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Bitcoiners will shape the American political system, and they can and should work to proactively bring about proper Bitcoin legislation.
Bitcoin is for everyone. Not only is Bitcoin for everyone, Bitcoin is the first financial system that doesn’t even require you to be a human to use it. Eventually, inanimate objects, artificial intelligence scripts, self-driving vehicles and non-human intelligence alike will all be able to access the network by simply holding the private keys to a Bitcoin wallet. Deflationists and entrepreneurs are salivating at the bit for the economic implications of such an inclusionary system, but this enthusiasm is surprisingly not often shared by the very people you think would fight for such a development in the general access to savings technology; the modern American left. The anti-monopoly, anti-Wall Street disdain felt during Occupy Wall Street dissipated in the following decade into an old blue party helmed by careerist legislators fabulously enriched by their years of service to the country. Why would Hillary Clinton, a progressive icon and still formidable influence on American politics, come out against this open monetary network and instead instill fear of an emerging threat to the country’s reserve currency status? Why would Elizabeth Warren, a self-described enemy of big banks, ask for strict regulatory pressure on a technology bringing banking services to a country where nearly one quarter of adults are underbanked? Why would the authors of the Green New Deal turn away from the discourse of how an energy technology like Bitcoin could help monetize and finance a more efficient electrical grid, bringing cheaper power to millions of citizens struggling to pay bills against rising inflation? Bitcoin may be an apolitical protocol, incapable of censoring any transaction no matter what slogan or ideology you might slip into an OP_RETURN, but it is going to permanently shape the incentives of the modern American economy and, thus with it, the American political system.
If nothing else, the rise of Bitcoin has shined a light on the ink-covered fingers of those closest to the money printer. With each new hemming and hawing from the civil servant-du-jour’s undereducated fear-mongering, the American public can quickly suss out those that enact actual, tangible policy along the lines of their campaign promises from those that are just signaling for social media. Bitcoin is money for enemies and I hope it always stays that way. The net good of having a trustless, decentralized financial system far outweighs the net negatives of any illicit actors utilizing the Bitcoin blockchain. Of course, we could mention the mass volume and bias criminals have towards using the United States dollar, but regardless of any current use case, universal access to a financial base layer should be a fundamental right for all citizens. There is zero part of using Bitcoin in a peer-to-peer fashion that should be regulated outside the protections of the First Amendment and corresponding free speech laws. Bitcoin is speech; a signature, an output address, a miner fee and a change address. When you are setting transaction fees on your key signer/wallet application, you are actually purchasing preferential real estate in kilobits per sat of ledger space in a block. To enforce strict regulations on Bitcoin transactions between users would be an affront to the fundamentals of human expression, and the mathematical linguistic systems we use to demarcate volatility between parties. Luckily for Bitcoin users, shutting down the expression of mathematical signatures in the Information Age gets more and more complicated, and more importantly, more and more costly, by the year. To ban the use of public cryptography would send constitutional lawyers on high alert as well as require draconian firewalling or physical shutdown of our nation’s internet service providers. The assumption that it would be harder to ban Bitcoin rather than to heavily regulate the exchanges and corresponding banking system is perhaps a naive one, but one that brings many opportunities to focus our attention on how best to leverage this technology for the betterment of the country and the world.
For many, Bitcoin is the best chance they have at achieving the American Dream. The American Dream is just that — a dream — for the majority of working-class people in our country. It was only a handful of years after the landmark passing of the Civil Rights Act that our elected officials took us off the gold standard and slowly debased our dollar-denominated purchasing power of savings accounts from coast to coast. These Cantillion assets were purchased and hoarded by our ruling class over the last fifty years as the cost of housing, healthcare, childcare, education and whole food ascended. Wealth inequality has skyrocketed as an ever-smaller circle of elites centralize around the main contributors to our nation’s Gross Domestic Product; Big Tech, Big Pharma, and, I’ll add, “Big Energy.” The lobbying weight this corrupt hydra employs over both ends of our current political dichotomy is indisputably disrupting any pro-people political movement in terms of tangible legislation. Much is said in commercials and tweets, but very little promises are kept, and thus there is tangible bipartisan disapproval in the polls. It gets harder and harder to afford to live near economic activity, and as gas prices rise and housing aspirations dissolve into the horizon, Americans are struggling to even humbly actualize their own interpretation of the American dream.
We have become a seafaring nation of speculators, adrift in the tides of legislation with soggy representation, where state-sponsored lottery programs make the grade but Bitcoin companies get subpoenaed like the catch of the day. With near-zero interest rates available for savings accounts, and inflationary effects disincentivizing hoarding dollar-denominated purchasing power, Americans have been thrust into the speculative world of payment for rder flow public books, illiquid ICOs, unregistered security contracts, and a Federal Reserve Board that will do anything in its power to maintain high index prices and a strong real estate market to demonstrate the alleged health of the nation’s economy. Incentives are the name of the game, and it is the direct effects of public policy that has led our once mighty industrial economy into student-loan riddled Redditors playing with a year’s salary on signatures for a JPEG of a monkey. As the price of a single Bitcoin starts to create distance and outpace the wages for salaried employees, less and less opportunities materialize for everyday people to gather a claim in the deflationary world. This reality aside, it is still the fairest, most accessible financial system humans have ever designed, and unlike proof-of-stake systems or central banking, Bitcoin’s disinflationary, and ultimately deflationary, predictable supply issuance means it would always be spent via social distribution in payments that increase in purchasing power over time. You can not be “too late” to Bitcoin, but before the political system in place is spooked just enough into giving Bitcoin a serious lookover, perhaps we should be preparing for a strategic co-opting of this movement.
For a few, Bitcoin is a “single issue” voter topic, meaning that a politician’s stand on Bitcoin will either gain or cost them a Bitcoiner’s vote, regardless of party affiliation. This idea is beautiful in spirit and there are many reasons to strongly believe in the Trojan horse effects of an innate inclusionary system of peer-to-peer commerce, but the reality is all a politician needs to do these days to raise eyebrows is say “I like Bitcoin!” So while some of these figures may truly understand the power of the Bitcoin brand, they may not be available to engage in all the principles the diverse demographics of Bitcoin believers might carry. Purity tests are dangerous but they can be useful. This is a rare moment when the plebeians truly know more about this new technology than the current ruling class. If handled properly (please stop working on government chain analysis), the working class can formidably vote with our satoshis and guide the conversation of legislation for our children’s betterment. Accepting a paycheck in bitcoin is wonderful, but how about legislation that protects the banking opportunities for Bitcoin companies? How about public investment in the open-source development of protocols that make our citizens’ lives better? Can the deflationary effects of longer-term price appreciation on a Bitcoin standard disrupt the endowment model and create better rails for investing in our public education and public infrastructure? How can we create an environment for Bitcoin adoption by politicians without Bitcoin co-option? The selected forgetfulness causing a systemic ignorance of financial literacy has set back too many hard working people, and Bitcoin education must be handled in a public, unbiased way in order to maximize accessibility and minimize monopolies and profiteering. A voter should be open-hearted to the potential for a properly intentioned candidate, but one should be learned and appropriately skeptical of those that seek office with the aid of Bitcoin. The CARES Act, the greatest upward transfer of wealth in our nation’s history, was unanimously endorsed by both sides of the aisle and only now is our economy truly feeling the effects of that bipartisan legislation.
The solution is not to grow bitter, but to grow resilient in holding our elected officials accountable for pro-Bitcoin legislation, and to actualizing infrastructure growth to compete in the Bitcoin mining field as if it is the national security issue that many already see it as. If we expect our leaders to ever cross the aisle for the betterment of the people, the Bitcoin community itself has to come together and offer helpful but necessary education for politicians in order to best represent the protocol and the pro-human effects it can bring to America’s current financial situation. The best vote one has in a kleptocracy is the vote of economic activity, and for a moment it seems the voting class has a real opportunity to gain a foothold in the deflationary world. Intergenerational opportunities like this will not present themselves often, and the truly disruptive reorganization to power structures that Bitcoin could bring might just leave our hero with an open shot at the leviathan’s neck. The world is at a breaking point with a pandemic response struggling with policy error at the turn of an economic epoch; a game of chicken coming to a head between human rights violations and centralized banker games. As it departs from the shelter of the “then they laugh at you” harbor and embarks into the dark of the “then they fight you” waters, Bitcoin will need all the political help it can get. Bitcoin is a tool for self-empowerment, and an open system built on the fundamental premise that people deserve a better money that works for them over time instead of against them. Those same people that Satoshi coded for also deserve a better government, and tangible rules in place to make sure the transition to a Bitcoin standard is as frictionless as possible, with little profiteering for the very same and very corrupt folks that put us in this mess in the first place. This is a time for action and not a time for virtue signaling; this is too important to be left in the hands of careless individuals acting on the economic behalf of the aforementioned Big Hydra. If Bitcoin can truly be the tool that sets the working class free from banking servitude, then the time is now to ask our politicians not what Bitcoin can do for them, but what they can do for Bitcoin.
This is a guest post by Mark Goodwin. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.