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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…

Meatspace Pirate Pop-up Ads


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- The Spray Can, The Home Printer and the QR Code -
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"They got cash, which makes it legal devastation when they do it, and when we do it its vandalism, do it too much and get sent to prison"
- Looptroop, Illegal Commercial


Graffiti, Oslo, 2020.
 The vulgar billboard commercial and the pre-roll advertisement that you click away as soon as possible when you watch Youtube are marketing tools to catch your interest in and shove a product in front of you someone wants to sell. Those two elements are pretty much what you can boil down the old art of advertisement to, even if marketers like to frame their craft with a more mystical aura[1].  

Which is totally legitimate to do in some cases, there are many wizards in the field that have built some really impressive campaigns that made millions in sales.

The scale we are looking at in this article has a lot less money involved, is a bit more punk-rock, and instead of paying gigantic sums of money that the traditional advertisement space costs we are looking for space that costs a whopping $0 (or as close as we can come). 

I've opted to only look at options for Meatspace because counter-economic marketing on the Internet needs a more technical approach that I'm not confident in my abilities to cover - I'll leave that bit out, hoping a more capable keyboard can tackle that one. Even if this post is about promoting a product or service, it can be used as a way to promote non-commercial messages too. 


If you are interested in the "backend" of running an Agorist business, Guns N' Bitcoin had a very information-heavy episode about that on their 30th Episode.


[ Tools of the Trade ]

The Home printer - How about a flyer printing-press, label-maker, and booklet machine all rolled into one? Versatility and (arguably) low cost are two great ingredients to have on your side and I've used my printer to print out everything from wine-labels to photos, from flyers to logistical sheets for my gardening.

 
Promo sticker for my short story "Anarchvetisement".
Get it for free from Subscribestar or Patreon.
The industry that works on adding value to the printer owner is huge so there is a lot of resources that we can use. Different types of paper, especially transfer paper can be used creatively - Instead of the boring flyer, you can make a t-shirt print with a web address, put the t-shirt on a hanger and hang up your "commercial" somewhere relevant where you know your target audience can see it. Another fun paper is sticker-paper. Designing your own stickers and slapping them up as you go is a discrete way to promote your biz.

Even if the printer feels outdated in a world with email marketing and Facebook ads and media marketing has moved in more and more online, there is a lot of space opening up for counter-economic promotion to move into. 

Hitting the local market is a great way to stay under the radar and control the distribution yourself, and the printer is a good tool to do that with, at low cost and overhead. 

The Spray Can - If I could pick only one artist that really showed me the power of messaging a lot of people with a couple of spray cans, Banksy is the clear pick. With pre-made stencils (which you can carve out or print on your home printer) you can spray a message in under a minute and disappear before anyone gets the chance to react. If your design attracts people and is "Instagrammable," your picture can multiply its lifespan online too, increasing its reach. If you pick the right spot and message so it gets to the headlines of local newspapers and upset the right demographic (read: The Karens), you are set up to make bank. Don't forget to add a QR code [2] or webpage address to point people to your goods and services.




 
Example of stencil and spray technique used, with
creative messaging.
On the Cypherpunk Bitstream episode 4, the hosts give us a real-world example of the spray can-tactic being used by German dead drop gangs for their drug sales. 

That your entire advertisement bureau can fit into a backpack makes it a very lightweight way to broadcast your message and with the entire online graffiti community ready to give you their tips and tricks, anything can be your brands' billboard.

The Craft store - Even if most of the equipment you can pick up at the craft store could have its own separate category look-through, I decided to put all of them in one instead. 

In the early 2010s, I and my roommate enjoyed using pegboards and beads to create 8-bit art that we glued up in public spaces for everyone to enjoy. It was our "tags" and Most of them got trashed by security guards and weather, but we had a fun run. I tried looking for the photos but both I and my partner in crime seem to have miss placed our storing devices and camera rolls from that time. But, the memories remain. We got a kick from sitting down at a caffé close by or "exhibitions" and watch how people would stop and inspect our art.


It hit me now, a good decade or so later that this could be used as a tactic to attract people to your services: Once they are at your performance piece, they'll get slipped your web page address.
 

Plastic beads, knitted pieces, painted papier machĂ© sculptures and so on, can be used as something to attract people to your message of a place where they can buy something from you. 

When your advertisement budget is less than $50, the art store could solve almost anything for creative marketers. 

 The Workshop - 3D printed secret message (via Lithophane) business cards [3], a sturdy welded signs you can "hack" the environment with and grow beds out of wood with your message on that you can place in a park are three examples of what you can do in your workshop, wherever that is, to create an advertisement fit for the environment they get placed in.

Outside my favorite pub here in Oslo, there is a collective of green-fingered people that installs grow beds with vegetables and flowers for any passerby's to enjoy. On each side of the grow beds there is information about how you can support the project. This is totally a copyable concept if you are growing something you want to sell. Taking the free sample idea a step further and anonymously.




My subway ride to work is very grey, as the concrete and steel-colored environment usually are, so any color pattern is attracting not only me but many of the commuters that are going into town. A bright pink sign somewhere along the way, welded in someone's garage, would get lots of real-life "clicks" so to speak.

There is a lot of ways to grab yourself some attention with tools. These are just some of my ideas, some tested and some not - I'd love to hear your ideas! Poke me on twitter or the comment section here if you have more examples of counter-economic adds in the wild!
  
[ People Follow incentives ]

It is impossible to know how big the black and the grey markets actually are. In the cases where government sources have spilled the beans on numbers for specific activities within the black/grey trades going on, they are always presented as a negative notion and something that needs to be stomped out. For the greater good of course.

People not paying taxes is problematic for the vampire council, commonly referred to as politicians and bureaucrats, because that's resources they can't sift through with their claws, taking a few coins here and there for their own pockets. That's not the official story, of course. That one is chock full of stories about what all the potential taxes could have paid for.

But, it is important to understand that the black and the grey markets are out there and that they are a huge part of the economy.

It would be a devastating blow to the state apparatus if people understood how common it is to trade off the books - The last few not doing it, in any form, would probably be encouraged to seek out these markets as well if they understood that all almost all their neighbors "cheat". Most aren't doing it all the time, but the majority do it sometime. Everyone is looking out for a great deal - From penny pinchers to Wall Street hustlers. The benefits of seeking out the unapproved markets have a lot of perks but the reason that sticks out more than the others is the price difference.


The more costs your operation has, the more need to be recouped at the pricing stage to stay in business. Easily explained: A higher tax pressure and costly regulation demands increase the price compared to producers that can avoid them.

1 million Californians are estimated to cross into Mexico every year to get cheaper medicine - Completely sidestepping the lobby-driven and perverse patent system in the United States. If the system isn't serving the people, the market will.

If you can offer something at a tenth of the cost, people will seek you out and trade with you. The Norwegian-Swedish border trade isn't that extreme, that one is only a 50% off for Norwegians that cross the border to stock up on food and beverages (produced in their home country!). If given the choice, a lot of people would love to cut their grocery expenses in half with a one-day road trip per month. It is a billion kroner industry, where shopping centers even offer free bus rides to ship you to the commercial destination.

I'm less familiar with examples between states in the United States, except that people travel to less regulated gun-markets and buy guns to avoid draconian laws at home. I'd love to hear some examples in the comment section of this blog-post if you got them of people trading across state lines to avoid predatory taxes and regulations!

Even if you don't care about some Scandinavians buying cheese in a different country, the point I hope you are catching here is that if you give people an incentive to buy from you - There are people out there ready to open their wallets. A lot of people. You just need to find a way to connect yourself with them - Which is easier said than done.


This is where the grey marketeer has two advantages:

1. If you are anonymous, faceless and fingerprint-less (figuratively) you can ignore state-enforced rules that would apply normally to businesses going the marketing route to find costumers. You aren't even playing the same game, in a sense.

2. Without a store-front, a paper trace or something the state can catch and shut down easily your resilience to any rule changes or attempts to stomp you out should be high. Add as many layers between you and your business as you can. Study how others got caught, whether it's in Germany or in the US (Free Ross!) and add the lessons to your defenses.

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[1] - A book that exposes this very well, in my opinion, is Martin Lidstroms 'Buyology'. I can highly recommend it if you are interested in the subject. I Made a book review on it here.

[2] There are several free options on how to make QR codes, my preferred one is the QRCode Monkey website because it is quick and easy. Always protect yourself when you go to free websites, they are most likely logging your IP and harvest your data.

[3] The technique is pretty cool. Here is a Youtuber that makes an example one.







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