Martian Accounting (Galactic Milieu)

Consider a corp or nation that issues only 21,000,000 units of currency and owns some portfolio of assets with which to “back” that currency.

If the corp or nation has in its own possession all but one unit of that currency it is not, according to Martian custom, considered reasonable to attribute the entire wealth of the nation to that single outstanding unit of the currency. On the contrary, it is customary to regard that single unit as only being “worth” 1/21000000 of the entire wealth of the corp or nation.

Now consider a corp or nation that is similar except for either its intent to “back” its currency or its ability to “back” its currency.

In such a case, the purported “value” of the currency resides in and is discovered/determined by the markets in which it is traded.

This situation is a little like that of bitcoin, except that it features a corp or nation that, for lack of a better word, we might choose to refer to as bitcorp or satoshicorp; a hypothetical or actual corp or nation which, although it is supposedly the “issuer” of the currency, has no obligation to “back” the currency.

According to Martian thinking, this corp or nation, whether actual or hypothetical, is fundamentally similar to any other; there is nothing special about its relation to the currency as compared to any other nation or corp.

We thus arrive at two different perceptions. In one perception, we judge the “value” of a token by dividing the “value” of its issuer by the number of tokens. In the other, we determine the “value” empirically by trying to sell the token and observing the prices we receive or are offered for it.

We sometimes seem to see this ambiguity on Earth in discussions of currency. For example we sometimes see governments or government departments purporting to have some certain number of that government's own “money” as an “asset”, yet when we see a company holding some of its own “shares” it is apparently not the Earthling custom to consider those as “assets” even though in the hands of other entities they would be considered to be “assets”.

We have also seen this ambiguity in the case of the GRouPcorp asset on the Digitalis Open Transactions server. The process of recording the assets of the corp got derailed by a glitch in the asset issuing system, resulting in the first several calculations of “value” failing to take into account the fact that the corp owned most of its own shares. In august 2012 this ommission was corrected, and the result upon the valuation calculations can be seen in the asset values tables online at

Bitcoin possibly provides a good example of why which entity holds an asset does not change the fact that it is an asset and thus that a corp holding its own shares should list them as an asset just as any other entity would. It really makes no difference whether you mined/issued the bitcoins yourself or not, what matters is how much you can sell it for on the open market. Martian thinking is that shares are no different. If you can sell them for something of value, they are an asset.

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