Is this bear ever gonna hibernate?

Posted on April 19, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I had a beer last night with a friend who has been instrumental in the formation of a number of well known blockchain protocols, and he asked me a question that I thought worth writing about. He basically said that we’ve been in a bear market for 4 or 5 months, and it reminds him of other bear markets in crypto (i.e. 2014-2016), and he was wondering if I thought this would be a similar duration to the prior, or if mainstream investors would buoy the aggregate market cap of crypto in the near term. My response, was that, despite recent runs, it feels to me like all participants in the ecosystem that are focussed on the here and now, have pulled back and will stay on the sidelines until some other catalyst pulls them back in. I don’t think the droves of new Coinbase and Robinhood users are going to take the price of Bitcoin from $8200 to $20,000. I also think that most of the crypto hedge funds that spun up opportunistically to capture LP demand are here and now focussed, losing money, and have pulled back in a similar way. I don’t see these cryptofunds driving the market into a bull scenario either.

So here and now thinkers have their foot closer to the break than the gas, but engineers, and builders, and venture capitalists in the business of investing on a 10 year time horizon are still flooring it…even more so than 6 months ago. This is almost certainly a more healthy dynamic for a nascent technology and ecosystem, and the investments that these longer time horizon participants are making, be they labor or capital investments, are undoubtedly going to grow the total value of this space on a 5-10 year timescale.

I think the here and now thinkers trying to time the next run should be looking more to institutional inflows to reverse a bear market…which is not a new idea. There has long been the narrative than institutional money is coming in as soon as custody and some other surrounding infrastructure problems are solved, and I think it was largely posited that those inflows would accrue to “large market cap” coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum. In practice, I think that shape of institutional money is still largely on the sidelines, while venture capital institutions represent the most significant institutional inflows to the space so far. Interestingly, venture capital is not flowing to large market cap coins because it’s very difficult to persuade LPs that venture managers are or should be in the business of buying public securities (or public non-securities depending on where you net out from a regulatory standpoint). Every top tier VC just got finished convincing LPs to let them buy tokens instead of equity, but surely they still must be in the business of proprietary access and early deal making. That requirement to “buy privately” and a requirement for funds ranging in size form $300M-$2B to put enough capital to work in any given investment to “move the needle”, has led to a clear bubble in what I’d call the “2nd presale” where hot projects are raising tens to hundreds of millions of dollars pre-float, at valuations that have not yet reconciled with the recent haircut in publicly traded tokens. Going forward, I expect these venture inflows to get more sophisticated and confident in how and where they build their ownership positions. I think the “2nd presale” will cool meaningfully and it’s likely that venture capital will accrue to publicly traded tokens going forward…it’s just not happening yet (with a few exceptions).

So I think that redistribution of institutional venture capital out of the private bubble and into a forward rationalized public market, if not already rationalized, coupled with the sovereign fund, pension fund, endowment type inflows that have long been posited, is the most likely path to the next bull market, at which point, as always, retail and mainstream investors will follow and amplify the run, and I have no idea on what timeframe that happens, but it feels at least a year out from now. X factors like geopolitical instability, public equity market corrections, government currency manipulation, and the like, I think are also reasonable candidates to catalyze another run, but it’s pretty hard to count on those events.

I am not a here and now investor, I’m not in it for a quick buck, I don’t actively trade crypto, and I have an incomplete view of the wall st side of this market, so take all this with a grain of salt, but high level it does appear to me that the right long term human and financial capital is flowing deeply into the crypto ecosystem, and therefore on some longer time frame, meaningful value is going to come out the other side. I would not want to be in the business of giving my LPs near term exposure to this space, because you are a genius one year and a complete flop the next, but I feel pretty good about assembling the right 5-10 year exposure. That’s how I’ve allocated my personal capital and it’s how I’d do it for others if they asked me to.

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Society is Breaking

Posted on April 11, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This is a disorienting moment where society is reeling to adjust to significant contextual changes to the way things have been. Change happens all the time, driven by technology and regulation and capital markets and media and a host of other factors, but it doesn’t always happen at a layer that is fundamental to our concepts of self and reality. There are many implications of having a completely networked society, where information flows quickly and to far reaches, but perhaps the most salient is that we are not equipped to process the volume and velocity of what is coming at us today. That’s a narrative that you’ve heard for a number of years, as expressed by such concepts as internet addiction, but perhaps less talked about is our inability to process the transparency that comes with this data-abundent reality. It used to be that there was a set of things or premises that we could simply accept or take for granted, and another set that we knew were variable or in flux or unknown. With the base of what we could take for granted, the variable was processable to degrees. Today, however, people are reeling, in large part, because almost everything that we were blissfully ignorant to accept as true, is now in question. Everything is variable. There is no truth. And if there is no truth, certainly we can’t have a foundation of premises and beliefs that are static enough to process the variable. We can’t take it at face value that the government is stable. We can’t take it at face value that a publicly trusted figure is trustworthy. We can’t take it at face value that an article or an image or anything is as it seems. Everything is degrees of probability now. We see the bubbles we live in more clearly. We are aware of confirmation bias, what’s on the otherside of it, and increasingly the data and truths of that other side, and we can’t say for sure that things are the way they are anymore. These changes to how we see and understand the world are very low down in the stack. So many upstack systems, and social structures, and infrastructural elements, and applications, and products and services, are rooted in the notion that there is truth and that what most people believe to be true is…and when that belief is called into question or breaks, everything upstack breaks with it. I think this is the most disorienting moment in my 36 years on earth. I think we are all more disoriented than we even realize, and I think we are increasingly numbing this disorientation with pictures of our friends vacations and babies (and even those we are starting to understand don’t represent the truth of their lives). The good news is society tends to respond and reshape around big changes in context. It’s incredibly painful to those who lived in the old and now must transition to the new, but the out generations will develop different upstack systems to reflect the ambiguity and multifaceted nature of truth. As I watched the Zuckerberg senate hearing yesterday, all I could think about was this new reality, and how much people are suffering as they are forced to question that which they thought true. The upshot is that when systems break, and society responds, value tends to transfer from the incumbents of the old reality to the native products and companies of the new reality…and that’s a good thing for founders and entrepreneurs…if that’s any consolation.

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Hack: Ethereum vs. the NRA

Posted on February 23, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

So I’ve been obsessed with this idea of distributed lobbying on the blockchain. Basically, I think it’s bullshit that the top 50 companies in the US have an efficient way to put capital against influencing legislation and judicial outcomes, but we as a self organized and distributed population of individuals don’t have an equal ability. We can protest (now more effectively than ever as a result of communication tools like Facebook and encrypted messaging apps that let us self organize), we can vote, we can speak (now louder than ever as a result of communication tools like Twitter that help us self organize our voice), but money talks…and we as a group don’t have an efficient tool for self organizing our capital to push against the organizing forces in our country. I’ve seen more money pooled in the crypto space around theoretical projects than the entire pharmaceutical industry, oil and gas industry, etc…spend through lobbying in a year. It’s doable to exert force against legislation if we can create a trust model that allows us to self organize our capital. Here’s an experiment I’ve decided to run in this vein:

put whatever amount of eth you want to use to fight the NRA into this address 0x33Bd9F7419296a4400F81057b59EA054474C3CCC (anybody can audit the amount of funds and changes in account balance via https://etherscan.io/address/0x33bd9f7419296a4400f81057b59ea054474c3ccc).

It’s not a donation. It’s not an investment. It’s not a pledge. It’s something inbetween the three. It’s a decision to financially join a collective that is alligned around impact and economics.

As the administrator of this collective, i promise to deploy the capital to further the fight against the NRA. I don’t know yet all of the most efficient channels but likely candidates include: independent lobbyists, lobbying firms, direct campaign contributions, surrounding awareness campaigns, and whatever other channels help to translate capital into political and legislative influence.

I promise to report to you how and when i allocate the money.

I will use a private telegram group as the primary channel for reporting and being accountable to you and also for hosting a dialogue and planning forum amongst our community of contributors. This is how we will organize collective thought and action, but ultimately it will be my job to listen to the community and act in our shared interest when deploying capital.

i promise to send you back your % of the remaining capital at any time if you are unhappy with the way i’m deploying it. If you put in $100 worth of eth and decide 6 months later that i’m doing a bad job advancing our cause, if in that time the pool has spent 20% of the capital raised, you can walk way with your remaining $80. If you are happy with our work, keep your money in and help to grow the collective by recruiting like-minded others and their capital

I wish i could make a bonding curve for this pool such that the order that you send eth in will determine the % of the total pool you can take out in a way that financially rewards early participation and support of a growing movement, but I can’t administratively handle that just socially hacking on an eth wallet. As a hack to this, i am going to take 5% of all eth sent in and put it into a bonus pool, and on a discretionary basis dole it out to the earliest and most meaningful supporters of the project as defined by the amount and date they put in, their actions in growing the capital base, their ideas and actions in the private telegram channel, etc. I will report all bonus transactions with links to such transactions in the public telegram group. Basically if you are responsible for increasing the impact of this pool in combatting the NRA, you have some claim to the bonus pool and I’ll do my best to recognize contributions fairly and administer it accordingly.

To participate, send eth to this address and then immediately email jordan.cooper@gmail.com with the public address you sent it from (and if you are sending from Coinbase, also the amount of your contribution b/c public addy gets obscured in the transaction). your email must be timestamped ahead of the block that your transaction shows up on so as to prevent false claims. I will reply with confirmation and a link to join the telegram group. If you don’t want to claim your contribution with your identity, that’s cool but you’ll forgo your ability to redeem your contribution or earn any of the bonus pool. Basically, in the absence of being able to codify this rule set at the smart contract level, i’m using communication tools like email and telegram to handle redemption requests and other messages btwn you the contributor and me the administrator.

you shouldn’t have to take counterparty risk in this agreement, but this is a hack

you shouldn’t have to trust me to do the right thing, but this is a hack. for this experiment you can use my online reputation, my decade of writing on this blog with a deep focus on ethics, and whatever social cred I’ve earned in the technology community and calibrate the risk of me being a fraud as an input into your decision to contribute.

you shouldn’t have to trust my discretion and bonus pool mechanic but this is a hack. the size and vintage of your economic support should dictate your claim to an outsized portion of the pool upon exit, independent of my judgement. If discretion or judgement is needed to quantify non-economic contributions to our collective goal (i.e. referrals, awareness, etc), we should have governance to make those allocations together, or at least you should have recourse to remove me if I’m not fair…but this is a hack.

but there’s no generalized platform or smart contracts available to help me administer this experiment without trust and hacks. I want that platform. it’s why i’m doing this experiment. I care about fighting the NRA. you care about electric vehicle tax credits, someone else cares about animal rights legislation…every cause, whether socially, economically, or some combination therein motivated, deserves the ability to harness self organized capital as a tool to advance it’s political agenda. the 50 biggest companies in the US do this all the time via lobbying to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year…democracy talks when electing officials, but unfortunately money talks when it comes down to votes. if we are to achieve collective economic force in a truly distributed and self organized way, the trust model between contributors of capital (aka a constituency) and the administrator(s) of that capital needs to evolve. We need to redefine concepts of decision making, accountability, recourse, and even economic gain associated with such efforts, and the blockchain is a perfect place to do that.

So consider this a campaign to fight the NRA w our collective ETH

Consider this a commitment on my part to put time and energy into efficiently deploying our collective capital

Consider this an experiment, or proof of concept, or proof of need for a more generalized framework for self organizing our capital as a tool of force (with a true and honest recognition that you cannot decouple the concepts of profit/wealth and capital regardless of it existing in a social or political context)

Consider this a call to design and build the generalized and trustless version of this experiment that will enable anyone, regardless of their reputation or social reach, to harness the capital of a widely distributed community or constituency and both ask for and earn the right to point it at the political institutions both government and surrounding, that shape legislation, judicial decisions, and as a result the way our society operates and is organized. I’l happily invest in you to work on this problem and help you design it and build it: jordan.cooper@gmail.com

I’ll start by putting in $5000 worth of eth. To be very transparent: Although philosophically I believe it’s a stronger design if I am eligible for the bonus pool that I will be administering, I commit to not pay myself from the bonus pool for hygiene and simplicity in this experiment. I say it’s a stronger design because part of the point of redefining how we self-organize capital via the blockchain is to explore new points of optimization btwn things like impact and wealth creation to create “organizations” or “collectives” that look different than the way we organize work and capital today. In doing so, if we find the right ones, we have the potential to draw in more work, better people, more capital, thereby leveling the playing field when competing against the existing organizing forces of private enterprise and government institutions that currently shape our society and day to day. So yea, if my contribution is the biggest and the first and this effort grows in size and scope and impact and capital raised, I should stand to profit along the way…by design. In practice, again, I won’t allocate any of the bonus pool to myself, but I don’t expect that people using the generalized form of this experiment (i.e. organizers/administrators) would or should recuse themselves from the economic upside of a successful campaign or movement.

1) I think I have a sense for the amount of effort that will go into running this experiment, processing transactions and administering our capital in a way that is impactful, but if it turns out to be a massive effort i reserve the right to send you your ETH back at my discretion, or whatever portion of it the collective hasn’t spent.
2) I have a pretty in depth understanding of the security and custodial mechanics of crypto and will adhere to best possible practices…but I reserve the right to apologize with no further recourse if something bad happens…

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Bubble-Gazing in San Francisco this Winter

Posted on January 2, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

In 48 hours my wife and I are headed to the Bay Area for the winter. New York is just getting frigid in a way that makes your body clench up the minute you step outside, and everybody is walking around in a post New Years haze that will turn to hustle in a day or two. In California, our Airbnb is starting to amass parcels for things that were cheaper to buy again and ship for free through Amazon as opposed to box and ship across the country ourselves. My attention has been focussed on logistics ranging from getting our car and our dog across the country to rerouting my Soylent and New York Times subscriptions to our new address…so much so that I haven’t really has a chance to reflect on what I hope to accomplish once we’re there.

A lot of people have asked if we are going to stay in California permanently. My answer is “no”…Olivia’s answer is “i’d be up for it.” Last time I lived in San Francisco was a 4 month stint that I had to do when we sold Hyperpublic to Groupon. I didn’t have a great time then…but I guess it was also a time of pretty extreme transition for me, and maybe not representative of where we are today.

Olivia and I spend a ton of time in the car, driving to nature where we can hike with our dog and be outdoors. Part of our decision to live in Marin was to test out a chapter of life living in a house with a yard close to nature, vs an apartment in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world. I think we are happy when we can get outdoors easily, and living 10 minutes from the Tennessee Valley Trailhead is going to be awesome. We spent a bunch of time this past year looking at places an hour outside of new york that would give us this kind of live in nature / work in the city setup, but ultimately decided we weren’t ready to make the move…so maybe this is some kind of trial run. I plan to find an office somewhere in downtown SF and commute to work by ferry ~4 days a week which i think will be fun and different.

I have a mix of excitement and anxiety around professional pursuits out west. I think subconsciously I wanted to experience life in the Bay Area during a proper bubble, and I’m both looking forward to and terrified to touch that energy in a space I’ve developed a real understanding of over the past two years. I get hints of the SF cryptomania via media and some geographically distributed Telegram groups that I’m in, but something tells me that no matter what else I accomplish, hanging out in the valley during bubble time will be educational in the context of the next 30 or 40 years of my venture capital life. Call it forensic tourism…

Bubble-gazing aside, I’m looking forward to spending real in person time with a bunch of people with whom I typically only get to see via spotty google hangouts or the occasional “i’m in town lunch or tea.” Some of the people I respect most live in and work in SF, and I’m excited about seeing them more often, while also getting to know new folks. I’ve been investing pretty actively in blockchain protocols and projects over the past few years, and I’ll be dedicating a lot of my time to angel investing in local projects while out in SF. I don’t claim to be an expert here, but I am and have been a dedicated student and would be glad to help think through early protocol and application designs where I can be helpful (jordan.cooper@gmail.com).

Beyond closer collaboration with my west coast friends, I’m excited to diversify my dataset a bit, learn what non-blockchain focussed investors and founders are passionate about, and generally I’m excited to hear some versions of the future that people are trying to make happen that have nothing to do with decentralization, cryptocurrencies, and the like. I do think hanging out in SF is giving up a bit of the inspiration that comes from New York’s diversity, but in the absence of that energy, hopefully I can diversify a bit within the technology and ideas I’m living and breathing day to day.

Crypto Club meetings in New York are on a bit of a hiatus given our normal Washington Sq Park venue is freezing cold at the moment, but the conversation has ported nicely to Telegram which should hold our reading group over until Spring. For those that don’t know, Crypto Club is a whitepaper reading group, where anybody can attend as long as they commit to reading an entire whitepaper or two and coming with questions and thoughts for the group. It’s been an important part of my learning in the space and a nice way to find community and share thoughts with one another over the past few years. I think we’ll do a Crypto Club lunch every few weeks this winter in SF (jordan.cooper@gmail.com if your not yet on the west coast list).

Overall, if we can get some good nature in with our dog, find intellectual fulfillment and close collaborators, make it up to Tahoe once or twice, and eat some good Mexican food I think the winter in Marin will be a success. Now to go knocking on doors in my building to see who’s kids are willing to keep our plants alive while we’re gone…

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What Wall St Wants

Posted on December 14, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Earlier today someone who I frequently invest alongside and think with in the blockchain world told me about a company he talked to that makes it easier for wall street to participate in the crypto markets. If you’ve been paying attention, “the herd is coming,” and there is no shortage of friction or nascent solutions between here and it’s arrival. Hedge funds, pension funds, endowments, etc. all have an interest in owning cryptocurrency, but the infrastructure that enables them to do so in a familiar, comfortable and compliant way doesn’t totally exist yet. Their frustration and demands are becoming a louder voice in the crypto world.

So there’s this narrative around Bitcoin, and the next pick your number of “alternative currencies,” which goes something like “unlike other bubbles where institutions got in first, in crypto retail investors got in first, and it’s not the taxi driver who’s coming in next to really drive up the price, but rather the fancy institutional money…and when they come in…and when all these surrounding services and products enable ‘an institutional way of doing things’ the floodgates will open, incredible buy side volume will follow, and all the early nerds and retail investors who listened to their family’s nerd at Thanksgiving, will be rewarded handsomely.”

I don’t take issue with this narrative…from the hedge funds and endowments I’ve talked to, it’s true…whether or not this dynamic is already priced into the market or not is debatable, but there’s no question that greasing the skids for large pools of professionally managed money to enter the crypto market will be good for early holders. What I do take issue with is the distraction…the capital markets are a necessary and valuable actor in a number of the novel systems being built on the blockchain…they enable shortcuts to liquid networks, a point of exchange for value accrued in a system applied to debts owed outside of the system, and you don’t get a lot of the most interesting coin governed systems without hooking the networks’ unit of value up to the secondary market where these institutions can buy their piece of the future your building…but I see very talented people increasingly viewing wall street as their user or customer, and letting wall st’s voice influence what within the blockchain ecosystem they choose to build or spend time on.

The premise that you could design a network that organizes people or businesses into a behavior that wasn’t possible without the blockchain, and that you could get rich doing it by owning the coin which governs it, seems to be slipping in expected value relative to designing the service that let’s the billions of dollars at Blackrock or Point72 buy top 20 market cap coins efficiently and without regulatory or LP headaches. Don’t get me wrong, I love bitcoin and think there are a lot of important reasons why these pools of capital will strengthen the likelihood that it achieves it’s ultimate destiny, whatever version of it’s destiny you choose to believe, but I think the much more interesting picks and shovels work, in the future that I want to see, will be done by projects that contemplate developers and individuals, as opposed to financial institutions, as their user…i feel like the ethos that attracted me to the blockchain was this energy around bottom up self organization…and a redistribution of power from those that held it to all beneath them…and now we are falling all over ourselves for Goldman Sachs or Tiger Global to come hang out with us.

It’s hard not to get sucked into the solutions that bring wall st to crypto…the near term economic opportunity, especially in a bull market such as this, are undeniable…but from a venture perspective, investing in these slivers of institutional grease feels largely like investing in optimizations as opposed to revolutions in a moment where revolutions are surely being built…or at least gestating in the minds of those that could give two shits about what Lloyd Blankfein thinks of their work.

I am guilty of the same greed as everyone else…i want the institutional volume, i want the money…but if that narrative comes true…and it seems it might…it will be to the benefit of work I did years ago…and not work that I am doing right now and going forward. There is more out there to be discovered…brand new economies to be formed…new jobs to be created…new social structures, work structures, software structures…and yes economic structures…that will be attractive to wall street by virtue of their merit, and not FOMO or easy arb opportunities as they exploit the seems of a nascent market that hasn’t been abused, and therefor hardened, as badly as public equities or the like.

Refreshing coinmarketcap every 10 minutes is not making progress. Watching the talking head on CNBC call BTC $100K per coin is not making progress…and building the products and services that enable the herd to get here quicker doesn’t feel much like progress either…not in the context of what’s actually being built behind the 3 letter tickers and 30% daily swings that everyone is so fucking obsessed with right now. The frenzy and the fast money is distracting us from what is possible…

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Clearest and most in depth podcast I’ve seen on Crypto

Posted on October 4, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This post is more for friends and family than anything else. I spend a lot of time sharing my interest in blockhain and cryptocoins with the people in my life. There’s a lot of explanation and q&a and I love this dialogue because it keeps me honest about what I truly understand and what I need to understand better.  That said, when people ask where they can learn more, I either point them to some surface level blogpost or trial by fire right into the Ethereum whitepaper…and in reality, there’s probably a lot inbetween that would be helpful (despite my genuine belief that you will never get to a true understanding by consuming other people’s synthesis and blogposts in this space).  The below Podcast called Investor’s Field Guide is the first really good, in depth, detailed and yet consumable exploration of crypto that I have come across.  I am biased because I somehow snuck into Episode 2 despite being the only guide NOT running a crypto hedge fund with hundreds of millions of dollars behind me, but genuinely Patrick does a fantastic job of covering the technology, economics, and investment knowledge you need to go from level 0 to level 2 in crypto.  There’s a 3rd and final episode coming that goes deeper into protocol design, but these will get you started in a really clear way.  Interestingly, this was recorded about 2 months ago, and present day I feel like I have way more interesting things to discuss than simply how to fundamentally value cryptocoins, but such is life. enjoy 🙂


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An update on Crypto Club and notes from last meeting

Posted on October 2, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

For the better part of the past year, i’ve been getting together with engineers, product managers, venture capitalists and wall st folks to explore new blockchain protocols. It used to be called the Crypto Investment Club, and it’s since shortened to just be Crypto Club. We experimented with the format initially, and then settled into a cadence that orients around a deep reading of one or two whitepapers per meeting. Everybody comes with questions and thoughts that range from the very high level (i.e. is this going to work?) to very granular examinations of specific economic design elements or technical mechanics. We usually meet at this fountain in Washington Square Park and find a quiet corner of the park to eat lunch and discuss. The only requirement for attendance is a commitment to make it completely through the papers we are discussing. Beyond that no questions is dumb and we welcome people from all backgrounds.

This forum attracts substantive and genuinely interested participants and tends to weed out speculative traders, volatility addicts, and the like. We do discuss the value of the coins that govern these protocols, and particularly the drivers of that value. We look to flush out demand side drivers for the coin, and usually we get to a pretty clear picture of what behaviors will influence it’s price and the likelihood that the incentives built into the protocol will induce such behaviors. But that discussion is largely rooted in the success of the design and it’s long term viability, as opposed to, for example, what a specific token issuance schedule is going to do to the price of a coin during it’s initial coin offering.

A few months ago, it became apparent that this format, while really valuable to me in my explorations through cryptoland, didn’t scale to the many folks around the country and even the world who were looking for a similar forum. I considered various online tools to extend the Crypto Club beyond geographic borders, but the intimacy of the discussion didn’t seem achievable in say a live video forum with hundreds of participants. In the absence of an online solution, I got on a plane to San Francisco and brought the Crypto Club out there with the help of a friend, Sarah Tavel, at Benchmark Capital. I think this was a good solution, and now Sarah is a shepherd for the group out west. I’d like to do the same thing in LA, and a few other geographies, but still there’s some good learning happening each meeting that should be accessible to all.

Recently, I started sending discussion notes from our meetings to the creators of the protocols that we discuss. At some point, technical projects need to communicate very clearly with a wider audience than the active blockchain developer community, and I figured the Crypto Club’s analysis, questions, and thoughts would serve as a good proxy for what this next concentric circle of “interested parties” could absorb via a paper. As I sent my most recent notes on the ZeppelinOS whitepaper to it’s founders, I realized that even in an abbreviated form, outside investors, developers considering working to earn the ZEP coin, and crypto projects considering building their platforms on top of Zeppelin’s secure smart contract kernel, would all appreciate a few bullet points on how to think about the project. So, without a lot of prep or editing, and without the benefit of a narrative overlay available to early creators who might want more details, I’m just gonna start publishing notes from the sessions. Here are the notes on ZeppelinOS. The discussion ran long so although we also read Aragon’s paper focussed on “decentralized governence as service,” these notes only cover Zeppelin. Enjoy, and keep an eye on this blog for future project notes.

Oh, and if you are working on a protocol and paper that is either published or still in private draft, we are always looking for interesting candidates for the group and happy to provide feedback to you: jordan.cooper@gmail.com.

Zeppelin Notes

15 people, mix of engineers, data scientists, venture capitalists

1) there was a narrative around the value of zep behaving like a basket of other coins. basic logic: if price of coins governeing underlying portocols in zep users dapps goes up/down, demand for ZEP will follow those aggregate moves as developers have to maintain a balance large enough to fund their dapp running

2) there was a lot of push back around whether zep gets to hold metacoin position vs say 0x and other similar functions. some talk of developer tools being a wedge to this position.

3) some of the engineers pushed on the difficulty to build out all of the off chain compents articulated in the paper. didn’t seem realistic to do so much

4) fair amount of discussion around reason to hold ZEP…either people bought into it’s value from a governence and development community participation standpoint, or they didn’t.

5) some interesting discussion around whether ZEP and your developer compensation structure couldn’t capture budgets from the balance sheets of other big projects looking to fund development of collectively needed solutions…

6) overall, people were more positive on owning ZEP relative to the average paper we read

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Venture Capital in a “post-blockchain” world

Posted on September 22, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Hey, i did 15 minutes on the role of venture capital in a “post-blockchain” world. Also covered some previous capital markets wrinkles courtesy of Y-Combinator, Andreesen, Ron Conway, etc…and outline a bit of what the settled state early stage financing landscape looks like say 18 months from now. (P.S. i may have misused the word “dislocation” as it’s applied to financial markets…did I?”

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Crypto in the context of online classifieds

Posted on September 11, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Peer to peer transactions are not a new thing. In the offline world they have been around forever. I killed this chicken, I go to the market, I sell it to you for $10, and there is nobody between us ensuring that the $10 bill you give me is good, that the chicken I give you is delicious, or that in the exchange, once I hand over the chicken, you don’t just run away without giving me the $10. In a sense our physical proximity, and if I really think about it, the threat of physical violence is probably what enforces that our peer to peer transaction goes off smoothly. In more advanced societies, I suppose there is also the threat of law enforcement that governs certain bad scenarios in that transaction (specifically the last one), but still there is no one between us. The opposite of this peer to peer transaction would be an intermediated transaction…rather than selling direct to you, I could sell my chicken to a grocery store, they could ensure you of quality, safety, delivery, etc…and in doing so take a portion of the value in our transaction.

In the online world, peer to peer transactions can be dicier. If I can’t physically authenticate the goods or services being exchanged…if I can’t see the chicken I’m buying with my own eyes, if I can’t run and tackle you for slipping me a bad $10 bill…it can be harder to establish peer to peer trust when transacting. Online, the middle man like, say, Ebay, plays a more important role in our transaciton than the grocery store would offline. Both parties come to trust the middleman, their brand, their fraud policies, their handling of payment, etc…and a class of transactions that might not feel safe on say, Craigslist (which doesn’t provide much in the way of intermediary trust), begins to feel safe on Ebay.

Not all peer to peer transactions are the same. Certain classes, where say the economic value exchanged is low or the risk of physical harm is low, can achieve high liquidity online even in low trust environments. As the stakes rise, or the liklihood of fraud rises, liquidity and trust hold enjoy an inverse relationship.

Before 2004, trust in the context of online peer to peer transactions really only existed in two ways. Either…you would conduct your exchange with someone through a trusted (and expensive) intermediary…or you could transact in a platform that attempted to strengthen trust between strangers primarily through reviews. Reviews, seller ratings, etc…were a way for the people at the market to share information and experiences about transacting at the market. I don’t have data on this, but I assume that seller/buyer reviews significantly increased liquidity in certain classifieds verticals relative to what was happening in say Craigslist alone.

Reviews had (and have) their weaknesses. How do I trust the reviewer?…especially when reviews are anonymous or pseudonymous…well…enter the social web. In ~2004 social networks emerged and gained widespread adoption in the subsequent few years. For the purposes of the post, I’d suggest that the advent of the social web and social graphs was a technical breakthrough (although technically i suppose it was more of a social or design breakthrough)…but obviously Facebook and the concept of social graphs online was a fundamental invention that changed every application of the internet that followed.

Investing in social in 2004 would have lead you to direct investments in social networks like Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, and the thousand other vertical networks that largely spawned and died around that time. I don’t think people really considered at that time the downstream implications of social graphs on online identity, and the subsequent penetration of these graphs into many sectors and classes of application that appeared initially to have nothing to do with “social” as an invention.

But, sure enough people figured out that by porting my known social graph from say Facebook, into a trustless peer to peer transaction in a place like Craigslist, I could increase the feeling of safety in transacting directly with strangers, and therefore improve liquidity in some of the less liquid verticals of peer to peer transactions. If you figured that out early as a VC you would have started to invest in “social classifieds” verticals…maybe you would have made bets on social graph enabled dating (friend of a friend liquidity in things like Zoosk), or even in marketplaces that overlaid reviewer’s social graphs in order to give reviews that were already contributing to trust more credibility. If I could find a reviewer on on facebook or twitter and establish their legitimacy, that would make it easier to trust their view of the stranger with whom I was about to transact.

And while you might have made some $ investing in social classifieds with this newfound trust layer penetrating existing peer to peer transactions, what you wouldn’t have seen coming was a completely new form of peer to peer transaction, that didn’t exist prior to the social web…and that would have been Airbnb. Letting a stranger stay in my spare room at home, or letting a stranger stay a few days alone in my home is a form of peer to peer transaction that had virtually no liquidity relative to what we see today. The use case didn’t exist. I would argue Airbnb could have never existed without the trust layer that it borrowed from the advent of the social web…Airbnb was and is an application that is native to the technical advance of social network technology…it isn’t an optimization of an existing use case or class of transaction…it’s something entirely new that was unlocked.

There are still many existing peer to peer transactions where reviews or social identity still don’t enable a level of trust to adequate to achieve deep liquidity online. I subscribe to the belief that the blockchain, and coin governed systems specifically, represents an opportunity to create new and strengthened trust in some of these classes of transaction. If you believe that there are certain transactions where I feel comfortable screwing a stranger who knows my friend, but not screwing a stranger when doing so would cost me $1000, than you should agree that economic incentives for good behavior codified into a blockchain based protocol governing such transactions can improve trust and liquidity in those instances. And if you are a VC or angel investor or crypto investor today, you might be looking for those existing low trust peer to peer verticals…even more interesting, however, is to ask what are the ways that we aren’t yet transacting at all…what are the native peer to peer transactions that can only emerge with strong, economically enforced trust, and can I buy the coin that governs that trust? Personally, I’m looking for both and would welcome the opportunity to help flush out protocol designs in this realm. I have time, thought, and capital to support this type of thinking. Jordan.cooper@gmail.com

p.s. i’m not really a web historian…feel free to correct dates, point out contra cases, etc…

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An experiment in “open presence”

Posted on August 29, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with communication channels and public access. Whether it’s writing this blog, or tweeting, or video blogging, or printing my email address on a hooded sweatshirt…i have always tried to be as open as possible to strangers and I love the feeling of making the world smaller by putting ideas out into the world and receiving ideas and thoughts and interactions back in response. There is just such a tremendous feeling of opportunity in the idea that 7 billion people are out there, and at anytime, any one of them could find you, reach you, and change the arc of your life…or simply entertain you, or bore you, or teach you, or whatever…I have always felt that some of my deepest relationships and interactions are with people I barely know. My wife once asked me to invite new people over for dinner in an effort to expand our friend group, and my first thought was to ask my barista Carl…who i share no context with whatsoever except simply that the universe, by sheer geography, happened to make him my caffeine dealer. Some of my closest professional relationships today are with strangers i got to know on twitter or in the comments section of my blog when comments on a blog were still a thing. I am always interested in lowering the friction to find and explore these connections. I was ideologically obsessed with the randomness and seamless access of chatroulette, and I was so hopeful and excited about the branding and positioning of Airtime version one. My friend Andy Weissman loves the idea of increasing your chances of serendipity, and I think I subscribe to that in some ways as well.

So a few weeks ago, I watched a community call for a blockchain project called Livepeer. They used a tool called Appear.in which is basically an open video room where anyone can show up and participate in a multiperson skype-like video experience. No invites, no dial ins…just hit the link and your dropped into video chat. It kind of has a Houseparty vibe i guess…but I loved the idea that you can just publish this link, no app required, and have an open video line to the randomness and opportunity of the other 7 billion people who might happen to find you. I remembed hearing my friend Tim talk about how he endured his long distance relationship by keeping an always on, always open skype video chat going with his girlfriend in Boston. It would just be running, they would live their lives, and be able to look over at any moment and say “hey babe” even if they weren’t intentionally talking…it was a sort of shared presence that was running in the background of their day to day that kept them connected even when there was no intention behind their communication.

I thought it would be fun to apply that type of presence to my work day through the appear.in tool I mentioned, so I claimed this room: https://appear.in/jordancooper and put a link to it in my Twitter bio. I was curious who of my twitter friends would stop in to say hi, what strangers would want to talk about, and I loved the idea of putting faces to the many twitter strangers i’ve interacted with over the years…I just open the room when I sit down to my desk…it’s an open line…anyone can come in and say hi…and if i’m focussed on something or can’t talk…i just leave it on mute… Obviously you might be thinking that this architecture for access is quite flawed. I had the same thoughts. How would I handle permissions for entry, and what if I am overwhelmed with interruptions…turns out the real problem is people don’t tend to visit, or when they do I’m away from my desk…etc. Something about this experiment that I thought would lower the friction to communicate seems to actually increase it…maybe people don’t know what to say, maybe face to face in live video is scarier than the cold emails and reach outs that are the norm when you publish your email address on your blog…I am a little surprised that this experiment didn’t lead to more interesting outcomes…to more serendipity…but it obviously needs tweaking…I haven’t decided what levers to pull…but i’m thinking more focussed topics and time windows might be fun. For now, i’m gonna leave the link live because why not, but I think there’s a more interesting product and user experience to be designed that could harness this “open presence” and would love to try out other products that have attempted to address this use case. jordan.cooper@gmail.com if you’ve found something fun…OR if it’s not too scary, tell me about it here: https://appear.in/jordancooper during normal work hours, or just tell me about something else you’re working on, or ask me a question about the blockchain or cryptocurrencies or venture capital, or say hi even if I had coffee with you last week and we are friends…my office is kind of empty last week in August…participate in my experiment 🙂

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sat down to write a normal blogpost and a baby protocol came out

Posted on July 26, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

If you have been following the blockchain world over the past few years, you’ll notice that some of the best protocol designs to date have involved computational work. Whether the protocol defines the behavior of computers as it relates to file storage, processing power, or otherwise…these systems tend to outline economic incentives that govern how a network of computers (and their owners) will behave and work. Part of the reason why these early labor systems tend to center around the labor of computers and not people, is because machine work is easier to authenticate…and the authentication of work is important when distributing economics between labor and capital in a trustless system. I’ve invested in a number of projects with this shape, but my interest as it relates to the future of blockchain based systems is much much broader…I find myself gravitating toward systems that try to govern the behavior of human nodes as opposed to machine nodes…and when dealing in that realm…there are some promising solutions and mechanics to govern offline/human work that are starting to emerge.

Two potentially fundamental mechanics that I see popping up across fledgling protocols are stake and oracles. The designs around these two elements vary quite a bit from project to project with little if any standardization. In my exploration of these two mechanics, I made a baby protocol design attempting to govern trustless transactions around physical contract jobs (think construction, home repair, etc), and attempted to replace the role of General Contractor (she who organizes and engages subcontractors, ensures quality of work, and btw takes a healthy cut for doing so) with a blockchain based protocol governed by the coin GCC…there’s a second tier of coin in the system that rides on top of GCC that addresses the concept of credentials and skilled labor (SCC) and together these two coins live in a system that maybe would allow a home owner and subcontractor to transact directly with each other while cutting out the middle man general contractor. In theory, one of the promises of the blockchain is to take the margin captured by middle men or top down organizations like a general contracting business, and to redistribute it to the edges (customers and labor) in a way that lowers cost for buyers while also improving economics for labor or sellers.

Obviously this design is 1 page and not a 30 page paper. Designing blockchain protocols requires technical architecture design, economic design, and governance design. Special projects emerge when they nail all 3 individually, and also the interaction between these 3 layers. Here I don’t touch the technical layer, I barely touch the governence layer, and I focus on the economic layer.

In order to grok this design I assume familiarity with the below two concepts:

1) stake: economic value posted as collateral that is programmatically subject to forfiture upon bad action
2) oracles: actors in a system that serve to report on or provide off chain information as an input to on chain functions within a blockchain based system

General Contractor Coin

High level architecture

  • 2 tiers of coin
    • general contractor coin (GCC) is the low level protocol coin that governs the good faith completion of work and payment for services in physical contractor based transactions.
    • skilled subcontractor coin (SCC) is the skill specific coin that can be exchanged 1 for 1 with GCC, but holds a specific credential that signifies ability to take on jobs that require that skill.
      • example of an SCC coin might be “electrical work coin” or “floor guy coin”
  • Likely only GCC floats and connects to public exchange. SCC must be converted into GCC before moving to FIAT. GCC’s value is driven by customer demand for contract projects requiring any and all SCC skills, and jobs are paid in GCC.
  • As long as contractor holds a single SCC coin for a given skill, they may stake completely in SCC or by combining SCC with GCC against the value of a job, so long as the SCC is always at stake for a job that requires it.

EXAMPLE USE CASE AND BABY PROTOCOL DESIGN: Construction job between home owner and flooring specialist…

  • homeowner posts request for floor repair with payment for job denominated in GCC and specifies job is open to contractors holding the SCC “floor guy” coin.
  • not all contractors can take job
  • in order for a contractor to take job he must hold “floor guy” coin
  • floor guy must receive floor guy coin by having skills/training evaluated offline (or by undergoing training and receiving coin upon completion of training)
    • can likely decentralize acreditation by empowering any holder of floor guy coin to credential another. acreditation becomes a job in the system same as doing the actual flooring work to earn coin.
    • To credential others, accreditor must post floor guy coin as stake…if someone you credential loses credential as result of challenge/oracle process described below, he who accredited the violator loses partial stake…2 strikes you lose full stake and are out as accreditor.
    • Similarly training plus accreditation can be higher paid job/role in system. same requirements of credentialed stake to train as to accredit.
  • once contractor posts floor guy coin as stake, job is matched, homeowner payment and contractor stake held in smart contract that’s created to govern work
  • work is done offline
  • both floor guy and home owner must sign transaction when job is completed to release stake and payment from smart contract
  • if home owner challenges adequate completion, smart contract creates new oracle job, borrows funds held in contract to pay oracle/inspector, and broadcasts existence of available oracle/inspection job to network w requirement that contractor that take job hold the SCC coin “floor guy” in order to accept.
  • oracle/inspector job only available to holder of “floor guy coin.” He must post stake in “floorguy coin” in order to take oracle job
  • home owner must post additional stake to challenge work and both homeowner’s and contractor’s stake pays oracle/inspector for time/visit
  • oracle visits job site to determine outcome of challenge.
  • oracle decision final. if work is adequate, payment released to floor guy. also, home owner’s additional stake covers full cost of oracle payment, contractor’s “floor guy coin” returned to him.
  • if flooring work inadequate, contractor stake covers full oracle payment. Contractor either chooses to post additional stake to make initial job stake whole post-oracle payment and completes work to satisfaction of homeowner/oracle or forfeits his “floor guy coin” to homeowner and receives no payment for services.
  • if contractor cedes his SCC “floor guy coin” to homeowner, he can never acquire “floor guy coin” again through accreditation system.

So yea, I know there are MANY opportunities to make this design more elegant, and i’m sure there are vulnerabilities in this sketch that can be exploited and need to be solved for, but I’m excited to meet with folks who are working on stake based trust models in traditional classifieds verticals…cool explorations of oracle process and offline work authentication, and in general people who are attempting to design systems that govern human behavior, not just machine behavior, via creative economic thinking via coins. I have found it more rewarding to engage with early creators when their systems and papers are very much in draft form with lot’s of placeholders and unsolved components. If you’re working on something cool, i’m jordan.cooper@gmail.com

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Paradoxical Protocols

Posted on July 13, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

We learn early in life that money isn’t everything. My 4 year old niece, operating her first lemonade stand, gets schooled that kindness is more important than profit. At some point…when we grow up a little bit…we face the reality that money may not be everything…but it is obviously something…and it’s something that we tend to want. Each person searches for balance in the tension between doing good and attaining wealth…and everyone lands somewhere on what seems to be a spectrum with those two goals at opposite ends. Yes, there are plenty of companies that crop up, especially these days, that “do well by doing good” or impact investors that use constructs like “good for me and good for the world”…but almost always there feels to be some level of compromise where they are still picking some place on the line that is not a true maximization of both doing good and getting rich simultaneously.

There are many reasons why these two goals sit so far apart on the spectrum, but recently i’ve been thinking a lot about the societal, and more importantly government issued structural paradigms that we use to organize our work. When I graduated from college with my newfound skills, not only was I choosing a market to enter, i was choosing a structure to work in, and my choice would dictate where I sat on this spectrum. Either, I was interested in non-profit work, in which case I was looking for NGOs (non governmental ogranizations like the Red Cross, etc.), or I was looking for corporations, or partnerships, or even government jobs. There was this implicit reality that if I chose NGO to further a cause I’d be forgoing personal wealth, or if I chose a corporate gig I’d be positioning for personal wealth but not advancing causes as deeply as I could.

High level, a corporation’s goal is to maximize profits (both for the entity, and in turn for all those that work for it) and an NGO’s goal is to maximize impact toward it’s cause…but what if there was an organization that existed somewhere inbetween…well, it turns out there is! It’s called a B-Corp, and it’s become quite popular for mission driven companies like say Warby Parker or Etsy, to organize, in the eyes of the government and in turn their employees, shareholders, etc…around principles that optimize for something inbetween profit and impact. In this structure, a graduating senior from college can perhaps escape the tension between wealth creation and impact…but in doing so, i think still chooses something of a compromise as opposed to a rocket ship toward either goal.

One of the most interesting things to me about the blockchain, is that it presents the opportunity to organize work in many more flavors than are available and issued by the government or other societal bodies. It allows you to ask “Can I design a system that optimizes for impact AND tremendous wealth creation for early contributors of work.” It allows you to ask, for example, if it’s ok for the people who begin a deeply impactful mission driven project to become insanely wealth…in fact, is that optimization a key feature that catalyzes early effort and labor in the absense of a brand, large budget, or successful metrics? There is something both fopaux and legally questionable about early contributors to an NGO becoming millionaires in the process…because we already share an understanding of what NGO SHOULD be optimizing for…but it turns out, I can design I system on the blockchain which chooses different optimizations…that lives outside of the 5 flavors of orgnization that the government or society offers me…and you don’t have to like it in order for it to achieve it’s optimal state..the rules are clear…they are encoded into the protocol…they cannot change (at least without going through whatever governence structure i define), and the project will only succeed if there are enough people (you included or not included) who are willing to work for it or fund it…who agree that this unusual optimization shape is possibly impactful, or lucrative, or both…and if there are…liquidity of behavior can be achieved…nobody will get rich if the system doesn’t work…capital investors (in the loosest definition of the word that in this case maybe can include actors that are something between donors and investors) will flow in on speculation and flow out if ineffective/non-useful…early contributors of work will flow in on speculation, both of impact and wealth creation, and flow out if their goals are not being met…and the project will grow in fundraising ability, further speculation from capital markets, and in turn work, if things are accomplished and the system works…and guess what…the earliest workers in the system…rewarded with say a token that appreciates in value as the project succeeds in capital raising, may be getting rich in the process…and that in and of itself…is not a frictional input to liquidity of behavior…

I’ve been sketching out designs for protocols focussed on the organization and administration of mission/ideology driven work that seek to bend the norms of wealth creation and impact…they tend to center around issuing coin for early contribution that appreciates in value with the fundraising success of the project at hand…and they vary in how much of the administrative functions of a traditional org they take on, vs very simple foundational protocol mechanics that can be the infra for some of these upstack functions, but I haven’t landed on a super clean design yet. I’ve also been thinking about the role of that coin as a bridge to the needs and use cases of participants in the capital markets…also bending typical optimizations found in that space, and potentially introducing unique mechanics again at the protocol layer that would feel like new financial products from far away that specifically interact with organizations running on the afforementioned protocol…but again…sketches…not bulletproof thoughts.

I AM very interested in talking to blockchain founders and early contributors who are playing with the structural dimensions of how we organize work, especially where the systems being designed optimize for factors that don’t typically exist alongside one another…maybe i could call this shape of project “paradoxical protocols.” If you are working in the space in the broadest sense…questioning the choices of how we organize and what the systems and structures we work in choose to optimize for, and/or the paths that lead to those optimizations, i’d love to think with you, design with you, and maybe invest alongside you…please be in touch at jordan.cooper@gmail.com

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“Show me one good application built on the blockchain” and other such challenges

Posted on June 7, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

“Show me the newly enabled applications that provide unique user value, and that aren’t being sold on novelty of the blockchain.” – Sam Gertzenstang, ex-Andreesen Horowitz, Imgur, Lerer Ventures, Sidewalk labs)

“It was a great way to make money, and that’s all. No startup was made. The world does not have a new wonderful thing created in it. Just $.”Nabeel Hyatt, General Partner at Spark Capital, on Etherium

This challenge is not unique to Sam or Nabeel (both of whom i truly respect). It’s the elephant in the room when looking to the blockchain space from far away. All this money is coming in, people are getting rich, they’re talking about it all the time, but what does the world have to show for it? What applications have been built? Decentralized or otherwise? There are the believers who are building out the low level infrastructure to make this space viable, and then there are the impatient who refuse to accept this investment of time and money without an easily understandable, clearly visible real world application that they can wrap their heads around.

Investors…especially venture capital investors, like to understand opportunities in reference to things they have already learned and understood in the past. It’s a shortcut…rather than relearning the fundamentals and mechanics of every new business from the ground up, they just match the dynamics of one market or product or approach they deeply understand to a new thing they have just come across, and then tend to ask questions around potential incongruences or congruences to calibrate their analysis. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach.

When faced with new technologies or opportunities without clear reference points or prior understanding, I have found myself forced to choose whether or not to invest time and energy in understanding the fundamentals of that thing from the ground up. Personally, I get bored by things that are easily referenceable and understandable (even if valuable) and tend to gravitate toward the new. I look for opportunities to think and create on first principles, and the blockchain is ripe in this regard. The upfront investment to get to first principles thinking in this space is incredibly high. Higher than most other markets or technologies that I have learned in the past…and for those not willing or interested in putting in the time, it is easy to throw your hands up and say “show me the application so i can easily reference this new thing with other applications I understand already.” We are not yet in the stage of development in the ecosystem where investors can shortcut their way to understanding this space, and as a result you either have a choice whether you want to work toward building a thesis and understanding from messy, not perfectly articulated (let alone built) product and business articulations, or you can wait for those messy building blocks to be synthesized and expressed in a neater format…and both are totally reasonable approaches. What is less reasonable, is thinking that the ecosystem and it’s participants somehow owe you a clear product expression…on your timeline…simply because they are excited about it and have chosen to invest their time and potentially money in the messiness.

Personally, I have the luxury of time, I’m not sitting on a $700M fund that needs to be deployed today, and I’ve chosen not only to embrace the messiness, but to try to clarify and even design upstack protocols and applications to push my understanding and also help the ecosystem to build on whatever synthesis I can contribute. I feel good about that. It’s not vapid profit seeking. I’m not talking about all the money i’ve made in the space, and I am deeply confident that the building blocks that I am understanding can and will be assembled into things that satisfy the hand-throwers on Twitter and otherwise…

It’s not my job to defend this space, although recently I have been feeling like I am put in that position sometimes because of my time investment in it. I don’t have a blockchain company, I don’t stand to profit from other’s believing in the applications that are on the horizon, but I do care about it, and irrationally feel a bit attacked when the hand-throwers burst out. I guess that means I am a part of the community.

P.S. I started out writing this post to bullet point the unique properties of blockchain projects that unlock applications that previously could not exist (which is an ongoing and messy but improving framework that I have been building over the past few months), but I guess I’ll save that for future post(s).

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Crypto Investment Club #2 (evolved)

Posted on June 1, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Last month I organized a small and informal “crypto investment club” gathering in washington sq park. About 10 people showed up to talk about investing in the blockchain and cryptocoin space. My hope was that I could share some of my theses around coins like Bitcoin and Etherium as well as more emergent “altcoins” like Augur, Zcash, and hopefully some that hadn’t even become “public” via initial coin offerings yet (“pre-ICO”). I think the first meeting was pretty successful insofar as high quality vcs, wall st people, developers, and founders all came together to share their interest and ideas in the space. I wasn’t sure that the “crypto investment club” would have more than one gathering, but I find myself continuing to seek community and depth of thought in this area, where many of the folks I know and tend to think with are either no so interested or interested but really only at the surface level.

In thinking about how to create a productive gathering, I want to evolve from “show up and jam on whatever” to something a bit more like a white paper reading group. Most blockchain projects that are planning to or that have already ICO’d write a pretty meaty paper that outlines the nature and details of the protocol they are building, and to date it’s one of the only substantive inputs available into an investment decision on a coin. So my thought is for the next and maybe all meetings going forward, we will start reading these papers together, and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of new coins with a specific project and paper anchoring the conversation. I’ve found that reading these papers thoroughly sheds light on broader concepts and key learning that is relevant to an understanding of the space in general, and I think questions and discussion around the blockchain/crypto space as a whole will naturally emanate from focussed discussion on a specific project each meeting. A complete reading of the white paper at hand feels like a reasonable requirement for attendance and meaningful participation, and I think it’s also the only way people can leave with an actionable perspective on whether or not to invest in a coin or project.

I feel a little hesitant to evolve the structure in this way because it adds some friction to interested but less technical or experienced folks, but I assure you getting through these papers is a matter of focus and effort that I think is accessible to more folks than you would think. Coming with questions is as valuable as coming with answers around these papers.

So, if you want to attend the second “crypto investment club” brown bag lunch or others going forward, we’re gonna do it again at Washington Sq Park next Thursday, 6/8, 12:30-1:30PM. Email me to join the list: jordan.cooper@gmail.com.

There’s no requirement to put capital to work, and I don’t see that becoming a structural component of the group…just fyi

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What I Look for in Cryptocoins

Posted on May 23, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I sat around in a circle of 10 people, many of whom are pretty well credentialed by startup ecosystem standards and asked people to raise their hands if they owned any cryptocurrencies. Almost everyone raised their hands. I then asked if anyone in the circle could articulated their thesis or how they are trying to value their holdings. Nobody could. Literally, and quite candidly, the entire circle basically answered “Fear of Missing Out.” And that was a conscious and willing investment thesis to put tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars behind.

Personally, I have been pretty disciplined about resisting the urge to trade these crazy swings and spurts in the cryptocurrency landscape. I hold some assets that are openly traded today, but only with an eye toward 5 years+ into the future. For me, riding momentum into a 100% gain in 2 weeks does not make you a sophisticated cryptoinvestor, it makes you a reasonably good gambler…and there’s a difference.

The questions I find myself asking, are often around how people will try to start fundamentally valuing coins and currencies, whereas today I think the level of analysis is quite crude. Wealthy retail investors and instituions alike look at inputs like

  • notable founders / early contributors
  • branded institutional backers
  • trading volume
  • technical integrity of the whitepaper and protocol design
  • moderately understandable utility promise
  • and i’m sure a bunch of technical trading indicators that I won’t pretend to understand

I’m all for making decisions on limited data…i built an entire career out of doing that as an early stage venture capitalist…but there is a difference between buying semi-blind, pre traction securities at $3-10M valuations, and doing the same at $300M-$10B valuations.

My attention has gravitated a bit, beyond the excitement of “pubic market” frenzy, toward more pre-ICO investing opportunities. There is a period before a blockchain project conducts their ICO (Initial Coin Offering), that looks very similar to the earliest days of a startup, where a small number of contributors works to design their protocol and build their technology before going to market..and that’s an area where I think I can be helpful…and candidly it’s an area that is somewhat insulated from the frenzy of speculative capital that is driving interesting and uninteresting projects into statospheric valuation (as measure by market cap). I still own a lot of “public” coin, but I hold a very firm belief that there will be better entry points even for projects of deep merit, than are available in today’s landscape.

On the pre-ICO side, there are certain shapes of project and characteristics that I find myself looking for. I won’t claim these attributes are science…some of them are deeply reasoned, and some of them are feel (which you can trust my feel or not give a shit about it as an input)…but regardless they are things I believe are important and leading indicators of value. I’ll try to outline some of them below:

1) Native protocols and applications: I am most interested in projects that simply could not exist prior to the Blockchain. There is a large body of projects that are simply the decentralized alternative to an existing centralized solution or service, there are not my focus. I think the ideology around decentralization is important, especially because it is powerful enough to harness early user participation in the absence of compelling economic incentives, but the upside of a decentralization-first value proposition as the defining attribute of a project feels capped at say a Duck Duck Go sized opportunity if I can draw that parallel (respect for Duck Duck Go btw, i’m just hunting for elephants to a certain extent here).

2) Bottom Up: For me, I am interested in the blockchain’s ability to organize a group of people or businesses into a specific behavior that has not previously been organized. This is not the only path or complexion of opportunity in the space, but it’s the one I’m most excited about. In areas where the margin was not available or interesting enough for a top down enterprise to pull customers or users together to act or behave a certain way, I see opportunity for blockchain projects to thrive. In areas where the will or incentive wasn’t their for governments or political bodies to organize a group of citizens or businesses to behave a certain way, I see opportunity for blockchain projects to thrive.

2) Public not Private: For me, private chains (blockchain projects that a closed group of participants utilize often for a specific cost savings or efficiency) are completely uninteresting. I think there will be real value built their, but these projects look more like enterprise software companies than movements or networks and I find enterprise software completely boring. Also, I think their upside feels capped for the most part at sub $10B enterprise values, where as I believe there will be 1 or more public projects beyond Bitcoin and Etherium that will achieve market caps in excess of $50B.

3) Deep integration of coin into Protocol or service: ICOs and coin models are in vogue…and that’s not surprising given the market caps and available capital flowing into the sector as a whole. Without having waded through the now thousands of projects in the market, I can say with some confidence that the coins surrounding certain protocols are very much slapped on top of projects or software as opposed to deeply and natively integrated into the functioning of the service. If you think about the difference between Google monetizing their search service with Display advertising vs Adwords, that’s a not perfect analogy to the difference between deeply integrated coin designs and those that are slapped on top. To do this will requires deep elegance in design. I am not personally a fan of Steem, for a number of reasons, but their entry into the landscape was an expression of what’s possible along this axis, and I think that contribution opened up many eyes to how coins can interact with utility of a service or software that rides on top of a protocol. I think Etherium’s gas model is also a good example of this. Getting this right feels like a requirement to me, and also a double edged sword in today’s speculative wild wild west market. The reason double edged, is because elegant integration actually makes it easier to fundamentally value and measure the utility of a project and it’s corresponding coin value. I can start to grasp at hard metrics and build a model around the number of downstream projects being built on Etherium, their level of interaction/dependance with the Etherium blockchain, and the corresponding demands for gas in way that I can’t really for many others. If the “store of value” use case starts to fall away from Etherium and consolidates around Bitcoin, the utility measurement around Ehterium’s developer facing use case as it’s killer application (which I think is undeniably strong) will start to raise questions as to whether it is $4B market cap strong or $18B market cap strong today…and I think that’s very possibly coming.

4) Non-zero sum actors: It took me a while to figure this one out. When I started to look at protocol designs on the blockchain, I thought primarily with my economic mind. The blockchain is a great tool to structure and restructure economic incentives between a group of people or companies, and so it’s logical to try to speak to every participants economic rationale when designing for usage and liquidity of behavior. The interesting thing is that when you try to incentivize multiple parties on opposite sides of a transaction or behavior with money alone, most designs net out to zero. Value attained by one party is given by another, and in thin margin environments it’s tough to get the flywheel spinning. What I realized, first through the aforementioned ideology around decentralization, but later through other non-economic incentives, is that interesting designs allow for specified nodes or roles to house actors with variable incentives or reasons for participation. In designs where two parties on opposite sides of a transaction or behavior both feel like their winning, despite one of those two parties objectively winning from an economic standpoint, liquidity of behavior is easier to achieve. Lastly, I think it’s important to point out that in cases like this that occur within services owned or run by a company, the available margin of non-zero sum actors tends to be sucked up by the company itself, in the form of margin. I like that in these decentralized models that value gets 100% spread over the other participants in the protocol, greasing behavioral liquidity without the liquidity-stifling rake of a company that’s hosting it’s participants.

5) The role of speculation as a means to liquidity of behavior: When a participant in a protocol contributes work, excess owned resource, or even faith in an earned coin vs exchanging it for BTC or Fiat, actors who are not participants in the protocol itself can speculate on a projects coin. So if a protocol organizes for the behavior and potentially also the exchange of work, time, or value between parties A, B, and C in a blockchain based project, investment capital from outside investors represents party D, who is not fundamentally using the service in which she is investing. Party D could be someone who got rich of Bitcoin who is now realizing their profits and diversifying into new coins, or it could be a hedge fund on wall st, buying a basket of cryptocoins because it’s an emergent asset class that has low correlation to their other holdings. But not all speculative capital enhances the value of the underlying protocol. It is possible to design a system where the speculative capital spreads value over some or all of parties A, B, or C, in a way that makes early participation in the behavior we’re shooting for more likely. This can be a real asset when the terminal form of the service offers better economics to participants than are available in the early days, and in that case speculative capital is designed into the success of the protocol. In other cases, the economic incentives baked into the protocol don’t improve absent of price gains resultant from outside speculation, and that feels like a much less sustainable position.

6) Organizing behaviors that are naturally transactional: Not all behaviors can be incentivized through economics or money. If you try to pay participants to do something that people tend to do for love, or self-expression, or any other non-economic reason, I think that’s a path to illiquidity of behavior and weak value of end product or service. I think Steem suffered form this, and I think others will too, especially as product thinkers start to hone in on the ideologies of their participant base. If money doesn’t fit in naturally to a behavior your trying to organize, I think your barking up the wrong tree trying to incentive participation via a coin model.

7) Collective economic force: This is not a deeply baked idea, but I am interested in exploring blockchain projects that attempt to organize large groups of people from the bottom up to act or express collective economic force. I wrote this post on “Blockchain based tax resistance” as an example, but there are many more possibilities that I think are well suited to this space and I can’t wait to see them. Everything from Coops to collective bargaining to group buying are intriguing and I see many natural points of interface between blockchain based collectives and “real world,” non blockchain based entities, businesses, and even governments that give a louder voice to the individual in contexts previously dominated by groups economically and administratively organized under more traditional structures like corporations or evn NGOs.

8) Shit this list is getting long. I’ve actually got a bunch of others, but if you’ve made it this far, I’m guessing you’ll see that I am beneath the surface of his world and excited and eager to help put language around projects of value. If I can be of help in the design, financing, or even communication around a project you are working on, I’m excited to invest or help or whatever. Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com

Bonus: At different points along my learning, I’ve tried to express some of these principles in designs i’ve outlined for fun. Here’s some early projects I thought would be cool:

First try was Pryntcoin: https://jordancooper.blog/2016/09/12/free-1b-or-maybe-50m-idea-pryntcoin/

Next was Tax resistance: https://jordancooper.blog/2017/02/04/blockchain-based-tax-resistance-aka-resistcoin/

Last was a Genomic Data Protocol: https://jordancooper.blog/2017/05/15/build-this-blockchain-base-genomic-data-protocol/

IMPORTANT: I am not an expert here. I’m learning as I believe even the experts in this world are…there are very few people in the ecosystem who truly have this stuff all figured out, despite how they may posture. Help me if I’m wrong about any of this stuff, or share what I have considered in the comments or via email. Would appreciate learning with others.

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Build this: Blockchain based genomic data protocol

Posted on May 15, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I had this idea a while ago for leveraging the blockchain in order to build, store, surface, and monetize the largest fully sequenced genomic data set in the world.  The premise was that the economics and incentives are not in place for each stakeholder that would need to participate to do so today, but that a blockchain protocol and corresponding coin design could be written to provise for the terms by which participants could and would contribute sequenced genome data, pay/earn economics, attain/grant data access, and perhaps even communicate/participate in higher value interactions (i.e. clinical trials, EMR metadata transmission, etc.). The participants would be healthy people, patients, researchers, pharma companies, hospitals, and anyone else with an interest in advancing genomic research at the system level, monetizing owned genomic data, or query/access the largest repository of said data in the world.

I never fully flushed it out, nor do I really plan to, but it just seems cool to me to be able to anonymously post my sequenced dna to the blockchain, let researchers, computer scientists, or care providers query mine and many other peoples information blindly, and then potentially earn coin(money) when my data contributes to a party that stands to gain economically from my raw information, but only when it’s appended to the metadata of my lifelong EMR, and/or my willingness to participate in some clinical trial, etc…and it just seems obvious to me that all the actors in the system are not willing to finance this collective dataset b/c it’s not in their individual interests to do so without some attribution and downstream economics protocol clearly defined, objectively self governed and authenticated, and organized in such a way that system level gains represented economic gains for parties that pay it forward (and thereby speculate) on the future value of this collective effort.

There are a bunch of rough edges, but I think you can work a system like this out. I also think the speculative nature of financial capital into the ICO world would serve to smooth out some of the economic speed bumps that are gating enterprise from taking this task on, and I think that even with “small levels” of initial genome contribution/participation by information technology data set standards, the aggregate asset would represent a near term market value in a world where clinical trials are run only at the the tens or hundreds of patients scale, and where large / the largest genomic datasets merely exist in the tens of thousands or maybe 6 figure patient realm.

I know it sounds a little pie in the sky to think that there is genuine convergence available at the nexus of blockchain technology, large scale data processing / AI techniques, and genomic research / application…given that these are three super sound-bitey forward tech areas…but I am certain that our collective genomic data set is way too small to apply modern data analysis techniques for progress in the near and out markets within genomics, I am certain that there is an economic and societal alignment within reach on a long enough timescale with baked in trust between all participants, and I am certain that the the shape of this project is a great fit for a coin based project running on the blockchain for too many reasons to write about in this post.

I’m not gonna do anything with this idea, so if you like it, take it, make it happen, and break me off an allocation of coin hardcoded into the first block on the chain.  Pasting some of my past notes below.  Maybe they are incomprehensible, but if you have been thinking in these spaces, I think could be helpful.

If anyone is working on anything in this area, email me, I’d love to invest pre-ICO and help get the project to market.  If this post is inspiring and you decided to start working on it…same deal. jordan.cooper@gmail.com.  Lot’s to figure out, totally worth it!


Blockchain based genome database

1) sample of biz opportunity, albeit not my preferred approach: http://medcitynews.com/2016/12/strata-sequence-100k-tumors-free/

2) earn coin by posting genome, earn coin by showing up in search results, earn coin by allowing contact/communication, earn coin by participating in trials

3) non-economic incentives: all good coin projects, some participants don’t act in a zerosum economic way because of ideals. here it would be advancing cancer therapy.

4) patients who had it done in course of treatment get excess income for free (insurance co or they paid already. similar to sharing excess compute resources.

5) pharma companies and researchers pay buy the coin and spend it in exchange for querying the database, contacting the patients, and ideally assembling trials.

6) patients or contributors may have access to query it for free

7) speculators bet on increased value of the largest genomic dataset in the world and increased volume of genomic research and targeted treatement plus other verticals

8) sequence is posted anonymously with report behind a paywall maybe? can we authenticate sequence on chain?

9) sequence acts as pubic id and is discoverable/analyzable without patient info, EMR metadata. demand side can identify genomes of interest without knowing anything about identity of patient. Raw string is good input for comparison analysis, etc..

10) Start with cancer genomes to seed database, but there is value in “normal genomes” and analysis of genome before cancer is expressed. it will become standard of care to sequence entire genome for every tumor, but currently insurance doesn’t cover if no targeted therapy available for that type (chicken and egg).

11) blockchain is great solution for chicken and egg problems because speculative capital can spread over early marketplace to allign incentives pre-liquidity

12) network effect. the more people who post their genome, the more valuable the dataset is to query and the more valuable the coin becomes

13) There is no incentive for an individual insurance co to finance a genome w/out direct care application, but there is an incentive for a consortium/all to chip in together. similar structure to private chain consortiums in fin services between banks

14) the equivalent of sponsored content in genomic sequencing is interesting. definiing a “sponsor” role in the protocol could be meaningful. certain rights, and downstream economics attached? maybe sponsoring sequencing is a way to speculate/earn coin (rev share). financial speculator as opposed to financing from end consumer/user of data (pharma for example).

extra notes

  • figure out financing of widespread full genome sequencing in healthy patients/people
  • apparently data storage is an issue given size of dataset…solvable on chain via storj like solution? any benefit to integrating that job into protocol vs using storj or another 3rd party layer in the stack?
  • is there a capacity constraint on full genome sequencing if volume rises abruptly? who serves this market as 3rd party?
  • genecoin “store you DNA on the bitcoin blockchain”…early project, pre appcoin it looks like
  • genome rights management is an interesting question
  • michigan pool: https://www.michigangenomics.org/
  • genome rights management: https://grants.nih.gov/policy/sharing.htm
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The Universe took my iphone

Posted on May 9, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Saturday around sunset I walked out to a pier on the Hudson river for a little peace and quiet. I was wearing baggy sweatpants and a hoodie, and had my phone in a loose pocket. The day had passed and I didn’t get to exercise so I decided I’d do a little self-guided yoga while the sun went down. Life has been a little hectic lately, but I was able to slow down, and center, and just as i was zeroing in on some kind of equilibrium…THWAP. Not really the thwap of a glass screen hitting the pavement, more actually a SCHWOOP…of say a vacuum cleaner sucking up broken glass.

I opened my eyes and reached for my phone and sure enough it was no longer in my pocket. No problem…the planks that make up this deck are not spaced far enough apart for the phone to have fallen through…EXCEPT…for the two planks directly beneath me, which happen to spaced such that if a phone fell at exactly the right angle, it could just barely clear the opening and reach the promised land of the Hudson River…and that…my friends…is exactly where my phone ended up on Saturday evening.

For a second my mind went to backups, and icloud restores, and all of the anxiety that comes with reduced access to a pure addiction…but strangely, rather than jumping into action to fix the problem, a wave of calm came over me instead. The fall through the cracks was a one in a million type occurrence…so improbable that I just chose to accept that universe was trying to tell me something…rather than rush home, or to the Apple store, or wherever you go to deal with a lost phone…I said fuck it, went back to my yoga practice, watched the rest of a beautiful sunset, walked to the grocery store, cooked a great meal for my wife, and chose to remember that life is pretty sweet without a supercomputer in your pocket.

The next day, I waited until after the gym to walk over to Apple and replace my phone. As I sat at the Setup table, waiting for icloud to restore my new device, i looked over the communal table at another guy, probably late 30s, wearing a yamaka, weird sweater, and glasses. He looked back at me at just the same moment. He too was waiting for his device to restore…and rather than just sitting there, in silence, watching a progress bar eek along, I decided to ask him about his life. I think what drove me to do it, beyond a general interest in talking to strangers, was a shared understanding that we both didn’t have phones to bury ourselves in while we waited. We had this pause, after making eye contact, which was like “have we really forgotten how to pass the time with other human beings because of these things that we’re sitting here waiting to restore from backup?” It was so obvious that in any other collective waiting scenario (think jury duty, flight delay, whatever) in present day, we would be choosing antisocial co-waiting via the very phones we were repairing. In this moment, the shared absence of our digital escape hatch bonded us, without a single word needing to be spoken, and so we started talking.

The conversation lasted about 20 minutes. I learned about his life growing up in queens, his pursuit of a rare branch of yoga called shadow yoga, and his time living in Israel. I shared a bit about traveling through India, my time living in Boston, and the decision to experience more than just New York City in my life. The normally deadening experience of waiting in an Apple Store became rich and interesting, and then…all of the sudden, my screen flickered, the apple load screen emerged, and bam, I had a perfect copy of my universe-snatched river phone replicated on this new device. I thanked the man for the conversation, threw the new phone in my pocket, and walked home without even a contemplation of connecting with him on Facebook or the like.

I’m not sure what the point of this story is exactly, except to say that life is pretty good without the likes, hearts, and texts. An evening is not ruined without connectivity. And real life surroundings and interactions with strangers can be as entertaining as Facebook videos if you choose to make them so. I don’t know if I was particularly in need of this mini-reminder from the universe…I don’t feel blinded by my phone addiction in general…but the yoga felt great, the dinner was delicious, the conversation was enriching, and the phoneless acceptance was freeing…perhaps a 24 hours worth the $700 it put me out.

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Last Mile Thinkers

Posted on May 2, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I have a lot of 80% finished ideas. At any given time maybe i have 10 or so, floating around in my brain. When I stall out on an idea, rather than let it die or evaporate, I like to lob it over the fence into other people’s yards to see what comes back. Often, what comes back is a set of blank stares or even dismissal, but occasionally what comes back is the last 20%. I start tons of conversations with “want to hear an unfinished idea?” There are certain, albeit few, people in the world who are open and receptive to incomplete thinking. Not in a brainstormy “let’s get to the answer together” kind of way… rather in a “drop me in the right zipcode and I’ll navigate the last mile” kind of way. I deeply value the ear of last mile thinkers. They tend to be forgiving of blemishes and opportunistic around kernels of truth. I had a brief conversation today where my 80% idea was met with inaction…where I wanted the recipient to just take the beginning and see it through to the end…and he just couldn’t…and it made me stop for a minute and really appreciate the last mile thinkers I’ve worked with in my life…it’s a rare chemistry when you find people who can finish your thoughts.

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A moment of guilt

Posted on March 29, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

About 10 minutes ago an entrepreneur walked into the office i’m sitting in, who i backed four years ago, who i haven’t seen or stayed in touch with basically since we invested. His company was successful, my investment in it returned real capital to our investors at Lerer, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little bad at this moment. We earned our spot in his round because I had studied his space deeply and our conversations during the fundraising process were dynamic and interesting. Although not stated, there was an implicit suggestion that the level of dialogue we achieved during the fundraise would persist over the life of his company’s development and growth. The reality, however, is that this founder was a repeat entrepreneur…he knew what he was doing, never really asked for anything from me, I had a two jobs, building my own companies and continuing to invest at Lerer, and I just kind of never went to that deeper level with him. This story is not unique to this one guy…there are a handful of founders that I’ve invested in over the years that fall into a similar bucket, and of course there’s more than a handful that fall into the “deeply involved and strong connection” bucket…but i do and always have felt some guilt around this sometimes surface level dimension of seed investing, and especially seed investing while acting as full time CEO of my own companies.

Some of the most rewarding aspects of venture capital investing are the bonds and shared experiences that you get to have with founders you back. For the 6 years I invested with Lerer, I was able to achieve this often…but I always felt spread thin. I never went into a deal saying I would do x, and then delivered less. But I also always wished I had the time and attention to practice a very “hands on,” proactive approach with all of our founders…I always wished I could deliver more than was promised or expected…and I just couldn’t do that for everyone. My friend Chris Dixon used to be very clear with founders he seeded. I think partially borrowed from Ron Conway, he would say “i get involved during fundraising, selling, or something really hairy that needs my attention..that’s what you’re gonna get from me…and you can the other stuff from other people.” I liked this candor even if it’s not the model I wanted to replicate exactly…in hindsight I wish that I was more explicit about how and when I would get involved with companies I backed. Not to set maximum expectations as in the case of Chris, but at least to set minimums that I could hold myself to. In practice, the founders who sought my support over the years became my most attended to…and I just didn’t have the time and mental bandwidth to be as proactive with the ones that didn’t.

Going into this next chapter of my venture capital life, I am making some structural changes to improve along this axis. I’ve cut out the two simultaneous full time jobs thing..being a venture backed CEO and deeply supporting EVERY CEO you venture back just isn’t possible…it was an amazing run while it lasted, and there was a lot that was incredible, but it’s more than a full time job to be the kind of partner to ALL that I have been to most…and that’s the bar I’m going to hold myself to going forward. I’ve also chosen to design a platform built to invest in ~15 companies per fund instead of 50 companies per fund. There are a lot of other reasons for this that have nothing to do with depth of relationship with our portfolio founders, but obviously this structure is going to lead to more depth. I never want to run into a founder again and feel bad about the amount of effort and energy I put into our relationship. This guilt may be in my head, and it may be exacerbated by the fact that this specific founder’s success is part of the “successful investment track record” that I will rest on if I end up raising a new fund from LPs, but it feels shitty to have a single founder in my portfolio with whom I am not genuinely close. I can’t go back in time, but I can make sure I am set up structurally to do better going forward.

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Blockchain based Tax Resistance aka “Resistcoin”

Posted on February 4, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’ve dipped in and out of blockchain research for the past few years, and there are certain things i’ve come to understand about the complexion of projects that are well suited for the technology. One broad thesis that I’ve developed is that blockchain technology is uniquely capable of organizing bottom up user behaviors, especially in areas where there is no profit or political incentive for a company or government to organize said people from the top down. As I have watched protests erupt across our country, and as I have seen bottom up action fight a top down administration, I kept thinking to myself…there must be more impactful forms of leverage than simply visualizing our collective discontent via large scale assembly and marching. So here’s an idea on how the bottom up swell of discontent Americans can exert economic force and leverage on Donald Trump and Co.

Quick Primer on Blockchain for newbies
Blockchain technology enables strangers to trust each other in economic and social agreements. It is the technology that powers Bitcoin, Etherium, and hundreds of other crptocurrencies, but this same technology can power lots of other apps, especially those that deal with the transfer of money between people who don’t know each other. To simplify for non-blockchain folks, the important take away is this: if a blockchain based app (similar to a website or mobile app just w different technology powering it) defines a set of rules…especially around how money is going to be earned and distributed within the app…you can trust that when you put your money in…those rules will be followed by you and everyone else on the app…no matter what the makers of the app decide in the future, or even if the makers of the app are around in the future. Blockchain protocols are like detailed promises of how a community or network of people/companies and their money will behave in a given app or system. These promises, by design, will always be fullfilled, without the need of a company or government or law enforcement agency to make sure of it.

Ok, so here’s the idea:

1) The annual federal budget is around $4 Trillion a year

2) The government collects about $3.6 Trillion in federal taxes (so roughly speaking, our federal taxes pay for most of what the federal government operates on)

3) If a significant portion of US citizens chose to protest with their wallets and not their bodies, in substantial numbers, we could have a material adverse effect on Donald Trump’s operations.

4) Turns out this a thing. It’s called Tax Resistance, and there are hundreds of cases in our country’s history (and around the world) where people banded together and didn’t pay taxes when opposing a war or some other perceived injustice by a ruling government.

5) There is, obviously, deep personal risk to not paying your taxes. You can rack up steep fines, and worst case maybe even go to jail. My premise, is that as an individual, this risk is extreme, but as one of say 20 Million people, who collectively agree to behave this way, the risk is diminished…basically…strength and leverage in numbers. But how could you ensure that you were one of 20 Million before withholding funds? And how could you, collectively, ensure that your withheld funds were heard and responded to with action?

6) I think you could build a blockchain based application to organize mass federal tax resistance. The basic design would be a smart contract built on Etherium (or maybe you’d build your own blockchain from the ground up, i don’t know) that would receive all participants’ owed federal taxes, and that would only release these taxes to the IRS if a set of predefined conditions was satisfied by Donald Trump and the Federal Government. These conditions would be promises of the system that everyone agrees to on the way in. The logic of the contract would enable people to pay into it for the months leading up to Tax Day, and it would be conditional such that it would only become active and withhold on tax day if 1) the conditions had not been met, and 2) the minimum number of people specified at the onset (i.e. 20 million) had come together and funded the contract in time. So if only 100 people did it, on Tax Day, the contract would simply pass through your funds to the IRS automatically. BUT…if the contract had hit 20 Million people, which is the predefined number representing scale and safety for this form of protest, the contract would hold the funds until Administration acted to say 1) lift the muslim bad, 2) oust Bannon from office, 3) whatever else the protocol defines as fundamentally important and constitutional. (NOTE: If i’ve made any technical mistakes in this design or my simplification of blockchain technology, please feel free to correct me. thank you.)

7) The effect would be a big fat pile of money…say $200 Billion or 5% of annual feferal budget…sitting in a smart contract, staring Donald Trump in the face. He would know what he needed to do to release it. And he couldn’t lean on any individual actor in the system, or any top down authority governing these funds (because there isn’t one)..and the money would just be sitting there until he chose to behave. I believe this type of economic leverage would be a language this president understands…sure…he might go nuts and try to arrest all 20 Million people…but I think if a bottom up org represented that type of capital leverage…interesting things would happen.

8) For fun, maybe you’d call the project “Resistcoin”

9) Note to the IRS: I pay my taxes and I am not building this app.

Here’s Wikipedia’s list of historical tax resistance occurrences dating back to the 1st century A.D. through very modern and recent times.

Before 1500 A.D.[edit]

Jewish Zealots, 1st century A.D.[edit]

See also: Render unto Caesar…
In the 1st century AD, Jewish Zealots in Judaea resisted the poll tax instituted by the Roman Empire.[3] Jesus was accused of promoting tax resistance prior to his torture and execution (“We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” — Luke 23:2).[4]After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, Jews, particularly those exiled to Egypt, refused to pay the still-extant “temple tax” to Rome (which it was using to maintain pagan temples); Rome responded by destroying Jewish temples.[5]

Limoges, 578[edit]

In 578 AD residents of Limoges, encouraged by the local clergy, rioted, destroying tax-collecting paraphernalia and threatening the assessor. The government responded harshly, with punishments including torture and crucifixion, though Queen Fredegund later was said to have repented and rescinded the tax.[6]

Peace and Truce of God[edit]

In councils organized by the Peace and Truce of God movement, Christian clergy resisted the exaction of taxes against church property by warlords.[7]

Danegeld, 1041[edit]

In 1041, residents of Worcester rebelled against the Danegeld being collected by King Harthacnut, and killed two of his tax collectors. Harthacnut responded by burning Worcester to the ground.[8]

Lady Godiva′s Ride[edit]

In the legend of Lady Godiva′s ride, Godiva continuously pleaded with Leofric to reduce taxes on the people of Coventry. Leofric, doubting the strength of her commitment to the cause, said that he would do so if Godiva were to ride naked on a horse through the town. She called his bluff, rode in the buff, and that was enough.[9]

Constantinople, 1197[edit]

Main article: Alamanikon
When Alexios III Angelos tried to tax residents of Constantinople in order to come up with money to pay protection money to Henry VI, the people of Constantinople refused to pay, and Alexios was reduced to trying to collect the sum by stripping the ornaments from old tombs.[10]

Florence, 1289[edit]

A war tax instituted by the Florentine seigniory in 1288 and increased in 1289 led to mass tax resistance that forced the government to abandon the tax.[11]

Clericis laicos, 1296[edit]

In 1296, Pope Boniface VIII issued the clericis laicos, which prohibited secular governments from taxing churches without the permission of the Pope, and prohibited church officials from paying such taxes. Archbishop Robert Winchelsey used this as the basis for his refusal to pay taxes to Edward I of England, and urged the clergy under his direction to do likewise.[12]

Norman anti-tax riots, 1348–51[edit]

In Normandy in June 1348, tax resisters attacked the tax collectors of King Philip VI, “pillaging and burning their houses.” In August 1351, citizens of Rouen rioted, “destroying ‘the counters, boxes, and other objects necessary to make and operate’ collection of” a new tax instituted by John II.[13] In 1355, Geoffroy of Harcourt urged residents of Rouen to refuse to pay the hearth tax and allied with Charles the Bad against John II′s taxes.[14]

Wat Tyler′s rebellion, 1381[edit]

In 1381, the Peasant’s Revolt occurred in England, when Wat Tyler led an uprising over a new poll tax. Tyler marched an army of tens of thousands of peasants from Kent to Canterbury, then to London, beheaded the archbishop, and exacted radical concessions from King Richard II. During the negotiations, Tyler was killed by officers of the King and was publicly beheaded, and Richard II retracted all of the concessions that he had previously made.[15]

French aides uprisings, 1381[edit]

See also: Harelle and Tuchin Revolt
In 1381 there was widespread tax rebellion in France.

In Rouen workers in the textile trade gathered in the Old Market, chose one of their own to represent the king, and had this mock king sign acts abolishing the aides. In Paris the collectors′ threat to seize a greengrocer′s still on the Right Bank roused local residents to assemble, shout “Down with taxes!” and chase off the tax collectors…. The rebellion then spread to Caen and other towns in Normandy and to towns in Picardy, where opposition was especially virulent in Amiens. It moved through Orleans and on to Sens, finally reaching Lyons….[16]

Bundschuh movement[edit]

The Bundschuh movement was in part a tax resistance movement that encouraged its followers to stop paying tithes to the Catholic Church and taxes.[17] In France, a tithe-payer strike spread from 1529 to 1560 among both Catholics and Protestants.[18]

16th century[edit]

Revolt of the Comuneros, 1520[edit]

Residents of Salamanca in 1520 refused to pay any taxes because of their belief that Charles I was sending the tax money to the Netherlands. They were joined by other towns, which eventually formed the Revolt of the Comuneros.[19]

German Peasants′ War, 1524–25[edit]

The German Peasants’ War of 1524–25 was in part a tax resistance campaign. The rebels vowed to set their own tithes, and:

The small tithes, whether ecclesiastical or lay, we will not pay at all, for the Lord God created cattle for the free use of man. We will not, therefore, pay farther an unseemly tithe which is of man′s invention…. Henceforth no one shall have to pay death taxes, whether small or large.[20]

Revolt of Ghent, 1539[edit]

The Revolt of Ghent (1539) began when the city magistrates refused to pay taxes demanded by Charles V for his war with France.[21]


In the 16th century, Hutterites refused to pay taxes for war or capital punishment. One wrote:

For war, killing, and bloodshed (where it is demanded especially for that) we give nothing, but not out of wickedness or arbitrariness, but out of the fear of God (1 Timothy 5) that we may not be partakers in strange sins.[22]

Another wrote:

[When] the government requires of us what is contrary to our faith and conscience — as swearing oaths and paying hangman’s dues or taxes for war — then we do not obey its command.[23]

Gabelle revolts, 1542, 1548[edit]

Residents of La Rochelle rebelled against the gabelle, or salt tax, in 1542. “[A]rmed rebels thwarted the tax-collecting efforts of two successive visitations of royal commissioners sent out to enforce the [gabelle] edicts.”[24] A second revolt centered in Guyenne in 1548 was more organized, widespread, and violent; and was violently suppressed.[25] Also in August 1548, there were violent revolts against the gabelle in Bordeaux in which tax collectors were killed and their homes burnt. The French central government sent in thousands of troops who terrorized the occupants, imposed martial law, and enforced humiliating terms; however “Amazingly, in the long run, the rebellion did achieve its aim. Unnerved by the riots, Henri II decided not to enforce the salt tax.”[26]

Tariff resistance in Holland, 1543–49[edit]

Merchants in Holland successfully resisted a variety of export duties imposed by the Holy Roman Empire via Mary of Hungary.[27]

Tax strikes in France, 1579–80[edit]

In Romans-sur-Isère and other parts of Dauphiné, anti-tax leagues formed, which grew into a powerful rebellion that was crushed in the wake of the ambush and murder of many of the rebel leaders by vigilantes during the Carnival of 1580.[28]

The Revolt Against the Tribute, Philippines, 1589[edit]

In 1589, the provinces of Cagayán, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur rebelled against unjust Spanish colonial taxes and abusive tax collectors in what became known as the “Revolt Against the Tribute,” the “Dingrás Revolt,” or the “Ilocos Norte Revolt.”[29]

Rappenkrieg, 1591–94[edit]

In a three-year-long tax refusal campaign called the Rappenkrieg or “farthing war” the residents of Basel, Switzerland refused to pay a tax destined for the bishop.[30]

Croquants, 1593–95[edit]

Main article: Croquant rebellions
Peasant rebels in southwestern France called “croquants” included “refusal to pay tithes, tailles, and rents… and resistance to tax collectors and their agents.” A second rebellion in Vivarais at the same time also centered on refusal to pay the taille.[31]

Sales tax resistance in France, 1597[edit]

A number of towns in France, notably Poitiers, resisted the imposition of a new sales tax by Henry IV in 1597. The King at first stubbornly enforced the tax by force, but eventually decided the expense and fuss was not worth the income and rescinded the tax.[32]

Jelali revolts[edit]

The Jelali revolts were typically inspired by taxes or the action of tax collectors, and included tax resistance strategies, including “The Great Flight” — a sort of mass emigration by peasants from their land to avoid taxes.[33]

17th Century[edit]

Bolotnikov rebellion, 1606[edit]

During the Bolotnikov rebellion, tribes in western Siberia began refusing to pay taxes to the central government.[34]

Brussels, 1619[edit]

In the city of Brussels, then part of the Duchy of Brabant in the Habsburg Netherlands, there was a tax strike in 1619. When the States of Brabant (composed of representatives of the clergy, the nobility, and the four cities Leuven, Brussels, Antwerp and ‘s-Hertogenbosch) met to renew the standard sales tax on the “four species of consumption” (beer, wine, bread and meat), the guilds of the city of Brussels instructed their representatives not to vote the taxes through until their grievances had been addressed. As the constitutional principle was that taxes had to be passed by “full consent”, this meant the taxes could not legally be collected. After two months of constitutional impasse and fruitless negotiations (May–June) the government ordered the taxes to be collected notwithstanding. The guilds made this impossible, and their defiance of the government led to a military occupation of the city in September 1619. The central authorities then revised the civic constitution to limit the power of the guilds to filibuster the States of Brabant. The deans of six of the guilds, and their legal counsel, were served with sentences of lifelong banishment from the Low Countries.[35]

English Civil War[edit]

In 1627, John Hampden was imprisoned for his opposition to the loan Charles I authorised without parliamentary sanction, and he also refused to pay ship money to the Royal Navy. The attempts to imprison resisters like Hampden led to the English Civil War.[36]
From the summer of 1646 through 1648, the city of London refused to pay taxes to the New Model Army which was occupying the city.[37]

17th-century tax rebellions in France[edit]

In 1615, the residents of one commune refused to pay the wine tithe and threatened to throw the collector into the Rhône.[38]
In Poitiers, France, in 1624 and again on multiple occasions in 1663, mobs attacked Inns where French tax farmers were staying, threatening to torch the building and kill those inside.[39]
The success of anti-tax rebellions in Saintonge and Angoumois led to other rebellions in France, including some in which excise officers were lynched.[40] The most notorious incident was the massacre of tax officers responsible for collecting the gabelle at Agen in June 1635.[41]
A second “Croquants′ Revolt” in 1636–37 (with some outbreaks as early as 1628) concerned the taxes being raised to support France′s entry into the Thirty Years’ War and included the lynching of tax officials, a tax strike, and a major battle at which over 2,000 people were killed. The major rebellion was defeated, but outbreaks of mass tax resistance continued as late as 1658.[42]
From 1638 to 1645, the residents of Pardiac refused to pay their taxes, rose up to free the officials who had been imprisoned for failure to remit the tax money, repulsed government troops sent to enforce the tax laws, and massacred a tax official and his bodyguard.[43]
In 1639–43, the revolt of the va-nu-pieds in Normandy included a tax strike and attacks on the homes of tax farmers.[44] In 1643 there were attacks on tax collectors in multiple regions of France.[45] The Fronde of 1646–53 was also marked by anti-tax riots.[46]
The revolt of the papier timbré in 1675 was centered on a new stamp tax, and included destruction of tax offices and attacks on tax- and tithe-collectors.[47]
In 1682, a village curate led a tax revolt in which the villagers stoned the monks and the tithe agent who had come to collect a grain tithe.[38]

Algonquian resistance, 1637[edit]

In 1637, the Algonquian resisted being taxed by Dutch colonialists to pay for improvements to Fort Amsterdam.[48]

Italian tax revolts, 1647[edit]

Main article: Masaniello
Residents of Palermo and of Naples revolted in 1647 and destroyed the tax offices and the homes of tax farmers.[49]

Swiss peasant war of 1653[edit]

A devaluation of Bernese money caused a tax revolt and the Swiss peasant war of 1653 that spread from the Entlebuch valley in the Canton of Lucerne to the Emmental valley in the Canton of Bern and then to the cantons of Solothurn and Basel and also to the Aargau.

Resistance to Cromwell’s Taxes-by-Decree, 1654[edit]

In 1654, an English merchant named George Cony refused to pay customs duties that had been established by Oliver Cromwell‘s government without its having bothered to go through Parliament, and thereby called into question the legal underpinnings of the whole regime.[50]

Quaker Tithe and War Tax Resistance, 1659–[edit]

George Fox′s Quaker movement included resistance to tithes and other mandatory fees destined for the establishment church. Soon, the movement also incorporated resistance to militia taxes and fees, and to “trophy money” (taxes for equipping soldiers). These were early examples of war tax resistance in the Quaker movement.[51]

Revolt of the papier timbré, 1675[edit]

Main article: Revolt of the papier timbré

Scottish presbyterian dissent, 1678–88[edit]

In the 17th century, as the reformation government in Scotland reintroduced a state episcopal church and brutally cracked down on dissident presbyterian groups, members of those groups resisted the taxes that were being raised to pay for this repression, and advocated mass tax resistance.[52] (When the Scottish Presbyterians gained the upper-hand and became the establishment church of Scotland, the tables were turned, and members of dissident churches began to resist taxes paid for its support.[53])

Resistance in New England, 1687[edit]

Main article: 1689 Boston revolt
On 22 August 1687, John Wise met with some of the other “principal inhabitants” of Ipswich in New England, and decided that a new tax that had been imposed by governor Edmund Andros, without consulting the colony’s General Assembly, was illegitimate and “that it was not the town’s duty any way to assist that ill method of raising money.” A town meeting the next day that Andros had called for in order to select tax commissioners instead issued a declaration against the tax. A number of those at the town meeting were then arrested, hauled to a jail in another town, and then put on trial before a jury hand-picked by the prosecution and a judge who referred to the defendants as “criminals” over the course of the trial.
Fines and court costs followed, and, at first, the Andros tyranny was triumphant. But Wise and company had the last laugh. On 18 April 1689, in the wake of the Glorious Revolution in the home country, a “Declaration of the Gentlemen, Merchants, and Inhabitants of Boston” was issued, which proclaimed the assault on the rights of dissenting English colonists to be part of the same plot of “the great Scarlet Whore” to crush Englishmen under the thumb of the papists (that is, James II of England) again.[54]
Then followed a revolution. Andros and Judge Dudley, who had tried the case against Wise and the rest, were overthrown and imprisoned.

18th century[edit]

Camisard revolt, 1700–03[edit]

Tax resistance was a feature of the Camisard revolt.[55]

New Jersey resistance to a Catholic assessor, 1715[edit]

In 1715, 36 New Jersey residents pledged to refuse to pay taxes “Because wee have been Illegally Assessed by an Asseser who being a Known & open profest Roman Catholick which is Utterly Repugnant to the Laws of Great Brittain & Contrary to ye Rights & Liberties of his Royall Majties faithfull Subjects.” Some of the signers of the pledge were indicted for their refusal.

18th-century uprisings in Japan[edit]

Successful peasant uprisings in the Fukuyama fief in 1717 (and again in 1752 and 1770), in the Tsuyama fief in 1726–27, and in Iwaki Daira in 1739, focused on the oppressiveness of taxes and tax collection.[56] Other tax revolts in Aizu in 1749, in Shinano Ueda in 1761–63, in Tenma Sodo in 1764–65, in Koyasan in 1776, in Kozuke & Musashi in 1781, and in Hokkaido in 1790, were only partially successful but also led to severe reprisals.[57]

Malt tax riots in Scotland, 1725[edit]

Main article: Malt tax riots
A duty on malt had been imposed in England to pay for a war against France. At the union with Scotland in 1707, most taxes were made uniform, but under the Treaty of Union Scotland was given a temporary exemption from the malt tax, until the end of the war. After the war, in 1725, the House of Commons applied a new malt tax which applied throughout Great Britain, but charged at only half the rate in Scotland. Scots were unused to this tax, which increased the price of beer. Enraged citizens in Glasgow drove out the military and destroyed the home of their representative in parliament, who had voted for the tax.[58] In Edinburgh, brewers went on strike, illegally. Andrew Millar, then a book trade apprentice, helped overthrow attempts by Edinburgh magistrates to control dissemination of opinion during the unrest. The pamphlet Millar refers to in the letter to Robert Wodrow dated 10 August 1725, and his actions detailed in the letter dated 15 July, emphasized contemporary doubts and challenges to the strike’s “illegality”.[59] Much later, in 1806, there were malt tax riots in Llannon, Wales, in which a mob attacked 26 excise tax collectors who were searching for malt.[60]

Excise tax riots in England, 1733[edit]

Robert Walpole‘s attempts to introduce an excise tax bill led to widespread, heated protest, including mobs that invaded the House of Commons. Walpole was forced to withdraw his proposal.[61]

“Jack-a-Lents”, 1734–49[edit]

In Gloucester and Hereford counties, England, rioters dressed in women’s clothing and blackface destroyed tollbooths, a variety of resistance that would reemerge a century later in the Rebecca Riots.[62] A royal proclamation complained of the rebels that they “have made publick and open Declaration, that they would proceed to pull down ſeveral other Turnpikes; and that if any of the Commiſſioners ſhould attempt to ſet up the Turnpikes again, they would pull down their Houſes, and would cut down the Turnpikes as often as they ſhould be ſet up.”[63]
A similar outbreak took place in Bristol in 1749, in which self-styled Jack-a-Lents, “many naked with their faces blacked … destroyed the gates at Bedminster, Ashton, Don John’s Cross, Dundry, Backwell, Nailsea, Redcliffe, Totterdown, Teasford and Bath Roads, Hanham, Kingswood, Stoke’s Croft, &c., &c.”[64]

Porteous riots, 1736[edit]

Main article: Porteous Riots
Rioters, sympathetic to condemned smugglers who were resisting excise taxes, managed to free one, but in an attempt to free another several were killed by the Edinburgh city guard, commanded by John Porteous. Porteous was convicted of these killings, but pardoned by Queen Caroline, whereupon a lynch mob seized Porteous and hanged him.[65]

Tithe resistance in France, 1736[edit]

Peasants in disguise attacked and reclaimed the grain from the granary of a tithe collector in France in 1736. Authorities could find no witnesses willing to testify against any of the attackers.[38]

North Carolina Counties Resist, 1746[edit]

In 1746, the North Carolina colonial governor tried to rejigger the composition of the colonial Assembly, taking seats away from some counties. Those counties responded by withdrawing from the Assembly and refusing to surrender any taxes to the colonial government. Other counties, not wanting to bear the whole cost of government themselves, then responded by withholding their own taxes. This state of affairs lasted eight years.[66]

French and Indian War, 1755[edit]

In the mid-18th century, American Quaker John Woolman led many Quakers to question and refuse the payment of taxes to pay for the French and Indian War. In 1755, Woolman addressed the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting with his concern, saying in part:

Some of our members, who are officers in civil government, are, in one case or other, called upon in their respective stations to assist in things relative to the wars; but being in doubt whether to act or crave to be excused from their office, if they see their brethren united in the payment of a tax to carry on the said wars, may think their case not much different, and so might quench the tender movings of the Holy Spirit in their minds. Thus, by small degrees, we might approach so near to fighting that the distinction would be little else than the name of a peaceable people.[67]

A group of several like-minded Quakers, including John Woolman, John Churchman, and Anthony Benezet then sent a letter to other meetings, which read in part:

[B]eing painfully apprehensive that the large sum granted by the late Act of Assembly for the king’s use is principally intended for purposes inconsistent with our peaceable testimony, we therefore think that as we cannot be concerned in wars and fightings, so neither ought we to contribute thereto by paying the tax directed by the said Act, though suffering be the consequence of our refusal, which we hope to be enabled to bear with patience.[68]

The “Regulator” movement, 1767–71[edit]

Main article: War of the Regulation
The Regulator movement against the corrupt colonial administration of North Carolina from around 1767 to 1771 presaged the American Revolution. It began with organized groups of rural North Carolinans refusing to pay inflated taxes to corrupt authorities, and eventually built to an armed rebellion (which was crushed).[69]

A revolt in Palermo, 1773[edit]

Most Sicilians refused to pay new taxes imposed in 1770, and ripped down notices announcing the new levies. By 1773 the resistance led to a full-fledged revolt and ushered in a period when Palermo was under the de facto rule of the maestranze (guilds).[70]

American Revolution[edit]

See also: No taxation without representation
Boston Tea Party, 16 December 1773.
British colonists in America used various methods of tax resistance to resist the British in the years leading up to the American Revolution, including the Boston Tea Party action, the Gaspée Affair, “spinning bees” in which revolutionary-minded women would make untaxed domestic cloth (prefiguring Gandhi‘s homespun cloth campaign), and a boycott of other taxed goods.[71]
After the revolution was underway, taxes instituted by the American patriot side were also widely resisted. One 1781 tax in Connecticut, for example, was designed to raise £288,233 but raised only £40,000 due to unwillingness to pay.[72] Some Quaker meetings recommended that their members not pay taxes to the revolutionary governments, and other Quakers refused to use Continental currency which the revolutionary governments were using for seigniorage.[73]
John Payne, an Englishman who was opposed to the war to suppress the colonial rebellion, went so far as to board up the windows of his home and put his coach out of commission to avoid the taxes on those items, and he rode miles out of his way to avoid toll gates.[74]

African American protests against taxation without representation, 1780[edit]

Main article: Paul Cuffe
In 1780, African American Paul Cuffe and his brother resisted the state tax of Massachusetts. Cuffe wrote to the state legislature: “While we are not allowed the privilege of free men of the state having no vote or influence in the election with those that tax us. Yet many of our color, as is well known, have cheerfully entered the field of battle in the defense of the common cause.”[75] In 1783 free, taxpaying African Americans in Massachusetts were given full citizenship rights, including the right to vote.[76]

Revolt of the Comuneros, 1781[edit]

The Revolt of the Comuneros in Colombia began with bands of armed protesters confronting tax commissioners and state monopoly shops.[77]

New Hampshire secessionists, 1781[edit]

For a while, during the early days of the United States, Vermont was an independent republic of sorts, though with aspirations for statehood. Some regions of neighboring New Hampshire felt more loyal to the Vermont Republic than to the confederation of United States, and expressed this by refusing to pay taxes to the latter.

York tax riot, 1786[edit]

In York, Pennsylvania, in 1786, Jacob Bixler’s cow was distrained after he refused to pay a tax. Sympathizers with Bixler disrupted the subsequent auction and rescued the cow.[78]

Tax resistance during the French Revolution[edit]

During the French Revolution and its aftermath, customs houses were burned by mobs, tax rolls were destroyed, and excise collectors were made to renounce their jobs and then were run out of town (or in some cases killed). Popular tax resistance was directed both against the toppling monarchy and against the governments that would try to replace it.[79]

The Whiskey Rebellion, 1791–94[edit]

Main article: Whiskey Rebellion
There was an earlier rebellion, in 1783, against a Pennsylvania state excise tax on whiskey. In Washington County, protesters seized a fleeing tax collector, forced him to destroy his arms and paperwork, shaved his head, and paraded him through the areas he was sent to tax.[80]

White Lotus Rebellion, 1793[edit]

Main article: White Lotus Rebellion
Members of the White Lotus Society refused to pay taxes, and their movement eventually grew into a full rebellion that lasted until 1803.[81]

Pazvantoğlu rebellion, 1794[edit]

In the wake of the Pazvantoğlu rebellion, peasants who had been expecting their taxes to be eliminated in the wake of the rebel victory fled their villages rather than pay the enduring taxes.[82]

Fries′s Rebellion, 1799–1800[edit]

Main article: Fries’s Rebellion

Resistance in Mexico, 1780–1807[edit]

There was widespread resistance to the pulque tax and other taxes in Zempoala and Otumba, beginning in 1780.[83]

19th Century[edit]

A mass tax strike in Benares, 1810–11[edit]

When the occupation British Raj attempted to impose a house tax in Bengal, 200,000 residents of Benares shut their shops, left their homes, assembled en masse in the countryside, and petitioned the occupation government to lift the tax. This massing occurred in December 1810–January 1811. The Raj at first made a show of force, but eventually rescinded the tax.[84]

Radical Reformers, 1819[edit]

The “Radical Reformers” were advicates if democratic reforms in England — things like universal male suffrage and secret ballots. In the wake of a military massacre of reform demonstrators in Manchester in August, 1819, reformers vowed to refuse to buy and consume products on which the government applied an excise tax, like tea, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages.[85]
See also: Radicalism (historical)

Bermuda, 1821[edit]

When residents of St. George parish refused to pay their church tithes, William Lumley, governor of Bermuda, put several in military jail.[86] Lumley’s acts were later ruled illegal (Basham v. Lumley, 1829), the court ruling that although the governor of the Bermuda colony had also been granted ecclesiastical authority by the crown, he was not authorized to use his civil authority to imprison people who refused his ecclesiastical orders; at most he could excommunicate them.

Tumenggung Mohammad revolt, 1825[edit]

The followers of Tumenggung Mohammad in Indonesia practiced tax resistance, including rioting against tax collectors.[87]

Tax resistance against Charles X of France, 1829[edit]

When Charles X of France attempted to bypass the legislature and enact its own taxes in 1829, French liberals in the Breton Association organized tax resistance and created a fund to defray the costs of any tax resisters who were prosecuted. Six Parisian newspapers who printed the Association’s manifesto were prosecuted by the crown. Fifteen regional organizations, including Refus de l’impôt, Aide-toi, le ciel t’aidera, and Association parisienne, were formed specifically to engage in tax resistance.[88]

Tax resistance in Georgian England[edit]

In the 1820s and 1830s, activists like William Benbow and Thomas Jonathan Wooler and groups such as the National Union of the Working Classes and National Political Union advocated and practiced tax resistance.[89]

The Tithe War, 1830–38[edit]

Main article: Tithe War
From 1830 to 1838, Irish Catholics conducted a mass tax strike against the mandatory tithes payable to the Anglican official state Church of Ireland. The Tithe War, as it came to be called, had both a nonviolent, passive-resistance wing, led by James Warren Doyle, and a violent one, in which bands of paramilitary secret societies enforced the strike and attacked tax collectors and collaborators. The campaign was eventually successful in eliminating the tithe system, although the government essentially converted what had been tithes on the tenants into rent due through the landlords.

Resistance in Syria, 1831–54[edit]

Syrians resisted being taxed both by Egypt and later by Turkey, and refused to pay these occupation governments.[90]

Tax resistance for the Reform Act of 1832[edit]

Tax resistance was an important tool in the arsenal of the Birmingham Political Union and its allies who forced the crown and the House of Lords to capitulate over the Reform Act of 1832.[91] In the spring of 1832, residents of Carmarthen, Wales, met and vowed to stop paying taxes if the Reform Act were not passed, and some stopped paying taxes in the wake of the collapse of Lord Grey‘s government.[92]

Tinos, 1833[edit]

In 1833, thousands of residents of the island of Tinos stopped paying their taxes in an organized campaign. The government reacted fiercely, imprisoning many leaders of the movement and forcing the local bishop to flee.[93]

U.K. resistance to “Assessed Taxes,” 1833–51[edit]

There was sporadic resistance to assessed taxes (particularly the window tax) in the United Kingdom. Resisters felt the tax was overly-regressive. Resisters formed tax resistance associations and disrupted auctions of goods seized from resisters by the tax authorities.[94]

Edinburgh Annuity/Clerico-Police Tax, 1833–61[edit]

An Annuity Tax to raise money for the establishment clergy in Edinburgh, Scotland began to be resisted by nonconformists around 1833, in particular by William Tait, publisher of Tait’s Magazine who went to jail for his stand. Celebrated imprisonments like this, and occasional attempts (often unsuccessful) by the authorities to seize and auction property of the resisters, characterized the campaign. The government attempted to appease the resisters by “abolishing” the Annuity tax, but they did so by paying the clergy from funds raised by a different tax, leading the resisters to dub it the “Clerico-Police Tax” and to continue to resist it.[95]

Tax resistance in Bulgaria, 1835–37[edit]

Peasants in the western border region of Bulgaria refused to pay taxes in hopes of autonomy and assistance from the newly autonomous Serbia.[96]

Robert Purvis, 1838, 1853[edit]

African-American activist Robert Purvis refused to pay his Pennsylvania state taxes in protest against the state’s denial of equal voting rights to black citizens around 1838, and then refused to pay the part of his property tax that went towards education in 1853 when his children were refused admission to the whites-only classrooms.[97]

Rebecca Riots, 1839–43[edit]

Main article: Rebecca Riots
The Rebecca Riots were a protest against the high tolls which had to be paid on the local turnpike roads in Wales, and included destruction of tollhouses and harassment of toll collectors.[98]

Corn Law protests, 1842[edit]

In February, 1842 “a meeting of ladies” in Manchester opposed to the Corn Laws signed a tax resistance pledge, in which they “resolve[d] that we will form ourselves into a provisional committee, to carry out a plan of passive resistance… That by passive resistance we understand that we will allow our furniture to be seized for the payment of assessed taxes without offering any resistance to the collecting officers, at the same time urging the people not to purchase the articles so seized. And further, we mean abstinence from the several taxed luxuries used in our homes. We adopt the above pledge for three months, and further pledge ourselves during that time to use our utmost exertions to preserve perfect peace among the people.”[99]

Poor Law protests, 1843[edit]

Opposition to the New Poor Law led to refusal to pay the taxes for its support. The campaign featured demonstrations of thousands of people, passive resistance, and noncooperation with government auction of distrained goods. In County Waterford the campaign was particularly strong, and openly threatened violence against tax collectors, leading the poor rate collector there to abandon plans to distrain and auction property in lieu of voluntarily paid taxes.[100]

Maryland bond protests, 1843[edit]

Some residents of Maryland, as their state government went into default over canal bonds in the wake of the Panic of 1837, refused to pay taxes the proceeds of which were destined for bond-holders. In some areas, tax collectors resigned and the government was unable to find others willing to take their places. Tax resistance was promoted in part by the Locofocos, a Democratic party splinter group.[101]

“White Quakers,” 1843[edit]

The White Quakers, an Irish Quaker splinter group named for their characteristic undyed clothing, undertook tax resistance in 1843 to protest government harassment of their sect.[102]

Wine tax in Portugal, 1845[edit]

When tax farmers attempted to collect a new tax on wine in the Felgueiras district in the wine country on the Douro, the citizens gathered in Penacova (pt) (also known as São Martinho de Penacova), armed themselves, and forced the tax collectors and the soldiers protecting them to flee. The next day, military reinforcements attacked the rebels, killing ten.[103]

Mexican-American War, 1846[edit]

Main article: Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)
Perhaps the most famous American example of a tax resister, Henry David Thoreau, was briefly jailed in 1846 for refusing to pay taxes in protest against the Fugitive Slave Act and the Mexican–American War. In his essay on civil disobedience, he wrote:

I meet this American government, or its representative, the State government, directly, and face to face, once a year, no more, in the person of its tax-gatherer; this is the only mode in which a man situated as I am necessarily meets it; and it then says distinctly, Recognize me; and the simplest, the most effectual, and, in the present posture of affairs, the indispensablest mode of treating with it on this head, of expressing your little satisfaction with and love for it, is to deny it then….[104]

…If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.[105]

Thoreau was following in the footsteps of his fellow New England transcendentalists Amos Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane who had also been arrested for conscientious refusal to pay the poll tax.

Sicilian revolution of independence of 1848[edit]

During the Sicilian revolution of independence of 1848 rebels destroyed tax records and assessments and many people stopped paying taxes.[106]

Karl Marx prosecuted for promoting tax resistance, 1848[edit]

During the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, the royal and military aristocracy prohibited the first popularly elected parliament from assembling, and that parliament responded by declaring the government out-of-business:

So long as the National Assembly is not at liberty to continue its sessions in Berlin, the Brandenburg cabinet has no right to dispose of government revenues and to collect taxes.

Karl Marx, via his newspaper, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, published this decree, adding: “From today, therefore, taxes are abolished! It is high treason to pay taxes. Refusal to pay taxes is the primary duty of the citizen!”[107] Marx was later prosecuted for promoting tax resistance, but was acquitted after arguing that it was not illegal to promote tax resistance against an illegal government.[108]

Jamaica, 1848[edit]

Residents of St. Mary’s parish in Jamaica launched a successful revolt against imperious tax collectors in 1848.[109]

The Great Confederated Anti-Dray and Land Tax League of South Australia, 1850[edit]

The Great Confederated Anti-Dray and Land Tax League of South Australia formed in the Spring of 1850 to resist taxes associated with a recently enacted Road Act. The League felt the taxes were excessive; oppressive to poor farmers while exempting rich merchants, mine owners, and bankers; had been imposed by a non-representative government body; and operated largely for the benefit of land-holders who were also members of the board that was imposing the tax and designing the road system.[110]

Resistance to the Foreign Miners Tax of 1850 in California[edit]

The “Foreign Miners Tax” of 1850 required all California miners who were not American citizens to pay $20 per month. The tax was not so much a revenue raising instrument as a way of allowing citizens to monopolize mining and take over sites being worked by Chinese and Mexican miners. The tax resistance by foreign miners was successful. The tax was repealed by the end of 1850, though a smaller ($4/month) tax was reapplied to Chinese miners in 1852, and some particularly unscrupulous tax collectors continued to extort the tax from foreign miners even when it was no longer legal to do so. One person who was forced off of his mining claim by the Foreign Miners Tax was Joaquin Murieta, whose story became a Robin Hood-like myth in California.

Prussian democrats, 1850,1864[edit]

In 1850 Lothar Bucher, leader of the radical democratic party in the Prussian national assembly, and others of similar views, were convicted for encouraging citizens to stop paying taxes to the autocratic government.[111]
Similarly, in 1864 the delegate Johann Jacoby served six months behind bars for a speech calling for tax refusal, delivered in the presence of the King, an early manifestation of opposition to the rule of Otto von Bismarck.

Grape-growers′s strike in Bulgaria, 1851[edit]

In response to a tax increase on grapes and vinyards, Bulgaria′s grape pickers went on strike.[112]

Mass resistance in Qingpu, 1853[edit]

In Qingpu, China, numerous uprisings and organized tax resistance took place around 1853, some led by Zhou Lichun.[113]

Ghana, 1854[edit]

Residents of the “Gold Coast” refused to pay a poll tax demanded by their British colonial occupiers in 1854, prompting a brutal crackdown by the British military.[114]

License Tax resistance in Australia, 1854[edit]

Miners in Australia met at a “monster meeting” in Castlemaine to launch an organized refusal to pay a mining license tax.[115]

Resistance to the bedel, 1855–60[edit]

A majority of Syrian Christians refused to pay a military commutation tax, the bedel, which was mandatory for non-Muslims who were draft-exempt.[116]

Chinese immigrants in Australia, 1859[edit]

Anti-Chinese sentiment in Australia led the government to try to reduce Chinese immigration through a tax on immigrants. The Chinese immigrants responded with a powerful, large-scale, well-organized tax resistance campaign that used a variety of tactics including consumer and labor strikes, petitions, mass-demonstrations, threats against collaborators with the tax system and potential strikebreakers, and prison-stuffing. They eventually convinced the government to rescind the hated tax.[117]

Shantung resistance, 1860[edit]

In Shantung, tax resisters killed tax collectors and set up parallel government structures.[118]

Bhat resistance in India, 1861[edit]

In 1861, travelling bards of the Bhat caste, complaining that they had been traditionally exempt from taxation, reacted to being subjected to an income tax in an extreme demonstration that accompanied their refusal to pay:
[T]hey cut themselves with knives, cursed the Assessors, bespattering them with their blood, and declared they would rather die than surrender their birthright. When several were apprehended, their wives began to hack their persons, and so severely that several have since died.[119]

Ferenc Deák and Hungarian tax resistance, 1859–67[edit]

Following military defeat by the Hungarian revolution of 1848 and the subsequent war of independence led by Lajos Kossuth, Hungarians adopted a strategy of passive resistance, including boycotting of Austrian goods and refusing Austrian taxes, while the dissolved Diet (parliament) and various agricultural, trade and educational associations continued to meet informally. The symbol of this strategy was Ferenc Deák, following his refusal to take public office under the Austrians and apparent semi-retirement in the 1850s. After Emperor Franz-Joseph issued his October Diploma in 1860, granting increased autonomy to various parts of the Austrian empire, the Hungarian county councils and Diet were reconvoked. However, the conflict with Austria continued—including renewed tax resistance—with Deák playing a more active role until the Diet’s demands were conceded in 1867.[120]

Don Cossack resistance, 1864–1882[edit]

The Don Cossacks refused to pay the taxes levied by their provincial zemstvo after their exemption of taxes was revoked by the Russian reforms of the 1860s.[121]

Resistance to the Czar’s taxes in Abkhazia, 1866[edit]

In Sukhumi, Abkhazia, “a number of persons, irritated by the imposition of direct taxes, resisted the collecting officers, killed several of them, and then set fire to the town.”[122]

Georgia dockworkers, 1867[edit]

Georgia dockworkers responded to a tax specifically targeted to them by refusing to pay, even when locked out by the government.[123]

New Zealand poll tax, 1868[edit]

In 1868 residents of New Zealand were subjected to a poll tax. Some decided to resist and to form mutual insurance pacts for their defense.[124]

Louisiana, 1872–79[edit]

After a disputed election for governor in reconstruction Louisiana, the losing candidate, John McEnery, formed a shadow government and declared himself the truly elected governor. As part of this, he issued declarations saying that those people collecting taxes for the actually seated government were acting illegally and illegitimately and that citizens of Louisiana should resist these taxes.
McEnery’s shadow government, representing a white-supremacist Democratic party opposed to the Republican black and carpetbagger government, maintained its parallel governance until mid-1873, and then folded under pressure from the United States federal government.[125]

Rubí, Catalonia, 1873[edit]

Citizens of Rubí, Catalonia refused to pay a war tax in 1873, shortly before the military commander of Catalonia was forced to flee in the face of a mutiny.[126]

Launceston, Tasmania, 1874[edit]

The Western Railway was a financial failure, and soon after it went into operation the government had to take it over from its bankrupt owners. Landholders in the railway district felt that the government take-over had changed the relationship between taxpayers and the railway, and that they were “morally exonerated from the principle of local taxation which they had endorsed when the district was polled in 1865. Since that period an entirely new principle had been adopted in the case of the Main Line Railway, and when they hesitated to pay their special rate, they acted on the conviction that it was the Government, and not they, who had broken faith.”[127] The landholders launched a tax resistance campaign, forcing the government to capitulate and rescind the tax.

White miners in Griqualand West, 1874[edit]

In 1874, a group of white, small-scale diamond miners at the “New Rush” in Kimberly, South Africa (then in a British colony called Griqualand West), launched a tax strike to protest the British colonial government’s lack of response to their grievances.[128]

Mexican-American Tax Resistance in Texas, 1877[edit]

During the San Elizario Salt War, residents of El Paso County, Texas with loyalties to Mexico stopped paying taxes to the United States-loyal government.[129]

South Carolina, 1877[edit]

Similarly to what happened in Louisiana, white supremacists in South Carolina who disapproved of the reconstruction government practiced tax resistance[130] and discouraged people from loaning money to the government by vowing to repudiate any such debts should they regain power.[131]

Calls to resist in Denmark, 1877 & 1885[edit]

In 1877 and again in 1885, the Left party in Denmark urged people to refuse to pay taxes levied by the Rightist government.[132]

Tram tax resistance in Rio, 1880[edit]

When the government of Rio increased the tramway tax and have this increase apply to every passenger, Jose Lopes da Silva Trovao and other protest organizers called on people to refuse to pay the tax.[133]

Tax resistance launches the First Boer War, 1880[edit]

The First Boer War broke out when the British occupation government seized a wagon from Piet Bezuidenhoudt who had refused to pay a tax. When the government attempted to auction off the wagon to raise the tax money, supporters of Bezuidenhoudt seized it, and met government representatives who came after them with armed force.[134]

Paisley abbey manse tax resistance, 1880[edit]

Paisley instituted a tax to raise funds to repair the manse (minister’s house) of Paisley Abbey. People who were not members of that church (the official Church of Scotland) did not feel they should have to pay for this, and in December 1880 they organized a tax resistance campaign. Some 200 people refused to pay the tax. The authorities took legal action against a few, but then quickly dropped the charges.[135]

Irish settlers in Canada, 1879–81[edit]

Two hundred Irish settlers in Gatineau refused to pay a county tax. According to one account:
When a deputy sheriff went to make seizures, the residents threatened to string him to the nearest tree. Finally, they compelled him to eat the writs he had, and then gave him a limited time to get out of the township.[136]

The Irish Land League calls for a rent strike, 1881[edit]

In 1881, the Irish National Land League issued a manifesto calling on Irish tenants to refuse to pay rent to their absentee English landlords.[137]

English hop growers, 1882[edit]

The Anglican church legally exacted “extraordinary tithes” from hop growers, who began resisting the tax and risking distraint in the hopes of prompting a change of the law.[138]

The Tswana in Bechuanaland, 1882[edit]

Montshiwa, a chief of the Rolong tribe, led a tax rebellion against the Boers in Bechuanaland in 1882. After some early successes, the rebellion was suppressed, and large hunks of territory were divided up as spoils by the victorious Boers.[139]

Resistance to Repaying Fraudulent Railroad Bonds, 1870–1913[edit]

Crooked politicians and swindlers in Missouri concocted a scheme in which the government issued bonds to pay for a railroad that never got built. Residents of the swindled areas subsequently refused to levy taxes on themselves to raise funds to pay off the bonds. The bond holders filed suit and obtained court orders that county judges institute such taxes, but the judges then went to jail for contempt rather than comply.[140]
In 1878, residents of Steuben County, New York, also refused to pay taxes to pay off crooked railroad bonds, and disrupted auctions at which the goods of resisters were being sold to pay resisted taxes.[141]
There was a similarly motivated tax revolt in Kentucky in 1906 in which a group of resisters raided the tax collector and reclaimed seized property.[142]

Cincinnati Liquor Tax revolt, 1884[edit]

3,200 (out of 3,500) saloon owners refused to pay a liquor tax in Cincinnati in 1884. The tax was eventually held to be unconstitutional.[143]

Egypt, 1884[edit]

Main article: Mahdist_War
Passive resistance to taxation was widespread in Upper Egypt as the population lost faith in the government there in the face of the Mahdist insurrection.[144]

Crete, 1880[edit]

Christians in Ottoman Crete organized to refuse to pay taxes in 1887. The government quickly reduced taxes and made other concessions to (temporarily) quiet the revolt.[145]

Samoa, 1887[edit]

Residents of Samoa refused to pay taxes to the German colonial occupation government in 1887.[146]

The Welsh tithe war, 1887–88[edit]

A rebellion against mandatory tithes for the establishment church, similar to that which had raged in Ireland earlier, broke out in Wales in 1887, and featured the disruption of tax auctions by huge crowds of resisters.[147]

“Constable Leahy Tax” resistance, 1888[edit]

On 9 September 1887, police fired on rent strikers in Mitchelstown (Ireland), killing three, in what became known as the Mitchelstown Massacre. The authorities sided with the police, and awarded a £1,000 judgement to a constable who was wounded in the course of the massacre, ordering that the money would be raised by an additional tax on the Irish—one that would come to be called the “Constable Leahy Tax.” The tax was widely refused, and parliamentarian Thomas Condon was prosecuted on criminal conspiracy charges for publicly advocating tax resistance.[148]

Dothan riot, 1889[edit]

Dothan, Alabama tried to tax all vehicles traveling through the town in 1889, in reaction to the decision by the Farmers’ Alliance to avoid municipal taxation by building a warehouse outside of the town limits. Farmers attempted to evade the tax, but were violently opposed by law enforcement, which killed two resisters.[149]

“Half-Breeds” in Dakota, 1889[edit]

“Half-Breeds” in the Dakota territory of the United States seized already-collected taxes from a sheriff and announced that they would fight to the last man (there were roughly 4,000) against further attempts to tax them.[150]

Chatham Islands, 1891[edit]

Residents of the Chatham Islands refused to pay a dog tax in 1891 and prepared instead to submit to arrest and trial.[151]

“Vicars’ Rate” rebellions in Halifax and Coventry, 1875–92[edit]

Opponents of a mandatory tithe for the establishment church in Halifax and later in Coventry, England, formed “Anti-Vicars’ Rate Associations” and launched campaigns of tax refusal in 1875 and 1892 respectively.[152]

Guerrero, Mexico, in 1892[edit]

When people in Guerrero refused to pay federal taxes in 1892, the government sent in troops, who were routed by the tax resisters who captured a General as a hostage.[153]

Montreal merchants, 1893[edit]

Merchants in Montreal, claiming that a new tax on merchants was unjustly much higher for them than for merchants in other areas, decided to refuse to pay the tax in 1893.[154]

Fasci Siciliani, 1893[edit]

The Fasci Siciliani movement reached its peak in 1893 in a series of large anti-tax demonstrations that included the destruction of tax offices and the burning of tax records.
See also: Lercara Friddi massacre

Irish Unionists[edit]

Irish unionists used (or threatened) tax resistance in order to fight against home rule.[155]

Cuban War Tax, 1897[edit]

Cuban cigar workers in Florida refused to pay a Cuban war tax that was being withheld from their paychecks in 1897.[156]

Industrialist threatens to “shrug”, 1897[edit]

Industrialist James F. Hathaway of Somerville, Massachusetts refused to pay a municipal tax on his corporation stock and would periodically threaten to pack up and leave town if the city insisted on pressing for payment, in a game of bluff that sometimes led to the city waiving the tax, but other times led to Hathaway’s jailing.[157]

The Hut Tax War, 1898[edit]

Main article: Hut Tax War of 1898
In 1896, the British government decreed that the inland “protectorate” adjacent to its Sierra Leone colony should be taxed. The tax would be imposed on dwellings, at an annual rate that in some cases exceeded the value of the dwelling itself, and came to be known as the “Hut Tax.”
Natives of the protectorate were unused to regular taxation of any sort, and interpreted the tax as meaning that the British were assuming ownership of all of the dwellings in the area and charging rent. They were furious at this wholesale appropriation of property, and refused to pay, then adopted armed rebellion when the colonial forces responded with violent reprisals.[158]

Tax resistance in the Philippines, 1898[edit]

In 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo‘s fledgling government faced tax refusal from many provinces that had expected a reduction or removal of the taxes.[159]

Māori tax resistance, 1894–1933[edit]

Main article: Dog Tax War
Māoris periodically refused to pay an unpopular dog tax to their colonizers.[160]

Crow reservation, 1897–9[edit]

Members of the Crow Nation refused to pay taxes to the state of Montana in the late 1890s, and the state seized all of the sheep on the reservation in retaliation.[161]

Tancament de Caixes, 1899–1900[edit]

Traders and industrialists in Barcelona, led by mayor Bartomeu Robert i Yarzábal, began a tax strike on 20 October 1899 that came to be known as the “Tancament de Caixes” (shutting the cashboxes). This was a protest to taxes the Spanish government was introducing to pay for the costs of its defeats in the Spanish–American War, and also against tax rates that discriminated against Barcelona in favor of Madrid.

German East Africa, 1900[edit]

German colonial governor Eduard von Liebert was accused of having had 2,000 residents of German East Africa executed for their refusal to pay a hut tax.[162]

20th century[edit]

Poll tax resistance in Alabama, 1901[edit]

200 employees of the Dimmick Pipe Company in Birmingham, Alabama, walked off the job in 1901 when they learned a poll tax would be deducted from their pay.[163]

Foreigners in Japan Resist a Property Tax, 1902[edit]

Starting in Yokohama, and spreading to Kobe and elsewhere, hundreds of British and other foreign residents of Japan resisted a new “House Tax” in the hopes of forcing the legality of the tax into arbitration — passively submitting to distraint rather than paying a tax they felt to be illegal. They were backed (in the demand for arbitration, if not in the tax resistance) by the British, French, and German governments. This became one of the first cases decided by an international tribunal, with one Japanese judge, one French judge, and a Norwegian judge who turned out to be the tie-breaker, ruling in favor of the Europeans and against Japan.[164]

Cutting off Police Pay-offs in New York City, 1902[edit]

The New York City District Attorney, its Police Commissioner, agents from the Society for the Prevention of Crime, and the president of the New York County Liquor Dealers’ Association in 1902 announced a joint campaign to defend liquor dealers who stopped paying police protection money.[165] This mostly represents a government policy change in how it was going to be taxing saloonkeepers, but because the change involved rescinding an extralegal tax extorted under-the-table by city employees, it was hard for the government to accomplish in ordinary ways. So it had to nurture a tax resistance movement and encourage solidarity among its members by offering some protection of its own (including judges who reduced fines against people arrested by the police in extortion attempts to near-nothing).

British nonconformists, 1903–24[edit]

In 1903, tens of thousands of British nonconformists began resisting the part of their taxes that paid for sectarian schools. Over 170 would eventually be jailed for their tax refusal.[166]
See also: Education Act 1902 § Opposition

Americans in the Isle of Pines, 1903[edit]

The United States took Cuba from Spain in the Spanish–American War, including the Isle of Pines. When Cuba became independent soon after, Americans on the Isle of Pines hoped that they would continue to live under American rule, and they decided to resist paying taxes to Cuba in the hopes of bringing the issue to a head.[167]

Korea, 1903[edit]

In several Korean provinces in 1903, taxpayers rose up, reclaimed their taxes from the government treasury, and imprisoned their governors.[168]

Hut Tax resistance in Swaziland, 1903–07[edit]

Attempts to levy a hut tax in Swaziland sparked resistance led by Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo, culminating eventually in the Bambatha Rebellion.[169]

Income tax resistance in Tasmania, 1904[edit]

At open-air “monster” meetings in Tasmania in early 1904, people vowed to resist an income tax that had been instituted by the recently ousted government but unexpectedly not rescinded by the new one.[170]

Sugar manufacturers in the Dominican Republic, 1905[edit]

American-owned businesses running the sugar industry in the Dominican Republic refused to pay a new tax instituted by that country’s government in 1905, shortly before the United States formally appropriated the country’s economy.[171]

Opposition to Creek taxes in Oklahoma Territory, 1899–1905[edit]

White Americans living in Muscogee (Creek) territory before Oklahoma became a state in 1907 resisted paying taxes to the Creek Nation government, hoping the United States federal government would back them up if push came to shove.[172]

The Russian Revolution, 1905–06[edit]

During the Russian Revolution of 1905 a coalition of anti-government groups in Petrograd issued a manifesto calling for mass tax resistance and other economic non-cooperation against Russia’s czarist government. It read, in part, “There is only one way out: to overthrow the government, to deprive it of its last strength. It is necessary to cut the government off from the last source of its existence: financial revenue.”[173]
In 1906, when the Czar dissolved the First Duma, its members fled to Finland where they issued the Vyborg Manifesto which called upon the people of Russia to refuse to pay their taxes until representative government was restored.[174]

Zulus in Natal, 1906[edit]

A group of Zulus announced that they would refuse to pay the poll tax to the British colonial government in Natal. An inspector from the Natal Mounted Police killed one Zulu tax protester, and was in turn slain along with another of his party.[175]

Doukhobors in Canada, 1906[edit]

Doukhobor exiles in Canada refused to pay school taxes on their lands, saying that, as they always refused to have their children educated, lest they learn evil things, they would not pay money for school purposes. They removed their property from the district so as to evade seizure.[176]

Turkey, 1906–07[edit]

In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, there was widespread and successful refusal to pay the sultan’s poll tax.[177]

Undertakers strike in Valladolid[edit]

When the municipal authorities of Valladolid imposed taxes on hearses, the undertakers of that town organised a passive resistance strike, refusing to send out either hearses or coffins. As a result, the dead had to be conveyed to the cemeteries on stretchers, carried by porters.[178]

Winemakers tax strike in France, 1907[edit]

A winegrowers’ committee in Argelliers organized a tax strike in 1907 that included the mass resignations of municipal councils, and was met by military force by the central government.[179]

Greek community in Lewiston, Maine, 1907[edit]

Greek immigrants in Lewiston, Maine, organized a tax strike against a new poll tax.[180]

Silver Lake Assembly, 1908[edit]

Forty members of a Silver Lake Assembly property association launched a tax strike against what they believed to be an illegally assessed tax the town of Castile, New York was trying to subject them to, in 1908.[181]

Japanese laborers in California, 1909[edit]

Japanese-American residents of Oxnard, rebelled against being unfairly subject to both the city and county tax (one was supposed to clear the other). The county tried to pull a fast one, and swooped in on the workers while they were in the beet fields where they were temporarily working and which were outside the city limits. They declared the workers to be thereby subject to the county poll tax as well. Some of the Japanese workers left the area; others refused to pay the tax and were subjected to property seizures.[182]

Nicaragua, 1909[edit]

Shortly before the fall of president Zelaya’s government to rebels backed by the United States, his government imprisoned resisters to a tax he was using to try to raise funds to prop up his regime.[183]

Italian immigrants in Pennsylvania, 1909[edit]

When Pennsylvania passed a law banning Italian immigrants from owning firearms, a number of Italians in Lanesboro began resisting their taxes in response.[184]

The Women’s Tax Resistance League, 1909–1918[edit]

Main article: Women’s Tax Resistance League
The British women’s suffrage movement, in particular the Women’s Tax Resistance League, used tax resistance in their struggle, and explicitly saw themselves in a tradition of tax resistance that included John Hampden. According to one source, “tax resistance proved to be the longest-lived form of militancy, and the most difficult to prosecute.”[185]
Tax resistance among the American women’s suffrage movement was less organized, but also practiced. Julia and Abby Smith, Annie Shaw, Lucy Stone, Virginia Minor, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were among those who practiced and advocated tax resistance as a protest against “taxation without representation.”[186]
Tax resistance also played a role in the women’s suffrage movements of Bermuda, France, Germany, and South Africa.

Unrest in China, 1907–16[edit]

The salt tax and other taxes, and conflict with organized smuggler associations, led to conflict in China, which included, in 1910, an assault on tax collectors and on the salt tax monopoly office, and the “Two Kitchen Knives Rebellion” led by He Long in 1916 in which the Salt Tax Bureau at Ba Maoqui was torched and the bureau’s director was killed.[187]
In 1910, also, merchants in Beijing began withholding their payments of stamp tax to pressure the monarchy to adopt republican reforms.[188]

Poll tax resistance in Grafton, Illinois, 1910[edit]

A Socialist Party activist in Grafton, Illinois, was jailed six months for his refusal to pay the city’s poll tax in 1910. Party head Ralph Korngold used the case as a rallying cry for local radicals.[189]

Málaga, 1911[edit]

In Canillas De Aceituno, Spain, residents rioted at the sale of a tax resister’s goods and took up arms against government forces.[190]

Road tax resistance in Kansas, 1911[edit]

A number of towns in Kansas organized tax resistance leagues in 1911 to combat a tax variously characterized as a road tax or a poll tax that they believed had been illegally railroaded through the legislature.[191]

Rhodesia, 1911[edit]

In 1911, the Legislative Council passed an ordinance imposing a one shilling per month tax on farmers for each native laborer they hired, payable to the Labour Bureau, which coordinated the exploitation of African labor for colonial farmers and miners. The farmers decided to resist the tax. Hundreds were convicted and fined, and some were jailed after refusing to pay the fines. The farmers were successful in convincing the government to rescind the tax.[192]

Inishmurray, 1911[edit]

Residents of the island of Inishmurray considered themselves a tiny, independent monarchy, and would combat efforts by mainland authorities to tax them by refusing to let the officials disembark.[193]

Poll tax in Delaware, 1912[edit]

Socialist and labor groups in Wilmington joined forces and began resisting a new Delaware poll tax in 1912.[194]

Baby Carriage Tax disregarded in Brest, 1913[edit]

A tax on handcarts in Brest, France, was interpreted to apply also to baby carriages, which led to universal refusal to pay what was seen as a ridiculous tax.[195]

Indians in South Africa, 1913[edit]

The South African government imposed a tax on Indian immigrants, and, in one of Mahatma Gandhi‘s early forays into satyagraha he helped to organize a strike, an illegal march, and a tax refusal campaign in protest.[196]

The “Turra Coo”, 1913[edit]

Main article: Turra Coo
In late 1913, the government seized a cow from a Scottish resister of the taxes associated with the National Insurance Act. The government had difficulty selling the cow, as locals were sympathetic with the tax resistance. Eventually they brought in an outside auctioneer, but the auction was disrupted by protesters and the cow escaped. Today there is a statue of a cow in Turriff, Scotland commemorating the event.

Master Plumbers in Joplin, Missouri, 1914[edit]

Ten master plumbers in Joplin, Missouri, signed a resolution vowing to refuse to pay a new $50 annual tax on their profession in 1914.[197]

Dog tax resistance, Yonkers, New York, 1917[edit]

Robert H. Miller stopped paying his dog license fee in 1917, complaining that “I consider said tax a unjust burden for owners who have dogs for their home and families’ defence, not for luxuries, as the cost of living to raise five children is expensive enough without feeding a dog if he was not necessary in the wild section of this town, as we have no benefit from all the taxation with which we are burdened, no open streets, no police, no sewers, and many more necessities that I could mention.”[198]

World War I in the United States, 1917–18[edit]

In the United States, although the decision of whether or not to purchase war bonds to support World War I was ostensibly voluntary, those who chose not to buy them were subject to strong pressure including mob violence.[199] For example, John Schrag was beaten, arrested, and prosecuted and he and his property were smeared with yellow paint by a mob for having refused to buy war bonds. One witness said:

[T]hey tried to get him to buy liberty bonds during the war, and he wouldn’t buy none…. They brought him in and he never said a word, and the questions or anything they’d ask him, he never, never complained or never put up no resistance whatsoever. … I never saw so much yellin’ and a cursing and slapped him. And buffeted him and beat him and kicked him. He never offered any resistance whatsoever. One of the fellows went and got a, a hardware store and got a gallon of yellow paint. And pulled the lid off and poured it over his face. He had a long beard, kind of a short heavyset man, had a nice beard, and that run down all over his eyes, his face, and his beard, and his clothes. Of course that was yellow…. He never offered no resistance whatsoever and they, one man went to the hardware store again and he got a rope and put it around, got there, and put around his neck and marched him down to the, close to the city jail, a little calaboose there. Had a tree there and they was going to hang him to this tree.
…I don’t know how many people walked right up to him and spit in his face and he never said a word. And he just looked up all the time we was doing that. Possibly praying, I don’t know. But there’s some kind of a glow come over his face and he just looked like Christ. … (inaudible). Enemies smite you on one cheek, turn the other and brother he did it. He just kept doing it. They’d slug him on the one side of the face and he’d turn his cheeks on the other. He exemplified the life of Christ more than any man I ever saw in my life.[200]

Herman Bausch was imprisoned for 28 months by the state of Montana for seditious statements he allegedly made while being held captive by a violent mob who were enraged at him for his unwillingness to buy liberty bonds.[201]

Darwin Rebellion[edit]

See also: Darwin Rebellion
In Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia) in early 1919, citizens organized an income tax strike, and a boycott of the local (taxed) alcohol monopolist, John Gilruth, who was also the Administrator (governor). The resistance continued until Gilruth fled Darwin. Harold George Nelson, who was imprisoned for his tax resistance during this action, later became the Northern Territory’s first parliamentary representative.[202]

Soft drinks tax, United States, 1919[edit]

When World War I ended, people stopped paying a tax on soft drinks that had been instituted as a war funding measure, although the tax had not yet been rescinded. The Bureau of Internal Revenue threatened tax evaders with fines and imprisonment.[203]

Northern Territory and Papua, 1919–21[edit]

Tax resistance was a tactic used both by anti-capitalist labor groups and groups agitating for democratic representation in the Northern Territory and Papua in the years around 1920.[204] Miners in Western Australia also took up tax resistance in 1921.[205]

Welsh miners, 1919[edit]

Miners in Wales went on strike rather than pay the income tax which was newly being applied to incomes below £200.[206]

Russian Civil War, 1917–1923[edit]

Tax resistance was used by Russian peasants who were being taxed by multiple parties in the Civil War.[207]

European pacifists (1920s)[edit]

After World War I, some European pacifists associated with the movement that would coalesce around War Resisters International, like Beatrice and Kees Boeke, adopted war tax resistance as one of their forms of resistance.[208]

Weimar Germany (1919–33) tax resistance[edit]

Tax resistance campaigns sporadically broke out in Germany between the world wars, including a tax strike in Württemberg, Stuttgart, Cologne, Essen and other areas in 1920,[209] an income tax strike by Prussian farmers in 1922,[210] and the tax strikes of the Rural People’s Movement (Landvolkbewegung) in Schleswig-Holstein from 1928.[211]

Burma during the 1920s[edit]

Burmese Buddhist monks organized tax resistance and other forms of civil disobedience against British colonial rule during the 1920s.[212]

Dutch West Indies, 1921[edit]

Residents resisted an income tax from which Dutch settlers were exempt, then successfully disrupted an auction at which a resister’s goods were being sold for back taxes.[213]

Protesting a “bachelor tax” 1921[edit]

The state of Montana applied a $3 tax on all bachelors in the state. One of them, William Atzinger, refused to pay on sex discrimination grounds. The following year the state supreme court ruled the “bachelor tax” and another poll tax applicable only to men to be unconstitutional.[214]

Sinn Féin in 1921[edit]

Sinn Féin organized tax resistance against home rule in Northern Ireland in 1921.[215]

Arkansas road tax rebellion, 1921[edit]

Craighead County residents forced the commissioners of a road improvement district to resign at gunpoint before they could spend tax money on a corrupt roads project.[216]

Guntur tax refusal, 1921[edit]

In an early manifestation of satyagraha, Indians from the Guntur district organized a noncooperation campaign and tax strike against British rule in 1921 that led to the government collecting less than 25% of the expected taxes.[217]

The Poplar Rates Rebellion, 1921[edit]

Main article: Poplar Rates Rebellion
In 1921 the government of Poplar, a division of London, in protest against an unequal sharing of tax revenue between rich and poor boroughs, stopped collecting and passing on a variety of tax called “precepts” to the regional authorities. Thirty members of the Poplar Borough Council were imprisoned amid large protests.

Bondelswarts Rebellion, 1922[edit]

Main article: Bondelswarts affair
The British colonial administrators of South-West Africa imposed a tax on the Bondels as a way of making them more dependent on taking low-wage jobs for other colonists. The Bondels refused to pay and the British responded with aerial bombardments.[218]

Income tax evasion in France, 1922[edit]

Syndicalist groups in France promoted income tax evasion and defended evaders whose goods were in danger of government seizure.[219]

The Ruhrkampf and Bavaria, 1923[edit]

When France and Belgium invaded the Ruhr to enforce German reparations payments in 1923, the German government responded by encouraging and supporting a mass nonviolent resistance campaign against the occupation, which included tax resistance.[220]
Right-wing politician Gustav Ritter von Kahr, shortly after he was declared dictator of Bavaria in 1923, ordered Bavarians to stop paying taxes to the federal Reich government.[221]

French Stokers, 1923[edit]

French stokers (ship workers) who were upset that the government was including in their income, for tax purposes, incidental benefits like the food they were served on board, refused payment and went on strike when their company went along with government attempts to garnishee their wages. The strike was ended when the company agreed to pay the stokers’ income taxes itself.[222]

Pennsylvania women win the vote, and the tax; Refuse the Second, 1923–27[edit]

When women won the right to vote in the United States, this sometimes also exposed them to taxes they had hitherto been exempt from. Some chose to resist these taxes. In Pennsylvania, a school tax became the target of a massive, statewide, grassroots resistance campaign. For example:

  • In 1923, 89 women in Pottstown said that they were not interested in voting or in paying taxes, and refused to pay a school tax they had recently become vulnerable to.[223]
  • The same year, 800 women in Haverford refused to pay the tax,[224] as did 250 in Media.[225]
  • Some 1,700 women in Charleroi refused to pay the tax and, in 1924, were ordered to be arrested.[226]
  • That year in Clifton Heights, exasperated tax collectors exonerated 700 women tax delinquents rather than try to pursue them for the taxes.[227]
  • In 1926, 200 women in Freeland were reported as tax delinquents.[228]
  • In 1927, 300 women in Darby followed suit,[229] and ultimately 2,000 delinquent tax notices were sent there.[230]

Red Spear Society, 1923–38[edit]

A peasant secret mutual-defense group in China called the Red Spear Society supported tax resistance.[231]

Indian workers in Fiji, 1924[edit]

When Fiji added a £1 a year poll tax on Indian workers (representing about 12 days’ pay), they regarded this as a bait-and-switch on their contracts, and vowed to go to jail rather than pay.[232]

Indians in Kenya, 1924[edit]

British citizens of Indian ancestry were in Kenya in such numbers in 1924 that they were beginning to exercise democratic political power. This worried the white ruling class. Britain issued a “white paper” in which it said that paternalistic care for the unenfranchised African natives, rather than the democratic demands of the citizenry would be the priority of the government. Or, in less-euphemistic terms: the white ruling class would rule how it wanted without having to take into account the desires of the Indian voting bloc. Indians responded to this with an organized tax resistance campaign, which led to some of them being imprisoned. Whether from the effect of these imprisonments or from concessions made through back-channel negotiations, the protest ended in a few months. It provided rhetorical ammunition to the Indian independence movement, which used this as an example to show that Britain never intended to offer Indians under its rule equal civil rights.[233]

Argentina, 1924[edit]

A coalition of 1,500 leading industrialists of Argentina refused to pay into a state-run pension fund following a general strike and labor lockout organized to fight the law that established the fund.[234]

London bookmakers strike, 1926[edit]

To protest a new betting tax, the bookmakers at Tattersalls Park refused to bet, thus making it impossible for the track to lay odds, and effectively shutting down business there and off-track.[235]

Cristero War, Mexico, 1926[edit]

Tax resistance was used as a tactic in the Cristero War, where some people with Catholic sympathies refused to pay taxes to the government and turned to the church for defense.[236]

Farmers in Queensland, Australia, 1927[edit]

The government of Queensland, struggling with debt, enacted a stealth tax in the form of a registration fee charged to farmers who had wells and water pumps on their farms. The farmers, organized in “Local Producers’s Associations,” declared a tax strike, which forced the government to back down about a month later.[237]

American Samoa, 1927[edit]

In 1927, The Committee of the Samoan League organized tax resistance against the United States Navy‘s occupation of the American Samoa.[238]

Shanghai, 1927[edit]

Around the time of the Shanghai massacre of 1927, businesses were conducting a strike against municipal taxes there.[239] Western importers, backed by their governments, also refused to unload their products that were subject to a new customs duty.[240]

Samoa, 1928[edit]

Residents of Samoa refused to pay taxes to the New Zealand occupation government in 1928.[241]

Uri “bobbed hair tax”[edit]

The canton of Uri in Switzerland instituted a tax on women’s bobbed hair in 1928, and by the following year the government was reporting widespread resistance (and ridicule) of the law.[242]

Igbo Women’s War, 1929[edit]

The Igbo Women’s War began as a dispute over taxes and a resistance against a census that was being conducted in preparation for taxes. Further tax revolts in 1938 and 1956 grew out of the same movement.

Indian independence campaign[edit]

Main articles: Champaran and Kheda Satyagraha and Salt Satyagraha
Mahatma Gandhi‘s independence campaign in India used a variety of tax resistance strategies, including attacking the British taxed monopolies on salt and textiles by advocating the illegal production of salt outside of the monopoly system and the home-based spinning of cloth. In 1930 this tax resistance culminated in Gandhi’s famous 240-mile (390 km) Salt March to Dandi to harvest sea salt in contravention of British law.[243] Other tax resistance campaigns persisted after this period, including resistance to the Damodar Canal tax in 1937–9.[244]

The Great Depression, United States[edit]

In the United States, the term “tax revolt” is sometimes used to refer to a series of anti-tax state initiative campaigns. The first significant wave of these campaigns was during the 1930s. The Great Depression introduced unprecedented tax burdens to Americans. While real-estate values plummeted and unemployment skyrocketed, the cost of government remained high. As a result, taxes as a percentage of the national income nearly doubled from 11.6 percent in 1929 to 21.1 in 1932. Most of the increase took place at the local level and especially squeezed the resources of real estate taxpayers. Local tax delinquency rose steadily to a still standing record of 26.3% in 1933.[245]
Many Americans reacted to these conditions by forming taxpayers’ leagues to call for lower taxes and cuts in government spending. By some estimates, there were three thousand of them by 1933. Taxpayers’ leagues endorsed such measures as laws to limit and rollback taxes, lowered penalties on tax delinquents, and cuts in government spending. Partly as a result of their efforts, sixteen states and numerous localities adopted property tax limitations while three states instituted homestead exemptions.[246]
While taxpayers’ leagues usually favored traditional legal and political strategies, a few were more direct. Probably the best known of these was the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers in Chicago. From 1930 to 1933, it led one of the largest tax strikes in American history. At its height, it had 30,000 paid members, a budget of $600,000, and a weekly radio show.[247]
By 1933, the taxpayers’ leagues had entered a period of decline. Several factors undermined the conditions that had nurtured revolt. For example, economic conditions gradually improved, the federal government extended aid to homeowners, and local governments reduced reliance on real estate taxes. To some extent, the tax revolt also fell victim to an effective counterattack by municipal reformers, government officials, and the holders of municipal debt such as bondholders and bankers who formed so-called “Pay Your Taxes” campaigns throughout the country. These campaigns used a combination of door-to-door solicitation, threats of coercion, and inducements, such as installment payment plans, to collect back taxes.[248]
An alternative theory describing the decline of the taxpayers’ leagues is that laws limiting existing taxes and new tax revenues from the manufacture and sale of alcohol due to the repeal of prohibition eliminated the need for the taxpayers’ leagues.[249]

Cedar County Cow War of 1931[edit]

During the Iowa Cow War, the 700-member Farmers Protective Association vowed to refuse tax payments if the governor did not withdraw state troops and release an imprisoned resister.[250]

Women’s suffragists in Bermuda, 1931–34[edit]

Women’s suffragists in Bermuda, in particular Gladys Misick Morrell, refused to pay taxes unless they gained the vote.[251]

Tyrol, Austria 1931[edit]

Peasants’ federations in eastern Tyrol resolved to stop paying taxes in October 1931 to protest bloated government, agricultural policy, profiteering, and a large tax burden.[252]

Real Estate Taxpayers, 1931–33, 1977[edit]

Main article: Association of Real Estate Taxpayers
During the Great Depression in the early 1930s, Americans throughout the United States formed thousands of taxpayers’ leagues to protest high property taxes. In some cases, these groups illegally withheld taxes through tax strikes and other forms of resistance. The largest tax strike was in Chicago and led by the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers. At its height, the Association had more than thirty-thousand dues-paying members.[253]
A second, similar but smaller property tax payer’s revolt hit Chicago in 1977.[254]

Puerto Rico sales tax, 1932[edit]

300 businesses in Ponce, Puerto Rico declared that they would refuse to continue to pay the sales tax after the United States governor of the island refused to repeal the tax.[255]

Meo uprising, 1932[edit]

The Meo, a group of Indian Muslims, revolted against taxes imposed by a Hindu maharaja in 1932, refusing to pay and resisting collection by force.[256]

Elmira Taxpayers’ League[edit]

Over a thousand taxpayers in Elmira, New York signed a pledge to refuse to pay local taxes until the municipal budget had been reduced, and tax rates as well.[257]

New York City automobile owners, 1933[edit]

The automobile club of New York organized an auto tax strike in 1933 to protest a doubled license fee for City residents.[258]

Mennonite women in Pennsylvania, 1933[edit]

Claiming that the Bible did not sanction the taxation of women, some women in Warwick township, Pennsylvania, refused to pay a poll tax in 1933.[259]

Irish “Blue Shirts,” 1935[edit]

Main article: Blueshirts
To protest Irish intransigence in the Anglo-Irish Trade War, the quasi-fascist “Blue Shirts” declared a tax strike. One striker was killed during a protest designed to disrupt an auction of cattle seized from a tax striker.[260]

French “Peasant Front,” 1935[edit]

The “Peasant Front,” organized by Henri Dorgères, launched a tax strike in 1935. In some regions as many as 90% of the residents refused to pay their taxes, but the campaign had limited national impact.[261]

Sales tax resistance in Montreal, 1935[edit]

Mayor Hervé Ferland of Verdun led 164 or more shopkeepers there in refusing to collect or remit Montreal’s sales tax.[262]

Sales tax resistance in Arkansas, 1935[edit]

98% of merchants in Stuttgart and 59 of 60 merchants in DeWitt signed a pledge to refuse to collect or pay a new Arkansas sales tax in 1935.[263]

Sales tax resistance in Alabama, 1936[edit]

Gadsen, Alabama merchants met and unanimously voted to refuse to collect or remit the state sales tax. Montgomery, Alabama pharmacists also resisted the tax.[264]

Anti-communist Catholic veterans, 1938[edit]

149 members of a Catholic war veterans fraternity began paying their property taxes into an escrow account rather than to the government, saying they would not turn over the funds until the local government dismissed Communist Party member Si Gerson who was an advisor to the Manhattan borough president.[265]

Coal Township, 1939[edit]

Taxpayers in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, threatened a tax strike to protest the fact that the large coal companies in the region had been neglecting to pay their taxes, causing the township to fall behind on schoolteacher salaries and other expenses. This forced some concessions from the coal companies.[266]

World War II[edit]

During World War II, the Christian anarchist and pacifist Ammon Hennacy refused to register for the American draft and announced that he would not pay his income taxes. He also tried to reduce his tax liability by adopting a life of simple living.[267] He wrote:

I [learned] the principle of voluntary poverty and non payment of taxes… from Tolstoy and the [Catholic Worker]. When I was working a man asked me “Why does a fellow like you, with an education, and who has been all over the country, end up in this out-of-the-way place working for very little on a farm?” I explained that all people who had good jobs in factories, etc. had a withholding tax for war taken from their pay, and that people who worked on farms had no tax taken from their pay. I told him that I refused to pay taxes. He was a returned soldier and said that he did not like war either, but what could a fellow do about it? I replied that we each did what we really wanted to.[268]

Palestine, 1936–48[edit]

In 1936, in what one author called “the first truly grass-root rebellion/uprising by Palestinians,” 150 Palestinians called for a general strike and tax strike to protest the British occupation.[269]
Between 1939 and 1948, there was widespread resistance by Jews in Palestine against the income tax imposed by the British occupation, which included bomb attacks against tax offices, and many Jews instead voluntarily paid taxes to Jewish organizations. A few years after Israel gained its independence, its government became the target of widespread tax evasion and resistance, including a major tax strike in 1954.[270]

Jews in Vichy France, 1944[edit]

Jews refused to pay taxes to the Union Generale des Israelites de France, which had been established by the Vichy France (Nazi-collaborationist) government.[271]This Union was ostensibly meant to act as an umbrella organization that would organize social services for Jews by coordinating existing Jewish groups, but it was really a phase in the Nazi-organized obsession with bureaucratically solving the “Jewish Problem” in Europe via elimination. As in other parts of Nazi-controlled Europe, Jews in France had to make hard decisions about how much to resist such organizations outright and how much to try to participate in them as potential tools of resistance or amelioration.
Jews refused to pay taxes to the Union Generale des Israelites de France, which had been established by the Vichy France (Nazi-collaborationist) government.[271]
All French Jews were required to be members of the Union, which presumed to control all Jewish property. The Nazis might, for example, “fine” the whole of the Jews of France, and the Union in its representative capacity would borrow money to pay off the fine by pledging Jewish property as collateral, or, apparently, by taxing the membership base.[272]

Moslem League in India, 1946[edit]

A punitive tax imposed on Muslims by the United Provinces government to discourage rioting was resisted in a refusal organized by the Moslem League.[273]

The birth of the modern war tax resistance movement, 1948[edit]

Main article: Peacemakers
In 1948, a Chicago conference on “More Disciplined and Revolutionary Pacifist Activity” attracted more than 300 people, and resulted in the formation of the group Peacemakers and its “Tax Refusal Committee.” This is considered to be the birth of the modern organized war tax resistance movement in the United States.[274]

Monteverde, 1951[edit]

Several Quaker conscientious objectors from the United States left the country and founded a settlement in Monteverde, Costa Rica, in order to no longer be forced to pay taxes for the United States military (Costa Rica had abolished its own military a few years earlier).[275]

Oaxaca, 1952[edit]

A general strike in Oaxaca in 1952 was directed against the government’s new tax plan. Rioters in Tlacolula stoned to death mayor Diodoro Maldonado.[276]

Pittston Township Wage Tax, 1952–53[edit]

Hundreds of residents of Pittston Township, Pennsylvania refused to pay a new wage tax in 1952. The government responded by arresting 15 of them, and the resisters switched tactics to vastly underpay the tax as a way of resisting without risking immediate criminal sanctions.[277]

South China, 1952[edit]

Four hundred farmers were arrested for tax refusal in southern China in 1952. The farmers claimed that the taxes would leave them hopelessly impoverished.[278]

Social Security tax protests, 1951–53[edit]

In 1952, Louisiana newspaper editor Mary Cain protested against social security taxes by refusing to pay, concealing her assets, and even sawing the lock off of her business’s front door when it was closed by the tax collector and mailing the lock to the Internal Revenue Service.[279]
From 1951 to 1954, a group of “Texas Housewives” refused to pay social security taxes on the wages of their domestic help, and took their resistance all the way to the Supreme Court (where they lost their case).[280]

Poujadism, 1955[edit]

In 1955, a right-wing, anti-tax, middle-class, populist movement led by Pierre Poujade began resisting taxes in France. The resisters used a variety of tactics, including strikes, harassment of tax collectors, disruption of government auctions, and running for office (several Poujadists were elected to the Chamber of Deputies).[281]

No Taxation Without Representation in D.C., 1955–present[edit]

In 1955 District of Columbia resident Florence Jaffray Harriman announced that she would be refusing to pay federal income tax until the federal government enacted “home rule” (a locally elected government) for the District (something the District was not granted until 1973).[282]
In 1990, the non-voting Congressional representative from the district, Walter Fauntroy, started a similar tax resistance campaign for D.C. statehood.[283]
Former District of Columbia council member Carol Schwartz, upset at the lack of Congressional representation for people in the district, threatened to start resisting her federal income taxes over the issue in 2011 and called on other D.C. residents to join her.[284]

J. Bracken Lee, 1956[edit]

Utah Governor J. Bracken Lee stopped paying federal income tax in 1956 to protest what he felt was unconstitutional federal spending. He hoped to become a test case, but the Supreme Court declined to hear his case.[285]

The Amish gain exemption from social insurance programs in the United States, 1935–65[edit]

In 1965 the United States Congress allowed the Amish to be exempt from the Social Security tax, following a persistent resistance campaign from some Amish who regarded insurance programs as mistrustful of God and therefore against their religious teachings.[286] See 26 U.S.C. § 3127 and 26 U.S.C. § 1402(g) (this exemption also covers Medicare taxes).

Tax resistance in Ethiopia, 1943–68[edit]

There were several outbreaks of armed resistance focused on tax complaints in Ethiopia. In some cases, farmers defaulted on their taxes and abandoned their land rather than pay, some fleeing into neighboring countries. In others, districts refused to elect or admit tax assessors, and used a mix of persuasion and coercion to prevent people from obeying the tax law.[287]

Turks in Cyprus, 1958[edit]

During the struggle over the future of Cyprus in the late 1950s, Turkish communities refused to pay taxes to Greek-run municipalities.[288]

St. Regis Reservation resistance, 1959[edit]

200 Indians on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in New York, led by Wallace “Mad Bear” Anderson, refused to pay state income taxes “and threatened to use summonses from the Tax Department ‘to light the fires in our longhouses.'”[289]

Tithe resistance in Malaysia, early 1960s[edit]

In 1960, the Malaysian government converted the traditional Islamic zakāt (tithe) paid voluntarily by rice farmers into a mandatory tax payable through the government. Opposition to the new government-controlled tithe was, at least in some places, “unanimous and vehement,” and rice farmers developed a number of tactics to resist the tithes, successfully reducing the government’s take to a fraction of what the law allowed.[38]

Tax resistance by the “Johnson cult,” 1964[edit]

In the “Johnson cult” protest in Papua New Guinea (in which locals ostensibly intended to raise money to purchase U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and install him as their political leader), the protesters raised money for their unusual plan by withholding the £2 poll tax from the government.[290]

A court in the United Kingdom rejects war tax resistance, 1968[edit]

In 1968, in the UK case of Cheney v. Conn, an individual objected to paying a tax that, in part, would be used to procure nuclear arms in unlawful contravention, he contended, of the Geneva Conventions. His claim was dismissed by the court, the judge ruling that “What the [taxation] statute itself enacts cannot be unlawful, because what the statute says and provides is itself the law, and the highest form of law that is known to this country.”[291] There remains in the United Kingdom a significant movement of people who wish to withhold the percentage of their taxes used for war and weapons, but instead contribute them into a ring fenced pool for peace-building or peacekeeping purposes. This may be either for religious or economic reasons. See the website Peace Pays or the Peace Tax campaign “Conscience,” which produces an alternative tax return form to document the withholding of the military percentage of your taxes (approximately 12% of the total tax bill in the UK).

Vietnam War, 1968–72[edit]

In early 1968, 458 writers and editors put full-page ads[292] in the New York Post, New York Times Book Review and Ramparts, declaring their intention to refuse to pay a proposed 10% Vietnam War surtax. The signatories included James Baldwin, Robert Bly, Noam Chomsky, Robert Creeley, David Dellinger, Philip K. Dick, Robert Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Leslie Fiedler, Betty Friedan, Allen Ginsberg, Todd Gitlin, Paul Goodman, Paul Krassner, Staughton Lynd, Dwight Macdonald, Jackson Mac Low, Norman Mailer, Peter Matthiessen, Milton Mayer, Ed McClanahan, Carl Oglesby, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Thomas Pynchon, Adrienne Rich, Kirkpatrick Sale, Ed Sanders, Peter Dale Scott, Susan Sontag, Terry Southern, Benjamin Spock, Gloria Steinem, Norman Thomas, Hunter S. Thompson, Lew Welch, John Wieners, Kurt Vonnegut and Howard Zinn.[293][294] An estimated 70 signed on later.[292]
In 1970, five Harvard and nine M.I.T. faculty members, including Nobel laureates Salvador E. Luria and George Wald, announced that they would be resisting taxes in protest of the war.[295]
In 1972, Jane Hart, wife of U.S. Senator Philip Hart, said that she would be resisting the federal income tax. By this time, every major I.R.S. center had a staff member assigned to be the “Viet Nam Protest Coordinator.”[296]
Also in 1972, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania decided the case of United States v. Malinowski[297] That case involved John Paul Malinowski, an instructor in theology at St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia and a member of the Philadelphia War Tax Resistance League protesting the use of tax money in the Vietnam War. The taxpayer had filed a false Form W-4, and admitted he knew that he was not legally entitled to claim the exemptions (that is, the allowances) he claimed on the W-4. Malinowski was convicted, and his motion for a new trial or acquittal was denied.

Agbękoya, 1968–69[edit]

Main article: Agbekoya
The Agbękoya Parapo Revolt was a successful tax rebellion by the Yoruba of Nigeria.

Papua New Guinea, 1969[edit]

The Mataungan Organisation launched tax resistance in support of the indigenous government against a mixed indigenous/immigrant government in 1969.[298]

Students Resist El Paso Sales Tax, 1969[edit]

Calling it a tax on the poor to pay for business district improvements, delegates at the National Student Association Congress in El Paso, Texas in 1969 purchased American flags from a local retailer and refused to pay the penny sales tax on each flag, in a symbolic, media-friendly act of resistance.[299]

Resistance to the Larzac base, 1970[edit]

In 1970, when the French defense minister announced plans to expand a military base in Larzac, José Bové and other activists led a campaign to withhold 3% of their taxes (an amount they said was equivalent to the amount the government was spending on its base-expansion campaign) and redirect this money toward agricultural projects.[300]

Opposition to school tax in Stormont County, Ontario, 1970[edit]

Several property owners in Stormont County, Ontario, refused to pay a portion of their property tax in 1970 in a tax strike sponsored by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture to protest the burden on rural property owners caused by basing the tax on property value rather than income.[301]

Efforts to legalize conscientious objection to military taxation, 1972–[edit]

Main articles: Conscientious objection to military taxation, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, and Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act
In 1972 United States Congressman Ron Dellums introduced legislation that would legalize a form of conscientious objection to military taxation, allowing some taxpayers to designate their taxes for non-military spending only. Advocated by National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, this legislation is regularly reintroduced in the United States Congress and has a number of cosponsors. The legislatures of other countries are also considering similar legislation. Many war tax resisters support this, but others feel that such a law would not actually address the problem that leads them to resist taxation.[302]

Refusing to pay an excise tax on air travel in the U.S., 1972[edit]

When a $1- to $2-per-ticket air travel tax was applied to five airports in the United States in 1972, thousands of travelers refused to pay the tax.[303]

Norwalk Taxpayers League, 1972[edit]

The Norwalk Taxpayers League, led by Vincent DePanfilis, collected pledges from taxpayers that they would refuse to pay any more tax in the 1973–74 tax year than they had in 1972–73. This was a rare example of tax resistance during the American tax revolt movement of the 1970s.[304]

Castine school tax resistance, 1975[edit]

In Castine, Maine, residents voted to illegally refuse, as a town, to pay a state school tax, in 1975.[305]

Heinrich Böll refuses church tax, 1972[edit]

In 1972, Heinrich Böll refused to pay a Catholic church tithe that had been made mandatory and was enforced by the German government.[306]

“A New Call to Peacemaking,” 1976–78[edit]

In 1976, 1977, and 1978, representatives from the United States’ “peace churches” (Mennonites, Brethren, and Quakers) met to develop what they called a “New Call to Peacemaking,” a joint statement in which they called on members of their congregations to refuse to pay taxes that go to pay for war.[307]

Nicaragua, 1978[edit]

In the last months of the Anastasio Somoza regime in Nicaragua, the opposition organized a tax strike.[308]

United States, Proposition 13, 1978[edit]

A wave of tax revolts began in the late 1970s and were particularly popular in the West. In 1978, voters in California passed Proposition 13, sponsored by Howard Jarvis and passed overwhelmingly by voters in 1978, which drastically limited property tax levels in the state.
In subsequent years, the state initiative process, initially championed by Populists and progressives, has been increasingly used for such purposes by conservative and corporate political forces. In the United States, notable examples include a series of initiatives in Oregon (see Oregon tax revolt) and Washington (see Tim Eyman), the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) in Colorado, and Proposition 2½ in Massachusetts.

Sales Tax Boycott in Ottawa, 1981[edit]

In 1981, a tax resistance campaign in Ontario targeted the provincial sales tax and included both merchants and consumers as participants.[309]

Palestine, doctors in 1981[edit]

Doctors in Gaza City refused to pay a 12% income tax to the Israeli occupation and were supported by a two-day general strike.[310]

Archbishop Hunthausen resists, 1982[edit]

In 1982, Catholic Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle, Washington announced that he would be refusing to pay half of his income tax in protest against the nuclear arms race.

Citing a previous pastoral letter he wrote on the subject, Archbishop Hunthausen stated that certain laws may he peacefully disobeyed under serious conditions, and that there may be times “when disobedience may be an obligation of conscience.”
“I believe,” he said, “that the present issue is as serious as any the world has faced. The very existence of humanity is at stake.”[311]

Churches resist the social security tax, 1984[edit]

The Quint City Baptist Temple in Iowa, the Indianapolis Baptist Temple, and several other churches refused to pay social security taxes on the wages of their employees, maintaining that it was unconstitutional to make them tax collectors for the government. The courts disagreed.[312]

Irish Unionists, 1986[edit]

The Democratic Unionist Party called on its supporters to refuse to pay taxes in protest against an Anglo-Irish settlement on the political status of Northern Ireland.[313]

Beit Sahour, 1988–89[edit]

See also: Tax resistance in Beit Sahour
In 1988–89, during the First Intifada, the Palestinian resistance urged people to stop paying taxes to Israel.[314] At the time, The people of Beit Sahour responded to this call with an unusually organized and citywide tax strike. As a result of the tax strike, Israeli military authorities placed the town under curfew for 45 days and seized goods belonging to citizens in raids.
Israel’s military forces had the authority, independent from the rest of the Israeli government, to create and enforce taxes in occupied areas. As a result, they would impose taxes on Palestinians as collective punishment measures to discourage the intifada, for instance “the glass tax (for broken windows), the stones tax (for damage done by stones), the missile tax (for Gulf War damage), and a general intifada tax, among others”.[315]
Among those prominent in Beit Sahour’s tax resistance were Ghassan Andoni and Elias Rishmawi. Some tax resistance continued in Beit Sahour for some years after the end of the 1989 tax strike there[316]

UK Poll Tax, 1989–93[edit]

Main article: Community Charge
In 1989-90, the government of Margaret Thatcher reformed local taxation in Britain by replacing Domestic Rates with a new tax known officially as the Community Charge, but more widely and disparagingly known as the “Poll Tax”. Whereas Rates had been, at least to some extent, a progressive tax, the Poll Tax was a flat tax irrespective of income. Many people considered the new tax to be unfair, and a major non-payment campaign saw up to 30% of the population of some council areas refusing to pay. Draconian enforcement measures caused civil unrest, and untimately led to the Poll Tax riots. The new tax became a major electoral liability for the Conservative Party, and was a significant factor in the ousting of Mrs Thatcher by her own party. Due to its unpopularity and the disastrous impact of non-payment on local authority finances, the tax was replaced by the Council Tax in 1993.

Cameroon, 1991[edit]

In 1991 Cameroon‘s major opposition political parties called for tax resistance in support of their campaign to end one-party rule.[317]

Native Americans in Canada, 1994[edit]

For 29 days in 1994, a group of Native Americans occupied one floor of the building housing the Revenue Canada Taxation Centre in downtown Toronto, in protest of Canada’s plans to tax Native Americans who had previously been exempted from taxation as a result of treaty provisions. Many continue to resist the tax.

Water tax strike, 1994–96, 2007[edit]

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, among others, promoted a non-payment campaign against the government water monopoly in 2007.[318] An earlier “water war” in 1994–6 had led to a victory by the resisters in which the water charge was revoked.[319]

Lech Walesa in 1995[edit]

In 1995, Poland’s president Lech Walesa called for people to refuse to pay any higher income tax rates.[320]

Zapatistas municipios autónomos[edit]

When the Zapatista Army of National Liberation moved from organizing armed resistance to the Mexican government to establishing autonomous villages—Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities—free from central government control, one of the things they did was to stop paying taxes to the outside governments.[321]

Fuel tax protests, 2000[edit]

In multiple areas of Europe, in 2000, people protested increases in motor vehicle fuel taxes by blockading ports, refineries, fuel depots, and highways.[322]

Zimbabwe, 2000[edit]

Opposition parties in Zimbabwe urged citizens to refuse to pay taxes to protest government misuse of funds in 2000.[323]

21st Century[edit]

Same-sex marriage rights[edit]

In the United States, some gay people adopted a form of tax resistance to protest the government’s lack of legal recognition of same-sex marriage.[324]

UK council tax[edit]

In the United Kingdom, senior citizens in opposition to steep increases in council tax, claiming that increases of as much as 30% are not affordable to those living on a pension, refused to pay the tax in full or in part (some paying the previous year’s amount plus an inflationary rise). One of these, Sylvia Hardy of Exeter, was jailed for seven days.[325]
People have also resisted the council tax on the grounds that the government was not properly discouraging travellers from setting up camp nearby,[326] or had failed to properly clean up hazardous waste on their property.[327]
In 2013, Christopher Coverdale began refusing to pay his council tax on the grounds that the council was investing some of the money in promoting terrorist acts and war crimes.[328]

Bin Tax protests, 2001–2005[edit]

There was a long campaign of resistance to rubbish-hauling charges in Ireland.[329]

Venezuelan opposition, 2003[edit]

The political opposition to ruler Hugo Chavez launched a tax strike aimed at ending the Chavez regime’s control.[330]

“Flatulence Tax” resistance, 2003[edit]

New Zealand farmers protested a livestock tax that was ostensibly designed to discourage and ameliorate methane emissions by announcing they would refuse to pay and by sending packages of manure to government ministers.[331]

Nepal, 2006[edit]

Political parties in Nepal urged people to stop paying their taxes in 2006 as part of a push against the power of the monarchy.[332]

Tijuana, 2006[edit]

The Chamber of Commerce in Tijuana voted to pay taxes into an escrow account rather than to the government to protest the government’s inability to provide adequate security.

Organized resistance to paying Mafia, 2006[edit]

Main article: Addiopizzo
In 2006, after the arrest of Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano, 100 shopkeepers in Palermo, Italy declared publicly that they would stop paying taxes to the Sicilian Mafia. They encouraged consumers to support the resisters by buycotting their stores.[333]

Tehran Bazaar, 2008[edit]

Government attempts to extend a value-added tax to cover the Tehran Bazaar were frustrated by a strike that shut down the Bazaar until the government gave in.[334]

Nankang, China, 2009[edit]

Protesters in Nankang “overturned police cars and blocked roads over plans to more strictly enforce payment of taxes.”[335]

Delhi lawyers, 2009[edit]

Lawyers in Delhi, India went on strike in 2009 rather than pay a sales tax that the government was trying to extend to cover legal services.[336]

Chascomús/Lezama secessionist struggle, 2009[edit]

Groups on both sides of the debate over the secession of Lezama from the city of Chascomús used tax resistance to try to pressure the government into siding with them.[337]

Vecinos Autoconvocados in Paraná, Justo Daract, and Villa Nueva, Argentina, 2009-10[edit]

In February 2009, residents of Paraná, Argentina launched a property tax strike to protest large jumps in property assessment values.[338] In March, residents of Justo Daract followed suit.[339]
In 2010, residents of Villa Nueva announced a tax strike to protest against inadequate government services.[340] Residents were also urged to refuse to pay taxes for roadwork that resisters alleged had already been paid for out of federal taxes.[341]

PRD resistance in Indonesia, 2010[edit]

Members of the small Partai Rakyat Demokratik launched a tax strike against president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in early 2010. Hundreds of protesters pledged to refuse to pay a tax, and as part of their protest, burned their Nomer Peserta Wajib Pajak (taxpayer identification) paperwork. Party chairman Sunu Pajar said, “we refuse to pay taxes as a form of resistance.”[342]

Luzerne County, 2010[edit]

A Pennsylvania county government beset with corruption hiked taxes by 10% and some residents said no. One recorded a protest song entitled “Take This Tax and Shove It” and launched a tax resistance campaign.[343]

Nepalese doctors, 2010[edit]

Doctors in Nepal planned to engage in tax resistance and other acts of civil disobedience to protest the government in 2010.

San Juan, Argentina shopkeepers, 2010[edit]

Shopkeepers in San Juan, Argentina, upset at being undercut by untaxed street vendors, announced a tax strike in 2010.[344]

Tax refusal protests China’s one-child policy[edit]

Yang Zhizhu and Chen Hong protested China’s one-child policy by refusing to pay a 200,000 yuan fine on their second child.[345]

Coventry “Axe the Tax” protest, 2010[edit]

Hundreds of small businesses refused to pay a municipal tax in Coventry in 2010 and successfully had the tax (and the body that levied it) rescinded.[346]

Tax protest and strike in Romania, 2010[edit]

In August 2010 a tax strike was declared after newly introduced regulations were found to force freelancers and unincorporated companies waste over 24 man-hours each month on filling tax declarations and depositing those declarations in person at three different offices, in addition to forcing freelancers pay an unemployment insurance they cannot take advantage of. The new rules apply whether the freelancers or the unincorporated companies had any income or not, and declarations have to be submitted even for amounts less than €10.[347]

Barinas, Venezuela transit licensees[edit]

Licensed public transit drivers in Barinas, Venezuela who were getting undercut by unlicensed, unofficial ones launched a tax strike to protest a lack of government protection for their privilege.[348]

Ondarroa municipal tax strike, 2003–11[edit]

The government responded to an organized municipal tax strike involving hundreds of households in Ondárroa in the Basque region of Spain by cutting the water supply to 120 homes and businesses there.[349] The residents were supporters of a banned Basque nationalist political party and ended their strike (though without paying any of the previously resisted taxes) when they regained government representation under the banner of a new, legal party in 2011.[350]

Ivory Coast, 2011[edit]

Alassane Ouattara apparently won the presidential election in Ivory Coast over incumbent Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo disagreed and refused to leave office. Ouattara then called on the citizens of Ivory Coast to discontinue paying taxes to the Gbagbo government, which eventually was defeated.[351] When Ouattara took power, however, his government began pursuing those resisters for back taxes.[352]

Guinea-Bassau Cashew Traders Strike, 2011[edit]

Cashew merchants in Guinea-Bissau went on strike in April 2011 rather than pay a new export tax on cashews.[353]

Tax resistance for Catalan Independence, 2011–[edit]

In July 2011, the Catalan nationalist group Òmnium Cultural, at its 50th anniversary meeting, called on citizens to redirect their taxes from the central government to a Catalan-run fund until such time as the government concedes more autonomy to the region.[354]
In April, 2012, some Catalan separatists started paying their federal taxes into the Catalan treasury instead of submitting the money to the central Spanish government.[355]
In October, 2012, the small town of Gallifa in Catalonia began tax resistance as a municipality by refusing to pay the income tax due on the salaries of the employees at the tax office.[356]
By 2013, some 650 municipalities had begun turning their taxes over to the Catalan government rather than to the federal government.[357] The tax resistance campaign is being organized by Catalunya Diu Prou (“Catalonia Says ‘Enough'”), which says that some freelancers and independent businesses, which are responsible for their own tax withholding, will follow suit.[358]

Road Toll Resistance in Argentina, 2011[edit]

Argentine congresswoman Griselda Baldata noticed that nobody was maintaining the road on Route 36, but that the company in charge of maintenance was still collecting a toll. So she stopped paying and urged her constituents to do likewise.[359]

Protests against European austerity measures, 2011–16[edit]

In the wake of the European sovereign debt crisis, some governments raised taxes and implemented harsh austerity measures to bring down the government budget deficits and satisfy international creditors. Some people and groups who opposed these measures adopted tax resistance as a protest tactic, for instance in Spain,[360] Germany,[361] Greece,[362] Italy,[363] Cyprus,[364] and Ireland.[365]
Before the victory of the Greek Syriza party in the 2015 elections, it had sponsored a “Have Not, Pay Not” tax resistance movement targeting the Enfia tax. The party’s opposition to this tax was one of the factors in its popularity, and many people stopped paying the tax when it became likely that Syriza would win the elections and do away with the tax entirely.[366]

Resistance against the “household tax” in Ireland, 2012–15[edit]

A group (including Teachtaí Dála Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Richard Boyd Barrett, Mick Wallace, Thomas Pringle and Séamus Healy, European Parliamentarian Paul Murphy, and councillors Ruth Coppinger and Ted Tynan) promoted a campaign of resistance against the “stealth tax” of increased household and water rates.[367] A campaign spokesperson explained: “This is not a charge to fund your local community, it is a tax to fund private speculators, bondholders and the bailout. Our incomes and services are being decimated to pay this private debt. Now people have a chance to register their opposition by not registering for this tax. By not registering, we can make this a referendum on the bailouts for the rich and the cuts for us.”[368] By the deadline, only about half of the households in Ireland that were required to register and pay had done so.[369] On 6 May 2013, the Revenue Commissioners reported that 1.2 m households (74%) have paid the property tax.[370] In August 2013, the Revenue said 1.58 m households have paid the tax, and over €175 m has been collected.[371] In 2014, Irish Water workers trying to install the water meters were met with blockades.[372][373] In February 2015, Murphy and three others were arrested and then released without charges, reportedly part of an investigation into a November 2014 Jobstown protest that trapped Tánaiste Joan Burton in her car for over two hours.[374]

Spanish Autonomists, 2012–14[edit]

Autonomists in Spain, under the banner “derecho de rebelión” (right of rebellion), launched a multifaceted tax resistance campaign designed to redirect taxes from the Spanish government (which they felt had overstepped Constitutional bounds and unlawfully usurped power) to locally organized autonomous projects.[375]

Indonesia, 2012[edit]

A tax resistance movement began in Indonesia in protest of the government’s prioritizing of payments to bankers and other large bondholders during the economic downturn.[376]


Crime syndicates / protogovernments rule the streets in many parts of Honduras, and these often extort more money from their subjects than does the internationally recognized Honduran government. Some people resist these taxes, known locally as “impuesto de guerra” or “war tax,” but the consequences of refusal can be, and frequently are, deadly. Eight bus company employees in Choloma, for instance, were gunned down in broad daylight, a block away from a police station and by attackers in police uniforms, in retaliation against drivers who did not pay the tax. In May, 2013 bus drivers there took collective action, going on strike to demand better security.[377]

Salta, Argentina, 2013[edit]

Guillermo Durand Cornejo, president of an argentinian consumer rights organization called CODELCO, and a legislative representative, called on Salteños (citizens of Salta, Argentina) to refuse to pay a municipal tax, in the wake of property tax increases and new taxes in electricity and water bills.
“Until such time as the mayor gives a response to the people concerning the tax hike, I suggest that you do not pay this month’s municipal tax,” he said. “I call for civil disobedience.”
Cornejo said he views a thirty-day tax strike as a wake up call for the government, and suggested that strikers who restrict their strike to a single month will not be subject to government reprisals.[378]

Egypt, 2013[edit]

Egyptian activists are withholding bus and subway fares as a protest against their government’s continuing repression. “We are calling for civil disobedience — not to pay for the metro and buses…” one said. “They’re taking that money and bringing tools to repress us. They bring bird shot, and tear gas, poison gas even.”[379]

Madagascar, 2013[edit]

Businesses in Madagascar refused to submit taxes to the government, depositing the money in an escrow account instead. The businesses, which represent a large percentage of the country’s tax base, were reacting to a crisis of stability and perceived legitimacy in the government. According to the chair of the Madagascar’s Enterprises Union, “We no longer know with what kind of authorities we should deal at this stage.”[380]

Tax protesters in Canada[edit]

The tax protester phenomenon, which had long been part of the national tax scene in the United States, emerged as a difficulty for the Canadian government as well. By 2013, about 400 cases were pending in the Tax Court of Canada — “most using florid and arcane language and claiming bizarre laws that supersede or nullify Canada’s regulations and laws; it prompted the Tax Court to adopt a triage approach to cope with the deluge, grouping cases and directing them to specific judges.”[381]

Bonnets rouges in Brittany, 2013–14[edit]

Main article: Bonnets Rouges
In late 2013, a nationalist movement in Brittany called the bonnets rouges began destroying highway portals that were designed to tax truck transportation in the region. They eventually destroyed hundreds of these portals — as well as the tax office in Morlaix — leading the French government to abandon the tax.[382]

Pos me salto in Mexico, passe livre in Brazil, and Planka.nu in Sweden, 2013–14[edit]

Main articles: Movimento Passe Livre and Planka.nu
When the Mexico city government hiked transit fares by two-thirds, frustrated commuters started leaping the turnstiles, both alone and in organized groups, in a form of protest they call pos me salto (“well, then, I’ll jump”).[383]
At around the same time, a similar movement called passe livre was engaged in similarly motivated actions in Brazil.[384]
The similar Planka.nu movement in Sweden went a step further, initiating a mutual insurance plan: For a €12 monthly fee, the plan insures contributors against any tickets they are given for being caught without a ticket — compare this to €100 for a monthly transit pass, or €150 for a fare evasion citation. The plan is running at a profit, taking in about twice as much from subscribers as it has had to pay out in fine reimbursements.[385]

Crete, 2014–16[edit]

Thousands of Cretans each paid only a single euro of their road taxes in a protest there. The action was organized by “People Stop Paying,” a group that protested against rising taxes at a time of increasing economic difficulties, and that the taxes were not actually going to crucially needed road improvements. That group also organized protests at government auctions of seized property.[386]

Tunisian taxi drivers, 2014[edit]

Taxi drivers in Tunisia reacted to a new tax on motorists by posting signs in the windows of their cabs reading “I will not pay tax!” and daring the police to try to enforce the new taxes against them.[387]

Businesses in Apatzingán, 2014[edit]

Some business leaders in Apatzingán, a city in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán, finding that the government was giving them no protection from the Knights Templar Cartel, decided to stop paying taxes.[388]

Euromaidan, 2014[edit]

During the Euromaidan in Ukraine in early 2014, a group of business owners in Lviv announced that they would stop paying value-added and income taxes to the Ukraine central government of Viktor Yanukovych (taxes that went to maintain the military and internal security forces).[389]

“Protesta fiscale ad oltranza”, 2014[edit]

In northern Italy, a group of small businesses united under the banner “protesta fiscale ad oltranza” (tax protest to the bitter end) refuse paying taxes, claiming that the Constitution requires the government to leave them enough to live on and that they should not be forced to borrow money to pay the government.[390]
For example, when bed and breakfast owner Alessandra Marazzi discovered that fully 84% of what she was bringing in was going to pay taxes and state-monopolized utility fees, she decided to stop paying taxes just so her business (and her family) could survive. Caterer Andrea Polese stopped paying and put a sign on her door reading “I am a tax resister.” Bar owner Mariano Pavanello posted a selfie with a sign saying “I decided to stop paying protection money to a state thief.”[391]

Venetian independence movement, 2014–16[edit]

Main article: Venetian independence referendum, 2014
After the majority of Venetians who responded to a plebiscite voted to secede from Italy and restore the Venetian Republic, one of the first acts of the organizers of the plebiscite was to decree that the people of Venice were now free from obligations to pay taxes to the Italian state. Gianluca Busato, one of the drivers behind the initiative, went so far as to say that “The payment of taxes to foreign governments [e.g. Italy’s], as well as immoral, it’s illegal.”[392] The separatists claimed that 3,407 businesses initially signed on to the tax strike, and as many as 93,000 others may be resisting less openly.[393]
In 2016, the government struck back, arresting 20 people in 19 raids in Vicenza, Treviso, and Verona and charging them with inciting tax evasion.[394]

Anti-corruption resistance in Austria, 2014[edit]

Some business owners in Austria, notably Wolfgang Reichl and Gerhard Höller, began paying their federal taxes into escrow accounts rather than turning them over to the government, largely in protest over the Hypo scandal. Höller launched a project called Der Steuerstreik (“the tax strike”) in an attempt to get more business owners to participate in tax resistance.[395]

Wakulima market vendors, 2014[edit]

Hundreds of vendors at the Wakulima market in Nakuru, Kenya, refused to pay taxes to the county government in June, 2014 in a tax strike to protest the government’s failure to provide the market the sanitation and sewage services the taxes ostensibly pay for.[396]

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, 2014[edit]

In August, 2014, Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, a prominent political party in Pakistan, gave a speech in which he called for a “civil disobedience movement” in which “we will not pay taxes, electricity or gas bills,” to the central government, in hopes of forcing the resignation of Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif.[397]
Khan’s party was in charge of the government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and that government itself planned to withhold its federal taxes and utility payments. Asked what they would do if the government responded by cutting off utility service to the province, province Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani said that they would retaliate by cutting off the neighboring province of Punjab from the power generated by the Tarbela Dam, which is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[398]

Umbrella Movement, 2014–15[edit]

As Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement began to move away from the Occupy Central mode of street protests, it began to promote tax refusal and refusal to pay rent in government-run housing. Benny Tai Yiu-Ting, one of the movement’s organizers, wrote: “Blocking government may be even more powerful than blocking roads. Refusal to pay taxes, delaying rent payments by tenants in public housing estates and filibustering in the Legislative Council, along with other such acts of noncooperation, could make governing more inconvenient. No government can govern effectively if the majority of its people are unwilling to cooperate.”[399]

Puerto Rico, 2015[edit]

Foes of a new 16% value-added tax in Puerto Rico launched consumer and business strikes there, including a “No Consumption Day” on 3 March 2015.[400]

Vitebsk, Belarus, 2015[edit]

Merchants at the Polatsk marketplace in Vitebsk, Belarus went on strike and refused to pay taxes in March, 2015 to protest government harassment of traders who had not purchased enough official paperwork.[401]

Guragon, India, 2015[edit]

Forty villages in Guragon, India decided not to pay a new “house tax” the Haryana state government was trying to impose on them.[402]

Ethiopian-Jewish Israelis, 2015[edit]

Police brutality, discrimination, and mistreatment towards Israel’s Ethopian Jewish minority led Shlomo Molla, one of the few Ethiopian-Israelis to have been in the Israeli parliament, to call for tax resistance, refusal to serve in the army, and other forms of civil disobedience.[403]

Beni, D.R. Congo, 2015–16[edit]

Residents of Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo, launched a tax strike to protest the government’s failure to provide them with adequate security against atrocities committed by the Allied Democratic Forces insurgency. The tax resistance was preceded by a week-long general strike, and later spread to other parts of North Kivu.[404]

Githurai market vendors, 2015[edit]

Market vendors in Githurai, Kenya withheld taxes from the county government to protest the government’s unwillingness or inability to provide basic services to the market.[405]

Prino condominiums, 2015[edit]

Fifty condominium owners in Prino, Italy, stopped paying the “IMU” municipal property tax to protest the city’s neglect of public spaces, including a filthy public square with a broken fountain that’s become a rubbish heap, poor upkeep of drainage that leads to flooding, and bad traffic management.[406]

Patadar community, 2015[edit]

The Patidar community in Gujarat, in pursuit of government-protected minority status, coordinated bank runs and tax resistance in an “economic non-cooperation” movement.[407]
See also: Patidar reservation agitation

Crickhowell, 2015[edit]

The town of Crickhowell, in a protest against the use of tax havens by multinational companies, decided to try to use the same tax haven strategies on a small scale. They teamed up with a television show to try to “offshore” the town in the hopes of spurring the government into closing the loopholes that allow such tax avoidance.[408]

Russian truckers, 2015–16[edit]

A new tax on heavy-weight truckers in Russia, and corruption in the way the tax would be administered, led to a trucking strike that unsettled the Putin regime.[409]

Mexican areas, 2015–16[edit]

Residents of Uruapan started withholding municipal taxes in 2015, using the money to fund private Neighborhood Watch groups, in exasperation at the inability of law enforcement to protect them from criminals. Resisters also refused to pay certain utility rates.[410] Businesses in Huatulco[411] and Acapulco[412] followed suit in 2016.

Eastleigh, 2016[edit]

Business owners in Eastleigh, Nairobi stopped paying taxes to Nairobi County in protest against the government’s failure to provide basic services. Eastleigh North Ward representative Osman Adow Ibrahim, a member of the County Assembly, wrote: “As your representative, I fully support the decision you have made and have engaged a lawyer to get an injunction through the courts. The law and Constitution of Kenya allows for peaceful protest to get one’s rights. I hope we all stand together on this, so that we get the service we need.”

Indian taxpayers union, 2016[edit]

Anjali Damania and Alyque Padamsee started a taxpayers union and launched a tax strike to protest government corruption in India.[413] They were emboldened by a ruling from Justice Arun Chaudhari of the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, in which he said

To eradicate the cancer of corruption — the “hydra-headed monster,” it is now a high time for the citizens to come together to tell their governments that they have had enough. That is the miasma of corruption. If the same continues, taxpayers may resort to refuse to pay taxes by “non-cooperation movement.”[414]

Among their tactics was to print up “zero rupee” notes, resembling currency but containing anti-corruption messages, that people could hand to government officials who demand bribes.[415]

Gay rights tax resistance in Italy[edit]

Tommaso Cerno, a journalist and gay rights activist in Friuli, Italy, announced, in a letter published in Repubblica, a tax strike for gay rights.[416]

Jewlers in India, 2016[edit]

Jewlers in India staged an 18-day strike to protest a new excise tax on gold sales. The government agreed to suspend collection of the charge pending the report from a committee that was formed to look into the jewlers’ grievances. The jewlers are estimated to have lost some $4.5 billion in sales during the strike. This is the third time the government has suspended the tax in response to protests.[417]

Terrorist Victims’ Families in France, 2016[edit]

Families of victims of the November 2015 Paris attacks said they would refuse to pay the taxes due from their dead family members, complaining that it was insulting to tax the victims to pay for, among other things, the salaries of the public defenders representing the terrorist suspects.[418]

Trieste, 2016[edit]

Hundreds of separatists in the Province of Trieste stopped paying taxes to the Italian government in 2016.[419]

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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