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Minecraft Economics: How the Nether Update uses the Subjective Theory of Value

What is an emerald worth in Minecraft?

An emerald is the currency used in the popular game Minecraft for trading with NPCs called villagers and wandering traders. Emerald ore is an extremely rare resource in the sandbox world, yet every employed villager has quite a few to trade with the player. However, players have wondered how the emerald compares with real world currency. One YouTube Video by GameTheory tried to find this answer. First, they tried to convert it by comparing the USD cost of bread with the cost of bread in the game, but found that conversion does not translate to other goods. Next they used the labor theory of value to try to determine the USD to emerald conversion, but again came up with a nonsensical conversion. Finally, they tried to assume emeralds have an inherent value in real life and work backwards to determine the in-game USD cost. After using all of these methods, they come to the accurate conclusion that it's not really possible to convert emeralds i…

The Power of the Good Neighbor

Spring evening somewhere in Oslo, birdsong and
children playing as the only background music.

The individualistic thought world; breaking down groups and geographical areas into smaller and smaller components until you hit the fundamental building block of society - The single person - and from there, zoom out and see families, neighborhoods, parts of the city, larger metropolitan areas, the nation and beyond. 

In theory, when you take the individualistic view its easier to hone in on the elements you want to surround yourself with and expose your family to. Connect with like-minded people and create a positive atmosphere for growth and prosperity, whatever your values might be. The advantages to surround yourself with like-minded individuals is especially important for any aspiring Gray-marketeers (Agorists) that seeks to dodge any government rules and regulations.

But, when we look on a modern city-state of today you would have to get over many hurdles to design a "perfect" neighborhood consisting of people with an as-close-as-possible view of culturally accepted behavior in the general area of what we can call home. Not impossible, but more often than not you are playing a game on Hard-mode and have to accept some forms of compromises.

With ever decreasing property rights in favor of public/government control elements added to the mix, the top-down control on communities, families and lastly the individual settlement gets more and more restrictive and oppressive. [1]

As the saying goes, "one bad apple spoils the bunch", or in other terms, one bad neighbor can really split the community. If you can't control how to handle this bad apple, if any negotiation doesn't leave you the option to make it costly to do bad stuff next door in some form, you risk having it spread and set a new tone contrary to the ideals of you and your neighbors.

"and while the principle [of live and let live] does indeed hold and apply for people living far apart and dealing with each other only indirectly and from afar, it does not hold and apply, or rather it is insufficient, when it comes to people living in close proximity to each other, as neighbors and cohabitants of the same community." - Hans-Herman Hoppe

Much can be said on the topic of the 'Bad Neighbor Problem', indeed, but the topic of the Good Neighbor is much more interesting to me at this time and particularly how powerful it is to both be and have Good Neighbors.

Cheaper security transactions (and predictability of behavior as an added bonus to that) is a fundamental advantage of surrounding yourself with like-minded people. If close proximity isn't possible, the second best thing is having a well-made network of people. If you are, for example, a gray-marketeer that rather barter with your peers for goods and services and opt to cut out the unnecessary middleman that is government bureaucracy and taxation you always run a risk of getting exposed to agents of the state. If you have Good Neighbors that are on the same page in regards to your principles the risk of getting caught for something the state considers a crime is at a minimum.

"Try to influence your friends to speak appropriately by your example. If you find yourself in unfamiliar company, however, keep quiet." - Epictetus, advicing 21st century Gray Marketeers

When someone says "security", it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking about arming yourself and having a bulletproof vest on a coat hanger, but security, at its core, is much more in the lines of trust - If you can trust your Good Neighbor (or your network), the need for swords and shield are much lower. Your inner circle should form a wall of trust [2] and allow everyone associated to fly under the radar, together. Sooner or later, security measures have to be invested in somehow, either in the form of firewalls for your computer, arms for your hands or camouflaging your business against any snooping eyes, but the first and reasonable step is to build that wall of trust with your fellows. [3]

Pooling of resources with others is a great way to accelerate prosperity. With a, sort-of, shared economy mindset of tools and knowledge you can overcome temporary hurdles - I could invest some money in specialized tools, or borrow my Good Neighbor's and allowing me to add to the pool of resources by buying equipment we lack between us instead. Makes more sense right?

One of the largest obstacles I've encountered (that I've 'solved', using the word very loosely here) is space - Since I live in a concrete box four stories above ground, with a cramped balcony and not much space in general for what I want to grow one of my limiters is space, and it will stay that way for quite some time. Tall plants or wheat is absolutely out of the question. What I've done to resolve this issue?

I've started recruiting "Growing buddies", friends and co-workers that like to grow a little bit of stuff in their spare time, but they plant a maximum of 1-2 of each crop that I want? I just offer them some of my harvest for them to double their amount of plants. Totally doable for both parts: Basil and mint requires very little in term of space they need to grow and if I can trade some of that for something that takes up twice the space, I've won some inches. For them, watering and caring for 4 plants isn't that much more work than taking care of 2. They don't really know they are participating in the gray market and help me out with ingredients for wine or beer production in a closet.

Those few who do know what I'm doing with the raw materials gladly share some of their with me, witch means a bottle for them and 2 bottles of some good brew for me. If you get to know someone with more fruit (apples, strawberries and the like)  or honey than they can possibly use, you are in a great spot to turn some of it to beverages and share some with them as payment. See how you don't actually need space for an apple tree in your living room anymore? [4] Division of labor hard at work!

You can imagine how great pooling your resources can be if you do it with one of your Good Neighbors, especially if they have some talents that overlap yours - One of my "growing buddies" is great at sales and have a huge web of people that like organic products and for a fee she is more than willing to share her friends with me.

"A Good Neighbor is a very desirable thing" - Thomas Jefferson

- Alex Utopium, editor at You can feed him some bitcoin, if you'd like.

[1] A good article on this subject is Adam B. Summers "Your Home is Your Cottage" that does a great work explaining the specifics of the problem, from a more Rothbardian perspective.

[2] Sal wrote an excellent article on gated communities with plenty of food for thought on the physical aspect of shielding yourself from thieves and intruders of all stripes (statist or civilian).

[3] I'm still building my network, slowly, any gray marketers in Scandinavia that want to connect? My Twitter DM's are always open, or if you prefer email: utopiumstimulant @

[4] Jack Spirko is a true wizard when it comes to stuff like this, I highly recommend listening to Pete Raymond's podcast episode with him on Gray Market Anarchism, it is a real treat if you like these kinds of ideas!


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