend to think of the 19th century as being a terrible time because things were bad.
And when we think of modern technology, we think 20th century technology. But in fact, all the important inventions of the 20th century were popularized in the 20th century and they changed the world in the 20th century, primarily because they were mass produced and made cheap and spread all over the world and truly transformed people’s lives and extended their life expectancy.
But all that stuff was invented in the 19th century. By 19th [00:45:18] century I mean up until 1914. That’s when the 19th century ends, with World War I. And then you get to the 20th century, which ends around now I think, I hope with Bitcoin, hopefully. You see the airplane, the car, the engines, all the important engines that have made our life. Wastewater treatment, modern sewage systems, indoor plumbing, running hot and cold water.
All of these truly life changing and life altering technologies, the telephone and all the telecommunication industry. All of these things came about in the 19th century when the world was on a gold standard and all the world had one currency. I think those two things are enormously important. The gold standard aspect of it means that any individual could save money for the future.
Earn [00:46:18] the money and the money would just stay there. It would stay earned and it would keep appreciating in value over time. The more you saved it, the more it appreciates. We don’t have that right now. We can’t save. If you save, you lose value into the future. So you’re essentially sacrificing your wealth if you decide to save.
And if you decide to invest, basically that’s another job. In fiat, you have to earn your money twice. You have to earn it, and then you have to keep going to the stock market casino every day and picking the right stocks every day in order to keep that money earned.
You didn’t have to do that under the gold standard. You were born, your parents got some gold as a gift for you and you kept on accumulating gold before you knew what gold was. And then you knew what gold was and then you started working and you started stacking more and more gold. And eventually you managed to start a business and then eventually you managed to build a house and [00:47:18] get married and start a family and so on.
So people saved and it was that saving I think that makes people creative. It’s when you have that ability to experiment and tinker with your own money and know that if you don’t make it, well then it’s fine because I still have savings. You’re experimenting with the savings that you can afford to lose.
It’s a very different world, I think, than when you’re getting into entrepreneurship with debt. Because when you’re getting into entrepreneurship with debt, the real entrepreneur, as Hülsmann says, the real entrepreneur is basically the banker, not the entrepreneur.
They’re the one that is putting in the money, but they are not really involved with the business. They don’t care about the business and they care about their short-term, they’re caring about the next loan installment. That’s it.
Hunter Hastings: Yeah. Returns, not value.
Saifedean Ammous: Exactly! They [00:48:18] can’t afford to tolerate a few months downtime while you tinker with the engine. My favorite example is the Wright brothers. The Wright brothers were two bicycle mechanics.
They owned a bike shop and in their spare time with their savings, these weren’t rich people, but in their spare time with their savings, they managed to put together enough materials and metals to actual airplane and make it fly and make it land. And of course they weren’t the only ones, there were hundreds of people who were trying to do this. A lot of them crashed and died.
But some of them, two of them made it. The Wright brothers. And it’s absolutely changed the world. And I think there’s an argument to be made that in the 20th century, we haven’t seen as much of this innovation. And I don’t think that’s an entirely coincidental occurrence.
In fact, there’s also a study that shows that per capita, the 19th century was the golden age of innovation. If you look at the number of important [00:49:18] inventions that were coming out, and this was a study that was done on a book that cataloged the, I think 6,000 most important inventions in human history.
And I cite this in The Bitcoin Standard and then a physicist went through that book and tabulated the data by year and then divided that by world population during that year and looked at the highest amount of important innovations per capita and it peaks at the end of the 19th century and begins to decline and the 20th century.
Hunter Hastings: Yeah. So maybe now at the beginning of the 21st century, there’ll be a new cycle based on Bitcoin and based on savings and based on hard money. I get the analogy. That’s a deep insight.
Saifedean Ammous: I hope so, I think so.
Hunter Hastings: Good. Well [00:50:18] Saif thanks for your time today. We’re running up against the clock.
We’ll link to academy.saifedean.com. We’ll put your Twitter handle on our webpage, what else can we do to alert your customers and do some of that dreaded marketing for you?
Saifedean Ammous: You can pre-purchase my next book, The Fiat Standard. If you go to my website, academy.saifedean.com you can pre-order The Fiat Standard.
It’ll be out in December, maybe even November and if you pre-order it now you’ll be getting the first draft of the book, so that you could start reading it right now, if you like. And you can order a hardcover signed copy. This is essentially my way of getting an advance rather than going through a publisher in order to get them an advance to finance my work and to hire the editors, cause I’m, self-publishing this book.
I’m selling signed copies, you can [00:51:18] contribute by buying a signed copy from the book. You’ll get your name listed as one of the supporters and you get a signed copy sent to you.
Hunter Hastings: So I imagine at some point in the future, your time preference is going to require you to sign hundreds and thousands of copies of your book. I hope that’s the case.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, I wouldn’t mind, I’d be happy to!
Hunter Hastings: Saif thank you very much for today. We look forward to the book coming out and as you said, we can get a preview of it if we sign up now! So we’ll send people to your website. Thank you very much!
Saifedean Ammous: Thank you so much for hosting me, Hunter. Have a good day!