Economic Cycles

Giovanni Birindelli (guest lecturer), June 2020

Economic Cycles. The perspective of the Austrian School of Economics

University of Milan, Course in Economic Geography (Prof. Alessandro Vitale)

LLM in Sustainable Development, Faculty of Law

Book review: Edward Snowden’s “Permanent record”


(Italian version here)

While reading Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record, I was astonished by the qualities of the author. Notwithstanding his understatement, these qualities clearly emerged from the details of his story: his courage, above all. His intelligence. His computing abilities, which to me seem almost supernatural. His rectitude. His profound kindness that is revealed in every line of his book. His great humaneness.

While each one of these qualities in itself would have already been extraordinary because of its intensity, the contemporary presence of all of them in the same person at the same time made me rethink the limits of what I once considered to be humanly possible.

In this article I will not discuss these qualities. I think that the best way to appreciate them is to buy the book and read it.

I’m so much humbled by them and by Snowden’s purely heroic gesture that I’m instinctively inclined to censor my own criticism of some aspects of his thought that I believe are logically inconsistent. In fact, in relation to the choices, the capabilities, the actions and the qualities of a hero of this magnitude, these inconsistencies have such little importance that they appear to be almost negligible. However, they are about the very ideas on which his gesture was based: namely, the very concept of privacy and the difference between what is legal and what is right. Therefore, perhaps a discussion of these inconsistencies may be not entirely useless. In addition, I do not believe that self-censorship would be the best way to homage the person who, at the beginning all alone, has defied the most powerful nation in the world (and its allies) to denounce its mass surveillance programs and start a debate on these issues.

Criticizing from the comfort of one’s desk, on a theoretical level, the ideas of someone who risked his own life to defend them (and who’s living in exile for having defended them), is not usually an aesthetically beautiful thing to do, I believe. However, in this particular case, I consider this criticism a tribute to the man who has risked his own life to start a much-needed debate on privacy and on the difference between what is legal and what is right. This criticism is for me a way to acknowledge the debt that I, together with my family, have with Edward Snowden and that I know I will hardly ever manage to pay back.

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The intellectuals and the left

GIOVANNI BIRINDELLI, 15.10.2019 (updated 18.10.2019)

Giovanni I have a question for you, as you’ve studied politics much more than me. I wonder why most intellectuals worldwide (in any case an overwhelming majority of them) lean towards the left, or identify themselves with the political left. I know that, as a libertarian, you oppose both right and left, since you oppose the state itself, but I’m asking about the reason(s) for intellectuals’ predilection for the left (J.)

I have never studied politics but the science of liberty and economic science. Also, it is not entirely correct to say that I oppose both right and left. Those of the right oppose those of the left, and vice-versa. Having a scientific approach, I don’t “oppose” them. At least not in the way they oppose each other. I observe that they are both different expressions of the same religious, anti-scientific and anti-social phenomenon (which has different names: collectivism, positivism, statism, totalitarianism, etc.). A phenomenon which is expression of mental illness (namely, the Stockholm syndrome among others) and which, especially when it is imposed on a systemic scale, destroys liberty and the process that, because it is the only one that can make use of peripheral knowledge which is available only to the acting individuals and cannot be available to any “directing mind”, is the only one capable of creating sustainable prosperity: the free market process. Continue reading

Decline, political stability and bitcoin


(Traduzione italiana qui: link)

In a recent article on The Wall Street Journal, Gerard Baker gives an effective (though a bit banal) picture of the decline of Italian society and economy, which is seen as the tip of the sword of the decline of Western civilization. This decline is depicted in stark contrast with the beauty that can still be found in that country (and specifically in Tuscany, where I live and where the author went on holiday and was inspired to write his article).

If we see the decline (Italian and, more in general, of the Western civilization) as a mountain of rubbish that the statist system (and especially the democratic one) necessarily makes ever bigger in the long run, then we can see bitcoin, at least in part, as a technology that allows to produce (totally clean) energy from this rubbish. In other words, the same decline (the same growing mountain of rubbish) can have different implications (and therefore be a resource or its opposite) according to whether such technology has been invented or not. Baker’s article, however, while discussing decline does not take into consideration this aspect of the problem. And in my opinion it doesn’t do it because it does not take into consideration the scientifically relevant causes of the decline, namely:

  1. the distortion of the abstract idea of law: from non-arbitrary limit to anyone’s coercive power, to instrument of arbitrary coercive power by some over others;
  2. the distortion of the concept of money: from an asset which has been spontaneously selected by the free market process because (among other things) it is scarce, to pieces of paper (or their digital equivalents) which have been coercively imposed by a particular criminal organization because they are infinitely abundant;
  3. and other distorsions (regarding the concept of equality before the law; the concept of economic value; etc.).

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The author of The Bitcoin Standard has not understood the principle of decreasing marginal utility


Wow, what a mistake! It came completely out of the blue in an otherwise truly wonderful book!

In The Bitcoin Standard, the author Saifedean Ammous writes:

The marginal utility of money does in fact decline, as evidenced by the fact that an extra dollar of income means a lot more to a person whose daily income is $1 than one whose daily income is $1.000.

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Protectionism (2019)

Slides of the lectures on the subject of protectionism given at the Course in Economic Geography (Prof. A. Vitale) LLM in Sustainable Development, Faculty of Law, University of Milan.

To download the .pdf file click on image

Main changes from previous version (2018) include:

  • added section on the structure of thought (section: Introduction)
  • added section with data on new protectionist measures by US (global), between US and China, and between the US and the EU (section: 4.b)
  • added section on ‘free trade’ areas (section 4.h)
  • general revision and update

Hoppe’s anti-scientifc drift


This article is a comment to the 2017 speech by H. H. Hoppe titled Libertarianism and the Alt-Right. In Search of a Libertarian Strategy for Social Change.

This speech is, in my opinion, a drift in the direction opposite to science. More precisely, it is the expression of a thought which, though starting from consistent scientific premises, in moving from theory to practice (or strategy) becomes inconsistent with these premises. This inconsistency is not about some accessory detail: it is about the very foundations of the science of liberty and of economic science.

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Slides of the lectures held at the Course in Economic Geography (Prof. A. Vitale) – LLM in Sustainable Development, Faculty of Law – University of Milan 


  • .pdf version:


Cómo convertir archivos PDF en DOC, XLS, TXT con PDF Converter


  • online version:


Understanding bitcoin di Robert Murphy e Silas Barta


“Understanding Bitcoin, a Liberty Lover’s Guide to the Mechanics and Economics of Crypto-Currencies”: un bellissimo, piccolo libro in .pdf di Bob Murphy (economista della Scuola Austriaca) e Silas Barta (sviluppatore software) per chi vuole capire bitcoin partendo da zero con l’obiettivo di arrivare a un buon livello.

Copre sia la parte tecnica (dapprincipio ricorrendo a metafore per semplificare) che quella economica (da una prospettiva austriaca, naturalmente). Sfiora appena quella filosofica.

Il libro è online, gratuito e costantemente aggiornato. È possibile fare donazioni agli autori.

Lightning Network

Questo articolo (link) spiega in modo molto semplice e chiaro, anche con l’aiuto di disegni, cosa è Lightning Network (LN) e come funziona. In breve, LN è una proposta per aumentare la scalabilità di bitcoin. In particolare, per alleggerire il carico di transazioni sulla blockchain di bitcoin allo scopo di :

  1. rendere le transazioni più veloci, e
  2. ridurre la fee delle transazioni

il tutto senza aumentare la dimensione del blocco (come voleva fare la proposta di fork Segwit2x, poi ritirata). L’aumento della dimensione del blocco infatti avrebbe effetti negativi sulla capacità di bitcoin di essere decentrato e resistente alla censura.

Poiché le transazioni non sono registrate sulla blockchain, l’uso di LN può aumentare la privacy di bitcoin (se entrambe le parti agiscono in modo cooperativo a questo fine).

Un altro aspetto importante di LN, come descritto in quest’altro articolo (link), è che consentirà lo scambio fra diverse crittomonete (p. es. fra bitcoin e litecoin) in modo trustless (cioè: senza bisogno di terze parti di cui fidarsi), più economico e più veloce. Per adesso lo scambio fra diverse crittovalute su LN è stato testato con successo, in fase sperimentale, fra bitcoin e litecoin.