Brian Patrick Eha’s definitive history, How Money Got Free: Bitcoin and the Fight for the Future of Finance (Oneworld, 2017), goes a long way in answering questions on what Bitcoin is, explaining its origins and detailing how this all happened.
Bitcoin is a Drama Unfolding in Our Time
Podcast host Joey Clark of the Joey Clark Radio Hour, in an archived version of his terrestrial broadcast from an FM, Montgomery, Alabama station, during an interview presented Brian Patrick Eha’s (rhymes with yee-haw) prose as cinematic. Movie-like.
My second full reading confirms as much.
The go-to early history of Bitcoin often cites Digital Gold, Nathaniel Popper’s bestseller from last year, now in paper. This is no doubt due to Mr. Popper’s New York Times platform as much as anything else.
And while Mr. Popper’s account is fun and entertaining, he presents Bitcoin and its nascent community as curiosities, and readers are often outside looking-in. There’s a place for that — everyone knows characters within the ecosystem. Bitcoin, even now hovering at its 6K price, is an eccentric idea.
Mr. Eha, on the other hand, doesn’t wallow in the weird. He catalogues strange, for sure, and notes the goofs and creeps, but quickly moves his arc to meat, substance. There is real there-there in Bitcoin as a network and concept, bitcoin as a currency.
Nearly a half dozen names familiar to readers round out Mr. Eha’s 450+ page page-turner (thankfully with copious notes and an index): Gavin Andersen, Hal Finney, Roger Ver, Charlie Shrem, Erik Voorhees, Ira Miller, Nic Cary, Barry Silbert, Amir Taaki, Ross Ulbricht, Cody Wilson.
Four Who Moved the Financial World
To settle-in after some technical discussion, Mr. Eha plucks four Bitcoin players from the above. It’s a nice number, and he’s able to give Barry Silbert, Nic Cary, Roger Ver, and Charlie Shrem the space each deserves. All of them born in the US, white, male, and under 40 years of age. Though that’s not ever really a point of the book, and just something I recently noticed myself, means readers get a peek into a seemingly homogeneous world surprisingly varied and diverse.
Backgrounds of Christian fundamentalism, best and brightest type environments, to wanderers, bleeding hearts, and a raised-observant Jew struggling to break from parental control, help readers not Bitcoin-centric get a feeling for what types of personalities are drawn to these ideas.
We follow the men through their first-mover positions in the space, travel along as bitcoin hits some growing pains, and each of their lives appears to dip and rise like the price itself, only to, of course, rise again.
Mr. Silbert remains a force to mainstream, Wall Street bitcoin. Mr. Carey plugs away at his philanthropy. Mr. Ver is as obstinate and visionary as ever. Mr. Shrem, well, his story might be the most compelling on a human level.
Without giving too much away, Charlie Shrem is our canary in a real-world mineshaft, a one man warning wrapped in a morality play. He’s still not even 30 years old as of this writing, and so there is going to be much added to his saga. But those heady years make for great reading either as an initiation or remembrance.
Lastly, patronize Oneworld Publishing, won’t you? Show the independent London house its gamble to respect our community pays. My feeling is an across-the-pond broker, where long expository writing is valued, is really the only publisher around who would allow so much fine-tuned detail as How Money Got Free demands.
If we want more, we’re going to have to support such risks.
What recent books on bitcoin do you recommend? Tell us in the comments below!
Images courtesy of: WallpapersHD, Bitinstant, Oneworld.