Free State Project members now able to pay rent in bitcoins
Published on October 1, 2013 at 15:00 BST
A property management company in New Hampshire is now enabling members of the Free State Project (FSP) to pay their rent in bitcoins.
Matthew Ping, of Porcupine Management, said he tries to accommodate any form of payment option, but bitcoin has become something of a favourite due to the privacy it provides and its ease of use.
Bitcoin has somewhat become the currency of choice for those involved in the FSP, which is a political migration, founded in 2001. The aim is to recruit at least 20,000 libertarians to move to New Hampshire to create a stronghold for libertarian ideas.
Willing participants sign a statement of intent declaring they will move to New Hampshire within five years of the project reaching 20,000 members. As of 18th September, some 14,820 had signed the statement of intent and more than 1,180 'early movers' had already relocated to the state.
Ping said he first heard about bitcoin in late 2011 when the price was around $5 and he "thought it was a great idea", but didn’t start using it until February this year at the Liberty Forum event hosted by the FSP.
He went on to say he thinks alternative currencies are a perfect fit for the FSP as both are decentralised and represent independence.
Ping collects the majority of rent money from tenants in person, so he uses a smartphone app to receive payments from those who want to pay in bitcoin.
He said not all of the residents he deals with know what bitcoin is, so he is trying to spread the word about the possibilities it offers. However, Ping is not necessarily convinced bitcoin will be the digital currency that will prevail in the long run:
"Bitcoin seems to be doing well and may lead the alternative currency race, but as the community evolves and the market changes, a better option may come about."
Ryan Coon, co-founder of Rentalutions, which collects rent for landlords, said the company has received a lot of requests form tenants who want to pay their rent in bitcoin since it launched the option in August. It has also received a few requests from those wishing to pay in litecoin.
"However, because of the processing fees involved (3% if the landlord is a Rentalutions member, 5% if not), we have only processed a few bitcoin rent payments for a couple tenants. I believe that once we lower the fees, we will see more adoption," he added.
Coon said he's not received any enquiries from people based in New Hampshire, with the majority of bitcoin queries coming from states with "thriving technology industries" such as San Francisco, New York and Seattle.
A perfect partnership
Vanessa Vine, co-organiser of PorcFest (the Porcupine Freedom Festival), said bitcoin is "huge" within FSP and is a focus of any FSP-related event.
"When we first opened registration for PorcFest X [this year's festival], it was through Eventbrite and payment was credit card-only. Within minutes we had a request for a bitcoin payment, and had that set up within a day. All told, probably a quarter of our registrations and sponsorships came in through BitPay," she said.
Vine went on to say she and her fellow organisers made arrangements so those who turned up on the day without tickets could buy theirs in bitcoins, plus the majority of vendors at the festival accepted digital currency.
"Some people don't even know what bitcoin is when they arrive at an FSP event, but by the time they leave, most are well-informed and many have even gotten help opening and funding wallets."
A bitcoin-themed tent called the BitTent hosted a number of music performances, talks and panel discussions at the festival this year. Economist and libertarian theorist David Friedman gave a talk in the BitTent and, by the end of the festival was spotted buying bitcoins using Lamassu's Bitcoin ATM.
Among the sponsors of the festival were SatoshiDice and Coinapult, but this is perhaps no surprise as these companies were founded by FSP member Erik Voorhees.
He explained in a blog post earlier in the year that he first learned about bitcoin when he moved to New Hampshire to join the FSP in 2011. He now lives in Panama City, but still coordinates the Free State Bitcoin Consortium group and attended PorcFest X, moderating a panel discussion titled Bitcoin: How to Subvert Your Government.
Vine said bitcoin is already a success within the FSP community, so once the 20,000 members goal is reached and they all move to New Hampshire, we could witness the rise of the world's first neighbourhoods that use bitcoins as their primary currency.