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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…

Incognito Mail Deliveries - Still a Dream

The digital age has brought dissidents closer and the exchange of ideas goes much faster when you can do it with fingers dancing over a keyboard or speak into a microphone, hit send and spread the ideas far and wide. We can build online libraries and give everyone that wishes a library card to get hold of more text, sound or video they could ever hope of consuming. But what about goods and services in the real world? Are we close in matching that feel and abundance of the digital space?

Painting within the State Controlled Border Lines

“The United States Post Office and the United States Postal Service have both failed to commemorate Lysander Spooner, the first man in American history to do something about high postal rates and win.” - Sherman Lee Pompey, ‘Father of the 3-cent Stamp’ (Free PDF)

The internal mail delivery system is far more easy to keep private and anonymous, in most cases, compared to its crossing-borders cousin. There is too much traffic, too many distribution chains and parcels to keep track of inside a country, making it very hard to keep tabs on what goes where and when. Even if there is some form of centralization of the postal sorting going on, it is extremely hard to find out what package contains non-taxed or illegal goods.

Here in Scandinavia, the profit margins don’t exactly allow for sophisticated countermeasures to combat all the packages the state finds unattractive. A few weeks back, the microbrewery I work for encountered a problem with a state-run service that, on the other hand, has an almost limitless budget: The Norwegian Customs department.

We had ordered some specialty yeast for beer brewing from an American company that got “randomly” selected for a more careful study and the toll servicemen successfully ignored all labels and instructions that were on the parcels as a guide on how to handle the content. To nobody's surprise, the yeast exploded in their warehouse.

I can only imagine the shock the poor guy being first into the office in the morning must have felt when he smelled the lovely yeast-fart. Even if that sounds bad, the true loser in this situation is the Norwegian tax-payer, who needs to shell out a cool $10,000 to cover for the losses. How many of these incidents are worth it? Who knows. Endless amounts of money to play around with doesn’t exactly seem to help.

Despite the Mexican Cartels' best efforts, long-distance delivery services by drone networks is still a thing we have to wait for. Removing the privacy and value-destroying choke point of the toll office will be glorious when it happens though. You can roll the dice and hope your delivery won’t get pinched, it would be almost impossible to catch all mail. Even the US toll office is struggling with the task - Despite billions of dollars at their disposal and an army sifting through cardboard every year in search of some loot.

Controlling your Address to Keep tabs on You

January 1st, 2020 saw the Norwegian State remove the tax-free floor for the importation of goods. Now everything going across the border needs to be paid VAT for, even if you already did it at the purchase. The pleasure of getting ripped off twice was thus reintroduced to people that bought small things like books, comics, board games or those poorly made Chinese towel-hangers that never seem to stick to the wall.

The Park Bench Mailbox - How to use Geocaching as a
Gray market delivery system. Read it on Patreon!
Fancy some nice Swiss chocolate in Norway? Enjoy your toll fees, tax on food products and the special sugar tax added on top of the price. The official site for Norwegian customs just so happens to use imported chocolate as an example - And illustrates how something originally costing $9.8 shoots up to $53 when all state-shenanigans are paid for. The absolute lunacy of it all is that the tax additions are much, much worse on other goods. You'd think imported milk is on par with plutonium the way they regulate and tax it.

As I'm enjoying kickstarting board games and selling imported comic books from the United States, I saw first hand how this affected two different communities I have the pleasure of participating in. It was quite interesting to see otherwise law-abiding guys and gals scrambling for solutions to not get taxed through the nose for enjoying their hobbies. They quickly found out something that never occurred to them before: It is close to impossible to separate yourself from any postal address within the borders.

This was no news to me, however. I've seen roughly 6-7 different PO Box services get vaporized off the face of the earth in Sweden in the Swedish states' War on Privacy. It is true that it is very hard for the state to censor or rent-seek on your mail, which makes it very important for the state to counter the one thing that can keep you anonymous once they catch a package that will be their meal ticket for the day - The services that separate them from you.

I've seen some dissidents report that the few places still going is getting staked out by police in civilian clothes and that the services are deemed unsafe for use if you are looking for help with receiving sensitive goods. Limited anonymity (have to present ID when opening a postbox) and not accepting privacy crypto solutions or cash makes it shakey business from the get-go if you are worried about staying safe.

If someone has any good idea on how to set up and run a "Ghost Postoffice" that keeps everyone involved safe from any third party involvement, I'd be thrilled to hear about your ideas! For now, it seems tricky to stay off the radar with this sort of business. The physical address is a great limiter for now. Until we solve that, local production and the delivery solution of the "Park Bench Mailbox" is one way to conduct business until we can truly connect physically, just as we do digitally.

- Alex Utopium

Connect with me on Twitter or Flote.


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