Episode 753: Blockchain Gang : Planet Money Charlie Shrem went from living in his parents' basement, to bitcoin millionaire, to federal prison in just a few years. | Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.
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Episode 753: Blockchain Gang

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Episode 753: Blockchain Gang

Episode 753: Blockchain Gang

Episode 753: Blockchain Gang

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/770695227/770701963" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

When Charlie Shrem was in prison, he engaged in a thought experiment involving blockchain technology and canned mackerel. Heidi Coppock-Beard/Getty Images hide caption

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Heidi Coppock-Beard/Getty Images

When Charlie Shrem was in prison, he engaged in a thought experiment involving blockchain technology and canned mackerel.

Heidi Coppock-Beard/Getty Images

Note: This episode originally ran in 2017.

Charlie Shrem had a prison epiphany. Instead of using packets of mackerel to buy and sell things, inmates could use something more like the digital currency bitcoin. He even came up with a way it could work in prison, never mind that it was bitcoin that got him arrested in the first place.

Charlie Shrem's journey to prison and back is a parable for the transformation of bitcoin during its first years. Both Shrem and bitcoin have gone from being idealists to outlaws to trying to make it as respectable citizens.

On today's show, the story about how a libertarian's dream technology was taken over by big banks and stock traders.

Music: "Funk Fathers" and the BitInstant jingle.

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