Bitcoin regulation and civil disobedience

Bitcoin and bitcoins independence is integral to its role in non violent protestation against our current police states

Wences Casares, Xapo Blog

I’m big fan of Gene Sharp and his work around moving from dictatorships to democracies (republics as I’d like to call them as I think the term democracy is much mis-used and by virtue lost much value and weight).

Sharps main observation was that the politics of non violent action — or to put it in its positive that civil disobedience was far more effective and I would argue morally justifiable than most other means of bringing about change. For instance he observed that should you try and attack an army being but a single individual then most likely you will be crushed. And in that crushing two violences have occurred — the first against the army and the second against you. Its not a great equation.

Bitcoin with its qualities of unseizability etc offers some ways for the average citizen to peacefully disobey and move into a more idealised economy. Sharp would argue though that in order to elicit real change that a process the removal of goodwill from the pillars of power must take place — most other form of protest unless they affect these pillars are token in nature. Power politically usually stems from civil servants, the army, the police and the general population. Once you lose the goodwill of these pillars then regime change is swift. So Sharp concludes we as activists in various walks of life hold the agency to influence — to in effect catalyse the removal of that goodwill.

How does bitcoin then fit into the financial landscape. In its origins bitcoin was a experiment to allow a way to opt out of the shortcomings of the existing financial and some would argue political landscape. Bitcoin is a tool for change if used wisely to help remove legitmacy if we do indeed live within an oppressive financial world. However, the more that bitcoin becomes part of that world it gradually becomes less powerful (to become part of that world would mean that bitcoins core strengths as outlined by Wences Casares of permissionlessness, censor-resistance and unseizability would ALL be weakened).

Price would increase but at the cost of these features. The greater the number of regulated nodes then the greater the price but also the greater the risk that at a certain point these features are removed wholesale. China, estonia and russia are all exploring government backed altcoins.

I’ve written elsewhere about this but after reflecting these are my conclusions — in a nutshell freedom is fragile.

What do I mean. I mean that its my belief that our current world is largely made up of Orwellian police states with these qualifying characteristics:

  • superstates, with omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation
  • A world allegedly in a perpetual state of war (allegedly because with control of the media this is how its presented)
  • Ruling parties which are interested solely in power. Power used entirely for their own sake

And by logical extension, observably extreme levels of:

  • conflict and ‘war’
  • incarceration
  • media manipulation
  • surveillance
  • social inequality
  • disenfranchisement from the levers of power
  • a new Ruling Elite who are extremely powerful and extremely wealthy

Given this is the case — how are we best to use our agency of civil disobedience to elicit change — to help catalyse the removal of goodwill towards the financial world — which in this context is a revenue generating arm of the dystopian powers.

Honestly I’m no longer sure — I can see it both ways — I agree with wences that if bitcoin resists all regulation its value would hover at around $30 a coin. However in terms of its fulfilling its larger role as a tool of civil enabling civil disobedience it would be fulfilling that role very well. At its height silk road made up around 4% of bitcoins volume.

We have to ask whats most important here ideologically speaking. Do our ends get served better with a bitcoin 1.0 or a 2.0 (i.e partially regulated).

From a investor point of view cash value will be most important. From an activist point of view the censor resistance and permissionlessness is most important. Unless Wences has a long game plan for how to bring about peaceful evolution toward a more civil society then we will march ever onward towards EVER increasing income inequality and social injustice all the while enabling a ruling elite to pass unchecked.

Let me put this straight. I’m not against wealth or its creation. I’m not against efficiency or its creation. I’m wanting a reformation back toward re-establishing our inalienable rights as laid out in the declaration of independence. Is that too much to ask for? I think not. The founding father thought not too. So in our rush to the New World of finances lets be careful that we don’t have any trojan horses on the horizon in the form of promises of ever increasing bitcoin value but at the cost of bitcoins core use a means of civil disobedience.

After all as an investor there are myriad other oppotunties. Can we be as high minded as Satoshi for a change and put human life over profit. I’m open to the idea that Wences may have a long game here much like Nelson Mandela did while spending 27 years on Robben Island. But my fear is that if change is gradual that a boiling frog type scenario will ensue and bitcoins cypher punk days will be numbered. And with that the chances of it being used effectively as a tool of disobedience.

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