Stiglitz Against Bitcoin – on the Wrong Side of History Again

The demand to make Bitcoin illegal, initially sounded impressive. As impressive perhaps as the credentials of Joseph Stiglitz seem to be at first glance: distinguished professor of economics at Columbia University, former Chief Economist of the World Bank, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to the President of the USA, during the Clinton administration and recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics are just some of the many honours and prestigious positions that decorate his resume. Other feathers in his cap include time as an economic adviser at the UN and being named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

But upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that all these feathers and embellishment merely prove a maxim once enunciated by Mark Twain: give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep till noon. In other words Twain was expressing the idea that people tend to judge a man by his reputation rather than by the things he does and says. In the particular case of Joseph Stiglitz, this maxim can be rephrased to: make a name for yourself as an intellectual and people won’t ever dare to question the self-contradictory nonsense that issues from your mouth.

Indeed it is a veritable mystery, how for so long this man was able to duplicitously peddle re-hashed Marxist tripe to the public, while lining his pockets with the proceeds of the very system he attacks, without anyone calling him out on it. The very fact that Stiglitz keeps on trying to promote politico-economic ideals that have been repeatedly and manifestly discredited by history, demonstrates a complete lack of historical perspective and education. This alone should be enough to suggest that this man is nothing more than a disingenuous, bloated bureaucrat posing as an intellectual.

Despite taking every opportunity to tout his “credentials”, upon closer examination they appear to be nothing but Potyomkin village, as virtually all of the positions Steiglitz held in his life were that of a professional pencil-pusher. The man has zero experience in the real world, having spent all his life in the cushy, well-fed world of the global bureaucracy.

One of his favorite hobby-horses to ride is his two-and-a-half year stint at the World Bank, which apparently somehow qualifies him to spew empty, outdated socialist vitriol at the system that makes him prosper. He even managed to produce a book about the experience – conceitedly and childishly titled; ‘The Rebel Within.’ An ironic title perhaps, considering that Stiglitz was pushed out from his position at the World Bank for doing nothing but leveling criticism at the institution’s conduct while at the same time being absolutely unwilling or incapable of contributing any constructive advice.

While there is no doubt that the conduct of any large bureaucratic institution like the World Bank may at times be problematic and warrant criticism, it does also hold true that as Chief Economist it would seem to precisely be your job to find solutions to such problems, instead of spending all your time badmouthing your colleagues. An article on the subject of Stiglitz’s resignation, printed in the Economist in December of 1999 encapsulated how his colleagues felt about working with him; “[We] often longed to hear less from Mr. Stiglitz about what he would not do and more about what he would.” The article goes on to describe how Stiglitz’s former colleagues, including his boss – the James Wolfensohn – were initially all ears when it came to cooperating with Stiglitz on potential proposals to bring positive change to the institution. However it soon became abundantly clear to them that Stiglitz’s main objective was to “embarrass you deliberately and repeatedly” and therefore the basis for such cooperation was absent.

Even Stiglitz’s claim of being a Nobel laureate is misleading. Indeed he was awarded something called the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001. Despite the impressive sounding name however it is not one of the Nobel Prizes that Alfred Nobel established in his will in 1895, to be awarded by the Nobel Foundation. This prize was established in 1968 by a donation from the Swedish National Bank, on the bank’s 300th anniversary. The prestige of the Prize in Economics derives solely from its ostensible association with the Nobel name. Many – including Alfred Nobel’s relatives – criticize the misuse of their family’s name.

The Swedish human rights lawyer Peter Nobel, himself a great-grandson of Nobel’s brother Ludvig states that no Nobel himself never had the intention of establishing a prize in economics.

“Nobel despised people who cared more about profits than society’s well-being,” said Peter, adding: “There is nothing to indicate that he would have wanted such a prize. The association of this prize with the real Nobel prizes is simply a PR ploy.”

Considering all this, it is perhaps wise to take Stiglitz’s recent ramblings against Bitcoin with a grain of salt. Last week the corpulent desk-jockey went into a mouth-foaming tirade against the popular digital currency and demanded that this revolutionary technology be made illegal, because “it does not posses any socially useful function”. Perhaps it would be better left to society to decide what it finds useful and not, in which case it might be the likes of Joseph Stiglitz and not Bitcoin that might find themselves in the rubbish bin of history.