ASH BENNINGTON: If you love our crypto content
or are looking to learn even more about crypto, be sure to checkout and subscribe to our new
youtube channel after this video dedicated to all things crypto. Find new videos every week. Be sure to check the link in the description. BRENT JOHNSON: Hey, everyone, this is Brent
Johnson. I'm back here on Real Vision. And I'm really excited for today's conversation, because
it's an opportunity for me to talk with a guy that I've known for a very long time. And it's funny–
I haven't actually spoken to him, or I haven't seen him in a very long time, and I haven't
spoken to him in quite a while.
But I feel like, through Twitter and his blog posts and stuff,
I have a decent idea of what he's thinking and what he's up to. But I'm really looking forward to
this conversation for several reasons. And then, it's Mike Krieger of Liberty
Blitzkrieg. How are you doing, Mike? MIKE KRIEGER: I'm doing great, Brent.
Thanks for having me, and very, very much looking forward to this as well–
a little symposium, a little discussion on the future of humanity. Because, of course,
we both know for sure what's going to happen. So we're going to be [INAUDIBLE] like everybody.
BRENT JOHNSON: We're going to let everybody know exactly how it's all going to play out, right?
MIKE KRIEGER: That's right. BRENT JOHNSON: No. No, but I think part of the
reason this is going to be a fun conversation is– and I just realized this morning. I didn't
really think about it, but I grew up probably three hours straight west of where you live now,
and I couldn't wait to get to New York City.
And you grew up in New York City, and now you couldn't
be happier to live out where I used to live. So the juxtaposition of it kind of
matches up with everything else, but the really interesting part to me is that I
know, just from your writing, and from speaking to you, and watching your comments and stuff,
that we see the world much the same way– or we see much of the same problems, I guess I
And yet we've come to some conclusions that are the same, but some conclusions that are
diametrically opposed. And so I think it'll be kind of fun to dig into all of that and figure
out what the differences are, why they are and, maybe somebody will learn something along the way.
But let me give a quick background on Mike's from my perspective, and then I'm going to have you
give it on yours. But part of the reason that I came to know Mike was he started a blog, I guess,
for lack of a better word into the height of the Global Financial Crisis, or shortly thereafter.
had a number of problems, both personally and, I guess, from a business perspective with what went
down after the Global Financial Crisis, as did I. I think it affected both of us tremendously,
and it impacted both our careers and, probably, our family life, and social life, and a whole host
of things. And so when Mike was writing his blog, it really struck a chord with me. And not
only was he writing about interesting things, but he was willing to say things that some other
people wouldn't say out loud, which I very much appreciated.
So that's where it all started.
And he relocated from New York to Colorado and, from what I could tell, couldn't be happier.
So anyway, that's my perspective of Mike and why I'm interested in talking to him. But
I'm going to let Mike give a little bit of a background on himself as well.
MIKE KRIEGER: So yeah, so Brent, thanks for that introduction. That's basically a
nice summary. I'll try to be as brief as possible. Essentially the most impactful period of my
life by far– nothing comes close.
Probably, there's a good chance nothing ever will come
close to the sort of rolling impact the financial crisis had on my entire life existence,
where I live, all of that. As you say, when it happened, I was sitting on Wall Street.
I was a commodities– mostly oil-focused, because that was my background, but a commodities
desk analyst on the trading desk at a firm called Sanford Bernstein. And in that role, I was
looking at all these companies– also the macro, right? Because as you know, oil is an
extremely macro industry by nature. So it's in my personality. And I started
discovering certain things. At this– NICHOLAS CORREA: Sorry for
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think it's something you can afford to be without. MIKE KRIEGER: Because as you know, oil is an
extremely macro industry by nature.
So it's in my personality. And I started discovering certain
things. At this– when I really started, I guess, my awakening, essentially, was when the oil
price was spiking to 150. And I'm an oil analyst, and I was having trouble figuring
out what was going on. And then, ultimately, it just looked like a big negative dollar bet.
That's essentially what it looked like, right? BRENT JOHNSON: Right.
MIKE KRIEGER: And then, when the crisis came, and the dollar
started spiking, and all those trades unwounded, and the whole global economy
started falling apart– obviously, the oil bubble deflated, et cetera, et cetera– anyway,
what really hit me was, because I– before that, I hadn't really been thinking about the dollar at
all, which sounds strange from a commodity analyst standpoint.
But people weren't talking about it.
If you were looking at research from the Street about the major oil companies, the dollar might be
mentioned in passing, but it wasn't a core focus of the analysts. So it wasn't a core focus of
mine. So that was the red pill, as far as the whole macro awakening I had. And from there on,
I started learning more about what underpins the financial system, all the things I never knew
or was never taught in my college education, or even on Wall Street prior to that.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: And then, when the
crisis hit and I saw the response, I became extremely disillusioned, and upset,
and also just unhappy in my seat.
Because the way I saw it– and continue to see it–
was that there was clearly a crisis, right? But you can respond to a crisis in all sorts
of different ways. And it was clear to me that the focus of the people that were involved
in solving the crisis was to essentially keep everything propped up. So in other words, not
reform. Not say, well, why did this happen in the first place, and why why will it maybe happen
again? Let's figure that out. Let's get to the core issues here and reform. Instead, it was,
oh, we're going to do anything to prop it up. And in the process of spending trillions to
prop it up, you were essentially propping me up in my seat. You were propping up my coworkers.
And from my perspective, that was one of the most unethical things you could do. We were the
last people on Earth that needed to be saved, or propped up, or whatever.
And so then I had this
situation where I looked around me, and I thought, I'm not getting anything out of this,
right? Before, it was feeding my ego, and I felt great. I was like, oh, I'm making
great money. I'm so good at my job, right? That's why I'm earning money, because
I'm good at my job, and– whatever. And then I realized, wait a minute.
sitting close to the guy, the wizard behind the curtain. That's essentially why I'm making a
lot of money. So it was really valuable for me, because it shed my ego in a big way, and it
made me question myself, what I was doing, what the people I was sitting around were doing, and
why they were benefiting. And I couldn't really deal with it anymore. The funny thing was, I did
stay on for another year, year and a half or so. And the only reason I did is because I was able
to write these macro– I had these macro emails that I would write to huge clients on Wall
Street– basically, all the guys from — BRENT JOHNSON: I think I actually– I think
that's when I first found you, because I'm pretty sure you were still at Bernstein when
I first came across one of these missives. And it was written in a way that nobody on Wall
Street would ever actually say these things if they wanted to keep their job.
MIKE KRIEGER: [LAUGHS] Exactly.
Basically right, yeah. I mean, I
just got to the point where I didn't care. BRENT JOHNSON: You didn't care, yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: Here's the funny part. Clients loved it. They really did. BRENT
JOHNSON: Oh, yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: And you probably loved it.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, I loved it. MIKE KRIEGER: But internally, there were
problems. And I got– the carrot and stick approach was always being put my way. I was
being told, you know, you settle down here, and you'll get promoted next year. Or I would walk
into the head of trading's office once a week, and he would have printed out my email, highlighted,
and he'd read it back to me. And he says, Mike, maybe tone that down a little.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: And I was like, sure, and then I
would do it again the next week, right? Anyway, so at some point, right, it became clear that
there was going to have to be a break there. I wasn't into it, and really, at the end of
the day, if I had to change to keep my job, or get promoted, or whatever, it would have
been worth it. And so I left. And so then, within that same 12 months of leaving, I started
writing for anyone, essentially. Zero Hedge published one of my things. They got caught of it.
I was interviewed by Max Kaiser. This is all 2010. I drove cross- country, and that's the point when
I was like, OK, don't want to be in New York City, for sure, anymore. I'm moving out West. So
a lot of changes within that one year, all catalyzed and sparked by the Crisis.
to this very day, my entire, I guess, career, or path, and perspective is still completely
framed and colored by all of that experience. So you know– and there's been hard
times in between that and here. BRENT JOHNSON: Sure.
MIKE KRIEGER: But yes, right now, things are at a really nice place, and I'm really happy. And we
have a growing family, and Colorado's wonderful. Hopefully, we don't turn into California–
which is like what everyone's worried about, but–
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, right? Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: Things are good over here.
BRENT JOHNSON: Good. Well, and I thought one of, also, the interesting things is, again, when I
first came across you, you were writing financial stuff. You would throw a little bit of social
or political stuff in there as it influenced the markets, but you were primarily writing about
finance or capital markets. And as time went on, you almost completely stopped talking
about financial markets and moved more into social issues, and political issues, and
geopolitical– however you want to describe that– more of the soft sciences as opposed to the
hard math of finance.
Was that a calculated thing, or is it just you lost interest in finance?
MIKE KRIEGER: It's a great question. I don't think I've really discussed this much, but it's,
I think, a valuable lesson. So I learned– I think we all, anyone in this business long
enough or that invests their capital, will be humbled at some point. And so my
humbling happened reasonably soon after I left. And I learned a few valuable lessons from this.
And here's the thing. So when I quit Wall Street and decided to then also try to make money in the
markets, I thought something that I realized since is not a good idea. So I became increasingly
naturally interested in the political angle, and in the social, and all of the– because
when I first started discovering this stuff, I was starting from, OK, this is the central
OK, this is the financial system. But as I looked into other things, whether it's
pharma, or how politics really works, empire, the whole, let's say, macro matrix, I started
becoming fascinated, because I realized, OK, there's problems everywhere, right? I mean, it's
infected everything, and everything is essentially corrupt. I like to say, everything's a scam. I
mean, so many things are. And when I realized that, I realized, OK, I have a lot to learn here.
And so I dug into those things. I started writing about those things, because you know how it
is when you discover something for yourself. You want to share–
BRENT JOHNSON: You want to share it. You want that, yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: So this is where I got myself into trouble.
I was reading and focusing on
non- financial stuff, and I was still trying to be in the markets. And because of that, I
wasn't focused. And so I had a portfolio at the time– this is pre- me getting into Bitcoin–
that was very heavily into gold, precious metals, and very much betting against the stock market.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: And to me, that was
logical. But the problem was, I was so– I just had these positions, and then I wasn't
focused, though, on managing the positions, or even interested. It was a weird thing.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: And that, essentially, blew me
up on a personal level. I mean, I went from– let's, around 2011, to two or three years
later, I lost a lot of my own money. I mean– a lot. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: Now, fortunately, not everything, but I took a big haircut. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: And that was a huge humbling experience, but it was also one of the
best experiences of my life, because it's going to happen to everybody. Something
like this is going to happen to you. And so it happened to me.
And prior to that,
I was one of these typical sort of privileged, also overachieving people that had always, always
succeeded in school because I have a good memory, right? Did well, on Wall Street in all of my jobs.
Was always promoted. And then, I'm full of myself. And I leave, and I'm like, I've never really been
humbled, got humbled. So it happened. Anyway, so that's really what happened. I started getting
interested in other things, but I was– if you're going to try to be managing money in
that way, it needs all your focus, essentially. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: And I wasn't doing that.
And so I learned a lesson, yeah.
BRENT JOHNSON: Well, let me ask you this, because– and I'm not saying that this happened to
you, but it probably happened to me a little bit, and it's probably one of the best lessons I
learned. But I think it's fair to say that after 2008 and '09, I was angry. I was angry
at the system. And I felt that it was wrong, it was immoral, it was due for a reckoning– all
And I felt it was deserved, right? MIKE KRIEGER: Right.
BRENT JOHNSON: And so again, not my whole portfolio and my client's
portfolios, but a portion of it was in the gold and the– and it still is. I should say, it
still is. But as I look back, it's probably fair to say I wanted the system to fail, right? Or I
wanted it to come down, because I thought that that was the fair thing to happen.
MIKE KRIEGER: Sure. BRENT JOHNSON: And in some ways, I started
allocating portfolios for what I wanted to happen, rather than doing the work to
figure out what's actually going to happen. MIKE KRIEGER: Right.
BRENT JOHNSON: And I think in that sense, my emotions overrode
my analysis, for lack of a better word. Do you think that was the same for you, or was
it you just didn't have time to focus on it? MIKE KRIEGER: Yeah, I was definitely– that
definitely played a role, for sure.
I mean, I felt like– well, it was more than that. I mean,
it was definitely that. But it was also that I felt it would end, you know what
I mean? I felt the same way. BRENT JOHNSON: Right, right.
MIKE KRIEGER: And yes, I mean, once– look, this is for everyone– once you
have your portfolio constructed a certain way, especially if it's concentrated, even
if it's a bad outcome, you are secretly rooting for that outcome.
BRENT JOHNSON: Sure. MIKE KRIEGER: And this did trouble me, though.
Like I mean, it troubled me in the back of my head. I kept saying to myself, are you
saying the things you're saying because you want that to happen, or are– you just think
it's going to happen, and so you're positioned for it? And for me, I definitely thought it was
going to happen, and I was positioned for it. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: But it bothered me, right? So it did bother me that if I was going to succeed, or
protect myself, it meant a bad outcome, right? I mean, there was no denying
that, OK? BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: If gold, at that time, was going to
shoot to the moon, it wasn't going to be pretty for most people, right?
BRENT JOHNSON: Right. MIKE KRIEGER: So this is actually
a good segue into the next topic, because I was in a depressive sort of mode during
this period– let's say even like 2009 to 2012. I mean, it was generally not a great time
emotionally for me.
Not just because I was towards the latter end of that not financially succeeding
with my investments, but also because I didn't see a way out that I felt was positive. Which,
again, segues into Bitcoin, because that, for me, when I got involved, that changed everything
again for me. Because at that point, I could see that there could be a rails or an out that would
be a positive, a net positive– clearly, to me, a net positive for the world, essentially. And I
still feel that way. But that was the big changer, because I saw a way to financially invest in
something, but also, it aligned, right? Whereas before, I was writing about all these bad things
that could happen, or how the system was bad, and finally, there was this light for me. And
I thought, OK, I can now invest in something, but also promote it, because it aligns perfectly
with my value system.
And I still feel that way. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. Yeah, and you were relatively
early. I mean, I want to say that you bought Bitcoin in 2011 or '12? Does that sound right?
MIKE KRIEGER: I got my first Bitcoins in 2012. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, right, right.
MIKE KRIEGER: About 10 bucks at the time. BRENT JOHNSON: That's right, that's right.
And did you– I can't remember, did you buy it fairly shortly after hearing about it, or had
you been following it for a couple of years? MIKE KRIEGER: Right, so there was actually–
strangely enough, I think it was New York Magazine or The New Yorker– I think it was New York
Magazine– had an article in, I think, 2011. It could have been '10.
But it was about Bitcoin,
and it was actually a pretty good article. And someone sent it to me. And I think I was out
of Wall Street, but I was still in that mindset. And I remember reading it and
thinking, this is interesting, but I don't know what to make of it, right? So I'd
heard of it, but I don't have a tech background, and I don't think you do either. And so–
BRENT JOHNSON: Again, it's very similar. MIKE KRIEGER: Right, right,
right. OK. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: So I didn't have that. That wasn't
a skill set or a competitive advantage that I had. So I read it, I noted it, I thought it was
interesting. I moved on. What really allowed me to get take another look– actually, I'm fortunate–
it was because I had the blog, OK? Because I had the blog, I had a lot of readers, and the readers
knew how I thought about the world.
And OK, so I had a few, maybe two people that said,
listen, Bitcoin is right up your alley, super interesting. This is what it is. Put a donation
tab on your website. Take donations. I figured, what's the harm, right? But I definitely–
before I would do something like that, I'm always going to look into it, right? I'm not going
to come– I have a reputation that I care about, right? So I'm not going to go out there and
throw a donation– hey, give me Bitcoin– if I don't have a clue about it.
So at that point, I
went to my friend of mine, a close friend of mine who is very tech-skilled. And I said,
listen, this is interesting. People want to send me donations. What do you think? Let's meet
up for beers and you can talk me through this. And that's really how it all got started. Once
I sat down with him, and we downloaded a wallet, and he showed me how to use it, and that's when
it was like, it clicked. I mean, it was– I mean, the first time I ever sent, like we sent a Bitcoin
transaction from my wallet on my computer to him, and I just saw the power of it– the no
intermediary, the fact that I just sent him value, even though it was low value, right? It was like
my mind exploded, and I had that sort of epiphany that a lot of Bitcoiners do.
I couldn't I couldn't
sleep for like a month. I couldn't do anything but think about Bitcoin. It was a complete
obsession. And then, Wikileaks, right? The other big moment that happened around then is Wikileaks
was able to essentially survive because– BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, because of Bitcoin.
MIKE KRIEGER: Right, they could still accept donations of Bitcoin when they couldn't through
PayPal. PayPal cut them off. The credit cards cut them off. And that's when I said, OK, this
is not just a theoretically interesting thing for geeks. This has real-world applications in
a way that I care about fundamentally. Because those are the issues I care about.
So it was like all of these different things coming together all at once perfectly.
But what's interesting– and I haven't really talked about this before– but something that
I want people listening to really be aware of, because a lot of people say, oh, I wish I had
I wish I had heard of it back then. Sure, I would have bought it, right? You
probably wouldn't have. Like I told everybody, OK? I didn't shut up. Like, I told
everybody I knew that respected me, you know, get some Bitcoin. Nobody listened– nobody.
BRENT JOHNSON: Well, not only that, but all– you probably wouldn't bring this up, but
I'll bring it up for you– is at this time, you were still heavily writing about precious
metals and gold and stuff.
And like it or not, there's many people in the gold world that just
don't like Bitcoin. And part of the reason they don't like Bitcoin is it is, to a certain extent,
a competitor. Now, I would argue that it doesn't need to be a competitor. You can own both. But
there's a battle between the people in precious metals and Bitcoin. And I remember when you did
start talking about Bitcoin, there would be some comments on your blog where people would say,
Mike, gold is so much better, and you shouldn't be promoting this.
And you took a little bit of
heat early on, I guess is the right way to say it. MIKE KRIEGER: To tell you the truth,
I'm still taking head. I mean, it hasn't stopped. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, right.
MIKE KRIEGER: If you look– it's kind of funny, because if you look back at my blog posts
that mention Bitcoin– and there are quite a lot– the percentage of people who are negatively
disposed, even of those readers, to Bitcoin and comment about it outweigh the positive ones. Like
I don't know, maybe 70%, maybe, 80%. But here's the other thing I want people to be aware of so
you don't kick yourself too hard that you didn't buy it, right? Even if you knew.
It wasn't so
easy to do, OK? When I got involved, there was no Coinbase, right? There wasn't Square, or Swan, or
dollar cost averaging. You had to work at it. And one of the funny stories I always tell is that
I remember– because I bought some at Mt. Gox, because I was like, how do I buy? So I remember
being about to send a wire transfer to Japan. And mind you, I'm losing money, right, at this
moment. I mean, I'm like– my portfolio is probably crashing while I'm trying to the wire.
BRENT JOHNSON: Well, in 2013, it probably was. 2012 or '13, yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: It was. I think it was. I think it was early 2013, or late '23, or whatever.
wasn't pretty for, like — BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, no, I remember. I was there.
MIKE KRIEGER: So I vividly remember thinking to myself, what are you doing? You are– you're
crazy, man. But I did it anyway. Best financial decision of my life, right?
BRENT JOHNSON: Sure. MIKE KRIEGER: So it wasn't easy to buy. It wasn't
easy to get. Now, it is, right? I mean now, Morgan Stanley is going to let their clients buy
it. So it was– it's easy to look back and say, I would have bought Bitcoin in 2012. But you
You probably wouldn't have. BRENT JOHNSON: Well, I'm going to tell everybody
else here. And we're going to get into this more, and I'm sure we're going to have some
disagreements here, too. But I will tell everybody that I first read– I read the Bitcoin whitepaper
in early 2010. It was trading around $0.30. And now, when I read it– again, I have no technology
background. A lot of the technology stuff just goes over my head. But I remember sitting back in
my chair and thinking, if the technology works the way this paper says it works, it will never be
legal because it is so powerful, the state will try to squash it or whatever, right? And not only
that, but my son was about 1 and 1/2 years old. He was just starting to go to preschool, and I had
to– I was moving, changing jobs. And normally, I would just take $5,000, buy it, and take a
flyer on it. And for whatever reason, this time, I said, you know what? Be practical. Study this
a little bit more. Don't go crazy.
In hindsight, I should have. But a couple of years later,
you and I had– I don't know if we had dinner, or drinks, or whatever. I was in Boulder. And
we stopped, we talked about all this stuff, and you convinced me to buy some.
MIKE KRIEGER: Oh, wow. BRENT JOHNSON: So I did. And when
I bought it, it was around 500 bucks. MIKE KRIEGER: Right. Sounds right.
BRENT JOHNSON: And I have owned it for a long time. I've sold some
recently. I've sold, actually, over half of it recently, so we can
talk about that as well, because we probably disagree there.
MIKE KRIEGER: Sure. BRENT JOHNSON: But then, in 2000– a
couple of years later, 2016 or '17, well, I started to tell clients about it.
this is a speculative thing, but something to look about. And maybe a couple of them bought
it. And it wasn't a part of our portfolio that we can manage, because there wasn't a way to
do it. To your point, it wasn't so easy, right? MIKE KRIEGER: Right.
BRENT JOHNSON: And in 2016 or '17, I wrote a Bitcoin whitepaper. I think Bitcoin
was around $3,000 at the time. And we said, it has a place in a portfolio. It makes
sense. There's a lot of factors that we find appealing and why it could significantly
increase in value. And since then, it's, obviously, gone through the roof.
But I also
have problems with Bitcoin. [LAUGHS] Even though I say– and that's why I've probably been more
of, it has a place in the portfolio. Maybe it's in the speculative part. Maybe it's in the tail
risk part, or whatever it is. Whereas I think it's fair to say you're more it should be kind
of a key part of the portfolio, is that right? Is that a fair way to say it?
MIKE KRIEGER: I don't even recommend anything like that to people, in the sense
that one thing I have said from the beginning– because I assume I'm talking to like what I would
call a normie, for the most part, someone who, if I go to into Bitcoin, they're just going to
like– their head's going to explode, and they're just going to tune me out.
So what I've said
from the very, very beginning is just put 1%, OK, or just use it, and then forget about it.
BRENT JOHNSON: I think that's probably what you said to me.
MIKE KRIEGER: Yeah, well, and the reason I do it is simple, right? Because that way, I know
that if I can get someone's foot in the door, that they're going to take it to whatever
they're going to take it to on their own. I shouldn't be the one to tell someone, put
Put– you know? Because it's a learning process, in my opinion.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: It's something like, if you're going
to get the aha moment, you're going to figure it out on your own, OK? I don't– I can't give you
the aha moment. So I just want to open the door, let you use it, let you see it, and then you'll
go from there. And also, this is what I find so interesting. And it still happens. I say to
people, I'm just like, 1% is nothing, OK? But people are so stubborn, right? People are so
caught in their view that it's a Ponzi, or it's bad, or it's going to go to zero, that they won't
even put 1%.
I mean, the whole ride up, they just won't do 1%. And I say, what does it matter? Well,
you lose 1%. Who cares? So that's an interesting– that's just human psychology, right? That people
believe they're so right that they're going to ignore 1%, just in case they're wrong. I
mean, which is never a good thing. You get– BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, you can always do wrong.
MIKE KRIEGER: You're 99% sure Bitcoin's going to go to zero? OK, I mean, sure,
whatever. You're wrong. You're probably not doing the probabilities right in your head. So
that was interesting. But for me, you know what's interesting? My feeling with Bitcoin– my inherent
feeling on it– hasn't changed, really, at all, OK? It matched perfectly with an ability to make
money, this sort of asymmetric bet you could make from when it was really low.
I mean, the
risk-reward is very different now. It doesn't mean there isn't reward, but the risk-reward
to now. Which is fundamentally, Bitcoin represents– and this is what it represented to
me in 2012, and what it represents to me today– a path. I like to say Bitcoin as a teacher– a
path, almost a blueprint for humanity to follow, not just with money, but with everything, or a
lot of things. Obviously, it's not in meatspace, in a town. There's all sorts of other
things that Bitcoin doesn't fix, right? BRENT JOHNSON: Right.
MIKE KRIEGER: Well, I'm not a Bitcoin– I'm not a Bitcoin-fixes-everything guy. Although, I
do think it fixes a lot of things, or it helps to, let's say, throw a grenade that a lot of people
wanted to do with Trump, right, that didn't work. But Bitcoin might actually be that grenade.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: But more importantly,
let's just like three of the interesting attributes– decentralized, permissionless,
open source. OK, those three things, I believe, post forward this Fourth Turning,
let's say. And we can get into that. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, I'm sure we will.
MIKE KRIEGER: If the optimistic outcome is what happens– and it may not, but I would
say the probabilities are greater than 50% that we have.
And you do get to spring, right? So
what does spring look like? To me, it looks like that. It looks like a more decentralized, more
networked, more voluntary, more permissionless web of human civilization. That is my view. And
Bitcoin– I didn't think it was possible before Bitcoin, really. But because I saw Bitcoin
worked and inherently had those attributes, I then believed it could be a future, right?
So pre-Bitcoin, pre-2012, I saw a dark future. BRENT JOHNSON: Right.
MIKE KRIEGER: Now I see a good future, because I've seen Bitcoin, actually.
I mean, that's– BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: And again, this is much bigger
than just money. So for example– we could talk about this if you want– but we have a huge speech
problem now with social media, and deplatforming, and the fact that we've gone away from core
internet values, which was peer-to- peer protocol, at the protocol level, to essentially
becoming trapped in these ghetto platforms where you are subject to the king.
It's going backwards.
It's completely– what we've done with speech is we are
connecting, right? We're doing this and all that. Ultimately, there's a huge flaw. And that flaw
is that it's centralized, and it's a platform. BRENT JOHNSON: Yep.
MIKE KRIEGER: And therefore, it's someone's kingdom. And so that the person
that's running that kingdom decides whether you can speak to someone else, or maintain those
contacts, and et cetera. And so that is a– if we look at Bitcoin, and we think about some of
the architecture behind it and how it was built, that's how we need to build speech
platforms– or speech protocols, actually, is probably a better term. So that's
essentially– I mean, I know you were just like, how much of your portfolio should you put into it?
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, no, no, no. MIKE KRIEGER: But of course, this is
what I truly– this is what drives me, right? This is what gets me excited.
BRENT JOHNSON: So again, part of the reason that I was really looking forward to this
conversation and it's going just exactly how I thought it would is you and I can sit here and
have a very rational discussion about this topic, and we're going to agree on some things.
we'll get into some of the things we disagree on. But going back to the platform level– and
listen, Twitter's not the only platform, but it's the one that I use the most. I don't
know if it's the one you use the most or not. MIKE KRIEGER: It's pretty much the only one.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, we interact on Twitter. And there are– I would say it happens in any industry
that is successful. You have the new entrants that make a bunch of money, and now they think that
they know everything and that they can never be wrong. And to a certain extent, that's fair.
Things change. To the winners go the spoils. And I don't really have a problem so much with people
touting their success a little bit, or saying, see, I told you.
Because I feel like if you win,
that's the right. You get to do that, right? MIKE KRIEGER: Mm-hmm.
BRENT JOHNSON: But I have seen over the last two or three years– because again, I've been
following it for a long time– it's become, in my opinion– and if you disagree, I want to hear why
you disagree– but I feel like it has gone from a welcoming community to a you better get
on board, or else we're just going to leave you behind.
And I'll take it back to– I
think Satoshi did a number of good things. And I'm going to rewind just a second. I'm saying,
if nothing else, I think Bitcoin has done a fantastic job of educating the younger generation
about money itself– what, actually, is money? How does it work? How does it function? How does
state-sponsored money work? How does commodity money work? And so from that, it's a fantastic
success, if nothing else, from an educational standpoint.
But somewhere along– I can't hear if
it was in the original whitepaper– but Satoshi said, if you don't get it, I don't have time to
explain it to you. And I feel like too many people who have now gotten into the community and have
made some money have taken that same attitude. If you don't get it, I don't have the time to
explain it to you. You know, laser eyes, have fun standing poor, Bitcoin fixes it, da-da-da-da-da.
And I have to tell you, I have introduced clients to the Bitcoin concept, and I've given them
stuff to read, and then they've gone on Twitter, they've gone on YouTube, and they come back to me
and they say, hey, Brent, these people are crazy. [LAUGHTER] So my point is– and many people
are going to disagree with me here– but again, I think the younger generation kind of
inherently gets it, and they don't have a problem with the snark and stuff.
But if you want the
masses to get it, I think you need to be a little bit more welcoming. Am I totally off base here?
MIKE KRIEGER: OK, so let me go– this is a great point. I think this is perfect for this
audience. Because I think a lot of like FinTwit, or whatever, struggles with Bitcoin
culture. And it is. And there is a– or Bitcoin Twitter culture, right? I
mean, it's not a homogeneous thing. But there's this group– I mean, you could call them
Bitcoin maximalists. What I like to– these days, I like to call it– it's not my terminology,
by any means– but they're called the plebs. They call themselves the plebs.
I call myself a
Bitcoin pleb now. And they're essentially humorous and irreverent, don't give– don't really care.
The laser eyes, all that stuff. And I actually went through a period– I've been in this for
a while– where I was turned off by some of that, too, OK? And I would say that was probably in
the 2007 bull market. And some of the sort of, I would say, political– or not even political,
but sort of meme culture that started developing there– a lot of it was around eating meat, being
a carnivore, whatever, right? Which I find less interesting than the current stuff.
But anyway, so
there was a part of me that also had that sort of reaction that you did. And it's taken me some time
to actually change my view and not only accept a lot of the Twitter stuff, the Bitcoin pleb Twitter
activity, but actually think it's a good thing. And I'll tell you why.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: First of all, as someone who's been
in this for a long time and been public about it, I've seen the waves. And you know when it's
a bull market, you're flying high, and you're feeling the best. You're so smart. And when you're
in the bear cycle– you have these cycles around the halvings. That's how it's been over time.
So and then, when you're in the bear cycles, it's tough. I mean, I wrote this tweet in 2019,
I think, and I said, who out there, hoddlers, like who out there is not spending money on stuff,
or going into credit card debt to hold on to your coins? Because it becomes a real thing.
BRENT JOHNSON: I kind of remember when you did that.
MIKE KRIEGER: Yeah, and I was doing that. I'm sort of like, listen, we're not going to spend
We want to hold on to these Bit– right? Because you can turn seller if you
need to. You've got [INAUDIBLE]. So anyway, so and at the same time that
that's, let's say, happening in a bear cycle, you're getting killed by people. It's
not like the Roubinis, or the Schiffs, or the Jim Rickardses, or whatever– all these
people who don't like Bitcoin– it's not like they shut up, right? They love trampling on people.
BRENT JOHNSON: Oh, of course.
MIKE KRIEGER: Right. Right. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: So what I'm saying is, it takes– it hardens you up a little bit, OK? Because
people– I mean, it's not just a few people, but it's the media. It's mainstream economists.
It's central banks. It's everyone, essentially. Most people don't like Bitcoin
or haven't liked it, right? BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: And so these people are constantly hammering you in the bear
So I think part of what's going on is in the bull market, there's just celebration. And
it comes across as obnoxious. But believe me, the other side does it bad, too. And so–
BRENT JOHNSON: Oh, I– absolutely. I completely agree.
MIKE KRIEGER: Right. So it's part of– it's part of it. It's
trash-talking, right? BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: But the bigger thing, even,
is the way I see it now is I see Bitcoin– and I know a lot of people listening to this
right now are going to think it's crazy, and they don't agree with it, or the people who find
Bitcoin interesting from a trading or financial perspective that want nothing to do with this–
but unfortunately for you, if you feel that way, this is a core part of Bitcoin.
is political, whether you want it to be– BRENT JOHNSON: Oh, it absolutely is,
no question. MIKE KRIEGER: Right. BRENT JOHNSON: Inherently.
MIKE KRIEGER: Inherently, yeah. BRENT JOHNSON: And yeah, we need to talk
about that. We need to get into that, yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: Well, what's interesting about that
right is that clearly, it's inherently political. You read the whitepaper, obvious, right? I mean,
in that first block was the chancellor's bailing out the banks. So it's obviously political. Now,
it's becoming more political, in my opinion, actually, the longer it goes on. And
with any political movement– and I said, I think it was a year ago, I also said the only
two interesting political movements in America right now are localism and Bitcoin, OK? And I
still feel that way.
Because you look at– me and you completely agree on this– you look
at normie politics, or traditional politics, it's just– it's infuriating. They get nothing
done. It's ridiculous, right? It's this mockery, theater. And so if you're looking for
an alternative, if you know things are messed up and you're looking for an alternative,
there's all sorts of ways you can go. And I think Bitcoin is one way that a lot of young
people are choosing. Homesteading and localism would be another example, but that's not what
this is about, although I see a lot of overlap. It's people wanting to check out, become more
tribal in a way. One is tribalism in meatspace, and one is tribalism digitally, on a global
basis, which I would call Bitcoin. And inherently, I never really liked tribalism, but I've come
to actually like it and think it's necessary in Bitcoin, particularly at this moment in history.
Because I do think that Bitcoin, a lot of people in Bitcoin at this point– laser eyes, probably
everyone with laser eyes– absolutely views themselves as going up against Rome. And whether–
BRENT JOHNSON: I think that's fair. MIKE KRIEGER: Whether– and I know you've
been critical about this part– whether those motives are pure, or whether those motives are
purely to make money, or some sort of hybrid is different within each individual, right?
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: For some people, it's as simple
as, I am 20– like, let's say, two years ago. Someone's 29, OK? They're making $50,000 a
year. Maybe they have saved up 30,000 somehow. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: They look around and they say, I'm stuck in this. I'm stuck in this crappy job.
The system is terrible. It's rigged against me. I've got this amount of savings. I'll never buy a
house in my life. The stock market is trading at these crazy valuations. Essentially, all these
boomers, all these boomers, they keep bailing themselves out, own everything or continuing to
inflate everything. And so what it becomes is, how can I flip that? How can I flip that
situation? What is my way to do it? And for a lot of them– I think rationally; and in fact, if
I was in that position, I would do the exact same thing– they're saying, I can take $20,000 of
my $30,000 savings, and I can put in a Bitcoin, and then I can become part of this community.
And we're going to meme it to $100,000, and I'm going to buy a house, OK? And by the
way, there's nothing wrong with that.
Because if you're put in– if your back is up against
the wall like that, and you're given no choices, and then this is a viable way to, let's say, flip
in the financial system, or flip; in assets from boomers to you– and there's no other way;
how else are they going to do it, right? So I think this is missed by a lot of people on
FinTwit, because they're well-off, OK? They've got good money.
They're investing a portfolio. They're
not as desperate, in a lot of ways. So the Bitcoin plebs are like, I'm not going to lie down and be
kicked like this dirty dog. I'm going to stand up, and I'm going to do something. And so
this is, I think, where a lot of the "I'm taking no prisoners" attitude.
Because for them, this is, essentially, a ticket to some sort of reasonable existence that
they believe– I believe accurately– the current system is not giving them the opportunity to have.
BRENT JOHNSON: So first of all, thanks for that. I think that's accurate, and I think that's–
and I don't have a problem with any of that. I think– here's a question I have for you.
And you– it's funny, because we talked about
this the first time we talked about Bitcoin. Again, because, I mean, we said it's inherently
political, right? Whether you think of it that way or not, it is. It is a challenge to the state.
MIKE KRIEGER: Correct. BRENT JOHNSON: And I said to you, how can
the state just sit by and let this happen? That's just not– they've got to– they've got
to do something. And I think your comment to me at the time was something to the effect is, they
can't. They can't shut it down. They would have to shut the internet down to shut it down. And I
think there's– I think there's accuracy there. But in my opinion, there's many things they
could do besides shut the internet down. MIKE KRIEGER: Mm-hmm.
BRENT JOHNSON: But I guess one of the questions I have for you is, do you think that they've
tried and failed? Because from my perspective, I don't think they've really tried
But maybe you feel different. MIKE KRIEGER: OK, so this is like one of those–
I mean, I've spent, probably, more time, and I know you have, too– this is where it gets really
interesting– thinking about the probabilities or the attack vectors that are possible here, right?
Because have a lot of my money on them. I don't want to be caught off guard.
What could happen,
essentially. And there's all sorts of things, right? There's attempts to– as a lot of
people like to talk about, hardware sort of attacks to try to– the 51% mining attack.
And there's the regulatory attack– make it impossible to use, or very difficult to
use, or criminalize its use, et cetera. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: What's most interesting to me about it in 2021 is that– and I know we
disagree on this, but this is how I see it, OK? And it doesn't mean I'm right. It doesn't mean
you're right, whatever. But this is how I see it. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: The fact it hasn't happened in an aggressive way makes it much less likely
And the reason I say that is because early on, when I saw– OK, so in the earlier
days with the, let's say, launch of Coinbase, and Marc Andreessen becoming a very high-profile investor in Bitcoin and believer in Bitcoin–
he's a legendary guy in the whole tech world– I immediately became more bullish. And the reason
was not because I like him or, I like Silicon Valley in particular, but because it was a buffer.
A guy like Marc Andreessen, who's a billionaire, he's friends with billionaires. They're getting
involved. They're building companies around it. And this isn't something I like about the system,
but it's something that's true about the system, which is that influential people with money are
the ones who are, essentially, pushing legislation and policy, even, right? Foreign policy, even.
And so I knew that that was a buffer right away. And from my perspective, it was like, OK, this
is– there's still a lot of people that hate it, that inherently hate it, dislike it, that have
money and power.
But this creates a buffer. And that was correct, OK? I do think that protected
it. If those early Silicon Valley guys didn't get involved, and it wasn't a protocol where you could
have built companies off of it to engage with it, I think there would have been, actually–
I think that there could have been a more aggressive move to stop it. I think that
buffer allowed it to continue to flourish. The other thing that I think allowed it to
flourish in its early days– and a lot of Bitcoin maximalist hate ICOs, and hate Ethereum,
or hate any other coin other than Bitcoin– again, to me, a lot of this does go back to the "it's a
political movement" thing. Not just that, believe me; there are also other things about Bitcoin that
are inherently different than these other coins. But I always was very pleased with all of the
coins being out there, and the ICOs being out there, because it just distracts attention
away from Bitcoin, OK? It gets all sorts of other people involved in the space, and
it then gets all sorts of other interests– moneyed interests, even.
And it becomes–
the state can't just target this one thing, but it's out of control now. It's just– it's
become this sort of thing, and there's all these coins, and it's sort of like, whether Bitcoin is
stoppable at some point, or fails, or whatever– I don't think it will, but even if it did, the
cat's out of the bag as far as open source, decentralized, stateless money.
BRENT JOHNSON: Right. MIKE KRIEGER: I don't think you ever put that
back in the bag. Again, my opinion. It's sort of like the internet. Even with speech on the
internet, it's being repressed, but ultimately, I believe it will be free, OK? We'll figure out
how to make it even more free.
So fast forward. Now you have a US Senator speaking at
2021 conference– Loomis, from Wyoming– in two months. You had– with the laser eyes, you
had at least two members of Congress putting laser eyes on their [INAUDIBLE].
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: I mean, that's extraordinary, right?
Now, if you had told me– and I was as bullish as anyone– but if you had told me five years ago
that that would happen, I would have said no. BRENT JOHNSON: Right.
MIKE KRIEGER: I would have said, no way. So what I believe is sort of happening–
it's like this metaphor of the Trojan horse– is that Bitcoin is a Trojan horse-ing itself
into the– certain elements of the establishment. And I think that now you get this sort of greed
overtakes desire to control something that they may not be able to stop anyway kind of phenomenon.
And interesting question to ask yourself is, so let's say, China, the CCP– or any sort of
centralized, authoritarian government; our own CIA, right? Do they own Bitcoin? Do these do any
of these guys own Bitcoin? Probably, probably. But because, why wouldn't you, OK? At the end
of the day, a human being that is, let's say, power-hungry is looking out for number one.
Any of these people, whether you're in the CCP, or you're a CIA, you're [INAUDIBLE], I mean, the
whole narrative of, we care about the people, is obvious BS, right? So if they think– if they
come to the conclusion that Bitcoin can help, they're going to buy it, whether it's helping
them financially, or whether it's them being able to smuggle money out of their own country
at some point.
And I said this when I was on– our mutual friend Zach Abraham, right?
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: I was on his call, I think
it was last year. I said this. I said, by the way, Bitcoin is for enemies,
OK? Elites, whether I like them or not, sleazy elites, there's a benefit for them, too,
OK? And so this is the point I think we're at. And I think now, with Morgan Stanley offering it,
I think you've got to the point where aggressive crackdowns in the obvious kind of
ways, at least from the US State, are pretty unlikely, at least in the near
I mean, things can change, right? BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: I mean, things can change, and we could reassess. But I would say the
probability of that is low. And in fact, if anything, I think regulatory burdens will
be reduced. And let me just give one example. I believe– and I'm not a tax accountant, but this
is how I've been doing things– that when you spend a Bitcoin or any cryptocurrency– it may
just be cryptocurrency to cryptocurrency, so I could be wrong here. So again, don't listen to me.
[LAUGHS] But there is an element to where if you spend something, you may have a tax event,
right? Which essentially kills the ability to do micropayments and stuff there, OK?
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: But I think at this point
now, with it being integrated into– Visa wanting to integrate it, and a lot of these
traditional players wanting to integrate, you have to lobby for change there. So if anything,
I actually think you're going to be surprised. You might see some sort of law that comes out that
says transactions in cryptocurrencies under a d– let's say $100– are not taxable events.
that can spur on micropayments and stuff. But look, this is such a complex topic. So
if you want to talk about state tax, we should also discuss which state. So in other
words, is your– and this is a question for you, because I think it's an interesting question–
in your view, where do you think the biggest risk at a state level is to Bitcoin? Do you think it's
from China, or do you think it's from the US? What makes you concerned?
BRENT JOHNSON: Well, the things that make me concerned are– is that I
agree with you that they haven't done a whole lot to attack it yet, and but it's gotten to a stage
where influential people now own it.
They've started– they have businesses. They have valuable
businesses. Senators own it. The mayor of Miami is encouraging its use. So it's no longer a backroom
concept, right? It's out there in the Zeitgeist. And I'll probably disagree with you a little
bit on the timing. Because I think the time– I don't think the price of Bitcoin matters so
much, is going to entice an attack, for lack of a better word, so much as the timing.
I think the
next year to 18 months is a critical timing. And the reason I say that is because we're in this–
everybody knows, or everybody feels, like we're in this Fourth Turning, right? There's this upheaval
politically, socially, friction between countries. We've got these bailouts. We've got all the
central banks have lost their damn minds. [LAUGHS] And now we've got central banks. The
central banks that have seen the power of these digital assets and digital currencies– the ease
of use, the speed, the efficiency. And so now, they're starting to roll out or talking
about rolling out their own digital assets. I don't think that– when they start
rolling out their own digital assets, I don't think they will be as kid gloves
with the existing digital assets as, perhaps, they have been.
And so I think it's an interesting
timing. And I think if there is going to be– and maybe there won't be. But if there
is going to be an attack from the state, I think it's in the next 12 to 18
months, not the next 12 to 18 years. Because I think this industry grows so fast
and moves so fast, if they don't do it by then, it will be too late, and it will be– it could
be too powerful. But it's also– I would say that the where I see the biggest risks are from
China itself, because I think China, and Russia, and Iran, and– what's the other one? They
control the majority of the mining operations. But I would say US, or any state from a tax
perspective, maybe they say, no, we're not going to allow Bitcoin, but it's taxed at 65% every time
you trade it.
That's done. I mean, they can easily do that. Now, whether they will, I don't know,
but I'm saying that would be something that could, again, not shut it down, not make it go away, not
make it illegal, but just make it unattractive, right? And so I think that's interesting.
And here's the part that I find most interesting, though, is that– to your point
earlier– I think a number of people in the community, for lack of a better word, realize that
this is their shot. This is us taking on Rome, so to speak. This is our chance to actually
have a shot at having some wealth in this world. And part of the whole reason and the idea behind
Bitcoin to begin with, is to escape the evilness of the system, for lack of a better word,
right? Or to escape the being pushed down from the top from a tyrannical government, or
however you want to describe that.
And so on the one hand– and so when I always talk to people, or
try to talk to people, about the state trying to battle against Bitcoin or digital
assets, however you want to describe it, I'm often surprised at how quickly they
go to, well, they can't stop it, or, they can't win. There's no way the governments
can win. This is a foregone conclusion, that Bitcoin will win for all these reasons. And
I always think to myself, so on the one hand, you think that the government– and whether it's
the US, government or the Chinese government, or whoever– the government is the evil empire who
has got humanity under their thumb for centuries, and they will do whatever they can to stay
But then, on the other hand, you think they're just going to sit back and
let Bitcoin take over the world. My point is, there is going– there inherently has to be
a battle, because it is a political movement. So it would be like saying the Democrats and
the Republicans are no longer going to fight. There is going to be a fight, and perhaps
Bitcoin will win that fight. Perhaps it won't. But my point is there will be an epic battle,
and to summarily dismiss the power of the state, in my opinion, is just really, really naive.
Again, now, you might say it would be immoral for the state to outlaw it, or it would
be uneconomic for the state to outlaw it, or you can have all these reasons why
But to me, that's like– to me, those arguments are silly, because
they're not just going to give away political power. Again, there will be the battle.
And think of all the times throughout history that innocent people have been marginalized
by the state. Or just think of people like Randy Weaver, [LAUGHS] Ruby Ridge, right? Think of
Julian Assange. Think of Edward Snowden, Leonard Peltier. The right or wrong doesn't factor
into it, right? Power factors into it. And so when people just think that the
battle won't happen, or it can't be won, to me, that just– I don't get it.
I don't get it.
MIKE KRIEGER: I'll try to provide some color. And I can't speak for anyone else,
right? But I'm an analyst by nature. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: I'll explain how I see it. So first of all, with the central bank thing,
this doesn't really worry me that much. Because you started by mentioning, oh, the central banks
are going to roll out their digital coins, and– BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: OK, sure, they're going to do that, OK? But central bankers don't write laws, OK? Now,
they can do all sorts of crazy stuff, as we know, but they don't write laws. And so to the extent
that their view on Bitcoin has some sort of legislative outcome relies on them making the
argument publicly and persuasively– they have not done that, and they actually look pretty stupid
when they try– or convincing again people that do pass legislation.
Like maybe they were influencing
Stephen Mnuchin. You remember what he tried to sneak in, right before Trump was out the door. He
tried to sneak in some rules around– I think it was self-custody, or that was the rumor. But
anyway, the point was that was an example, OK? So you're like, oh, they don't have the
state attack. Well, why was what Mnuchin did, right as they were leaving, not considered
a state move? It was a state move, but it didn't really do anything, you see?
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, it didn't gain traction. MIKE KRIEGER: Right, right, exactly.
So that's the key.
So the key here is, you've got– clearly, you've got forces with
power who are on one side. But I like my odds, because the forces of Bitcoin are gaining allies
with power. We're not losing them; we're gaining them. They're losing them. So it's like the longer
they wait, the more trouble they're going to have, as you say. And you say the next 12 to 18
months, you're probably right. I mean, if they're going to go for it, it's got to be soon, OK? And
that's just addressing that first part. So while you're completely legit, it's a
completely legitimate point to bring up, I just don't see it as a big threat at
this point– or I still like my odds. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: As far as the other stuff– power of the state, et cetera– OK, first, I think
the reason a lot of people say, oh, they've lost, the central bankers can't win, the state can't
win, power can't win, a lot of that is bluster, but it's also true, genuine belief.
I think that both the bluster and the true, genuine belief is necessary. Whether it is–
BRENT JOHNSON: I agree with you on that. I'll tell you why, but go ahead. Go ahead.
MIKE KRIEGER: So I'm going to compare it to the Revolutionary War, OK? Those
guys had to be frickin' crazy. Absolutely nuts, right? I mean, that's why
they say, it's like you're John Hancock. Because the guy just like– and he, I don't
know how familiar are with him in particular, but he was one of the wealthiest counties. So I
think he was a merchant, or– but I mean, he was very rich, and there was little interest for him
to, necessarily, go against the status quo. He was doing great. But I mean, he signed– his signature
was the size of the frickin' document. [LAUGHS] BRENT JOHNSON: Right, right, right.
MIKE KRIEGER: It's John Hancock. So you're crazy to do that, OK? You're crazy to go against
the British Empire at that time, right? I mean, me and you talking at that time, we might be
sympathetic to the colonists, but also sort of, well, I don't know about this, right?
BRENT JOHNSON: Right, right. MIKE KRIEGER: But it was the right time, it
was the right place, and where so many other rebellions fail, that one
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: And so, what's the difference
between laser eyes and join or die, right? Like the symbolism. If you're not understanding
Bitcoin in the context of something like that, whether you want to say it's a failed
rebellion or a successful revolution, we don't know yet fully, right?
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: But that's what it is, OK?
BRENT JOHNSON: Well, so I would– yeah, and so I actually agree. That was the point I was going to
make, is most revolutions fail, but some of them, some of them succeed. And the ones that
succeed, they have these true believers that believe despite all objections and evidence to
I mean, they're just frickin' crazy, right? And somehow, they win. And so I don't rule
out the possibility for that. I guess what I rule out is the possibility for a peaceful revolution.
I'm convinced there's going to be a battle, and I'm convinced that the state has enough ammo
to inflict some pain along the way. And I'm not– a lot of people think that I say these things
because I want them to sell Bitcoin, or because I'm jealous, or because– whatever it is. And
it's really, I just want people to acknowledge the risks and be aware of the risks. And here's
part of the reason, is because I think– it's my observation, and as I've said, it's changed
a little bit in the last couple of years, but overall, I think one of the good things that the
whole Bitcoin thing has done is it's made people reassess the state, reassess money, reassess
the nature of freedom and tyranny.
And there's a liberty movement part of it, for lack of a better
word. And this is one of the few times in history that I can find where people in this liberty
movement have actually made a lot of money. And if you have money, you have power. And
I would love it, if it isn't all given back. So part of my point is, these people
that have made all this money in crypto, just sell a little bit of it and
put it in gold, or buy a house. Maintain some wealth, so in the off
chance that Bitcoin doesn't work out, you can still fight for liberty.
MIKE KRIEGER: Right.
That's actually– that's a completely legitimate message. I mean,
I would– yeah, I'm not a big fan of the USD, as you know. Very different. We don't
have to get into it; it's pointless. BRENT JOHNSON: [LAUGHS]
MIKE KRIEGER: But for me, I might want to improve my house, right, or something? Like put
more garden beds, or whatever. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: And actually, you're seeing this, though, even recently on Bitcoin
Twitter. You're seeing people say stuff like, finally got a house, right? I mean, you're seeing
these, like 30- something years old who are like, they got their own piece of dirt from Bitcoin.
That's just societally beneficial, period. BRENT JOHNSON: Absolutely, absolutely.
MIKE KRIEGER: And that's a good thing. And I'm happy to see that, OK? Very happy
to see that.
And I am not someone that says, Bitcoin, it's not about just holding
the coins. Right, now, I get, again, that's a political decision. But look, if
this can– literally, you have a little baby, and you're renting an apartment, and you
have the opportunity now to buy a little house to raise your family in, I'm not tell
you to hoddle.
Go frickin' buy a house, OK? BRENT JOHNSON: Right.
MIKE KRIEGER: Like I'm not going to tell you what to do either way,
but I get that, and I so I'm on board there. So here's where it comes down to. I think where
we really differ is probabilities, OK? So– BRENT JOHNSON: That's right.
MIKE KRIEGER: And that's what this is all about, macro is all about.
It's about, OK, this could
happen, this could happen, this could happen, this could happen. Let's make sure we know all
of the things that could happen. And that's what this discussion is about, right?
BRENT JOHNSON: Right, right. MIKE KRIEGER: And then you can assess
your own probabilities to the outcome. Now, I want to– so I want to address
why, one of the reasons why I think the probabilities of Bitcoin and this whole sort
of open source, stateless money is here to stay for good. Now, whether it's going to
be Bitcoin for the rest of the time, I don't know. But this idea– not just "idea,"
but this actual application of stateless money, permissionless stateless money, I believe,
is the future, is not going away.
And that doesn't mean you won't have local money or state
money, but I do believe this is fundamentally going to be with human beings forever, OK? That
I believe. Now, that doesn't necessarily conflict with anything you're saying, because from your
point of view, we can have this huge battle, and Bitcoin can have huge swings, and people can
get really hurt, and still, 10 years from now, we have stateless money. You could still argue
that the swings could be too painful, or whatever. Or I mean, can you lay out a big battle, right?
How much do you have to sacrifice in the interim, et cetera. The reason, though, and one of the
reasons– and this would be great to then discuss, I think– the Fourth Turning, and how you see it,
and how I see it. Because I think I want to know how you see it– where we are in the cycle, what
you think the twists and turns might look like. And then, I can tell you how I see it.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, yep. MIKE KRIEGER: The reason I believe,
I put the odds on the rebels succeeding– whereas most of the times, they
don't; you're absolutely completely correct on that– the reason I give it a higher assessment is
precisely because we're in this winter-like cycle. And in this period, so much changes.
a lot of– historically, a lot of bad things happen before you get to spring, and that's why I
want to talk about where you think we are in the season. But if there was ever going to be a period
where the rebels had a shot, this is it. And so my feeling, from a cycle perspective. So for
me, it's sort of like, listen, I'm not going to tell you for sure that we're going to succeed, but
I will tell you this– we're going to go for it, OK? Put on those laser eyes.
Let's meme this
thing into existence. Let's meme this thing into ascendance and dominance, because we can, right?
Because this period in history has that potential. Now, the reason we can have this conversation
is because we both, I believe, adhere to this idea of cyclical history, whereas some people
watching this are going to say, that's garbage, right? There's no such thing as these cycles.
And so to them, I mean, what I'm saying, everything I'm saying is going to sound
like complete nonsense.
And that's fine, right?
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: You don't see the world like I see
the world. All good. But that is how I see the world.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, so I think– yeah, and we see the world the same way. We both see the cycles,
I think, pretty similar– maybe not exactly, but pretty close. We'll talk about that a little bit.
And I think philosophically, if we could choose the type of– if it was up to you and
I have to choose the type of system, and the world would agree to it, is we would
choose a system where you were free to choose your own currency. There's competing currencies,
the best currency would win, and it wasn't a state-mandated system.
And you could volunteer
into things rather than being coerced into things. And so to the extent that there is a revolution
for that type of an outcome, I get it. I think, from my perspective, that we are in
the Fourth Turning of these turnings. The spring will come, and perhaps permissionless money,
non-state-sponsored money, will be part of that. I just don't think– well, I don't think we're
at the end of the Fourth Turning. I think we're maybe in the middle of it. And I think if
anything– I mean, there's been some bad stuff that's happened in the last 10 years, no
doubt, but I think before we get out of the Fourth Turning, there will be much more pain and chaos
than we have seen so far. And my belief is that while Rome will eventually fall, Rome is going
to mete out a bunch of punishment along the way. And I think their ability to do that and inflict
pain elsewhere is much greater than many people acknowledge.
I think it's very romantic, for lack
of a better word, this idea that we're going to have this revolution, we're going to take on the
Empire, we're going to blow up the Death Star, and we're all going to live happily ever after.
And the analogy I always use, they blow up the Death Star in 1977, and we've still got Star Wars
movies where the big bad guys are still in charge, right? So it takes a long time, and it doesn't
mean that it won't happen, but I just think– I think this idea that the US is in
so much trouble that we can no longer be successful in anything from a state
perspective, I think that's wrong. And if we were the only country, in
this state, then perhaps I would be in more agreement.
Now, again, I have to say, this
is my view as an analyst– not what I would like to, necessarily, see, but just how I view it,
because I think Europe is in very much trouble. I think China is in a much more precarious
state than they would like the world to believe. I think Japan has a number of problems. Both
Canada and Australia have a number of problems. And the fact that all of these countries are
sort of dealing with the same issues– that all these societies have social issues, all
of these societies have financial issues, all of these societies have transitioning from
the younger generation to the older generation issues. And unless you're going to leave Earth
and go to another body in the Solar System, Earth is a relative place. One place is going
to be better than all of the others. And maybe "better" is not the right way to say it, but I
just think that before we get through the darkness and into the spring, I think that because of a
number of reasons that I don't necessarily like or agree with, the US will be better off– maybe
not good, but better off– than many other places. And I think any dying empire will do anything
they can to stay in power as long as possible. And I think that they have many
more tools available to do that than people would like to admit.
And when I hear
things like, the US hasn't won a war in 40 years, or 100 years, or whatever it is, and we couldn't
even beat the Taliban, or we couldn't even be successful in Syria, or all these
things– and I just think to myself, you know– [LAUGHS] I just think it's nonsense, to
be honest. We've been in Afghanistan for 20 years, and people will use that as an excuse. Oh,
see? We couldn't even be successful there. Well, I would argue that what makes you think
we're not successful.
If we were to win that war, then we come home. We don't want to come home. We
want to keep our Army bases over there. What makes you think we weren't successful in Libya? Or what
makes you think we didn't accomplish our goals in Iraq? Now, I'm not going to sit here and say that
we obviously won all these things, and we haven't had some defeats along the way, and that we're
not– I would argue we're no longer the shining city on a hill. I agree with that. But I think
before we get through to the next– the spring, I think that America, rather than pretending to
be the white knight, will just put on the black hat and say, come at us.
[LAUGHS] Bring it on.
And I hat-e- remember when George Bush said that, "Bring it on?" And I thought it was–
MIKE KRIEGER: I forget. [LAUGHS] BRENT JOHNSON: I was so pissed off when he
said it, and I thought that's the worst thing that any commander-in-chief could ever say.
If I had a son that was in the military, and he said, "Bring it on" our soldiers, I
mean, I'd be like, fuck, man, I don't want– don't tell them to come after my son, right? So
I hated that he said it, but I do think there is some truth to it. Again, I don't like
it, but I think there's some truth to it. And so I think that as we go through these cycles,
inevitably, there will be another country that will want to ascend to the hegemony, whatever you
want to call it, and I don't think the US will willingly let it go.
So I just think that there's
a lot more– what's the right way to say it– probably just "unrest," for lack of a
better word, globally. And I think the US will potentially be able to capitalize
on that unrest more than many people give it credit for the ability to do. I don't know
if I'm making sense, but that's how I see it. MIKE KRIEGER: Oh, yeah, you make perfect sense
in what you said. Let me try to unpack it from my perspective.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: OK, so first of all, there's the
state, which essentially runs the US. It's not a democracy. I think– do we agree
there? BRENT JOHNSON: We agree. MIKE KRIEGER: There's a national security state,
and then a web of oligarchs who sort of intertwine and decide what happens.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: OK, so we sort of agree on the
fundamental premise of America, I guess, at this point.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yes, yes. MIKE KRIEGER: So what I see– and so we see things
I see a weak, a much, much weaker state than you do. And here's the reason I say
that– not because we don't have the technology, or the missiles, or the bases, or the dollar,
even– which we both agree is a financial weapon, and a very effective one, too. We agree there.
It's because they've lost the public. And I think that is very important. And I think it's also what
the Roman emperors understood that our emperors do not understand, or do not seem to understand. The
propaganda, as far as I can tell, is working less than it ever has before. There's no–
BRENT JOHNSON: I agree with you on that. I agree with you on that.
MIKE KRIEGER: So the disillusionment amongst the populace is high and growing. And
moreover– and I think equally important– it's differentiating across the country based on,
let's say, culture and regions. As you see now what's happening, I mean, people have been
moving to Colorado for a long time, but now it's not as much. I mean, they are, but where are
people moving? Texas and Florida two big ones. BRENT JOHNSON: Yep, yep.
MIKE KRIEGER: Now, of course, 0% state tax is a big factor, but it's not the only factor.
is a factor, but there's more than that. I think people are starting to self-select and say, I want
to be in these states because they seem more free. I mean, I hear that all the time. They're more
free, not just with the COVID, but in general, this thought process. I mean, it's I don't think
it's coincidental that a lot of Bitcoin activity is now in Austin and increasingly in Miami, as
opposed to Washington, DC, or even San Francisco, where you're at. I mean, so many people every day,
like, I'm getting out of here. I want to get out! BRENT JOHNSON: That's right, yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: Particularly people with my sort of, let's say, idiosyncratic
views on stuff. BRENT JOHNSON: Sure. MIKE KRIEGER: So from my perspective– again, as
sort of a non-traditional way of looking at it– I will submit that a lot of the infrastructure
for US hegemony remains in place and is strong.
I would counter that, though, with two things. One,
we're at a cycle where everything changes, OK? And being the global hegemon is the pinnacle. [LAUGHS]
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: I mean, you can't get any
better. BRENT JOHNSON: No, I agree, yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: So there's only one way to go.
You sort of maintain that goal, or you decline. And my bet is on decline. And then, I'm going
to go into why I don't think that's a bad thing overall, either, for the people– not
for the CIA, but for the people. So I'm of the belief that an empire– successful
empire– cannot lose its people to the extent that this current state is losing the people.
I think Bitcoin, and its increasing popularity, and the increasingly political sort of activism in
that realm, is a sign that more and more, they're losing the people. And so the fracturing that
I see going on– from a geographic standpoint, but also from an ideological standpoint within
Rome– is very problematic for the state. Which is actually, interestingly enough, why I think,
increasingly, people involved in state apparatus or even Wall Street are going to Bitcoin. Because
they're looking around and they're saying, wait a minute, this is breaking down.
BRENT JOHNSON: It's the lifeboat. MIKE KRIEGER: Right. Like, I like US
hegemony, but if we're losing the plot here, I'm going to get my seat. So that's one
of the– I think that's the main reason. And by the way, don't get me wrong on the other
countries, OK? I'm not like the European Union and China– I don't disagree with you on that, OK?
BRENT JOHNSON: Well, we need to talk about that. We'll come back to it.
I'm glad you brought it up. Go ahead. MIKE KRIEGER: But to mention, to touch on a few
of those things– so this is again, I think, where we probably differ. So I think traditionally–
and even I fell into this, I would call it a trap, but way of thinking– a lot of people are like,
the US Empire is going to decline, and then China's going to rise, and China is going to
dominate the world, and then that's the end of the Fourth Turning, right?
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: I don't agree, OK? Now, that's
possible, but I don't think it's the most likely. And I think you might be sympathetic
to my views on this, because you, I think, think China is this, like, ridiculous Ponzi-like
hegemon, regional hegemon in its own way, and has a lot of weaknesses, right? And I would
concur with that. I would even take it a step further and say China is even more weak right and
even more vulnerable in a Bitcoin world.
And this is why I actually think if you're smart– and
by the way, I'm not claiming that the national security state is wise or smart– but if they're
doing probability analysis like me and you are– let's say you're really smart, and you're
in the CIA, and you're having a discussion. And you say, look, we want to be the hegemon.
We want to maintain hegemony. However, we're in this cycle– they probably know about cycles,
too; it's not just us– we're in this cycle, and there's a chance, maybe a 25% chance we lose
No matter what we do, we're going to lose it. Well, do we want China to take over?
And if your answer is no– and I'm sure that the answer is no–
BRENT JOHNSON: that's right. MIKE KRIEGER: –you want to let Bitcoin
continue. And the reason I say this is– someone said this to me the other day on Twitter,
and I thought it was well put– they were like, the Fed would rather bend the
knee to Bitcoin than China. And I think you would argue that–
BRENT JOHNSON: I need to think about that. MIKE KRIEGER: OK, well, I'll explain. So I think
you would argue this it's a ridiculous choice anyway, because they don't have to do
either. But I'm saying it's possible, OK? BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, fair enough.
MIKE KRIEGER: And so what that means, essentially, is that if you're in, let's say, the CIA, and you
think there's a 25% chance that 10 years from now, after the Turning, the USD is not the global
reserve currency in the way that it is today, well, what is, OK? And if you're and if your
answer is that China's planning to fill that void with its digital yuan, I would agree that
that is their plan, OK? Now, that doesn't mean it's going to happen.
So if you say, OK, well,
there's this 25% chance we lose the reserve currency, and China's definitely planning
to take over, Bitcoin's better than that . BRENT JOHNSON: So it's our contingency
plan. MIKE KRIEGER: Well, again, if I was that guy. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: I'm not saying they're like– BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: Are they stupid, right? Or are they– like who's running
the show here, right? We don't know, you know what I mean? It could be a total
mess. It could be really smart people. Honestly, man, this is the biggest
thing that I struggle with.
I'm like, how stupid or how smart are these people?
BRENT JOHNSON: No, that's always my question, too. It's that Mark Twain quote, right? It's like–
MIKE KRIEGER: Are they putting you on? BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, exactly–
smart people who are kidding us, or idiots that– MIKE KRIEGER: Right.
BRENT JOHNSON: –idiots that really mean it. MIKE KRIEGER: And it's true, it's just
like predicting the future, right? Like, we don't know! [LAUGHS] It sucks, right? If I
knew the answer to that, I'd be able to plan better.
Whereas I don't. But I'm saying, if–
in the event that they are clever, and the clever ones have some sort of say, yes, it's a
contingency plan. Because America is uniquely positioned relative to China to outperform in a
decentralized, open source kind of a world. China is not, for a lot of different reasons.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, I think you touched on something really good here. And I want to make
sure– it sort of relates to this, but I just want to make sure we talk about it a little bit, so I'm
going to bring it up now– is I think, again, one of the things that I see– and I kind of get it,
but I wish people would think a little broader– is that they will attribute idiocy to the central
bank, and immoral depravity to our leaders, and the greed of Wall Street as a sign of
the decline of America, right? And again, I won't argue those points too hard, for all the
reasons that you've been discussing for 10 years and that I've been actively reading
and thinking about for 10 years. But the part that I struggle with is, then,
when people think– just automatically think it's so much better in China, or it's so much
better in Brazil, or it's so much better in Italy, or so much better in Russia, or the UK.
the systems are the same. The people at the top– MIKE KRIEGER: Right.
BRENT JOHNSON: –to rise to the top of a country, you've got to be a sociopath. I mean, this is
by definition, right? So to think that they're more moral all over there, or they have a higher
level of concern for their citizens than we do, it's possible, but it's not just a given,
right? And so I just feel like when people do analysis on the United States and come to the
conclusion that it's going to fail, they do it in a vacuum, because that's the only thing they look
They don't consider the rest of the world. And I can't remember who this guy is, this guy
you probably know. It was about 10 years ago I saw this little video on it, and I thought
it was so good. It was talking about how– they talked about human farming. And it basically
said, every country is like a farm, or a ranch, and every rancher is raising livestock. Now,
some ranchers treat their animals better than other ranchers. Some of them make them work from
sunup to sundown, feed them just a little bit. Others have free range. They're welcome to go do
whatever they want all day as long as they stay withinside the fence. But at the end of the
day, they're harvesting that livestock. And he made that that's the way countries are.
Some countries are democratic. Some are under Communist rule. Some are dictatorships. Some
are, they're a Republic. And I actually think that that's a pretty good– it's kind of sick, but
it's a pretty good analogy, right? And so I think I actually have, again, the awakening– we talk
about the awakening we both had in the Global Financial Crisis, and it made me realize things
for what they really were.
And I spent two or three years being very angry and thinking, I got
to get out of here. And I think– but at the time, I was very siloed as well. I was basically
focusing on the United States in that analysis. MIKE KRIEGER: Right.
BRENT JOHNSON: I think when you do that same level of critical thinking for other countries, it
doesn't look that much better.
It might look better on some things. It might look worse on some
things. The US might look better on some things and worse on some things.
But this is what– I guess my view of the world is the fact it's not
different this time, but it's unique in that it's all happening to everybody. I feel like
it's not just the US that's going through the Fourth Turning; everybody's going through
it. It's like a global Fourth Turning. And maybe some countries are in cycle three, and some
countries are in cycle one, and we're in four, but the whole globe is turning together. And I just
find it fascinating. I don't know where I was going with that. I just wanted to bring it up.
MIKE KRIEGER: That was actually great, because, listen, first of all, I agree with
everything you said, OK? I actually don't have any sort of disagreement on your
analysis. But– [LAUGHS] and here's the fun– BRENT JOHNSON: No, this is good.
MIKE KRIEGER: –this is what Bitcoin fixes, right? BRENT JOHNSON: [LAUGHS]
MIKE KRIEGER: And actually, the fun part about it is I'm actually
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: So this is, I think– and it's
something I wanted to mention before, but I forgot– there's a couple of things, OK? First,
I'm just going to start off– I tweeted this yesterday– there is the Imperial America, and
then there's the America of the people, OK? And I think they're actually in different cycles.
if I look at like the culture of America– and so the average person, how they view the world, their
level of ignorance about how the world works, et cetera, personal responsibility, not being
a normie, whatever– I think we're bottoming. I think the American people are bottoming,
and I think the American empire is topping, right? They're not the same.
And so therefore, to your point, I can be very bullish on America the people
who live on this landmass versus the state. BRENT JOHNSON: Fair enough.
MIKE KRIEGER: And in fact, I, generally speaking, am. Now, as far as what you mentioned, it's
interesting, because I don't think I've heard you ever say it in this way, but I thought it
was really good, because I see it exactly the same way. Which is why I reject the whole, the US
is in decline, and China is going to be the leader and run the world, right? I reject that.
because it's not possible– it totally is, right? But in my view, it's not the high-probability
spring outcome, right? Is that really spring to you? Does that sounds like the spring?
BRENT JOHNSON: Is that the spring? MIKE KRIEGER: That's– I wouldn't have
four kids if I thought that, right? So to that degree, this is
why I think Bitcoin fixes it– not Bitcoin specifically, but again,
the principles of Bitcoin.
So I see what you see, which is a breakdown. And I see a
breakdown– now, the reason the US gets the most, I don't know, talking on it is because
it's the hegemon. It's the one that's been running the show. But that system is
in place everywhere, as you say, in one way or the other. They're just colonies of the US,
for the most part– most countries. Obviously, the ones that aren't, we go to war with.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, right, right. MIKE KRIEGER: But anyway, so I would take it
further and say the entire social, political, and economic organization of human beings on
this planet is being disrupted, and the US Empire is one thing that's being disrupted and
blown up. And I would say– and I don't know when, and maybe we have different views on this.
I'm going to say very clearly I don't know when it happens.
But I would argue
that China's centralized social credit, no-political-freedom model in China is going
to suffer the exact same fate as the US Empire. I could see the US Empire, though, declining
first. And the reason I say that is just because I see it happening in the way that I'm saying.
I see the decentralization, the localism, the Bitcoining, the open source. I see that being
ascendant. And we have the space, right? We allow the space for it to be ascendant.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: Thankfully, right?
BRENT JOHNSON: That's the free range. That's the free range, right?
MIKE KRIEGER: Yeah, we're a little free range still. That's the problem
with us. BRENT JOHNSON: It's closing in. The pen is getting tighter, but yes.
MIKE KRIEGER: Oh, exactly. And then, that's the thing. When people say this, I agree
with them. They're like, Americans are still kind of free range, so we've got to put them in the
barn, right? And that's what they're trying to do. We both agree there's been this effort to put
us in the barn, and I think the response to COVID is actually very much a part of that.
BRENT JOHNSON: Absolutely. MIKE KRIEGER: So I think China's system is more
likely to fall apart after the American system is in more serious decline.
And the reason I say
that is because if the American state declines relative to the future I see with decentralized
open source– freedom, more freedom– that will so take over the Zeitgeist that China
is going to look ridiculous, right? It's going to look like Pol Pot, like Cambodia. And it
already kind of does. But where China has– and this is where I go back to if I was a smart
national deep state goon, even if I was a goon, I would still want Bitcoin around. And the reason
is because you can make China look increasingly ridiculous by being more free, not by being less
Like China right now can say, OK, well, yeah, we're not perfect, but look at you.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: And America and China have to
take it. But China says that, and my response is, I'd still rather be here than
there, but you're right! But you have– BRENT JOHNSON: Wouldn't it be kind of funny
if Xi put out a tweet, and he had laser eyes? MIKE KRIEGER: [LAUGHS] I don't
see that one coming. But– BRENT JOHNSON: I don't either.
MIKE KRIEGER: Mnuchin would probably do that first.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah MIKE KRIEGER: But anyway, so my
point is that I actually think, if you're a deep stater, and your goal– it's
interesting. This is what Bitcoin does. It sort of aligns incentives towards something better in a
If you're a guy like me who tends more, I guess, towards anarchism, or just voluntary
relationships– you can call me a dreamer, but whatever; one day, we'll get there– more
voluntary relationships, whether it's economic, political, or whatever, that's my belief
system. I don't think it's easy, by the way, and I may never see it, but it'll happen. Or,
you are a statist who only cares about power. I think either way, when assessing the world, you
want Bitcoin there. And I think China definitely doesn't, because they've bet everything, right?
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: Look, this is what I think China–
this is how I think China's played the chessboard. I think China said, no cycles
as well, and they said, OK, the US is in a cycle that– declining
cycle. So what we're going to do is we're going to let them F up.
BRENT JOHNSON: Right. MIKE KRIEGER: We're going to let them screw
We're going to needle them here, needle them there, do whatever, but for the
most part, we don't want to be seen as causing the problem. BRENT JOHNSON: Right.
MIKE KRIEGER: And once they fail, we'll come in as the savior. Like look at
this. Look at the digital yuan. Oh, by the way, you need a social credit score. Here's your
vaccine passport. That's what I think they think. BRENT JOHNSON: I agree with you on that.
MIKE KRIEGER: And I think if that's right,
Bitcoin is a fantastic weapon, because Bitcoin doesn't allow–
BRENT JOHNSON: For the US to use against China? MIKE KRIEGER: Correct, because China can't
allow something like that. It wants to dominate, as you say. It wants the power.
BRENT JOHNSON: Well, yeah, that's– it's interesting, because that's another
argument that I get in with not just Bitcoin, but also with gold, with people who say
Putin and Xi want a gold standard.
They're going to put those countries back on a gold
standard. And then I always say, these are the two biggest strongmen of the last 100 years. The
currencies is one of the biggest tools they have. MIKE KRIEGER: No statist is going to.
BRENT JOHNSON: They're going to surrender it [LAUGHS] and turn
to gold? MIKE KRIEGER: Well, no statist wants to. BRENT JOHNSON: Right.
MIKE KRIEGER: They all want more centralization. BRENT JOHNSON: Right.
MIKE KRIEGER: OK? And so my only argument is if people in the US come to the conclusion– which
I believe they should– that there's a good chance this is not going the right way, that Bitcoin is
a great way to make America prosper, ultimately– not the empire, but the people.
I did want to
just say one more thing about your war thing, because I think it's important, OK?
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: You're like, well, America hasn't
won the wars They won. I generally agree with most of what you said. I mean, not
totally, but enough to overlook it. BRENT JOHNSON: You understand
the point I'm making. MIKE KRIEGER: I understand the
point you're making. There's good points there. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: So I actually think that– let's say China was stupid enough to land boats
in California, right? The US will win, OK, because every single human being including me who hates
this government, they'll be like, are you kidding me? Right? There's no way that happens.
invading America and taking it over, OK? This is just not happening. Physically, physically, it's
not going to happen. You can take over the country in other ways. It's not physically going to
happen. But the only reason the US wins something like that, in my opinion, is
because the people rally behind the cause. And the reason why I think the US is so weak
at the moment, as I mentioned before, is because the people ain't rallying behind anything.
BRENT JOHNSON: Well, you touch on a very– I mean, I know you've thought about this– I know I've
thought about it, so I know you've thought about it– is, is that the playbook?
MIKE KRIEGER: What's that? BRENT JOHNSON: The question is, if you have a
dying empire, and you need to get the people back, is that the playbook?
MIKE KRIEGER: Right. BRENT JOHNSON: That scares me, right?
MIKE KRIEGER: Well, but here's the thing, right? So yes, right? But– and this is the big but–
people are so skeptical.
And I think it's great. And in fact, sometimes, when people are like, oh,
false flag, false flag, and it's probably not, I'm still like, eh, it's all right to say it.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: Because you want the state to
constantly think everyone's going to question an event.
BRENT JOHNSON: You want the state to fear the people.
MIKE KRIEGER: Exactly so that's just like strategy, right? I mean, you want them
to think we're going to assume it's a false flag. But that's why I said, Brent, that's why
I said it would have to be Chinese boats landing in California, you know what
I mean? It would have to be so overt. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah
MIKE KRIEGER: I don't think they could get– and by the way, there
is something. There is an attack. It's not like a physical attack, but there is– I can
conceivably come up– if I was a dastardly person in the national security state, if I wanted
to attack Bitcoin, I could come up with a strategy that I don't think would succeed,
but it would be– I wouldn't like it.
I'm not going to say it, though.
BRENT JOHNSON: Well, I mean, there's the thesis that China's mining all the
Bitcoin, they're selling it to the United States citizens, they're pumping it up with Tether,
and then they're going to pull the rug and cause an economic crisis. I mean, that's–
MIKE KRIEGER: Yeah, see, I think– BRENT JOHNSON: That's a possibility. I mean, maybe
it's low probability, but it's a possibility. MIKE KRIEGER: OK, but think about
that, right? That would be a huge, huge mistake by China. And by the way–
BRENT JOHNSON: I agree with you. I agree with you.
MIKE KRIEGER: It's interesting No, you know what? So let's discuss this, because it's interesting.
So why would that happen? It might actually happen because of a lot of stuff we're talking
about. Because let's say two years from now, the American state is kind of weak, but China is also
not doing that great. And their whole plan is all of a sudden– and Bitcoins is at $350,000. It's
essentially being– it's spreading like wildfire. It has 100 million users now; it has a billion
users all over the world. Africa, like Nigeria, everywhere is– and China's like, what the–
right? This is not the plan. Our plan was to was to take over with the digital yuan! At that
point, you're right, they might get so desperate that they're like, oh, no!
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: Oh, no, they don't want the digital
yuan! And then, they try to go for Bitcoin. That's an interesting and, I think,
I welcome it, though. And the reason I welcome it is because,
guess what? That will actually unite us with Bitcoin. Because all of a sudden,
the US government is going to be like, wait a minute, they're attacking us.
BRENT JOHNSON: Well, OK. OK, this is actually a fascinating topic. I wasn't sure we were going
to get here or not, but here we are. So let's just pretend that that's what's going on. Just let's
consider that that– hypothetically. And here, it would be an ingenious– if this is what China
was doing, it's somewhat ingenious. Because if they are able to, for lack of a better word, enable the growth of Bitcoin in a way
that a number of Americans bought into it, started to make a lot of money,
found themselves to be successful. And then let's pretend that the United States
figured out that this is what China was doing. And they go to the people, and they say, hey, this
is a ruse.
This is a scam. This is a Trojan horse. We need to protect you from what
China is getting ready to do. The people would be like, what
the hell are you talking about? Unless the rug got pulled, if the state came in
and tried to protect the people, they'd be like, no, thanks, we don't want the protection.
MIKE KRIEGER: Well, all right– BRENT JOHNSON: Do you see what I'm saying?
But that would be ingenious on China's part, because it would make–
MIKE KRIEGER: See, I don't think it works for China, and I'll
tell you why. Because what happens is, you actually– it's sort of almost a
digital equivalent of landing boats on the shores of the US.
BRENT JOHNSON: I agree with you. That's exactly what it is.
MIKE KRIEGER: Right, so the problem, though, is you have a centralized system
that wants a centralized currency trying to mess with a burgeoning free stateless currency
that's spreading globally.
And so what that does is it unites all of the non-China
countries, or all of the countries that were concerned that this was China's
plan all along, to embrace Bitcoin even more. So let's say they did some sort of– they went for
a hardware attack or something, right? I mean, but the big problem is– and it is a problem in all
sorts of ways– is all the manufacturing capacity of chips and stuff over there. I mean, that's a
whole other topic, but that's a problem, though. But anyway, so then you get a
situation where, in my opinion, you have all these anarchist types like me and the
US state working together to keep Bitcoin going. BRENT JOHNSON: Oh, I see. I see the point, OK.
MIKE KRIEGER: That's what I think happens. And that strengthens Bitcoin, right? Because at that
point, the guys that have been saying it all along, let's say in the deep state, they're like,
by the way, this is a good hedge against China, just keep it going, now can say, see, we told you,
see? And so ultimately– and again, I think a lot of people listening to this are going to think I'm
crazy, and my vision for the future is nuts.
And maybe they're right. But I do think that this all
ends with centralized statist nation-states and empires– not just the US, but around–
BRENT JOHNSON: all over, yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: European Union in its
current form, China in its current form, all of that disintegrating, and in those ashes,
a more networked, voluntary, cooperative, human web, I guess, forming. Again, this sounds
like I'm writing science fiction. But the truth is, we do have– but we have the tools for it.
BRENT JOHNSON: I call it a beautiful fiction. MIKE KRIEGER: Yeah.
BRENT JOHNSON: [LAUGHS] MIKE KRIEGER: Well, I'll go
with that. And at this point, it is a fiction, right? BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: It's totally fiction. I'm just saying that if you want to– I mean, it doesn't
contradict your feelings either, though. Because you said yourself, you're like, it feels like
everyone's breaking down, right? Or it feels like everyone– and I agree with you. I just think
that the final outcome– we see the final outcome as different. You're more cynical.
BRENT JOHNSON: I am more cynical– which is hard to do!
MIKE KRIEGER: See, this is the funny thing, right? People are going to watch this, right– and you
know me– people are going to watch this and say, wow, this guy is so optimistic.
He's like– and
you know that I'm not right. I am not inherently Mr. Optimist, right? I just think–
BRENT JOHNSON: Is it fair to say that Bitcoin gave you the road, or the
avenue, to become an optimist again? MIKE KRIEGER: It was 100%. I mean, that's
what made me optimistic. And it's not because I made money in it.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: It's absolutely because–
BRENT JOHNSON: The money didn't hurt, though. MIKE KRIEGER: It doesn't hurt.
BRENT JOHNSON: [LAUGHS] MIKE KRIEGER: But what I'm saying is–
never does, right? No, but look, I was optimistic at 10 bucks, you know what I mean?
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, you were. You were, you were. MIKE KRIEGER: I was optimistic at 100. I was– all
of a sudden, if you read my writings pre- Bitcoin, post-Bitcoin, there's a shift,
right? And the reason is because all I do is think about potential outcomes
and then assign probabilities to them, OK? Like all of the things that you describe,
all of your outcomes are completely valid. I just assign lower probabilities to them.
BRENT JOHNSON: I think that's a good way to say it. I understand, I think, most of
your arguments. I think you understand mine. It's just a matter of what probability
we put on each of the outcomes, right? MIKE KRIEGER: That's all it is. I mean, we're not
coming up with stupid thoughts, because we're not stupid.
Some people will. Like on Twitter, they'll
be like– they'll give you a scenario, like the typical goldbug. How are you going to spend your
Bitcoin when they turn your electricity off? BRENT JOHNSON: Right, right.
MIKE KRIEGER: How are you going to cook your food? [LAUGHS] Like, just
shut up. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: But yeah, so that's really it. And
with Bitcoin– to your point– prior to that, when I was assessing probabilities, as
I'm clutching my gold coins in 2009, I mean, the probabilities all looked bad.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: They looked dark. And then, when
Bitcoin arrived, I could say, OK, here's this other way.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah. MIKE KRIEGER: And the longer it
survived, and the more I've seen young people in particular that were hopeless– I
mean, let's put it this way, Brent. Imagine what we'd be dealing with right now if all of these
people who are motivated, smart, aggressive, that are Bitcoin laser plebs, what
if they didn't have this outlet? I don't think you'd be– I mean, I say to people,
it's like, you should be really, really happy they're putting lasers on their faces, you know
what I mean? Because it'd be a lot worse if– BRENT JOHNSON: Otherwise, they would
be in the streets, right? That's– MIKE KRIEGER: Or worse.
BRENT JOHNSON: Or worse, yeah.
That's a valid point. That's a valid point.
MIKE KRIEGER: These are not the kind of people– these are not the kind of people that just take it.
BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah. So I think we've been talking for a long time. You and I could
probably talk for two or three more hours. We probably need to wrap this up.
MIKE KRIEGER: Sure. BRENT JOHNSON: I'm going to give you my quick
summary, and then I'll let you have the last word. The first thing I'll say is I'm glad you took the
time to actually sit here and have a thoughtful discussion.
I knew we would be able to do it.
Sometimes it gets lost a little bit on Twitter, but I knew we'd be able to do it, so I was really
looking forward to it. I would summarize both of our positions is that we both want, probably, the
same things for the world. We both probably see the same problems in the world. We probably both
see where the world is headed in the same way. I would say that you are focused just over the
horizon, on the spring, and I can't take my eyes off what's right in front of me. And so that's
just the focus. And so I probably put a higher probability on what's right in front of me, and
perhaps you put a higher probability on what's just over the horizon. But we didn't even
get to talk about Tether yet.
We'll have to do that another time. Anyway, that's all I'm
going to say. Again, I appreciate you coming on. But I'm going to let you have the last word.
MIKE KRIEGER: Yeah, yeah, I basically think that's correct. And I think there's a reason for that
as well. I think you are trying to manage money, right? You're managing money. I'm not. I mean, I'm
doing my own, but I don't have to answer to any investors, or clients, or anything. And so that
frees me up to not– I mean, you, in your seat, have to be like, OK, what happens in the next
six months? If I get blown up, I'm in trouble. I'm responsible for other people. I'm not. So for
me– of course, I manage my portfolio, and I don't want to lose money, OK? But at the same time,
I'm in this.
I'm in the game, right? You're out there like, I'm going to manage money in the game.
I'm like, I'm kind of in the arena a little bit. BRENT JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah.
MIKE KRIEGER: And so if I'm in the arena, I have to say, I look at the landscape.
I look at the battlefield, and I say, OK, what do I want, and what are the probabilities
of the positive outcome happening? And if I think that there's a good shot, I'm going
to go for it. So my conclusion here is a world without Bitcoin or something like it–
stateless currencies– is not a world you want, OK? And that's the world that the central
And that's the world that China wants. So unless you can tell me your vision–
I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about– BRENT JOHNSON: No, no I get it.
MIKE KRIEGER: Unless you can tell me your vision for a better future that's not a control
grid future– which is what they're attempting to roll out in a more severe manner, Panopticon– I'm
going to go for it with Bitcoin. And so that's how I see it. I see it like the odds are good for this
revolution and rebellion to succeed. I believe in it, I'm in the arena, and I'm going for it.
And I'm not going to tell you that, 100% certainty– believe me, I'm hedging around
in different ways, right? I'm thinking about how I could be wrong. But I am going for it. And
I think that's what most Bitcoiners are doing, for different reasons, in different ways. For
me, it's not so I can own a house because I completely got shafted by the world– which a lot
of people did.
But for me, it's a bigger– it's a lot of things. But for me, this Bitcoin, the core
fundamental principles of Bitcoin, align with my principles and also the world that
I want to see. So I'm going for it. BRENT JOHNSON: Fair enough. Great
to see you, Mike. Great talking to you. MIKE KRIEGER: You too, Brent.
NICK CORREA: Thank you for watching this interview. This is just a taste of what we do at
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