Bitcoin use seeks to harness self-reliance through digital money

When I first met Brian Nelson in downtown Salt Lake City, he gave me one billion dollars.

Seriously. I’ve still got the note with me. It reads: “I promise to pay the bearer on demand ONE BILLION DOLLARS for the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.”

Today, it’s worth about eight cents in U.S. dollars, says Nelson, a Sandy-based entrepreneur and founder of Sig3. He hands the billion dollar notes out like business cards and to promote his interest in the digital Bitcoin currency. It shows just how misplaced is “the trust that we have put in government to manage the economy correctly.”

Conversely, the alternative — the flourishing and eventual mainstream usage of a free-market currency like Bitcoins — could be the truly significant technological innovation of our era.

My Zimbabwe paper bill may be of limited transactional value. But as a lesson on the perils of hyperinflation, repeated world over from Germany to Zimbabwe to Argentina, it’s priceless.

The temptation for central banks to print paper dollars is simple too great, even though that act undermines money’s essential element as a store of value.

Yet in the United States in recent years, inflation rates have been steady, consistent and low. That’s why it may be difficult to appreciate Bitcoins and the seemingly quixotic pursuit of an alternative to government-based money.

Bitcoin enthusiasts Austin Craig and Beccy Bingham might even agree with the part about it being “quixotic.” Craig is the co-founder of the Pocket Film Festival in Provo, which earlier this month premiered his documentary, “Life on Bitcoin.” In it, the newlyweds humorously depict and explain their commitment to live the first 90 days of their post-honeymoon married life using only Bitcoins.

It wasn’t easy, but they did it. They took care of all their essentials — food, clothing and fuel —

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