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Bitcoin is Not a Libertarian Project

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Avatar for dave_gutteridge
Written by   169
10 months ago

The Economist magazine recently explained that Bitcoin's recent boom was in part due to the fact that, "basement-dwelling libertarians are not the only ones talking it up." Putting aside the derision towards libertarians, the comment is coming from a widely held perception that Bitcoin is, or was, a libertarian project.

It's not.

Keep in mind that I have no idea if Satoshi Nakamoto declared himself or Bitcoin to be fundamentally libertarian. It doesn't matter.

Supposing for a moment there was one person who we could credit with the invention of the hammer, which would be thousands of years ago. My guess would be that me and that person would almost certainly disagree a lot about how the world works and how society should be run. Just as an example, maybe the inventor of the hammer believed the world was created by a sun god.

When I use a hammer, I never think about what opinions the inventor had about anything. Couldn't care less. It doesn't matter, because a hammer is a thing, and you don't need to have a viewpoint to use a thing. I don't have to believe in a sun god to use a hammer.

Similarly, Bitcoin is a thing. It just gets used, or not. And it can be used by anyone, in any way. Just like a hammer can be used for construction, murder, or whatever else, Bitcoin can be manipulated to suit the aims of the people using it. There's nothing inherent in a hammer that compels people to follow the sun god, and there's nothing inherent in Bitcoin that will bring about a libertarian social order to any degree.

So far as I understand it, the main hope that libertarians pin on Bitcoin is that the degree to which it replaces fiat currency, it reduces a government's ability to regulate an economy. The value of goods will be determined by pure market forces and governments will be hindered in their ability to do things like print more money to pay for government projects at the expense of the value of the money in everyone's wallet.

Personally, I don't see that happening. On the most simple level, if Bitcoin was ever a legitimate threat to a country's ability to regulate its own economy to any degree they felt was unsafe, then it will simply be outlawed. All authority ultimately stems from who has the right to violence, and that's the government, not Bitcoin.

But I don't think it will ever get even close to that. I think governments will simply insist that anyone doing business within their borders always accept their fiat currency. You can pay in Bitcoin if you want, but the prices will be known in dollars or yen or whatever, and that will orient the economy around that metric.

On top of that, countries will likely issue their own cryptocurrencies, possibly as stable coins on an existing blockchain, or have their own home brew. Also governments will hold their own reserves of Bitcoin or whatever else, thus able to impact its value depending on how much they release or buy.

The future is always more complicated than one imagines, so I suspect the reality will be a big soup of many ingredients, with all these possibilities and ones we haven't imagined yet, all having their influence on each other, and creating results we didn't anticipate.

But what I am willing to bet on is that some general turn towards libertarianism won't be one of those results. Whether it's China or the US, North Korea or Bhutan, countries will have a relationship with Bitcoin and crypto, but continue on their merry way, doing things as they have done before Bitcoin came along.

All of which is to say, I don't think there's any evidence that libertarianism ensues from Bitcoin adoption, and so the association between Bitcoin and libertarianism is simply the hollow claims of people who really want their ideology to be manifest. But at the same time, if you want to pin your hopes Bitcoin bringing about a libertarian utopia, go ahead. One day we'll find out who was more right, only time will tell.

However, in the meantime, what you might consider is that there is a big world of people out there with all sorts of different beliefs who might want to adopt Bitcoin Cash, or even other cryptocurrencies. I, for example, am not libertarian, nor do I subscribe to any particular "ism," because I think they're all reductive. And yet I'm right here with you wanting to see cryptocurrency, mainly Bitcoin Cash, become a de facto part of daily life. I see all sorts of positive results from more Bitcoin Cash adoption, and none of them are libertarian.

There are definitely countless others out there who would also like to use Bitcoin Cash for their own purposes, within their own beliefs. But, if if you start talking to them as if Bitcoin and libertarianism are somehow intertwined, then you might be repelling them for no particularly good reason. The same way you would probably find it tedious to be preached to about a sun god when all you wanted to do is have a better way to bang nails into wood.

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Avatar for dave_gutteridge
Written by   169
10 months ago
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Comments

BCH is freedom.

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10 months ago

True, it is not going to make the world Libertarian. That said, I do think it can offer financial freedoms to many (liberty) and can influence governments and corporations through competition (better money) to do a little less of some of their most-terrible money management activities.

Fiat will not go away, but a significant and better competitor that a Gov. cannot control is a danger to the status quo. I believe that is why BTC was captured and neutered. It is no danger anymore. A real Bitcoin would be. They can't really stop one, but they can make laws limiting their citizens use of them. They can require you keep a rubber cover on the face of the hammer while using it (to protect your thumb and hearing, of course).

That is happening now. In the USA ownership and transfers of crypto are so regulated it creates a significant burden to follow the law if you do any trading, hedging, etc.. HODL is still easy as long as you disclose all your holdings. New worse burdens have been proposed and are likely. Already, many businesses like exchanges will not even serve US customers. They are squeezing the liberty out of it in many countries as I speak.

You don't have to believe in the Sun God (like me :-)) to like a nice sunny day or a good hard hammer. The BTC capture gave governments time to prepare for what's coming. If a Bitcoin develops the ability to full-on-scale and adoption goes viral some liberty is likely to follow. How much freedom is still an unknown, but the status quo is in some danger of some disruption.

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10 months ago

I agree that Bitcoin Cash and other cryptocurrencies will have an impact, and it will push society in new directions. But I don't believe any of those directions are, or ever were, a threat. Just like how the internet itself has changed society greatly, but didn't create one specific context that compelled any one direction for society to go in. Crypto is the same, it will cause changes, but not results.

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10 months ago

Time will tell :-)

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10 months ago

Agreed! :)

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10 months ago

Exactly. If most of the Bitcoin ends up in the hands of super-wealthy people, I see no reason it would behave very differently from fiat does now. The governments have taxes and laws and guns for a reason, it's what makes their fiat worth a damn.

We can't just dream our way out of the current global imperialist capitalist structure. On-chain or off-chain, it's all connected back to the old powers through the buying and selling, right? I don't think an alternative is possible without serious changes to our society, though. :|

$ 0.00
10 months ago

Technically correct (the best kind of correct!), but...

"On the most simple level, if Bitcoin was ever a legitimate threat to a country's ability to regulate its own economy to any degree they felt was unsafe, then it will simply be outlawed."

...yup, which is what makes it a libertarian project.

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10 months ago

I think identifying something as "libertarian" by the degree of government opposition is such a broad definition that would include so many things, to the point where it renders the term meaningless.

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10 months ago

A fair point. But still, if the government oppose [hammers], yet you proceed anyway because you believe [hammers] will be a net gain for humanity, then at that point [hammers] become a politically non-neutral technology.

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10 months ago

"Politically non-neutral" also lacks enough specificity to be meaningful. It says nothing about purpose, goals, or method.

Guns are "politically non-neutral" and have been used for and against pretty much every belief system known to humans to the point where if I see a person carrying a gun, that alone tells me nothing about their politics.

I believe possessing Bitcoin is equally non-representative of person's beliefs or motives.

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10 months ago