S6 E4: Justin Wales on Bitcoin Law, Free Speech, Regulation & Taxes

Justin Wales is best known in the Bitcoin space for co-authoring a research paper in which he described the Bitcoin network as a free speech medium that should be protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

The article is titled “Bitcoin Is Speech: Notes Towards Developing Conceptual Contours of Its Protection Under the First Amendment“, and all throughout it Wales and his Carlton Fields partner Richard J. Ovelmen talk about various instances in which Bitcoin has enabled political and social messages to propagate across the network. This way, some people have been able to express themselves through an immutable network and have their opinions stored forever on every node.

Back in early December 2019, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Wales for the first time. At the time, I was working at Bitcoin Magazine and was mostly interested in finding out a brief explanation of his research. What I found was much more fascinating, and it was refreshing to see a young lawyer who doesn’t look or talk like he constantly needs to remind people about his status.

Since we first spoke, Justin has also become active on Twitter and started posting on very relevant and generally elusive topics such as Bitcoin taxation, regulation, and other lawyerly subjects that OG cypherpunks would probably find boring.

I was thrilled to get Justin Wales one more time, since he has been a Bitcoin attorney for quite a few years and has acquired enough knowledge on recurrent legislative issues. Given his advocacy for free speech and his belief in the core values of the Bitcoin network, I was convinced that we’d have a delightful conversation.

The result is astounding: a 99-minute conversation which sticks to facts and doesn’t avoid nuance. Justin is candid, very open about his views on Bitcoin, and very optimistic about the ongoing events. I’m sure you’ll find lots of memorable quotes in this one.

Listen to Justin Wales on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

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Time stamps:

6:05 – Bitcoin is much more than money

8:50 – Bitcoin in academia

15:30 – Why Justin Wales and his Carlton Fields partner Richard J. Ovelmen have published their research at the University of Miami

17:00 – Summary of Justin Wales’ research paper

18:30 – Bitcoin is not money, it does money

20:00 – Bitcoin is more like data than a dollar substitute

27:13 – The IRS and Bitcoin taxation

29:45 – Tax implications of holding Bitcoin in the USA

37:00 – Traditional financial products on Bitcoin

44:00 – Bitcoin and custodians

48:25 – Why Ethereum got a free pass from the SEC

52:25 – How Justin Wales first got into Bitcoin

55:30 – Creating a Bitcoin practice group in Carlton Fields

58:25 – Practicing Bitcoin law as a fresh graduate

1:07:15 – Bitcoin adoption across various demographics

1:13:15 – Manipulating the Bitcoin price via ETFs

1:15:30 – Nathaniel Popper’s book

1:18:40 – Why 2009 was so disastrous, but seems unlikely to happen again

1:24:02 – Potential threats to Bitcoin

1:27:40 – Bitcoin and the US elections

1:30:15 – Bitcoin’s success is going to be based on world governments continuing to print money out of thin air

1:36:40 – How to follow and contact Justin Wales

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Vlad Costea

I'm here for the freedom, censorship-resistance, and unconfiscatability. What about you?

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