Bitcoin and the rule of matter

Whether it’s a quiet slump or a knowledge withdrawal, the political allure of cryptocurrencies doesn’t seem to stand up to the harsh forces of reality.

A decade ago, I briefly dated a woman who dreamed of ending the nation-state. She blew out Prosecco first thing in the morning, and smoked two packs a day. Most enticingly, it built and sold its own “strategic communication” consultancy that included NATO as a client. Her phone was full of selfies with several rebels carrying Kalashnikovs in places like Libya. All this without a college degree. This girl was cool.

Meanwhile, I’ve been accumulating debts to attend second-class law school, burdened with the dreams of an Iranian immigrant and the obligations of sons. One day, Sarah (let’s call her) suggested I buy something called Bitcoin. She explained that it was a kind of internet currency, that would gain tremendous value amid the central banks’ crazy profligacy in response to the financial crisis. More than that, I expected, this something It would usher in a new era of radical decentralization and freedom.

I did not buy bitcoin. And for years after that, I listed this episode as a prime example of what I was and still am. Despite the current bloodbath in the cryptocurrency markets, I could have been rich in bitcoin had he listened to Sarah’s advice (and had any real cash at the time). However, even at that time, I would argue that Bitcoin was not primarily about the earnings of Sarah, who had already achieved a great deal of financial independence.

No, for her and the other crypto enthusiasts she’s known since then, cryptocurrency is ultimately a political project – or rather, anti-political project. The coding system is but one expression of the age-old yearning to overcome the tangible boundaries and pesky bonds of commitment in which we find ourselves stuck, sometimes trapped. Cryptocurrency is about a journey from the political community and from political responsibility.

The vision laid out by Sarah Lee went something like this (you have to trust me to give it the most reasonable expression possible): government as such tends towards authoritarianism. The modern nation-state has already demonstrated this authoritarian tendency. Its boundaries are random. They wage stupid and bloody wars. And even in a liberal democratic form, it still restricts human freedom. And the main way to do this is by controlling the medium of exchange: money.

Would it not be better, then, if each person could choose the political communities to which he would like to join, regardless of the coincidence of geography and history? Assuming such a world is desirable, the best way to achieve it is to lift the yoke of central banks off the neck of humanity. If there is a medium of exchange that is not centrally governed by a few Goldman alumni, but by the free-thinking of technologists and investors, whole new “nations” can emerge, and free nations, in which decision-making on social and economic policy is radically consensual.

Now, here’s where things got a little vague to me, and I must admit that the passage of time has not made anything clear: how these new emerging societies will interact with already established governments, with their parking enforcers and nuclear arsenals, their welfare regimes and agricultural subsidies ? It is assumed that nation-states will not only allow themselves to decay, even if such a thing is desirable (which it is not). And what would happen to people who were too rude or too ill-equipped to buy into the radically harmonic world?

If Sarah had any sound answers to these problems, they would have dissipated in the mists of those days. But recently, I came (from a distance) to get acquainted with one of the most prominent theorists in the crypto world. Like Sarah, he’s very smart, the kind who makes and loses my entire annual salary within a few minutes of wallet flips. He invites me about once a year to make his proposal not an investment proposition, but a political one.

He understands that I am a social conservative. He is also skeptical of market liberalism. In fact, he shares some of my convictions. But he argues that the radical decentralization achieved through cryptocurrency offers a much more realistic path than normal local or national politics. The idea, again, are voluntary communities that are somehow disconnected from the centrally controlled medium of exchange. With cryptography, the liberal state, he told me, can’t access your money, because it’s impossible to crack the algorithm’s blockchain password.

or something. Once again, let me assume the power of this technology and the value of crypto as an investment: however, as a political question, it is not entirely clear to me whether these men and women imagine themselves leaving their physical communities and starting new ones where cryptocurrencies are a medium of exchange, or whether The idea was that they would stay in place but increasingly separate themselves from the dollar, the pound, etc.

The former option seems to me merely a techno-Benedict option, as weak as any monastic stronghold of Waco therapy. The last option – to remain static but unplugged – amounts to an epistemological pseudo-gloss about the option to invest in an unregulated financial asset. There is also a market for level 54 wizard armor world of cansAnd you may choose to deal in this market and tell yourself that you are building an alternative stateless world where the medium of exchange is not bogged down by the annoying claims of the poor and vulnerable.

But if the past few years have shown anything, it’s pivotal Material Politics, and I mean this literally: oil, gas, food, tanks, howitzers, housing, these are the things that will make or break political projects in the twenty-first century, as in the twentieth century. If smart people in the West chase the hypothetical excitement of assets of equal value world of cans The elements, us and we, are ready to awaken the rude.

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