Though there are many enthusiasts cheering the rise of the virtual currency, bitcoin, experts already declared similar products foolish as early as 1776, according to Paul Krugman.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist wrote in a blog post Friday that famed economist Adam Smith would have “scorned” bitcoins because “mining” them requires expending real resources. Smith criticized the use of gold and silver currency in the 18th century, arguing that valuable resources were being expended to create something that was simply symbolic. Krugman writes that the same can be said of bitcoins.
“Now here we are in a world of high information technology -- and people think it’s smart, nay cutting-edge, to create a sort of virtual currency whose creation requires wasting real resources in a way Adam Smith considered foolish and outmoded in 1776,” he wrote in the Friday post.
Bitcoins are a form of internet currency accepted by some websites to purchase actual goods. The internet money isn't backed by any national government, though. The coins popularity have grown in recent weeks and the total value of outstanding bitcoins surpassed $1 billion earlier this month. Users can buy the coins or “mine” them by running high-level computer programs that take up a lot of memory space and have a slim chance of producing any actual coins.
Despite skepticism from Krugman and others, the currency is gaining traction among investors and internet geeks. The Winklevoss twins, best known for their legal battle with Mark Zuckerberg over Facebook, claimed last week to own about 1 percent of all the bitcoins in existence -- a sum reportedly worth about $11 million. In addition, a family in Texas claimed they sold a Porsche for 300 bitcoins earlier this month.
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Krugman has <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/opinion/krugman-the-comeback-skid.html?_r=1" target="_hplink">slammed Christie</a> for touting a New Jersey comeback, even when the state still faces a 9.8 percent unemployment rate. He's also criticized the governor for his decision to raise taxes on low-income New Jersey residents, while vetoing a temporary tax boost for millionaires.
Krugman hasn't been shy about criticizing Ron Paul's economic theories, particularly his dislike of the Federal Reserve. Krugman said of Paul's interest in keeping the government out of monetary policy during a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/paul-krugman-ron-paul_n_1465870.html" target="_hplink">debate on Bloomberg TV</a>: "If you think that you can avoid that you're living in the world that was 150 years ago." Krugman's also called <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/paul-krugman-gold-standard_n_1832767.html" target="_hplink">returning to the Gold Standard</a> -- a view Paul's touted for years -- "an almost comically (and cosmically) bad idea."
After presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan would be his running mate, Krugman wasted little time deriding the Wisconsin Republican's views on the economy and budget. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/opinion/krugman-galt-gold-and-god.html?_r=1&hp" target="_hplink">Krugman wrote of Ryan</a> that he "evidently gets his ideas largely from deeply unrealistic fantasy novels."
After Harvard professor Niall Ferguson (left) penned a <em>Newsweek</em> cover story arguing President Obama doesn't deserve a second term, Krugman demanded that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/paul-krugman-niall-ferguson-newsweek_n_1810136.html" target="_hplink">the magazine issue a correction</a>, starting a bit of a spat with the <em>Newsweek</em> columnist and historian. Krugman said of the cover story on his blog: "There are multiple errors and misrepresentations in Niall Ferguson's cover story in Newsweek -- I guess they don't do fact-checking." <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/a-full-fact-check-of-niall-fergusons-very-bad-argument-against-obama/261306/" target="_hplink">The Atlantic's Matthew O'Brien did a full fact-check of Ferguson's piece</a>, which <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/08/21/niall-ferguson-defends-newsweek-cover-correct-this-bloggers.html" target="_hplink">Ferguson defended himself against</a>.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Krugman argued that perhaps Estonia <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/06/estonia-krugman-toomas-hendrik-ilves_n_1575937.html" target="_hplink">shouldn't be held up as a model</a> for successful austerity measures in a 67-word blog post in June. The country's president Toomas Hendrik Ilves took to Twitter to slam Krugman, calling him "smug, overbearing & patronizing."
Andrew Ross Sorkin, "Squawk Box"
Krugman appeared on "Squawk Box" in July to discuss his book, but was upset to find out that they "never actually got there." Instead, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/paul-krugman-cnbc_n_1664771.html" target="_hplink">Krugman wrote on his blog</a> that the appearance consisted of "one zombie idea after another -- Europe is collapsing because of big government, health care is terribly rationed in France, we can save lots of money by denying Medicare to billionaires, on and on," adding that people counting on the shows for sound information are getting "terrible advice."
Krugman hasn't been shy about criticizing Mitt Romney's plans for America's budget and economy, and he's taken the former CEO of Bain Capital to task for <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/06/opinion/off-and-out-with-mitt-romney.html" target="_hplink">touting his business career</a>. In a column titled "Off and Out with Mitt Romney," Krugman wrote, "the truth is that even if Mr. Romney had been a classic captain of industry, a present-day Andrew Carnegie, his career wouldn't have prepared him to manage the economy."
Krugman has argued that the rich embrace Republican economic policies both because they want more money and simply because they're more inclined to buy into theories that justify their wealth. In a May <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/paul-krugman-rich-people-want-to-buy-praise-as-the-salvation-of-the-rest-of-us_n_1499679.html" target="_hplink">interview with Reuters</a>, Krugman said that rich people "want the world to praise them for their wealth, so they want economic theories that praise rich people as the salvation of the rest of us."
Krugman has been critical both of Wall Street's current practices and of the industry's ability to escape punishment for its role in the financial crisis. In a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/17/paul-krugman-playboy-interview_n_1284417.html" target="_hplink">February interview with Playboy</a>, Krugman said "It's hard for me to believe there were no crimes. Given the scale of [the financial crisis], given how many corners were being cut, some people must have violated laws. I think people should be in jail."