Is Bitcoin good or bad for humankind?

Not many people can ask themselves this question from an neutral position. Maybe no one?

I think we all must accept that we are biased when we try to answer ourselves this kind of questions. The reasons are multiple: in my opinion the two most relevant are:

  1. We don´t agree on what means good or bad for humankind. For instance, is it good to lower the speed limit to 80 km/h in highways so that the accidents go down 50%? Some people may think it is good, some others will think it is not.
  2. One of the most inherent characteristic of the human being is the subjectiveness. We don´t see the world how it is, we see the world how we are.

So, taking into cosideration those two facts, why even try to answer the question?

It may seem I am contradicting myself and I am losing my time writing but…. Maybe we don´t agree on what is good or what is bad and maybe my view is not the view of lots of people, but I will be glad if it may help someone to think about it with a broader perspective.

So, first lets imagine two extreme civilizations.

In “Orwellistan“, there is no single person hungry. There is food and a place to sleep for everybody. The same applies for cloths and basic needs. People do not own anything. Even more, the mere concept of ownership is unknown. No one dies of hunger or cold winter. No one dies in car accident nor planes because there is no need for cars or planes. People live close to the factories and land where goods and food are produced. They all are equal and the injustice is zero. Of course, to get that order, freedom needs to be removed. People cannot decide who to live with or how many children they want to rise or where to go. They cannot decide what to study or what to make for a living. There is no need to think what to do to earn money to live. There is no money. There is only the need to obey the rules. The state knows everything people do and everything people comunicate to each other. When someone does or comunicates something forbidden he/she is sent to jail forever. The rules are strict, otherwise the chaos begins.

Rothbardistan” is based on property rights and individual freedom. Very few laws, but clear laws. The state is small, and its existance is to protect the property rights and individual freedom (from people that may want to break those rights). Contrary to Orwellistan, the state does not enforce people to work, even does not enforce people to study, much less what to study. But also the state is not responsible to feed, to provide shelter, health or education. As a result, there are some people that prefer to not to work and steal or live on charity. There is more violence, there are cars, and also deaths by car accident. The state does not look for wealth redistribution as this is considered theft. As a result there are people very wealthy and some people less, or even living on poverty. Basically everything is free and voluntary except if the action is contrarian to the property rights or inidividual freedom of another person. They can decide where to go, what to learn, who to live with, how many children to rise. They can have and express opposite opinions to what the state or any power media says, they even may say and preach to others that Orwellistan is much better. Comunication is private. Each person can decide what personal information to disclose to the public realm and what to maintain private.

Those are extreme civilizations.

You may think we do not have any of those civilizations. Right, maybe not so extreme … in your place, … currently. But the technology in the digital era is changing dramatically our chances to end up in one of those extreme cases: Orwellistan. Nowadays the state has overwhelming survelliance capacity over us and so our privacy is slowly but steadily dissapearing.

If you think “I don´t mind, because I am not doing anything wrong“, you misunderstood privacy. Privacy is not the ability to hide things that are outside the law. Absolutely no. You do not want to publish your salary so that everybody knows, but you may want to share it with some people. With privacy you are in control, you select which personal information you reveal to whom. Without privacy your personal information belongs to the public realm.

Current technology allows governments to mass surveillance on people. And the states will try to know everything about you. They will not tell us that they want to have absolute power, or convert our country to Orwellistan. They will tell us that they need it to prevent violence, avoid fraud, “protect” ourselves from bad actors. In other words they will sell us security and we will need to pay with our own privacy. Even worse, what they will sell us is “a false feeling of security“, not security.

This is already happening, as Snowden revealed to the world. But it is not only happening in the web, with email, forums, social media apps, our own smartphones, etc, that government can use, and use to spy on us… It is also happening with the financial system. The FIAT banking system has evolved into a tool for mass surveillance and enforcement.

If you want to transfer money, you need to explain why. Do you need to retire some cash? Ok, but with limits, and also you tell me what are you doing with your money. Do you think you have money in the bank? No, you don´t have it. You have a contract that says you can retire that money with some amount limits, some restrictions, and in any case, if you are allowed from the policies of that exact moment in time. You cannot access your money freely.

In 2011 the US government froze all the accounts that Wikileaks had in the major US banks, Mastercard, Visa and Paypal. You may think they did it after Wikilieaks was convicted in a trial. If you think so, I have news for you: NO, without any trial at all.

Fortunately, Bitcoin already existed at that time and it was thanks to Bitcoin that Wikileaks could survive. Bitcoin was designed to remove the trust that is needed with the money. In Satoshi Nakamoto´s own words:

The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust. Banks must be trusted to hold our money and transfer it electronically, but they lend it out in waves of credit bubbles with barely a fraction in reserve.

Satoshi Nakamoto

With current FIAT system, when you pay with your credit card, the identity is what is used. So, each time you are paying electronically you are revealing to the payment proccessor what you bought, where you bought it and when you bought it. Do they need to know that you paid for a chess subscription, for an expensive wine, a luxury hotel or a cheap tv? Maybe you are comfortable that everyone knows that you paid for chess. Or, maybe it is not chess what you paid for and you do not want the whole world to know about it. Think of “everything” you buy and think about how much somebody could know about you if he knew everything you buy.

Since the invention of Bitcoin we are free to transact with anybody in the world, like as we do with physical cash today, without revealing our identity, because it is peer to peer electronic cash. And this is world changing.

Have a look at this 2-minute video in which Alex Gladstein, CSO at Human Rights Foundation explains it.

By Alex Gladstein (CSO Human Rights Foundation)

For those of you who still believe we need to give up on privacy and freedom to get “security” from our governments, remember the next quote from Martin Luther King

True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice

– Martin Luther king

Giving up on freedom and privacy will not bring peace to us. It will only lead the world to a totalitarian, dystopian future.

As a conclusion I would say:

In this world in which technology allows governments more and more control over people, Bitcoin is the best peaceful weapon to defend our civil liberties and human rights.

Interesting references:

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