People of Bitcoin: The Free Market Evangelist

This month, we’re getting into it with Michelle Ray, a radio personality and policy wonk who wears many hats in her pursuit of truth and liberty.

Michelle Ray, People of Bitcoin

She’s known as a “free market evangelist” on her show “In Deep with Michelle Ray” on FTR Radio, and she’s also an editor at Independent Journal Review, a self-described “sapiosexual” (look it up! It’s a goodie) and, oh yeah, a mom to 4. When we asked what she did for fun, her answer illustrated her commitment to her various causes, but also her laser-like focus on spending time with family. Let’s spend a little time with this political powerhouse.

Hi Michelle! Thanks for taking the time to chat with CheapAir about your busy life and your relationship to cryptocurrency. Can you share a bit of your personal backstory and how you discovered bitcoin?

I’ve been interested in various aspects of technology and the economy since I was a teen. Keeping an eye on stock markets, Fed policy, and economic indicators was a bit of a hobby, as was tracking and checking out new technology. We had a home computer pretty early on and by the time I found IRC in 1998, I was hooked on lurking in chats between developers (and hackers) about what they were working on or trying out.

My real introduction to bitcoin came in the form of an IM from my father in late Dec of 2011. I had read about proposed “digital currencies” in abstract form before, but hadn’t invested much time in research. The message he sent included a link to Mt Gox and said: “check it out… digital currency.” I bought about $40 after reading for about an hour and navigating the really annoying process of getting bitcoin at that time. Needless to say, that $40 purchase and hour investment of reading time changed everything!

As a radio personality and self-described Libertarian, can you talk a little bit about how the Presidential race is being discussed as it relates to BTC? Do you care to weigh in on which candidate might be considered the Bitcoin candidate? Is there one?

In terms of the election, there has been very little discussion about how bitcoin would be affected, aside from speculation that none of the candidates know anything about it. A universal belief among my BTC-enthusiast friends is that nothing good would come from any of the leading candidates. Anticipation of regulation is always a concern, but I think for the most part, many of us are glad that bitcoin isn’t on anyone’s radar right now. Some of the Libertarian Party candidates would be the most obviously friendly toward bitcoin and the gig economy. I feel comfortable saying that I personally believe Ted Cruz would be more open to leaving the sharing economy mostly to its own devices.

As someone who has an active listenership, you’re uniquely positioned to hear what average people think about politics, the economy and bitcoin. What are people fired up about these days in the Bitcoin space? Are things quiet right now or are people still as enthusiastic as they were 2-3 years ago?

The media was more fired up with all of the scandals (Mt Gox, Silk Road) but mainstream talk of bitcoin has all but died out. The US is so far behind in accepting bitcoin and certainly not as excited or concerned about bitcoin and blockchain tech as many other parts of the world. I think for those people I know who are interested in bitcoin, but not involved in development, it’s a “wait and see” time. They are still experimenting with bitcoin in the same small ways (buying, selling and spending in a few places) but aren’t hearing news of more adoption.

What challenges do you see ahead for Bitcoin specifically or cryptocurrency in general? Do you believe it will become a revolutionary force across the world, or are your ambitions more modest?

There are plenty of challenges ahead. Regulators almost don’t know where to begin and there has always been a concern that regulation would kill adoption. New York license requirements are the most prominent example I can think of. Rather than making bitcoin businesses seem more legitimate, the requirements basically drive businesses out of the area. It’s the most immediate example of regulation killing innovation.

Developers are their own worst enemy when it comes to adoption of bitcoin. They just haven’t figured out yet how to explain to the public just how revolutionary this idea already is. I’m personally hoping that things like Open Bazaar and the Edge Security applications Airbitz has developed help illustrate more wide application of bitcoin technology.

I think bitcoin and blockchain innovation are going to change a lot of things. Remittances in many parts of the world will be revolutionized and large banks, investment firms, and even government are employing teams to figure out if the technology can be made relevant for them.

I do think, though, that the progress will be gradual and in so many different areas that, by the time the technology is a part of many people’s lives, those of us who have been excited about it from the beginning will barely recognize it. It’s fascinating to think that the possibilities for the foundation of a secure and yet open ledger could wind up in any number of industries in a practically limitless number of applications and iterations.

It’s not lost on us that you have used CheapAir to book travel with bitcoin. Thanks for that.

I always check CheapAir first, and I’ve booked at least 75% of my travel and hotel reservations with bitcoin! So far, you are the only bitcoin-accepting travel site I have used, but I’d love to try out others, especially for ride sharing and Airbnb (or something similar).

Aside from Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, what are some of your personal passions? We know you’re a bacon-enthusiast (aren’t we all?) What do you do to unplug, relax, etc.?

Unplug? People do that? I’m kidding… kind of. I am a politics, privacy, and economics junkie and so I spend much of my time reading policy and working with activist groups on issues impacting civil liberties. I casually keep up with interesting new advances in technology ranging from 3d printing, to VR, to IoT … just for fun. I also host Internet radio shows on both politics and technology and work in news as a day job.

I have 4 kids, 3 still at home, and I spend as much time as I can hanging out with them and trying to keep up with all of the things capturing their attention from day to day. A day away from it all, if I am really lucky, involves some great food and some time at the shooting range.

Thanks again for chatting with us. You can find Michelle on Twitter @GaltsGirl or tune in to her show, “In Deep with Michelle Ray” on Thursdays at 9pm EST/6pm PST on FTRRadio.

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