Why Bitcoin is solutionist bullshit
Or “Sorry, I’ve got no cellphone signal; will you take an IOU?”
1) Westerners and technocentric middle-classes only!
Not got a smartphone? Not even a PC? Reliable internet access? Ah, well; trickle-down technological diffusion and international aid will sort that eventually (unless we axe the latter and concede that the former is a fiction, natch). Just hang on in there in the meantime, yeah?
2) The code may be free, but the substrate ain’t
For all its faults — hell knows there are many, and I’m not a fan — fiat currency has one big thing going for it; it’s an old, old idea that even an idiot in the middle of nowhere can use, and it’s almost completely infrastructure- and technology-independent.
BTC transactions have to travel over the materiality of the internet. Fibre and copper, all of which belongs to people who aren’t you; server farms and routers powered by electricity which is generated, in the vast majority of cases, by corporations whose power over the political and economic process is fully evident in the sophistry of climate change denial, lobbying, and ethically dubious resource extraction contracts. If the NSA can bust crypto in order to (maybe) catch terrorists, you’re mad to think a government like the US couldn’t throw enough resources around to at least traffic-shape or filter for BTC transactions. And if they can, so can their “friends”.
As an immaterial currency whose transactions require a global network of computing devices, BTC rests at the very pinnacle of the infrastructural stacks (upon which even The Stacks are dependent), and those things are owned lock, stock and barrel by exactly the people whose thumb you want out from under. And that’s without even thinking about systemic fragilities as opposed to deliberate interventions. It’s a house of cards, and there’s a serious breeze in here.
3) Wall Street and Silicon Valley, in a tree…
… kay eye ess ess eye en gee. (Not a movie I’d like to see.)
We need to separate the powers of economics and technology, not push them more tightly together. They’re the contemporary church’n’state — and they know it, too.
Does Bitcoin have utility? Sure it does, provided you’re not already at the bottom of the economic pile. (And if you’re down there already, well, there’s no further you can fall, AMIRITEZ?)
Is Bitcoin the solution to the world’s economic woes? Is it bollocks. If you think otherwise, there’s a lot of parts of the world you should maybe go visit; try paying in BTC while you’re there, see how far you get.