J. Tony Serra is an attorney with a soft spot for the anti-establishment
types. If you’re a Native American who shot a cop, a Symbionese Liberation
Army trooper wanted for planting bombs under police cars and shooting up a
bank, a Black Panther on trial for murder or just a dope smoker — Serra wants
to be on your side.
He also brags: “I haven’t paid taxes for 40 years — my whole career!” Three
times — in ,
, and earlier — he’s been convicted for resisting taxes. “I stopped paying
taxes during the Vietnam War,” Serra says, “I didn’t want my money paying for
You won’t find much mention of him in war tax resistance circles, in
spite of his stand and his radical cred — I’m not sure why. He’s nowhere to be
found on the list of
Convicted War Tax Resisters at Ed Hedemann & Ruth Benn’s site, for
instance, although he is one of the few war tax resisters to have done time
for his action.
I’ve blogged before about “alternative
currencies” — things like
Calgary Dollars or
Ithaca Hours. I pretty
much let it drop after a little investigation because it seemed to me that
there wasn’t much of a tax resistance angle to be had.
I may be wrong, though, or it may be that I’ve overlooked some of the other
advantages of alternative currencies — for instance, that local currencies
encourage people to rely on their neighbors for products and services and help
frugality and reuse by greasing the wheels of the barter economy.
But something new caught my eye:
The Ripple Project bills itself
as a “decentralized peer-to-peer currency and payment system.” Each person in
this peer-to-peer network…
…indicates which other participants he or she trusts, by offering to accept
their IOUs up to a certain amount, like
a line of credit. To make a payment to someone who trusts you, you simply
adjust your IOU balance with them to
indicate that that you owe them the amount of the payment.
To pay someone who doesn’t trust you, the Ripple system finds a chain of
credit connections between you and the payment recipient. Then you pay the
first person in the chain, who pays the second person, and so on until the
recipient gets paid.
This is exactly what happens when someone writes a normal cheque. Their bank
deducts from his account (which is his
IOU balance with the bank), and pays the
central bank, who credits the recipient’s bank, who further credits the
recipient’s account. In other words, the payer gives some of his bank’s
IOUs back to his bank, his bank gives
some of the central bank’s IOUs
(national currency) back to the central bank, who passes them along to the
recipient’s bank, who issues its own
IOUs (bank account digits) to the
Note that all three intermediaries are banks. Ripple lets everyone act like
This is the sort of application that gives cyberpunks the wide-eyed jizzies.
I’m going to keep this one in my bookmarks and on my radar screen.