Many people are introduced to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies merely as a way to make money investing. They see the price rising, buy in, and hope it goes “to the moon“, without really understanding what it is or why the price is moving. I’m glad Bitcoin is getting popular. I’m a huge fan, but I don’t give a single shit about how good of an investment it is. Even though you might make a lot of money investing, it pales in comparison to how Bitcoin can fundamentally change the world.
I can talk all day about how a big chunk of the world is unbanked and doesn’t have access to financial services, how this is a huge problem, and who knows what will happen when 4 billion people suddenly have access to savings accounts and loans with a simple feature phone with internet. I can write pages and pages about how Bitcoin enables truly micro transactions and how I think it’ll fit in nicely as payment models for AI powered robot services, self-driving cars, and media streaming services. The list goes on and on, but this post covers how Bitcoin bolsters the power of speech and improves our relationship with government.
Money is now speech. Bitcoin lives on the internet and inherits all the censorship resistance of the internet: encryption, proxies, traffic masking. The internet is hands down the greatest facilitator of free speech ever devised. With Bitcoin, anyone with a feature phone and internet has access to financial services and transactions.
Blocking Bitcoin is harder than censoring the internet, which is nearly impossible, because you also have to censor all forms of communication, including the contents of people’s minds! You can memorize Bitcoin wallet seeds. If someone wants to smuggle Bitcoin into a country, they just have to memorize 20-30 words. Good luck stopping that! If internet is blocked completely, people can write down or print out transactions and physically deliver them to someone with internet access. Good luck stopping that!
Physical money is a liability. Your government or enemies can take it from you by force. Credit and debit cards are a liability because governments can see how much money you have, where you’re spending it, what you’re buying, and so on. If you become an enemy of the government, you’re fucked. With Bitcoin, you can be as anonymous as you want, and new developments like Lightning Network and altcoins like Monero can improve anonymity. If you want to send or receive money without anyone spying on you, you’re free to do so. I’m certainly not advocating breaking the law, and of course a lot of people will use this freedom for bad. And I’ll start taking that argument seriously just as soon as people stop using cash for bad.
How does Bitcoin affect government? Simple. Bitcoin competes with government money. If people like Bitcoin more than the government issued fiat currency, they’ll buy more Bitcoin. This creates more pressure for stores to accept Bitcoin in the same way that rising oil prices creates more pressure for renewable energy and electric cars. This isn’t just my theory. It’s happening. India made some of their money illegal and Bitcoin prices surged in India. Capital controls in China drove people to trade Yuan for Bitcoin. Venezuela has so fucked up their currency they’ve had to outlaw foreign currencies, including Bitcoin.
Government currencies aren’t a monopoly anymore. They gotta compete with Bitcoin. If the Chinese government inflates their Yuan, people trade Yuan for Bitcoin because it’s a better store of value. People also trade into gold to hedge against inflation, but Bitcoin is easier to buy and use. As people swap out Yuan for Bitcoin, Yuan supply goes up as demand goes down leading to a further decline in purchasing power. If a currency’s value is too low and government can’t afford it’s military or administration, it’s fucked. Inversely, Bitcoin, like gold, is inherently deflationary. There’s a fixed amount of Bitcoin to be mined and this puts a pressure on Bitcoin’s purchasing power to increase.
I don’t care if you’re politically left, right, liberal, republican, hardcore anarcho-capitalist, we can all agree that government should be more beholden to its people. Unless you’re a fascist, in which case go fuck yourself. Consider the government that inflates its currency to bail out a bunch of banks and other companies as well as finance a huge military. The companies should have gone out of business because they did a bunch of stupid shit and were wasteful and inefficient compared to the competition and the military wages many wars and kills people. If people don’t like this, they don’t have to wait years and organize voting campaigns to hopefully get someone else into office. They can simply trade their government money for Bitcoin.
You might be a fan of inflation or you might think it’s terrible. Regardless of your political opinions, you have to admit that there’s considerable disagreement about the effects of inflation. For example, some say central banks create money and inflation, and that’s bad because it’s theft. Others argue it creates money and inflation, but that’s good because it keeps people from hoarding money. Still some say it doesn’t create money at all–it just shuffles numbers around in a sophisticated way that’s both good and bad, but mostly good probably, and you’re stupid and uneducated for thinking it simply creates money.
This ambiguity and disagreement about inflation sucks because the truth is super important. Why can’t we be sure about something like this? We need to know if the billions (or trillions) of dollars the United States is creating is actually good or if it’s fucking us and making everyone poorer and lowering the standard of living. If you ask economists about inflation, you get opinions ranging from “this is really good and keeps our economy from collapsing” all the way to “this is really bad and is destroying our economy like a cancer”. Economics isn’t a science like math or physics. It’s almost as bad as nutrition science. There’s a lot of incentive for people to push certain interpretations and ideas. How else can you explain this divergence of opinion? When opinions vary this wildly and there’s incentive to be dishonest, the only way to find the truth is to make people put their money where their mouth is. You do this by combining wisdom of the crowds and competition and create a market where everyone can participate. Bitcoin does this for money.
I’m not saying Bitcoin is the end of government. Not at all. It can make government better by making it more beholden to its people. These effects will take time to sink in, especially in wealthier countries which aren’t threatened by Bitcoin. Government money has to compete and it’s citizens have more freedom and control over their wealth. This is good. Freedom and competition are good!
Governments used to be afraid of printing presses because it allowed people to share ideas. Then the internet happened and made sharing ideas even easier. Bitcoin is far more than a hot investment. It’s the next step in personal liberty. It combines the power of money with the power of internet and our lives will all be improved by it.