The Cosmic Rebellion of Jack Cade; Distributed Counsel 18

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Short post this week because nothing has happened (just kidding).  Please don’t hesitate to suggest topics in the comments or in reply to the newsletter.  I long for replies like the unmarried middle daughter of an 18th Century merchant.

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.

Everyone knows this line, even people who have never read Henry VI, Part 2.  But not everyone knows the Bard gave it to “Dick the Butcher,” the companion of a certain rebel leader named Jack Cade.  It is often put down to a joke. I don’t know.  I have always sensed an undertow of wistful desire beneath the macabre jests about lawyers.  Maybe I’m just sensitive.

In the play, Jack Cade is describing a kingdom with price controls and free beer, so he has everyone’s attention.  At the end of Cade’s soliloquy on the new paradise, Dick offers his famous suggestion.

Cade was an actual historical figure.  He authored the Complaint of the Poor Commons of Kent , which lists a series of complaints about Henry VI, among them that: “The law serves of nought else in these days but for to do wrong, for nothing is spread almost but false matters by color of the law for reward, dread and favor and so no remedy is had in the Court of Equity in any way.” Maybe Dick was kidding, Cade wasn’t.

He marched on London at the head of 5,000 men and successfully took the city in 1450, which is remarkable. Then he lost control of his men and popular opinion quickly abandoned him. He was wounded in the process of capture and died before trial, which was lucky for him all told, given the brutal fate of English traitors.

I found it particularly interesting that, in his description of the good times to be had, he claims that he will “make it a felony to drink small beer.”  Cade is actually proposing, not to ban beer wholesale, but rather to prohibit weak beer made from spent yeast. So if he had his way, drinking the 15th Century equivalent of Coors Light would be a felony.  I guess the man really was a hero.

Here’s the scene:

JACK CADE. Valiant I am.

SMITH [aside]. A must needs; for beggary is valiant.

JACK CADE. I am able to endure much.

DICK [aside]. No question of that; for I have seen him whipp’d three market-days together.

JACK CADE. I fear neither sword nor fire.

SMITH [aside]. He need not fear the sword; for his coat is of proof.

DICK [aside]. But methinks he should stand in fear of fire, being burnt i’ th’ hand for stealing of sheep.

JACK CADE. Be brave, then; for your captain is brave, and vows reformation. There shall be in England seven half-penny loaves sold for a penny: the three-hoop’d pot shall have ten hoops; and I will make it felony to drink small beer: all the realm shall be in common; and in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to grass: and when I am king,- as king I will be,-

ALL. God save your majesty!

JACK CADE. I thank you, good people:- there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

DICK. The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

What then if there was no lawyer where you were going?  No laws, no courts, no recourse. What if Jack Cade and his pal Dick were successful? Is there such a thing as space law?  I know what you’re thinking . . . blockchain, right?  This is what Joe Lubin, the head of Consensys, had to say just a few days ago, upon announcing his company’s acquisition of Planetary Resources:

I admire Planetary Resources for its world class talent, its record of innovation, and for inspiring people across our planet in support of its bold vision for the future. Bringing deep space capabilities into the ConsenSys ecosystem reflects our belief in the potential for Ethereum to help humanity craft new societal rule systems through automated trust and guaranteed execution. And it reflects our belief in democratizing and decentralizing space endeavors to unite our species and unlock untapped human potential. We look forward to sharing our plans and how to join us on this journey in the months ahead.

I’m going to be blunt here: Why is this happening? Does anyone understand this? There may be a very plausible reason for Consensys to buy Planetary Resources.  It could be an acquihire. They could have some valuable IP with applications in existing projects.

I suppose it’s hard to foreclose in space and maybe blockchain can help. Puzzles like these are interesting, and ask fundamental questions about the law and how it will be applied to historically unprecedented systems, like distributed ledgers. But really this feels like it might just be space + blockchain and that is bad.  Time will tell, but I’m thinking it will be a lot of time and that is part of the problem. ConsenSys is well-resourced to be sure but it will be awhile before pick hits asteroid.

Of one thing I’m sure: you cannot hear a lawyer plead in space.

Cook/Apple Goes All-In on Privacy

As has been mentioned, Apple is very clearly staking a claim to privacy as a product.  The most recent confirmation came in Tim Cook’s speech at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, in which he attacked the “data industrial complex.”  Apple’s products are beginning to feature privacy tech, like the new T2 Chip.

Rocketman Moves the Market

Chairman Kim remains a huge Monero fan.  By continually sapping processing power through hacks colloquially referred to as “crypto-jacking,” the Hermit Kingdom continues to enrich itself at the electrical expense of the South Koreans.  The currency of choice is Monero, which is an obvious selection given its nearly bulletproof privacy features.

Monero is up about 20% against Bitcoin year-over-year .  Litecoin is up 10%, Ethereum is down 20% , and Zcash is down 40%.  Against the dollar, every coin has looked ugly over the last year, but as you can see, Monero has decreased at a slower rate and retained more of its 2017 upswing.  Take from this what you will.

ICOs Outperform S&P 500, Forbes Asks Where the Money Is

From a Forbes article on the 10 largest ICOs from 2017, comes this quote:

A $100,000 investment would now be worth $160,936, compared with $113,722 for the S&P 500. But six of the 10 have negative returns since their ICO, and one has mysteriously vanished. If you had simply sunk your $100,000 into bitcoin, you’d have $264,417.

The article has a “where are they now” vibe, like they are talking about a dominant football player who had an injury and just disappeared from the league.  The article’s tone, if not the content, implies that an inspired comeback is improbable. It notes with a mocking awe that: “Oddly, three of the 10 ICO projects have more in cash and crypto on hand than their total market capitalization. To stock investors, this scenario would normally indicate deep value, ripe for the plucking. However, in the bizarre world of cryptocurrencies, where ICOs and crypto projects are often run in an absence of legal contracts, it’s unclear whether token holders have any claim on a startup’s cash.”

Ultimately, it is pretty negative piece considering that the top ten have extravagantly outperformed the S&P 500.  A lot of ICOs were/are scams, no doubt, but this is hardly the colossus of fraud it is made out to be.

Bitcoin is 10 Years Old

Finally, October 31 was the 10th anniversary of Nakamoto’s whitepaper; the birth of Bitcoin and the distributed ledger as we now know it.  As Ross Ulbricht wrote from prison, Bitcoin is very much a pre-adolescent. We have yet to see what it will become when it grows up. Like any anxious observer, I hope it does something responsible, like a profession or business school.  At least it finally stopped hanging out with Roger Ver.  That guy was a bad influence.

As always, thank you for reading.

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