This is part 3 of the “Hodler’s Gay Science” serie
Freedom at last?
My conception of freedom. – The value of a thing sometimes does not lie in that which one attains by it, but in what one pays for it – what it costs us.
Now that you’re finally convinced the blockchain “technological revolution” narrative is utter bullshit, you should ask yourself what kind of revolution is Bitcoin?
Or maybe it is better to call it a restoration rather than a revolution. Restoration of the freedom of the individuals pushing back against the collective bodies and powers that have been encroaching on it for the past century or so.
The Great War opened a parenthesis of worldwide mass murders, unchecked growth of political power and monetary mess, and Bitcoin might be our chance to finally clean up this mess.
The Revolution that never came
It feels trivial to say in 2019 that the internet is a “revolutionary” technology with far-reaching political, social and economic consequences. Litterally everybody says that.
In my opinion, this is quite exagerated: the internet has indeed profundly changed some businesses, the most famous example being the music industry. It has indeed greatly improved the availability of information, but its impact on our political system so far seems overrated to me.
Despite (debatable) epiphenomenes like Brexit or Trump, the old institutions have pretty much worked their way out of this new paradigm and don’t seem to be really threaten by it anymore. Quite ironically, what we’ve seen recently is rather big tech teaming up with the banking system to act as gatekeeper on behalf of big government, and the public at large has been rather apathetic on the issue.
While information that should sparkle widespread indignation and unrest has never been more easily available than today, while it has never been easier and cheaper for literally anyone to reach a world-wide audience with a message and almost all useful knowledge is readily accessible for free, yet we have never seemed less willing to challenge the power that be. Why is that?
The economic and ethic disaster of easy money
I’m convinced that the missing piece to understand that is the fact that we’ve been living in the age of “easy money”. Because of that most people already forgot that our world is one of scarcity. The material well-being you most probably enjoy today is not something you’re entitled to and that governmama will always provide for free if you’re a good boy. It has to be conquered every day through the actions of freely cooperating humans.
Money is the backbone of economic organisation, since it gives us a reliable criterion to evaluate the efficiency of any economic activity: does it make profit? It also makes it possible to keep the balance between previous actions outputs (money earned) and future consumption and investment, at the individual and global level.
Leftists love to talk about different flavours of “justice” and are fast to condemn money on moral ground, but really it can’t get any fairer than that: you can only spend what you first earned, and to earn you have to give.
To have the power to spend money without earning it first is the power to decide how other’s ressources will be consumed and/or invested without having to contribute something first. If one can “create” money rather than earning it, he can decide of scarce resources allocation and never have to bother if the way he uses this resources is efficient or not.
Here’s how I understand the quote on top of this article: freedom is not the power to get everything we want, but the will to pay the price for what we want. Easy money enslaves everyone, first and foremost those that benefit the most from it. It is not only the recipe for economic inefficiency and waste, but also highly immoral as argued by Hülsmann in The Ethics of Money Production.
Human, all too human
We have been living in a world where governments and institutions connected to them have enjoyed the power to create money for decades. It allowed them to finance pretty much any policy that fits in their beliefs or interests, since they’ll never have to foot the bill.
It also allows them to buy social peace and the allegeance from more and more people that rely on government to make a living, either because they are directly employed by it or are on welfare state. People that live off government spending money it doesn’t have have strong incentives to protect the statu quo, no matter what it takes.
The power to create money is so great in fact, that as long as you have it you pretty much don’t need any other to control the body and spirit of the people (on the contrary, even if you are a legendary despot you can’t really go full totalitarian as long as you don’t control money).
People won’t make things change, regardless of internet making information free and highly available, because people don’t bite the hand that feed, and that’s wise from them. This won’t change until the power to create money is taken away. Most probably this power has been abused so much that the whole system will eventually implode. It is doomed to end like this anyway, but it can take some time.
But there’s a slight chance it won’t happen like this, as we finally have an alternative that allows more and more people to store and exchange value out of reach of the legacy banking system, creating strong incentives to strive outside of the government controlled economy.
Bitcoin opens a breach in this tight hold on the money for the first time since almost two generations. Expect the common people to chimp out as soon as they realise the real price of providing for a legion of good-for-nothing anointed telling you what to do.