Is Bitcoin a Technology or Ideology?

To accurately characterise Bitcoin and predict its trajectory in the decade ahead, it helps to revisit the message embedded in its genesis block: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”.

Bitcoin kicked off the blockchain revolution and became a poster child of fintech. Over time, it is regarded as a monetary technology for its value as sound money. Eventually, people will realise that it is the most promising Dissident Tech of our time. This occurs in the context of the enormous social problems and inequalities created by the Cantillon Effects of unprecedented global liquidity – a redistribution from the poor to the rich.

In other words, Bitcoin is a technological breakthrough, but it is first and foremost a political and ideological movement.

Martin Luther and Satoshi Nakamoto

October 31 is a day celebrated around the world in many different cultures. It originates from the ancient Celtic spiritual tradition of Samhain, and has always been a symbol of death and renewal. It turns out that history is filled with landmark events on this date which propel human civilization forward.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses onto the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, criticizing the indulgences of the Roman Catholic Church. It started the Reformation which would later lead to the separation of Church and State. Exactly 11 years ago, on October 31, 2008, a link to a paper authored by Satoshi Nakamoto titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System was posted to a cryptography mailing list, challenging the authority of central banks and their monetary policy abuses.

History will look back on the Bitcoin whitepaper as the beginning of the separation of Money and State. For all libertarians and sovereign individuals, myself included, it is an aspiration worth striving for.

Bitcoin as a Portal of Ideas

As a polymath and Bitcoin maximalist, I see Bitcoin as a portal to ideas of great thinkers of which I’m a student: Gustave Le Bon’s crowd psychology, Eric Hoffer’s fanatical mass movements, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s antifragility and skin in the game, Friedrich von Hayek’s distributed knowledge and monetary competition, Jorge Luis Borges’ illusion of reality, Friedrich Nietzsche’s will to power, John Nash’s game theory, and much more that I’m yet to discover. It never fails to amaze me to see how these ideas, through Bitcoin, are playing out everyday right in front of our eyes, and I’m grateful to be part of the greatest social revolution of our time.

The Free Trade Hypocrisy

It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him. In this lies the secret of the cosmopolitical doctrine of Adam Smith, and of the cosmopolitical tendencies of his great contemporary William Pitt, and of all his successors in the British Government administrations.

Any nation which by means of protective duties and restrictions on navigation has raised her manufacturing power and her navigation to such a degree of development that no other nation can sustain free competition with her, can do nothing wiser than to throw away these ladders of her greatness, to preach to other nations the benefits of free trade, and to declare in penitent tones that she has hitherto wandered in the paths of error, and has now for the first time succeeded in discovering the truth.

When Friedrich List wrote these paragraphs in The National System of Political Economy in the 19th century, the U.S. was a newly industrializing nation. Today, it is at the pinnacle of technological achievements. Here are the hard truths about national economic development: climbing your way up requires unorthodox tools; staying on top takes hypocrisy to deny latecomers those very same tools.

Abridged Chinese Classics

John Atkinson created irreverent summations, in the fewest words possible, of some of the most famous works of literature. Here are my own for the Four Great Classic Novels of China:

  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Empire splits into three parts. Then reunited.
  • A Journey to the West: A monk, a monkey and a pig take forever to get to India.
  • The Water Margin: 108 outlaws vs. government. Government wins.
  • The Dream of the Red Chamber: A rebellious rich kid is spiritually awakened.

Freedom by Coercion

Gucci

Fanatical experiments cannot be sustained without creativity. To paraphrase a wise man from the last century, the way the Nazis or the Communists sell their holy causes is no different from the way capitalists advertise their Gucci bags or cigarettes. The techniques we found in the imperialistic tendencies of the Nazis and the Communists are in fact based on the methods of industrial enterprises.

Today, when theorists in Beijing talk of socialism with Chinese characteristics, they are perhaps admitting that the success of the authoritarian experiment will always depend on the creativeness proceeding in the outside non-authoritarian world. If there were no free societies outside of China, they might have found it necessary to establish freedom by coercion.

Borges on Bitcoin Forks

How I imagine Jorge Luis Borges would write about Bitcoin:

In Bitcoin we find the idiosyncrasies of each of its forks to a greater or lesser degree. Every fork modifies our conception of the original Bitcoin, as it will modify the future. If the forks had never existed, we would not perceive the qualities in Bitcoin. In other words, Bitcoin would not exist. The fact is that the sum of all the forks creates Bitcoin. Bitcoin is faithful to its own forks.