By Saifedean Ammous (transcript of presentation prepared by Bryan Bishop)
Okay, thank you everyone and Gerry for inviting me. Always fun to be in Texas to share meat and bitcoin with meat eaters. That’s the topic of today’s talk. Bitcoiners like meat. Why is this the case? It’s not a coincidence that bitcoiners like meat. It’s because meat is proof-of-work. That’s what muscle is.
Why do bitcoiners like meat?
I was just telling someone that powerpoint makes talks much worse. In any case, why is it that bitcoiners like meat? There’s nothing weird about liking meat. Bitcoin is diverse and there are many cultures using bitcoin.
One thing that unites people around the world is that everyone eats meat. It’s common to all human cultures. I recommend a book called “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” who was a Canadian that traveled around the world 100 years ago. He wrote the “Human Action” book of nutrition. He was able to travel in that short window of time when the airplane was invented– he was able to use it for travel, but the airplane was not widely used enough around the world for many places to be integrated into global trade. He was able to visit locations where the same populations with similar genetics, some had access to modern trade and modern food, and some didn’t so they lived on traditional food.
Pacific Islanders, South Americans, people from all over the world– people from an isolated valley in Switzerland who didn’t trade food with the rest of the world, were integrating into the world. He set out thinking he was going to find an ideallic vegetarian diet that traditional societies had. But he found that there was no single culture that had a diet like that. Every culture in the world was about, how to get the most animal fat into your body given the geographic circumstances you’re in. The fight to eat more meat is what nutrition is all about. The impact of moving to traditional foods into modern foods is astonishing. The populations are very similar genetics; the ones that eat flour, sugar and processed foods have all these ailments that other people didn’t really have.
I think the better question, then, is: why is it that people like crappy food also like crappy food? What is the link between bad money and bad food? What is it about nocoiners that attracts them to garbage food? That’s the question that we need to address.
Fiat money and fiat food
There’s one issue of time preference and soil depletion. Plowing the land is necessary for planting food, but there’s soil quality issues over time. Really, the difference between raising cattle and growing cops is a difference in time orientation. Raising cattle will maintain the health of the soil, but not a big cash windfall in the short-term. It provides you small amounts of money for the long-temr. Plowing the land and growing crops basically takes out all the nutrients in the land and puts them out on the market for a big pay day. After 5-6 years, the soil is dead.
If you had a lower time preference, you would value long-term returns and the long-term health. The higher your time preference, the more likely you are to prefer the kind of economic activity that will quickly deplete the soil and give you a bigger return faster.
Throughout history we have seen an increase in quick high-time preference for agricultural industries. The soil quality gets destroyed. Now the only way that land can make food is that you need all these artificial fertilizers. Plowing and fertilizing by farmers is just trying to recreate what cows and other large animals would be doing on that land.
This is historically why people have rotated crops. That has been lost, though. Everyone is growing those cops; and because of industrialization and modern machines, we’re able to strip the nutrients out of the land much faster than we were able to before.
Let’s compare the US and Switzerland. It’s the last society to have hard money, really. If you think about the quality of the soil— if you ever fly over Switzerland, it’s a blanket of green and cows. But now that they are off the gold standard, they are starting to get corn fields. If you fly across America, it looks more like a factory than land. It’s stripped soil. It’s dead, and won’t grow food unless you add fertilizer to it.
There’s a lot of work between the health of the soil and the health of the people. The Swiss people are the slimmest and lowest BMI people in Europe. They have the lowest level of obesity. The US on the other hand, the soil is depleted and people’s health is massively suffering. People think about the US as being obesity, but obesity is a function of malnutrition.
As we move more towards the other theory in terms of food decisions, this is straightforward- if you think about the future a lot, you’re more likely to eat better, and if you have a high time preference, you’re more likely to eat twinkies or something. It’s not just that, though.
The government also plays an active role. Government money allows them to access unlimited wealth. It’s no coincidence that your government wants to tell you what to eat and how much to eat. If you look at the roots of US dietary policy, to a very large extent it has been captured by a religious movement. In the late 19th century, seventh day adventists saw a vision about having to stop people from meat. It’s astonishing to think about how powerful this thing. The establishment of the american dietetics society— and this religious group had a program over many decades to try to influence government policy to get people to stop eating meat. I’m not a theology expert.
Because of government intervention, people who have the religious beliefs on diet can enforce them on everyone else by taking over government agencies like ADA. They are quite influential: they can put people in jail if they hand out dietary advice without a license. If you want to know why they tell you to eat grain, it’s because they need to be licensed from that regulator that is pushing a certain policy.
Then we see the influence of government-funded science. Ancel Keys looked at the market for industrial food. He came up with a ridiculous study of why fat is bad. He looked at margarine, which is stupid. Margarine is industrial sludge, it’s not food, it’s not fat. You shouldn’t feed it to your dog, even. They looked at this study and concluded fat is bad for you, bad causes heart disease. 50 years crusade against animal fat was based on this study. There’s very low margins on meat, but very large margins on industrial stuff that you can produce with mass production techniques.
One of America’s top fiat universities, Harvard, has been the world leader in spreading the criminal idea that sugar is good for you. Large government subsidies and massive influence on government dieatry guidelines influence this as well.
Schools and national— everything is based on this. The modern guidelines made by Harvard, based on Keys’ study, was started in the 70s and since then obesity and extreme obesity have taken off in the US like nowhere before. There is a clear link in all the data around the 70s where this takeoff begins to happen. No coincidence that it’s the same time that government started to tell you that meat is bad for you, and you should eat “sugar in moderation and it’s a part of a healthy lifestyle”.
Fiat farm policy
Then the government did something to promote mass produced junk food. Check out a film called “King Corn”. There was the secretary of agriculture under Nixon. How do you fix the problem of inflation of the price of food because you printed too much money? You would think the answer is, stop printing money. But what they did is they substituted food with junk, because people will eat cheap junk food, and then the price of food goes down. This is how inflation was fought. They told farmers, get big or get out. No room for small farmers. We needed mass farms that employed high-scale capital machines that would till the land as powerful as possible, take out as much nutrients as possible, take out as much corn as possible. It essentially introduced industrialization into farming. The role of the department of agriculture introducing this was enormous; it was not a free market idea. They were saying capitalism fed those people junk food; but it was government and fiat credit policy in particular that favored the large farmers at the exnepse of the small farmers because larger farmers can bring in mass industrialization. So you brought down the quality of food; you made food with less nutrients but it was cheaper by the pound. We ended up with more calories and less nutrients, and the inflation ended up looking okay. When people talk about “where is the inflation, where is the inflation”, well it’s in the quality of the food.
If we measured the CPI, they would tell you the average consumer basket of goods is $10 in this economy. Imagine the value of the dollar collapses, and the value of a steak goes up to $100 and your wage doesn’t go up because the boss isn’t connected to the magic money printer from the government. Well what has happened with inflation as measured by CPI? Well, you can’t afford a steak, so you buy a soy burger for $20 or $10. So zero inflation right? The consumer basket of goods you had previously was $10 for lunch. Today you are still paying $10 for lunch, so “inflation is zero”. That is how inflation is brought down. As long as you don’t mind substituting your rib eye for a soy burger, then you’re fine. These soy burgers are going increasingly towards the quality of dog food. We’re just going to pretend that sludge is food and if you do that then there’s no inflation. That’s essentially how it works.
Here are the main fiat foods that have benefited from government subsidies: refined flour, sugar, industrial oils, high fructose corn syrup, soy protein, low fat foods, and breakfast cereals. These things did not exist before the 20th cenutry. Sugar was extremely expensive and hard to find. Flour was also recent. These things became popularized because you can make them industrially at scale, and this makes their costs manageable. Governments around the world love this because it’s a great way to get people to eat cheaply and it’s a way to hide the inflation.