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Episode #69: The Corruption Episode

The college admissions scandal, bribery, and Bitcoin

COIN TALK is produced in partnership with Medium and hosted by Aaron Lammer and Jay Caspian Kang. Press “Listen to the story” above to play the episode. (You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, download the MP3, or email us at

Show Notes

  • The College Admissions scandal
  • Would a Bitcoin future be more or less corrupt?
  • Korean Chaebols
  • How to disappear completely


Aaron Lammer: We’ve been trying to start this episode for like twenty-five minutes, and Jay keeps wanting to talk about something he’s reading on his phone.

Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah. Listen, we’re gonna talk about it because we’re in the, it is bitcoin adjacent, in that it’s a scam.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah. Yeah. Should we just change the theme of the show to scams? It’s really all we’re addressing today.

Jay Kang: We could just start a Netflix series called, “The Greatest Money Laundering Scams.”

Aaron Lammer: Oh, that reminds me actually, I’ve got a good newsletter. Ruthie Baron has a newsletter called “This Week in Scams.” I recommend it.

Jay Kang: That’s already on our corner, then.

Aaron Lammer: Uh, yeah, but she’s like, it’s more like, she’s not doing scam analysis as much, she’s just telling people about various scam news.

Jay Kang: I’m not gonna actually subscribe to that, ’cause there’s nothing funnier to me than scams. All right, this is from Aaron Leibowitz, who is a court reporter in Boston who I actually know personally, who’s a very nice young man. He just said that the U.S. Attorney in Boston has unsealed indictments against at least forty-seven people in a nationwide admissions cheating and recruitment scheme including current and former D1 coaches at Yale, Georgetown, USC, Wake Forest in Texas.

Jay Kang: The story is basically that there was this fixer, right? I think his name is…we should all say alleged -

Aaron Lammer: Alleged.

Jay Kang: — for all of this. His name is William Singer, and he was taking fifteen, between fifteen and fifty thousand dollars from a lot of wealthy and also somewhat famous people for their kids, to have people take the SAT for their kids. Or, in one of the cases, to have the proctor of the SAT come in and take their kid’s SAT and fix the answers to the right ones at retroactively!

Aaron Lammer: This was a thing when I was in high school in Berkeley. Probably because Berkeley was UC Berkeley-adjacent, which meant there was a lot of ringers available.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Now, these prices are outrageous.

Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah.

Aaron Lammer: I heard of grad students at Berkeley taking SATs for, like, $750 or $1000. Although, I believe in that case, that was kids paying grad students to take their SAT, and not tell their parents. Not their patents bribing other people to take the SAT for them.

Jay Kang: Well, I mean, okay, so like $750 to $1000 seems like a reasonable price, right?

Aaron Lammer: I mean, compared to taking an SAT prep course, it’s basically a smart financial decision.

Jay Kang: It’s four hours. I think the SAT is four hours long, or three hours long.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: So you’re getting paid $250 an hour to sit and take a very easy test.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: And, like, what is the downside? The downside is that you’re basically committing a misdemeanor, I would say. But probably one that’s not prosecutable.

Aaron Lammer: I think it’s very different when it’s a celebrity parent trying to defraud a university rather than a kid trying to defraud a university. I’m very sympathetic to the kid. If you’re gonna get into a league with Felicity Huffman to manipulate the admissions process, you need to be charging good money, ’cause that, look, fifteen or seventy-five thousand dollars to get your child into the university of your choice is a bargain. Like, considering you’re gonna be paying far -

Jay Kang: If you’re rich anyway.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah, if you’re rich anyway, I’m just saying. You put kids into private schools, you pay for SAT prep, all the stuff’s expensive. And it doesn’t guarantee results.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: It’s not like the fixer’s gonna be like, hey you paid me seventy-five, but you know, the proctor had a bad day here. You got a 920 score. You know?

Jay Kang: You know how Nate Silver, I think it was Nate Silver, came up with that idea that parking tickets should be pegged to your salary?

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: And so like, people who have -

Aaron Lammer: Sliding scale -

Jay Kang: Yeah, rich people should have to pay, like, $4000 for parking ticket.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: I think that that’s probably fair for this, too, right? I kind of agree with you that if it’s like a student at Berkeley High who’s facing a ton of pressure from his parents and he’s like, oh my god, I’ve saved up like $750 from delivering pizzas, and his practice SATs are going terrible. I’ll just pay my friend over there to take it for me.

Aaron Lammer: This being Berkeley High, it would be selling weed, not delivering pizzas, but yes.

Jay Kang: Okay.

Aaron Lammer: Not that I’m talking about myself. I was already a highly skilled SAT-taker. I would say SAT-taking is one of my top five skills.

Jay Kang: Did you do any grift? Did you take any?

Aaron Lammer: No, no, no. It’s true. No one offered to pay me to take their SATs. I’m gonna tell you something that is racially problematic, which is that the people that I know who faked their SATs, they actually checked IDs when I took SATs.

Jay Kang: Oh, really.

Aaron Lammer: And it would be -

Jay Kang: They probably do now, too.

Aaron Lammer: — Asians students paying Asian grad students at UC Berkeley, and giving them their ID.

Jay Kang: Oh, see, that’s genius. That’s genius.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah. But, like -

Jay Kang: That’s not racially problematic. That’s like an oppressed group taking advantage of the system.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah, what is the opposite of problematic? Advent-o-matic? Yeah.

Jay Kang: It’s all, that’s like a story of solidarity between people at the [inaudible 00:05:43]

Aaron Lammer: I mean, yeah. The, if you’re an eighteen year old at Berkeley High of Asian descent, the amount of people who no one would balk at your ID being used who are currently enrolled at UC Berkeley, and probably have the capacity to score a 1600? Very high.

Jay Kang: All right, so of course Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy’s kids don’t have that, right?

Aaron Lammer: This just feels to me like the fancy New York version of what was going on when I was in high school. Of course it’s more expensive.

Jay Kang: $75000. I mean, look, they deserve to have paid that much for that. And the best nugget out of this story which I thought was hysterical was that Lori Loughlin of Full House fame, one of my first crushes as a child. Her kid…she and her husband paid $500,000, allegedly, to two USC crew coaches to have the crew coach give them the spots that the crew coach gets every year for their two daughters, even though their daughters don’t row.

Jay Kang: First of all, five hundred fucking thousand dollars? Like, how is that not a huge red flag anywhere? How much money do you think the USC crew coach has? Like, a $500,000 deposit into his bank account is an immediate red flag for everybody.

Aaron Lammer: I mean, I think this is giving some insight into why most of the world’s problems are from corruption. Like, this is America, so we can sit around laughing about this, but this is basically how all business takes place in most of the world.

Jay Kang: Oh my god, yeah. I mean like -

Aaron Lammer: If not, and I’m, I don’t think America’s above it, but just this crass, crude, like paying a crew coach kind of commerce, this is like, no one blinks in most of the world at this kind of thing.

Jay Kang: No, it is exactly how the entire country of Korea operates, basically, on the chaebol system, which is like…and for a while it had infiltrated athletics, and so Korea was putting out these soccer teams that essentially were the equivalent of if it was like the U.S. national team was like Jeff Bezos’s kids.

Aaron Lammer: That was like when Manny Pacquiao was playing on his own Philippines basketball team.

Jay Kang: Yeah, exactly. But at least Manny came from nothing, you know? And he’s a national hero.

Aaron Lammer: And he is a pro athlete.

Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But this is…yeah, exactly, like he -

Aaron Lammer: He is good at something.

Jay Kang: He has some pedigree.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: But like if, but it was at least Manny. It wasn’t Manny’s kid, you know?

Aaron Lammer: Yeah. I mean -

Jay Kang: So -

Aaron Lammer: I mean, Manny would be like, “Me and my kid are both like, the starting back court for the [inaudible 00:08:31]

Jay Kang: We’re the Splash Brothers. But Manny’s, for some reason Manny’s corruption outside of his politics, which are horrible, you know, there’s something kind of charming about it, ’cause it’s so out in the open. But in Korea, the entire business system runs off this type of stuff. And that’s why, really if you read into a lot of the reasons why Korea had all this huge protest, and impeached their president because their president essentially was controlled by a shaman.

Jay Kang: It’s like, you know, completely insane story. But the reality behind it is, how do you get a million people to show up about a presidential scandal that she’s being influenced by a shaman, it’s not that big of a deal. The reason why a million people show up is that those million people have been perpetually pissed off by this system of corruption that was implemented essentially when the president’s father was dictator of Korea for thirty years. And so, like, yes, the rest of the world does work on this type of corruption. And the United States, I think we also assume that places like Harvard and Stanford also run on these types of corruption, like Jared Kushner for example, getting into Harvard ’cause his dad built a building on campus.

Jay Kang: But, it’s still funny. It’s like the most perpetually funny thing for me when it comes to that.

Aaron Lammer: Well, I wanna talk about the shaman briefly, just while we’re passing by. So my understanding was that shaman who was controlling the president of Korea was also, in addition to their spiritual guidance, they were basically shaking down large Korean corporations for donations to her quasi-charitable ventures.

Jay Kang: There is a real linkage here. Her daughter, the shaman’s daughter, right?

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: — wanted to get into the top women’s college. You know, it’s like if you made Wellesley a big school, it would be like that. It’s very prestigious to go there. And I think she was an equestrian rider, and she was not that good at equestrian, and so basically she paid, got her friend and spiritual guidee, the president of the country, to get her daughter into that school And that’s what people were really pissed off about. And so there’s really this interesting critique of people being like, oh, this was a class thing.

Jay Kang: My friend, who is a blogger under Ask A Korean, he was talking about the thing that people were actually the maddest about was that she got into that college, you know? And so it’s kinda like the upper middle class being rich at the super class. And it’s not like the lower classes at all.

Aaron Lammer: Well, yeah, we’re making fun of these people who literally bribed crew coaches to their getting kids in. We don’t make fun of the you know, family offices that are endowing buildings to get their kids in.

Jay Kang: Exactly, exactly.

Aaron Lammer: Which, compared to that $75,000, is a bargain. $500,000 is a bargain.

Jay Kang: Huge bargain.

Aaron Lammer: People are paying, you know, basically endowment money to get their kids in here, and I think where your head logically goes when you hear about this is, well, if things like higher education and athletics become corrupted in this way, we won’t really know that we have the best people, right?

Aaron Lammer: Like, instead of the best people, the richest, shadiest people will take power, and…earlier on we said, like, oh, America’s not like this. But America completely is like this.

Jay Kang: Of course America’s like this, yeah.

Aaron Lammer: That isn’t a dystopian future. That is the dystopian present. The best people are not in charge.

Jay Kang: The thing that’s funniest about these stories is not that it’s shocking. It’s literally that it’s completely un-shocking, and it’s Aunt Becky, and the most shocking thing to me is how Lori Loughlin has $500,000 to spend on her daughters getting into USC of all places, to pretend to be on the fucking rowing team.

Aaron Lammer: I love that both rowing and equestrian are not real sports, they’re just things that rich people do.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: And rich people then were like, oh, I do dressage anyway, I wanna be an Olympian, like we should make this a real sport. And then a bunch of peasants got good at it, and now rich people have to bribe people to pretend that they’re the best at equestrian without actually putting in the horse jumping work.

Jay Kang: Wait, is that true? Like was equestrian dominated by peasants at some point?

Aaron Lammer: No, no. I’m saying now, it’s probably to become a top rider, you actually have to train full-time. I think at a certain point, whoever was winning dressage, dressage, dressage -

Jay Kang: Dressage, yeah.

Aaron Lammer: — competitions was just like, a rich guy with a dope horse.

Jay Kang: Oh yeah, for sure, for sure. Yeah, who had paid off the entire judging panel. And like, that’s how it is in, so Dan Golden — and we can get off this in a second -

Aaron Lammer: No. Whole episode on this topic.

Jay Kang: Dan Golden, who is a reporter at ProPublica, I believe, and who is, he is the clearest thinker on this entire college admissions question, his solution for affirmative action was to basically just reduce some of the legacy spots at elite colleges of which there’s a shitload of legacy spots, but also to stop allowing sports like lacrosse and field hockey and crew specifically to have spots. You know, just like, why do you need help for kids who are on the crew team? You know, it’s all white people.

Jay Kang: Process very similar. You don’t need to have an athletic bonus for these sports, because the school doesn’t make any money from those sports, you know. It is cool to see, I guess, kids rowing on the Charles River in Boston, you know? But who fucking cares, they don’t need help to get into Harvard. And you’re basically taking the most privileged people on…I mean, Bowdoin had a fucking sailing team.

Jay Kang: Yeah, I mean, what the fuck is that? Why do you need a sailing team? You could have a sailing club. But, I don’t know if they help kids get in, but you should not get an admissions bonus because you’re, you know, very good at, like, jib control on, like, a catamaran or something like…these are all terms that I think are sailing-related.

Jay Kang: I just find that people’s outrage over like eight slots that are given to poor people or minorities are somehow really important but that eighty slots on the Harvard crew team don’t matter at all.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah, it speaks to our inability to look past race, and that we’re like, all we wanna talk about is affirmative action slots. We don’t wanna talk about build-a-library slots slash rowing team slots. And, it’s all just one pool, you know what I mean?

Aaron Lammer: Like, it’s all a one-to-one. One slot is just worth one slot. I mean, that’s the crazy thing is. Even if you do bribe your way in, or like, even if you bribe your way in very lightly, you just went to private school and your parents sent you to Princeton Review. The softest touch.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Really, all you did was pay kind of on the low scale. Some other sucker gave an entire building. Maybe you’re really the asshole if you give like ten million dollars to get your kid in, when you could’ve just gotten them some private sailing instruction and gotten them in through the sailing team

Jay Kang: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know how hard it is to be one of the best sailors, to qualify for the boat in sailing team. But I think that you or I could pick it up in like two years.

Aaron Lammer: I doubt I could pick it up in two years.

Jay Kang: You don’t think that you could be confident enough? How many people do you know, know how to sail a boat?

Aaron Lammer: My entire wife’s family, and they like to point out that I have no idea how to sail a boat.

Jay Kang: All right, all right. So, how long have they been sailing?

Aaron Lammer: Uh, like probably since the Civil War.

Jay Kang: They were like sailing the Merrimack and the Monitor.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah. Probably before the Civil War.

Jay Kang: Okay.

Aaron Lammer: Jay, there’s an old saying in my family: “Jews don’t sail.”

Jay Kang: Yeah, that’s true. Asians don’t really sail either.

Aaron Lammer: No. No, we’re not sailing people. We need to know our role here. Have, has the Asian community in its response to affirmative action discrimination gone hard on any sports?

Jay Kang: Yeah, I think that basically kids now who are of the sort of stereotype of the person who’s just a resume to get into college, they all have a sport.

Aaron Lammer: Okay. But they haven’t, like, gravitated towards a specific sport -

Jay Kang: No.

Aaron Lammer: — like the way that, say, classical music became dominated at a certain point in time.

Jay Kang: No, no, no, I don’t think so. I mean, so squash right now is dominated by Asians, but they’re all from, like, Malaysia.

Aaron Lammer: Right, right.

Jay Kang: So it’s not like, Asian Americans.

Aaron Lammer: I feel like golf is a good potential.

Jay Kang: Yeah, Asians are, Asian Americans are super into golf. And they’re very good at it. But the people who tend to do that, I don’t think they’re doing it to get into college. I think they’re doing it to try and become professional golfers. Which I think is a different track, you know? ’Cause if you want to become a professional golfer, you don’t necessarily go to Stanford, even though Stanford has a very good golf team.

Jay Kang: They go to, like, Oklahoma State or something like that.

Aaron Lammer: Right, right, right, right, right.

Jay Kang: So it’s not like an education-based thing. I find this endlessly hilarious, just because, like, man, the amount of scamminess that must be going on in these higher education places, and the amount of — like you said — the amount of attention that’s spent to, like eight people who actually need the education?

Jay Kang: You know, like, Lori Loughlin’s kid is — I’m sorry to defame her — but she’s not gonna fucking learn anything at USC that matters. You know? Like, her life is not changed by going to USC instead of going to, like, Cal State Fullerton or something like that? She’s gonna be the same person. She’s gonna, if her mom can afford to pay $500,000 to a crew coach, she’s gonna be fine. You know?

Aaron Lammer: I have a follow-up question here.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: So, do you think it ever happens that the parent bribes, say, the proctor to manipulate the SAT, but doesn’t tell the kid?

Jay Kang: Oh. I think that’s cruel.

Aaron Lammer: Like, kind of like in Cable Guy, when they send him on the date with the prostitute, but don’t tell him?

Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah yeah yeah, yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Like, do you think anyone is trying to just big up their kid?

Jay Kang: Hmmm.

Aaron Lammer: ’Cause that would be a crazy thing to find out later in life, that you’re like, I got into Harvard!

Jay Kang: Yeah, okay.

Aaron Lammer: And your parents are like, I paid the proctor to fix all of your answers, you got a terrible SAT score and you’re a moron.

Jay Kang: Yeah. The amount of, I cannot put myself in the mindset of someone that would pay $500,000 to get my daughter a crew position when they don’t row, right?

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: So it’s difficult for me to understand that mindset. Even if I had the money, I would just be like, it doesn’t matter where you go to college. Especially USC.

Aaron Lammer: I think this always works better when someone counterpoints you. So, I agree with that. But if you are a Chinese aristocrat who has been siphoning money off of the federal railroad fund for the last decade, you’ve got forty million dollars in like a hidden bitcoin account somewhere.

Aaron Lammer: And you’ve got one child. How much is it worth to you to get that child into Harvard?

Jay Kang: Oh, I -

Aaron Lammer: Child in no way qualifies for Harvard. Your kid is smoking cigarettes, and like doing karaoke all day, they have like no interest in academics at all. They’re just a Chinese rich kid who’s like crashed a Maserati.

Jay Kang: And you know that if they get into Harvard, grade inflation will at least carry them to the end of four years.

Aaron Lammer: It’s just, you can say, my kid goes to Harvard. It’s, how much is that worth to you?

Jay Kang: Uh, if I have, so okay. If I’m that person, then I probably have several billion dollars -

Aaron Lammer: Let’s say you’re like a minor rail corruption guy, and you’ve got forty or fifty mil.

Jay Kang: Forty million dollars.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: It’s probably worth like two million dollars.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah. I was gonna say, I think anyone in their right mind would give ten percent of their net worth for that. And, you know -

Jay Kang: You’ve kind of set your kid up, or at least given him a shot to be set up.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: But I would argue that you’re, and then if you send him to, like let’s say the local Chinese university, then you know what’s gonna happen. And at least if he goes to America and is around the ruling elite of America, maybe he’ll straighten up, is the idea?

Aaron Lammer: Well, I, fuck straightening out the kid. Let’s just assume the kid is a loss. Like, overall to you. How much, how valuable, like we think about scarcity, an open market here, right?

Aaron Lammer: There’s only one Harvard. Right? I’m not big-upping Harvard here, by the way. I’m just saying, if you ask anyone in Asia the name of a university, everyone knows the name of Harvard. How many Chinese students get into Harvard per class? Twenty or something? Thirty?

Jay Kang: No, way more than that.

Aaron Lammer: A hundred?

Jay Kang: No, no, no. Because there’s only like two thousand kids per class. Or fifteen hundred per class at Harvard.

Aaron Lammer: I think a hundred would be generous. I’m talking about Chinese nationals, not like -

Jay Kang: Yeah, maybe like fifty.

Aaron Lammer: Fifty, okay. So that means every decade, Harvard churns out five hundred Chinese nationals in a country that has billions of people. That scarcity would suggest a Harvard degree is worth far more than the…$300,000 for that it costs. It’s probably worth like, twenty million.

Jay Kang: Yeah, it’s like there’s kids that fuck up anyway, and you’re a third-tier rail corruption guy, so you’ve just gotta get your kid into the third-tier rail corruption gang.

Aaron Lammer: But all you’ve ever been trying to do for this kid is give him an advantage in life. To give a kid a Harvard degree that is being released at a rate -

Jay Kang: Okay, yeah, I say two million. Two million.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah, being released at a rate of a thousand per twenty years. That’s like, that’s like the admissions rate of a -

Jay Kang: Two million dollars.

Aaron Lammer: — of Harvard coin.

Jay Kang: I would go, I’d go, two million is what, like five percent of my net worth?

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: I’d do that. Two million dollars.

Aaron Lammer: I think that if you think that you’re gonna get into Harvard with that two million, some big brow boss is gonna have, get in front of you. There’s only twenty spots.

Jay Kang: So are you trying to explain how Lori Loughlin’s price got up to $500,000?

Aaron Lammer: Well, I’m saying that I think that college slots are a little bit like deflationary coins, and that there’s not an elastic supply of that.

Jay Kang: No, no, I agree with that.

Aaron Lammer: And everything that we’re supposed to believe about markets, which you and I generally don’t believe on this show, is that they generally adjust themselves. Maybe we’re seeing the market for college spots pumping a little here.

Jay Kang: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s definitely true because, and that, in large part because of not just Asian immigrants, but immigrants from Africa and immigrants from Latin America as well, coming into the United States since 1965 and flooding the admissions market with a lot more qualified students than it can handle. And in terms of, you know, immigrants from West Africa and Asia, or parts of Asia, I guess, being so academically qualified that you really do push out a large part of the upper middle class population.

Jay Kang: Which means that the number of spots for the super class of wealthy people are much scarcer, under much higher scrutiny because college admissions is under much higher scrutiny. And yeah, it’s more expensive now, I bet.

Aaron Lammer: Well -

Jay Kang: To buy your way into school.

Aaron Lammer: Aren’t we seeing basically colleges are one of the few brands that really ships internationally?

Jay Kang: Oh my god, yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Like, I put a Harvard in the class of, you know, Barcelona, the New York Yankees.

Jay Kang: Oh, much more. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Aaron Lammer: The sweatshirt means something everywhere, and I think we’re kinda seeing the market internationalize, and people starting to say hey, I…You see the same thing in soccer teams, honestly. Like, soccer teams were worth a certain amount until, like, Saudi dudes got into it. And then it just went, like 100x, because it was like a money-burning competition.

Aaron Lammer: It seems probably like the end state for American higher education is some sort of like a brand portfolio of that kind.

Jay Kang: And that’s what they’re doing, right? NYU has campuses all over the world right now.

Aaron Lammer: Hundred percent.

Jay Kang: Like Abu Dhabi, and Paris, and Shanghai, and the tuitions to go to those schools are insane.

Aaron Lammer: But -

Jay Kang: And it’s essentially just a brand dilution where they take graduate students or they take people who are not working in the U.S. on a tenure track job, and they just shuttle them out to Abu Dhabi, and they teach class there. And, you know, like some oil baron’s kid is spending a ton of money to go there.

Aaron Lammer: And that feels like the bitcoin cash strategy, which is basically like, keep forking -

Jay Kang: Forking.

Aaron Lammer: Endlessly forking NYU until it’s like, you know, twenty-seven different NYUs. Harvard goes the BTC route, which is keeping the scarcity of the two thousand slots per class at Harvard. You can’t go to, like, Harvard Beijing.

Aaron Lammer: Right? You have to like, come, and then theoretically the value of those Harvard slots should keep going up. I think you and I, as cynics who grew up in America are like, man, all these colleges are bullshit, I can’t believe anyone would pay $75,000 to bribe their way into a crew team spot.

Jay Kang: $500,000. $500,000.

Aaron Lammer: Especially for a lot of these, like, shitcoin colleges, you know, that we know to be full of fuck-ups. But like, internationally, it’s like the same way, like we’re willing to buy some, what was the Chinese Ethereum called? Ant? Original?

Jay Kang: Neo.

Aaron Lammer: Neo.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Right? Me and you are like, yeah, give us a Neo bag. Whereas Chinese people are like, oh, Neo’s a shitcoin. Like, I think that people come here and they see these brand-name American universities, and they’re like, that’s it. That’s what we’re looking for.

Jay Kang: But Lori Loughlin and those people are not like Chinese [inaudible 00:27:23]

Aaron Lammer: They’re not Chinese nationals. What I’m saying is, they’re driving up the market.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Like, all of these things -

Jay Kang: Chinese nationals, so okay, so locally we have this example of New York City private schools, right?

Aaron Lammer: Sure.

Jay Kang: And the skyrocketing price at New York City private schools in ways is a reflection of the skyrocketing costs of high-end New York City real estate.

Aaron Lammer: Sure.

Jay Kang: Which is that is, a certain amount of it is funded by people who are from Saudi Arabia, from China, from Russia, from -

Aaron Lammer: France, in my neighborhood.

Jay Kang: Yeah. Well, no, no, no. I’m just talking about the super-rich.

Aaron Lammer: Oh, okay.

Jay Kang: Like the super-rich are buying, like, a hundred and fifty million dollar apartments in New York City.

Aaron Lammer: Wow, shots fired at the French by Jay there.

Jay Kang: No, no, the French are not part of this.

Aaron Lammer: Broke-ass French motherfuckers.

Jay Kang: Yeah, right. These broke motherfuckers.

Aaron Lammer: With your broke-ass depressed euros.

Jay Kang: Yeah. No, these are people who are buying money-laundering apartments in New York.

Aaron Lammer: Oh, yeah, money laundering.

Jay Kang: And they send their kids to elite private schools, and they pay to get their kids into those schools, and they pay the full tuition. And the school is profiting off of that. And so they have a certain amount of spots that are for international kids who barely show up at the school.

Jay Kang: I know somebody who is a admissions officer at one of these places, and she was telling me that there was one year that somebody paid for the entire year of school, which is like $65,000, and their kid didn’t show up. And there was nobody who ever asked for a refund. There was literally just like, oh, yeah, well, the $65,000, yeah, you know, we decided to go to different school but we’re too lazy to go back and get the fucking refund.

Aaron Lammer: Did we talk on the show about the preschool that was offering bitcoin tuition in the East Village?

Jay Kang: No, but that’s a good one.

Aaron Lammer: There’s like a movement, I’ve heard this from rich Manhattanites, that people have been asking preschools to accept bitcoin for their tuition payments.

Jay Kang: Why?

Aaron Lammer: Well, if, okay. Let’s say I was gonna do what you just described, which is hold a fake slot in a preschool for my kid.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: And I was involved in, let’s say, sitting on multiple empty apartments. You could see me having some bitcoin reserves that I’d prefer to not repatriate that into dollars to pay my preschool tuition.

Jay Kang: That’s true, that’s true. I’m into that.

Aaron Lammer: I think if you’re a preschool, it’s a great deal. Like, whoever’s paying in bitcoin is definitely gonna pay.

Jay Kang: Yeah. Although, if bitcoin ever goes up, you’re gonna feel horrible. I will say that this is all colored by, I do generally agree that the people who are the most contemptuous about this are people who have been through that system but not in the same elite way.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: And so, I’m not saying that the value of a Harvard education is worthless. Obviously it matters, it matters a lot. But I think that it’s bad that it matters a lot, is what I’m saying.

Aaron Lammer: Can I ask you a bitcoin question?

Jay Kang: Yes.

Aaron Lammer: This has all been our longest intro. This is gonna be like a sixty-minute intro to like a three-minute show about bitcoin.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: I think if you were to poll people around the world about the biggest problems facing them, that ultimately the majority of them boil down to corruption. Certainly in the case of Korea, most of Africa -

Jay Kang: If you ask -

Aaron Lammer: Maybe not every country in the world, but in aggregate, I think per capita, that may be one of -

Jay Kang: Mexico for sure.

Aaron Lammer: Mexico, China -

Jay Kang: Argentina, like -

Aaron Lammer: India, massive corruption -

Jay Kang: Spain.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah. So, we have all of these higher ideals about how people should be treated, and saving this planet, human rights, but really if you boil down to what stands in the way of those things, it’s often corruption.

Aaron Lammer: Even in my environmental issues. Like, why are environmental laws not respected? Usually corruption. Someone’s getting paid, at its core. Do you think moving to a bitcoin-based system will increase or decrease the negative pull of corruption on this world?

Jay Kang: Hmm. All right, so we’ve now transitioned to the show.

Aaron Lammer: And I’m talking about a maximalist viewpoint, in which not all of the money is bitcoin, but bitcoin becomes a significant force in world commerce. Which you can therefore assume that a lot of international big transfers, which are the source of the most valuable corruption, will now be conducted in bitcoin.

Jay Kang: Okay. Not in XRP.

Aaron Lammer: Well, I think that’s an interesting question, like, would that be an argument for an XRP or against an XRP or whatever.

Jay Kang: But your question is much more philosophical, and is not about… Well, I have two, I think I have two answers. The first is more annoying and pragmatic, and I would say that the biggest problem with the idea of having a hyper-bitcoinization is that there’s so much concentration in wealth that exists already that the world that would come out would be inherently corrupt, right? Like there’d be no way to avoid the massive concentrations of power in that system that already exist, and that those people are generally not the people that I want to run the world.

Jay Kang: And so you can call it corrupt or you can call them, you know, bad, or whatever, but those are not the type of people who should run the world. But, from a theoretical standpoint, the idea that you have this trustless form of money that theoretically is untraceable or harder to trace, that is more anonymous, that is deflationary in its general terms, and that is…

Jay Kang: I don’t know if there’d be less corruption, honestly, because I do think that what happens is, you know, you have these emergencies, et cetera, you know. And you need some flood of money to come in to help people. In a bitcoin situation, you can’t print that money. And you need to ask the people who have all the bitcoin to give you the money, and they’re not gonna give you the money, you know? And so what do you have? You just have mass starvation, mass die-offs, and maybe that is not the same type of petty corruption that we’re talking about? But I also think that it is -

Aaron Lammer: Well, it’s a corruption of those higher ideals that we [inaudible 00:34:08]

Jay Kang: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So, I don’t…no, I don’t think that would lead to a world with less corruption.

Aaron Lammer: I have two competing thoughts about it. My first thought is that it would increase corruption, right? Like, what’s stopping corruption now? Basically, the rule of law and some amount of good faith. Right?

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Like, it’s illegal to take bribes for many things -

Jay Kang: Also, like regulation, and -

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: — enforcement. To a small extent.

Aaron Lammer: But for the most part, we accept that we’re not gonna investigate the USC crew coach for corruption every year. We’re not gonna audit his bank accounts.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: We accept that most people are not acting in a corrupt manner, and really only ask that bankers…although not very much…maybe financial services companies are the only people where there’s an assumption that everyone will be investigated for corruption and that corruption will be monitored within the system.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: So, when we actually do look into corruption, generally we follow the money, right? And with bitcoin, at least if anonymity ever comes to it, it will be much harder to follow the money, I think.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Both for the IRS, for the FBI, whoever. And I think that’s gonna make it a lot harder to prevent corruption in many of the ways that we currently prevent corruption. So that would suggest that a bitcoin future would be more corrupt.

Aaron Lammer: However, we know that bankers and financial service companies are really not prevented from doing much. They’re really barely audited, and when people lie, they often just pay a fine and don’t go to jail, and it’s all business as usual. So, in some ways we live in a very corrupt system already, that has the veneer of a lack of corruption, and we assume, oh, well, someone did that, the bank would stop them or the government would stop them. I do wonder that if we shift the game theory and say, well, money’s untraceable, and anonymous, and not government-controlled, whether all of our sort of good faith assumptions about corruption go out the window, and people become probably more paranoid, but also basically just act as if corruption could and will happen in everything, and therefore organize their personal life, their voting and government, and their banking accordingly.

Jay Kang: Do you think that’s -

Aaron Lammer: That’s sort of the trustless?

Jay Kang: Do you think that’s particularly different than the relationship that the most of the world has towards their government? Like an assumption of a baseline of corruption?

Aaron Lammer: I think that’s right. I mean, I think that one of the reasons that bitcoin goes down easy in Venezuela, or for that matter, China or Korea, is that people already have a fairly cynical take on these things. And bitcoin actually seems like a hedge to them, or a tool to fight against these problems.

Jay Kang: So, in Korea the new narrative that is coming out about why Koreans went so crazy for bitcoin… And I think there is a AP story about this, and it tried to do a post-mortem about it. And the argument was one I found to be somewhat convincing but not entirely convincing, and it said that what is going on is that because Korea has had so much corruption, because it’s such a class-bound society where rich people stay rich, poor people stay poor, and it extends all the way to these ridiculous examples in the eighties where even the best soccer players couldn’t play on the national soccer team because of some fucking rich kid’s kid who got preference over it. This is essentially the national character of Koreans, is essentially just like, all of our problems are immutable and intractable, and nothing can change.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: The bitcoin gave them the belief that if they could buy into something that was completely outside the Korean government, completely outside the chaebol system, completely outside of the won, you know, the currency in Korea, that they could somehow compile wealth and empower themselves through cryptocurrencies.

Jay Kang: Now, we know, you and I know that a lot of the activity in Korea was because of Chinese money laundering and because of other types of money laundering operations. But that doesn’t change the fact that like teens definitely were mass-trading Ethereum there.

Aaron Lammer: People were going buck wild.

Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah. And that people really were crypto-crazy there.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: And, I think that that idea is actually somewhat interesting to me because the lesson of it was that crypto was also corrupted, right, by price manipulation and all this type of stuff. But if it hadn’t been, right? And like, it’s a big hadn’t been, ’cause you can always argue it is inevitable that it was. But if it hadn’t been, then it is an interesting argument about empowerment against corruption, you know? It is, and these people, I don’t think they’re all idiots, you know?

Aaron Lammer: I don’t think they’re idiots at all.

Jay Kang: I think that they saw an opportunity to try and break out of a system that is essentially their parents suffered under, their grandparents suffered under, that they see no hope out of, and they took a shot at it. Like, and the fact that they found this shot appealing, I think that that is a credit to crypto.

Aaron Lammer: What do you call that word in Korean, I feel like it’s appeared in either your writing or maybe Wesley Yen’s writing?

Jay Kang: Oh, han.

Aaron Lammer: Which is like, kind of silent suffering? Is that how you -

Jay Kang: It’s like, basically, it’s suffering because the world is perpetually unfair.

Aaron Lammer: Sure.

Jay Kang: Like the realization that you are suffering because there are things that are happening in the world that you can’t control, that are unfair.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah, it’s funny how crypto is basically just like fiat banking han.

Jay Kang: Yeah, exactly! No, more like World Bank stuff. You know? It’s like -

Aaron Lammer: But I wanna say, I don’t think those two ideas, the Chinese money laundering and that are incompatible.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: In fact, I can see them building on each other, which is the infrastructure all gets built out by money launderers, and then kids see that infrastructure, and they’re like, wow, not only is this an opportunity for me personally, but if this takes off, if we become the bitcoin generation or the Ethereum generation, we will kick out the chaebols.

Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Aaron Lammer: We will change the country, and not only will I be fucking rich, ’cause I bought low, but also I’ll live in a country in which I can use those riches to create some sort of a new business and social structure outside of this corrupt grandfather system.

Jay Kang: You know, remember when you and I got into crypto, one of the ideas of sort of egalitarianism or freedom was that anyone can buy bitcoin. You know?

Aaron Lammer: Yup.

Jay Kang: And anyone can control their own wealth, and anyone can profit when bitcoin goes up. Anyone can become a bitcoin evangelist and get their friends to sign up and spread the hype of it. It is not limited to, like, having gone to Harvard. Which is a lot of the access to wealth in this country, in the United States, is limited to that.

Jay Kang: And so, you know, I don’t think this is just bitcoin-related, though, ’cause I was thinking about this the other day, because I’ve been watching a lot of video game streamers. And some of them make a lot of money, so Shroud, for example, who’s one of the top Twitch streamers. He has like a hundred thousand subscribers who all pay five dollars a month, so that’s five hundred fucking thousand dollars a month. You know?

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: And, obviously Twitch takes some percentage of that, or whatever. But there’s no overhead. He literally just sits in his apartment in front of his, or his house in front of his computer and plays video games all the time. There is a generation of people who I think, who see somebody like Shroud and they basically say, I don’t have to participate in the workforce. Like, I don’t have to participate in higher education. I don’t have to participate in all these things that will lock me out, because they’re only the space of the elites. And they try and find different ways to do it.

Jay Kang: And I don’t think that the number of those kids is going down, I think it’s going way up.

Aaron Lammer: I agree. And maybe where we differ is that I don’t really feel that dream is dead now. Either in America or Korea. I mean, I see those -

Jay Kang: Through crypto.

Aaron Lammer: Through crypto, yeah. I see those early people, you know, god bless them if they bought over ten thousand, but I’ve bought bitcoin over ten thousand, so I’m -

Jay Kang: No, we both did.

Aaron Lammer: We both did. I mean, better off if they bought it, you know -

Jay Kang: We bought five bitcoin at like, sixteen thousand.

Aaron Lammer: But it better off if they bought at one thousand. But, they’re doing what you’re supposed to do in crypto, which is hold the space for someone in the future, right? And right now they’re experiencing losses, and you know, they have to sit there with their han, and bear it out, but maybe it’s not even their generation. Maybe it somehow creates a situation for their kids, that’s better.

Jay Kang: Well, I don’t think that that dream is dead, either, to be fair. I mean, and it’s not like you and my, our interest in crypto also lay in a similar thing, despite us both having gone to very good colleges and working in New York City media at a somewhat high level. My interest in crypto and in gambling is just like, I don’t wanna do this anymore.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: I don’t wanna participate in what is essentially a space for elites anymore. I don’t want to have to go into whatever gilded publication that I’m publishing, and, you know, and kiss the ass of the editor-in-chief or something. I just don’t wanna do that stuff anymore. And so I was just like, well, if I make like, five million dollars in crypto, I won’t have to do it anymore, I’ll just publish a blog on a paste bin and fucking tweet it out, you know?

Jay Kang: And that’s like…and I know there’s, I think that that type of impulse, scaled down to whatever you are, or scaled to whatever you are, is essentially what a lot of people are feeling these days, and certainly what a lot of people were feeling in Korea. Because in Korea, the situation is much more dire. It’s not like, you know, they have like the longest workdays in the world. You know, they work like sixteen to eighteen hours a day. They have no chance for advancement. They live with their parents because housing is so scarce, and it’s just like, who wants fucking buy into that system? It’s fucking awful. You know, like you live with your parents until you’re thirty and get married. And you work all day long to help pay for a Soviet style apartment, you know? It sounds terrible.

Aaron Lammer: Well, I mean, I would note that that standard of living and that way of living is how most of the world lives. We’re the exception, and -

Jay Kang: No, no, I agree.

Aaron Lammer: I mean, I don’t know, Korea’s probably, sixteen to eighteen hours is pretty wild, but I don’t think a Chinese person would find that setup unfamiliar, and the bitcoin is an international phenomenon. For us, it’s kind of jokey. I don’t have the exact same relationship with you do with media elitism. I’m more like, just never really wanted a job, never really had a job -

Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Aaron Lammer: — liked to spend time in my basement, and I think I’m kind of emblematic of a lot of people who get involved in crypto, where you start being interested in it ’cause you’re the kind of person who likes to follow your own interest. And then you’re like, oh, could I like…have a job in this, or whatever? Could I make some money from this?

Aaron Lammer: That idea of autonomy…it’s what drew me to the internet originally.

Jay Kang: Oh yeah, me too, for sure.

Aaron Lammer: The reason I became interested in making apps and web products, which is something I did for a little bit of my life, is ’cause I was like, oh, this is some new thing where I can do it in my basement, and I can be on a new wave. That’s what got me interested in podcasting, too. And I think a lot of people who find bitcoin, whether it deserves to be described that way or not, it certainly makes people feel that way, at least at the outset. So that’s what got me into bitcoin.

Jay Kang: Yeah, look. Look, we have minor frustrations compared to the other people in the world in dealing with money, right?

Aaron Lammer: Yes.

Jay Kang: So we have things like, oh, I don’t like Bank of America, or we have things like, I don’t like the credit card system.

Aaron Lammer: Or, I don’t like my job, so I’m gonna be, like, a freelance kind of person.

Jay Kang: Yeah, but we also have greater questions, like I don’t agree with the way that student loans are done in this country. Like, I think they’re horrible.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: You know, like I don’t agree with the way that the income inequality in this country and the way that the corporate tax structure works. Like I don’t agree with the fact that antitrust laws are just completely ignored. All those things are real. Like, they’re much bigger critiques, and having some reason to opt out of that system is still appealing. And I’m not just talking about myself. I’m talking about pretty much everybody, I think, has some level of frustration that is actually a macro-level concern that isn’t just like, oh, well, the lines at Bank of America are always long and the tellers are rude, you know?

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: And, all those people found bitcoin interesting for those reasons, even here in the United States, which is why tens of millions of people downloaded the Coinbase app. In some way. Maybe it was only ten percent, and the other ninety percent was like, hey, maybe I can double my money on this, it’ll be fun. But, at least ten percent was that, do you think?

Aaron Lammer: I don’t think it even really matters why you originally thought you were doing it. People, we’ve already learned this from how people vote in this country that people are driven by weird emotions and appearances and… I just think that when people first started going on the internet, they didn’t know why they were going on the internet. Maybe they were like, going on because they were like, I heard that Batman has a website, I heard there’s the poopy list.

Jay Kang:

Aaron Lammer: It tells you all these different kinds of poops.

Jay Kang: Yeah, there’s apparently a list of like two hundred “your momma’s so fat” jokes.

Aaron Lammer: Exactly. Whenever Jeff Bezos decided to start selling books online, whether that was part of a master plan to own American retail or he was just like, the Internet’s cool…I wonder if you could sell books on here. Like, one thing leads to another, so I think even if a generation got into bitcoin because of greed, they’re still just as radicalized as someone who got into it because they’re like, went to a Ron Paul rally.

Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah. No, I agree. I mean, I don’t know if as radicalized.

Aaron Lammer: No, they have the potential. Projecting them both forward a decade, they both could end up anywhere.

Jay Kang: They could both end up in the same place and probably will. I mean, I still find for your greater question of whether or not the corruption is going to go down…I do think there is a vision of cryptocurrency where that is true, and where it would lead to greater empowerment for many other people, and the kinds of things that Roger Ver cries about, like Madeline Albright bombing kids in Afghanistan and Iraq. Which, you know, is a very valid concern. And doing it for financial purposes, and that’s bad, and that we can’t have a world where some people are killing other people to keep wealth concentrations, and that maybe we should have an anarchic system outside of it where people can opt out. That’s never gonna not be an appealing idea. Like it will always be an appealing idea for a large, large, large portion of people in the world.

Jay Kang: I just know, and the question that everybody has is whether or not bitcoin is too corrupted at this point to still be that system, and that’s something we don’t know.

Aaron Lammer: I mean, whether you view it as too corrupted, I think bitcoin is just getting bigger and bigger, and it’s therefore more and more like…as bitcoin comes to challenge the financial system, it will resemble the financial system more and more.

Jay Kang: Here’s a totally random, but implausible, but interesting, I think, thought question for you, which is that let’s say that the top hundred bitcoin wealth people, which are people like the Winklevii or Jihan Wu, right? Let’s say that they just all collectively decided that for the good of bitcoin, you know, that they were gonna give up 95% of their bitcoin wealth, and that it was gonna go back into bitcoin pool, and other individuals could just buy that pool, and that it would break up some of their concentration of wealth. Do you think that that would be ultimately extremely good for bitcoin?

Aaron Lammer: Well, I don’t quite understand the question. How does it go back in the pool? Like they get remined?

Jay Kang: No. No, no, no, they just sell it.

Aaron Lammer: Oh. If all of the whales all sold at once? The price of bitcoin would go back to like, ten cents.

Jay Kang: No, but that’s what I mean. Do you think that that’s ultimately better for bitcoin?

Aaron Lammer: Well, if you just wanna start with a fresh pool of bitcoin, start with like Litecoin 2 or something, not bitcoin -

Jay Kang: No, but that’s, bitcoin has two advantages. The first is that it still works.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah. So does Litecoin.

Jay Kang: And they have the brand. It’s called Bitcoin.

Aaron Lammer: The brand. Would it still have the brand if 95% of the coins got thrown back into the mud?

Jay Kang: Well, if they said they were doing it for altruistic reasons, right? And that they wanted to save Bitcoin. And that’s what they’re doing.

Aaron Lammer: I think that they would destroy their coins if they wanted to do that. ’Cause that would mean…like if all of them destroyed their coins, and let’s say they destroyed half of the supply of bitcoins -

Jay Kang: I don’t understand what the difference is -

Aaron Lammer: Well, the difference is, that would reward everyone else who currently has Bitcoin, ’cause there would be half as many. So let’s say they should double in price the next day. Whereas if you resell them, and put them on the open market, that devalues everyone else who currently holds Bitcoin, ’cause there’s a massive, massive amount of sell-side action on the market, and you can buy Bitcoin for almost nothing. So one of them destroys Bitcoin, one of them doubles the value of Bitcoin, as I would see it.

Jay Kang: Yeah, I mean, I don’t -

Aaron Lammer: But I’ll just take your general premise that if they got out of the game to make it, to level the playing field, I think that they would argue, and I think I’m sympathetic to this argument, that if every whale just holds their stash and takes it to the grave with them or endows it to their kids of whatever, it’s doing basically the same thing, which is creating a scarcity within the available traded coins, which stabilizes and -

Jay Kang: Yeah, but nobody assumes they’re gonna -

Aaron Lammer: What’s that?

Jay Kang: But no one assumes they’re gonna do that, though.

Aaron Lammer: That’s what all the evangelist OG dudes, they’re like, never sell.

Jay Kang: But those are not the hundred biggest owners.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah. Okay. Jihan Wu will sell, yeah.

Jay Kang: And the Winklevii will sell, at the point where they can be richer than Mark Zuckerberg, you know?

Aaron Lammer: Yeah. I think it would be better if I could convince them all to join a cult in which they pledge to die with their coins, I think that would probably be ultimately positive for Bitcoin and distribution purity.

Jay Kang: So what you should do is, in your model, what someone should do is they should figure out a way to destroy all those coins through hack.

Aaron Lammer: Yes. Yeah. I mean, these ideas have existed before. Egyptian royalty went to the grave with their gold.

Jay Kang: Yeah. Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Like, the idea of taking your wealth to the next life and/or just taking it off the board has existed in world cultures before.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: As has the idea of people accidentally losing whole ships full of gold, et cetera. I think Bitcoin is set up with the elasticity of the supply so it doesn’t matter that much. But I do take your point, which is all that assumes we’re all playing, like, a board game together, and what we’re actually playing is, like, one of the Winklevii probably wants to be president someday. And there’s gonna be a lot of whale transactions between here and there.

Jay Kang: Oh, god.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: Well, I’m not buying into that future.

Aaron Lammer: Did you see Nathaniel Popper’s Times piece with our former guest Jameson Lopp?

Jay Kang: I did. I thought it was quite good.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah. So, Jameson Lopp is actually the second person I know who has tried to disappear completely and obscure his identity, yeah.

Jay Kang: Sure, absolutely, yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah, my co-host on Longform, Evan Ratliff, did this. And, there’s a couple things about it. One, I think it’s pretty cool. Also, there’s something about disappearing completely that really, it really excites people as narrative. Like, people are obsessed with that thing Evan did, and that was like, ten years ago.

Jay Kang: I think it’s partially because we feel so compromised at all times.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: And we’ve basically given up on any idea of privacy. So people will buy the Facebook portal, and they’ll be like, they’re spying on you, and nobody’s response will be like, no, they’re not spying on me. It’ll at this point be like, yeah, but you know they’re spying on me at all times, so who cares. Just like, ten percent more spying. And I like to have a full body…I don’t understand what the Facebook portal is -

Aaron Lammer: I love that Zuckerberg was getting interviewed, and he was like, “Look, we don’t want some kind of a future where everyone’s got like a spying device in their living room.” And I was like, you make that!

Jay Kang: You just made it!

Jay Kang: Like, what is the point of the Facebook Portal, by the way? Is it for, like, full-body nude swapping or something like that? I couldn’t really figure it out.

Aaron Lammer: No, it’s like, so that you can…so the grandparents can drop in on the grandkids, like…willy-nilly.

Jay Kang: I don’t believe that that’s that.

Aaron Lammer: I’m telling you, I will never let my mom have access. She’s definitely not allowed to virtually drop in at my house.

Jay Kang: Wait, so they can do it unannounced?

Aaron Lammer: I think so. If you like, greenlist them. Whitelist them.

Jay Kang: I don’t like it. That sounds fucking horrible.

Aaron Lammer: So, to catch people up, Jameson Lopp, who’s been on the show, got SWATted, has dealt with a lot of online, like, being a famous Bitcoin person kinds of problems, and decided… I think both because he wanted to and sort of as an exercise or a test, whether he could disappear completely. He bought a house, all cash, with an LLC, in a different state, bought a second residence that he doesn’t live at so he could register the car to the LLC there.

Jay Kang: Yeah. He also had to register the LLC in a state that didn’t require him to have a name associated with it.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: He has a burner phone, and he subscribes to a service that swaps out his phone number every few days. He doesn’t use credit cards, obviously, so he pays with everything through prepaid debit cards.

Aaron Lammer: I think, yeah, like Green Dot cards or something. I don’t know.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: There were some of the details were like, missing to protect him, I guess. Apparently he’s changed his facial hair also.

Jay Kang: Yeah, he shaved off a lot of his beard, and he swapped in his Lotus and his Lexus for a pragmatic car, and the funniest detail in that story is that he got rid of his North Carolina vanity plates that said “Bitcoin” on them.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah. The funny thing is that I feel like the most likely way he’ll like, accidentally dox himself is just by talking too much about Bitcoin with someone.

Jay Kang: Yeah, yeah. They’ll be like, hmm, you seem to know a lot about the early days of Bitcoin.

Aaron Lammer: The funny thing…it’s funny ’cause the best OpSec is to not let people know you’re into Bitcoin, but if there’s one thing that’s universally true of the people who got a bunch of Bitcoin early and they’re rich is that they love to talk about Bitcoin.

Jay Kang: Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The…they’re like, “Hello, nice neighbor at my local watering hole. Have you, what do you know about cryptocurrency?”

Aaron Lammer: Like one of these people who changes their identity is gonna get caught by going back to a Bitcoin meetup that they previously went under their previous identity, like that guy from Quadriga.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Gonna be at like, the Vancouver Bitcoin meetup, and they’re gonna be like, “Didn’t you die? I thought you were dead.”

Aaron Lammer: Well, good on…I have to say, good on Jameson Lopp for putting his money where his mouth is with some of this stuff. I also kind of think that people like Jameson Lopp are probably like the cockroaches of the world at this point.

Jay Kang: Oh, they’ll survive anything.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah, like…it’s not like, I don’t really care for like…preparism, where you go live in the woods and shoot off guns and are waiting for a race war. But I feel like individual trading to disappear into the folds of the DMV in the state…it’s kind of an interesting exercise.

Jay Kang: Yeah. I mean, it’s nothing I wanna do because it seems like it probably takes up way too much of his day.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah.

Jay Kang: But he said he did it in part to just see if he could do it, you know? And I think that that’s a noble exercise, and especially somebody who had so ,much online presence, and for… A lot of people knew a lot about him.

Aaron Lammer: I think that his -

Jay Kang: The fact that he did it is kind of inspirational, honestly, like if you or I ever need to disappear, we could just do it.

Aaron Lammer: I think that also for me, the fact that there’s so much know your customer stuff coming up…it’s like, if we’re gonna require in this country, if you wanna use Bitcoin, you have to register through know your customer practices, that then connects your Bitcoin to a million tentacles, from your Facebook profile, to your DMV registration, to just about everything else about your identity. So you have two choices, which are either a) get Bitcoin outside of the know your customer thing, which is generally kind of shady, local bitcoins, or have no know your customer identity to sync up with.

Jay Kang: Yeah.

Aaron Lammer: Simply have no information about yourself online. And he’s not the only person I know, like I know a reporter who lives in Kenya…who the only photo of him online was when he was on Longform Podcast. And he asked me to take it down, and I did, and he’s just like, “I just prefer that there be no pictures of me online, if I get kidnapped or whatever, there’s no way to tie me back to this identity that I have as an America.” So it’s not like these kind of things just apply to people who think the government is gonna kick down the door and take your Bitcoin.

Jay Kang: I have, yeah, I have no way to do any of that.

Aaron Lammer: To disappear completely?

Jay Kang: There’s no way I could erase myself from the internet.

Aaron Lammer: Yeah, and additionally we have, like, kids. So what are we, gonna get fake identities for our kids.

Jay Kang: Yeah, well….like, yeah. You’d have to make some hard choices.

Aaron Lammer: All right. Good talking about everything with Bitcoin with you.

Jay Kang: Here I go.

Aaron Lammer: Clear.

Speaker 2: This episode of CoinTalk was taped Tuesday, March 12th at 12PM Eastern Standard Time. The Bitcoin price index was $3,846.

Aaron Lammer: Hey, thanks for listening to CoinTalk. I’m Aaron Lammer, my cohost is Jay Kang. Our editor is James Nicholson. Our partner in all of this is Medium. You can find all of our episodes at, including transcriptions. Really appreciate them for their support. We’ll be back next week.

The official podcast of Bitcoin crashes. Hosted by @aaronlammer and @jaycaspiankang. Mailbag/contact:

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