Bitcoin quietly goes legit

bitcoin-logo-3dThe U.S. Marshals Service doesn’t normally make economic policy but this week they apparently did so by auctioning 30,000 Bitcoins, a crypto currency I have written about before. This auction effectively legitimizes Bitcoins as part of the world economy. Am I the only one to notice this?

My first column on this subject was a cautionary tale pointing out the two great areas of vulnerability for Bitcoin: 1) the US Government might declare Bitcoins illegal, and; 2) someone might gain control of a majority of Bitcoins in which case their value could be manipulated. While number two is still theoretically possible it becomes less likely every day. And number […]

When are economic sanctions not sanctions at all?

RussianTrampolineI came across this news story today in which a Russian space official suggests the US consider using trampolines to get astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station. It’s all about economic sanctions applied to Russia over its annexation of Crimea and other meddling in Ukraine. The Russian space agency, you see, has been hard hit by the cancellation of at least five launches. Except according to my friends in the space biz Russia hasn’t been hurt at all.

Space customers pay in advance, way in advance. All five cancelled NASA launches were paid for long ago and the same for a number of now-delayed private launches. They may go ahead or not, […]

How Big Data is destroying the U.S. healthcare system

denied-stampOne thing I find ironic in the current controversy over problems with the healthcare.gov insurance sign-up web site is that the people complaining don’t really mean what they are saying. Not only do they have have little to no context for their arguments, they don’t even want the improvements they are demanding. This is not to say nothing is wrong with the site, but few big web projects have perfectly smooth launches. From all the bitching and moaning in the press you’d think this experience is a rarity. But as those who regularly read this column know, more than half of big IT projects don’t work at all. So I’m not surprised that […]

I have my doubts about Bitcoin

bitcoin-logo-3dAlmost every week some reader asks me to write about Bitcoin, currently the most popular so-called crypto currency and the first one to possibly reach something like critical mass. I’ve come close to writing those columns, but just can’t get excited enough. So this week when yet another reader asked, it made sense to explain my nervousness. Bitcoin is clever, interesting, brilliant even, but I find it too troubling to support.

But first, why should you believe me? You shouldn’t. Though I’m year after year identified by the Kauffman Foundation as one of the top 50 economics bloggers in America, that only means I get to hang out occasionally with the real experts, eating Kansas City […]

Georgia Tech’s $7000 polyester masters in computer science

Productivity is good but wage stagnation is not. This trend will only be exacerbated by the trashing of U.S. education standards.

In case you missed it, the Rambling Wrecks of Georgia Tech will next year begin offering an online masters degree in computer science for a total price of just under $7000 — about 80 percent less than the current in-state tuition for an equivalent campus-based program. The degree program, offered in cooperation with AT&T and courseware company Udacity, will cost the same no matter where the students live, though two thirds are expected to live and work outside the USA. Time to complete the degree will vary but Georgia Tech thinks most students […]