People of Bitcoin: The Interview Maestro

We paused our popular series of crytpo interviews for a while, but now seems like a fantastic time to revisit the crypto ecosystem. 

Stephan Livera

We’re checking in with one man on a mission to educate the masses via his popular eponymous pod, Stephan Livera Podcast. Livera’s recent guests include Ron Paul, Jack Dorsey, and Andreas Antonopoulos just to name a few. Basically, he’s interviewed a veritable feast of tech and crypto giants on his show which you should definitely check out right now. We were lucky to get him to share some of what drives him, along with his own feelings on the state of crypto today. 

Hi Stephan! Thank you so much for allowing us to reverse roles and interview you. Now you’re in our hotseat!

I guess to start off, we’d like to know what led you to podcasting? Was crypto the gateway or were you working in the space before?

It’s a common story in the open source world that people ‘scratch their own itch’, so similarly in this case, I was frustrated with the quality of most podcasts in the ‘Crypto’ world at the time. Especially during the 2017 run, there was constant shitcoin shilling and ‘blockchain technology use cases’ going on. It was that, or it was corporate media with their high noise and low effort takes on Bitcoin economics and mah environment or mah Tether or mah “its a Ponzi-scam-bubble”. Their efforts were seemingly to amplify all the ‘crazy’ and ‘freak’ people from ‘Crypto’, rather than presenting Bitcoin for what it is.

I got into Bitcoin because I saw huge potential for giving people an alternative to store their value, and someday, a replacement for fiat money. I was frustrated that so many people were just using it as an opportunity to enrich themselves with shitcoin shilling and the like, when there is a real question of monetary justice here. So I started my own podcast to try and provide better, honest information in a way that was highly curated, to guide newbies away from the shilling and the nonsense.

You’ve interviewed some fascinating people. Who are some of the most interesting people you’ve interviewed in your podcast? What stood out to you about them?

It’s very hard for me to choose here! They all have their own interesting stories, whether they are billionaire CEOs, protocol developers, hardware makers, privacy activists, economists, writers and others.

Perhaps the stand outs are the pseudonymous accounts/people I’ve interviewed because they are the most mysterious! People like bitcoin privacy activists like 6102 bitcoin (graciously ‘voiced’ by my friend Matt Odell), or quants like PlanB.

You talk about Bitcoin and Austrian Economics on the Stephan Livera podcast. Can you tell us a little bit more about this? What is the Venn diagram on your listeners? Is there a lot of crossover in their interests here?

I consider myself a student of Austrian economics and it informs how I think and conduct interviews on the show. I approach the world from an austro-libertarian perspective and this bleeds through into the perspective that my listeners get. I think if you want to understand how money can work with a fixed supply, it’s essentially only the Austrian school that can really explain that. The Austrians also have a better answer on how money arises spontaneously and is a bottom up creation of the market, rather than originating in a top down fashion from kings or governments. I think also the Austrian school insight is that it was central banks, fiat money, and fractional reserve banking that have created the mess we’re in right now. If we were to return to sound money, chosen by the market – we’d get much better outcomes overall.

In terms of my listeners I’d estimate a good portion of them came to Bitcoin and then learned more about Austrian economics from listening to my show, or reading Saifedean Ammous and Vijay Boyapati. Some of them were already into Austrian economics, but I’d say this is the minority. I get some crossover from the libertarian world also. I’ve interviewed many people from or associated with the Mises Institute, such as Jeff Deist, Guido Hulsmann, Joseph Salerno, Per Bylund and others.

We have been taking BTC at CheapAir.com for flights and many hotels since 2013. Do you ever book travel with BTC or are you booking travel more traditionally? We used to be the only online travel company in the U.S. who took BTC for flights and hotels, but (at least last year) that was changing. Being based in Sydney, do you have options to book travel with BTC?

I salute you guys for being a pioneer in accepting Bitcoin! However for me I still get fiat income from some sponsors, so I generally pay with fiat preferentially. It would be a different story if all my income was in Bitcoin. Perhaps in future.

A lot of folks’ intro to crypto back in the day was bitcoin but that seems to be changing. Can you share a little bit about when the first time you heard about BTC was and what brought you into this world?

Like most, I disregarded Bitcoin the first time I heard about it, probably a slashdot article (I can’t remember if it was 2011 or 2012). But then my orange pill moment came when I stumbled across an Erik Voorhees Bitcoin article in December 2012. From then on, my life was changed and I couldn’t stop thinking about the potential of Bitcoin. Up until then, nobody had explained what Bitcoin could achieve, and I had first thought of it more like relatively meaningless virtual game currency. But after looking into it more deeply, I saw that this is an incredible tool for tipping the scales of power back in favour of individuals, families, communities, vs bureaucrats and governments of the world. It may take some time yet for its full impact to be apparent, but Bitcoin will change the relationship between individuals and governments. We’re moving into a future more aligned with some of the ideas from ‘The Sovereign Individual’.

Even though this next question is a bit “done to death” it’s obviously still relevant. The volatility of BTC valuation is always a discussion. What do you tell skeptics about these market fluctuations?

Ultimately we’re going to have volatility for a while to come. Thankfully, most of it will be in the upwards direction! I also don’t believe this is The Final Cycle, so I anticipate a big run up and then a big drawdown like we saw in the 2013 and 2017/18 cycles.

But I’d also say you have to look at the stats, and see that anyone who bought and held for at least 4 years did significantly well out of it. Last I saw these stats, the minimum you would be up is 5x (i.e. if you timed it the worst time possible), and most of the time you would have been up closer to 20-30x if you held for 4 years.

So in essence, it’s an approach of: size your position accordingly, and enter it with a long time horizon or low time preference. Think minimum 4 years, but more realistically, 10 year holding period.

What’s coming next? Is there anything on the horizon (in your opinion) that is being overlooked by BTC investors?

I think there’s a need for more technology that gives us back liberties that have been taken. So this means we’ll need to continue pushing in the direction of open source hardware and software that doesn’t spy on us, is secure, has good features etc. It might mean more development in the direction of things like 3d printing and drones etc. We’ve gotta build and defend the Bitcoin Citadels from the Keynesian nocoiners somehow!

Perhaps also as Bitcoin Number Go Up, there’ll be more money sloshing around to fund things. This could be development and review of Bitcoin code and related projects, or lobbying the government for a more favourable environment (e.g. less tax and regulations).

How has the pandemic affected the crypto market? Has there been any upside or downside?

The upside has been that Hysteria-19 has forced more people to take Bitcoin seriously. Arguably, it was what kicked off Michael Saylor and MicroStrategy’s efforts with Bitcoin in 2020, which has helped massively in terms of changing the conversation. This has in turn been the domino to kick off other companies such as Tesla, and many other HNWI and family offices, and private companies to use Bitcoin as a treasury reserve.

The downside has been that our rights have been trampled on and destroyed all in the name of public health and medical-police statism. This hinders the ability of Bitcoiners to go around to different countries and seek more freedom for themselves, or conduct their business. It also hinders our ability to network at conferences and meetups.

What do you like to do outside of podcasting? Hobbies/pets/etc.? Tell us a little bit about how you decompress.

I like reading, I work out, and procrastinate by playing some chess also. I usually like to organise social events and travel as well, but obviously in Hysteria-19 times that’s been more difficult/impossible – but will get back to that once I can.

Thanks for your time today, Stephan. We’re off to do a deep dive into Saifedean Ammous! Gotta fill in those blind spots!

Reader, if you know someone we should interview in CheapAir’s “People of Bitcoin” series, please let us know! We’re on the lookout for more fascinating people to feature. 

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