Column by Alex R. Knight III.

Exclusive to STR

Half a decade ago now, I wrote a piece here on STR about how advancing technologies have nearly always introduced more freedom into human affairs than the latest political idea or bid to shift the philosophical leanings of a given society or population. The latter takes place, if at all, glacially. Technologies have the ability to shift things virtually overnight.

Mentioned in that STRticle, among other things, were 3D printed guns (also known today as “ghost guns” because of their untraceable nature), and in fact I just very recently finished reading Cody Wilson's book, Come and Take It: The Gun Printer's Guide to Thinking Free. One thing not mentioned in my piece, however (though it was touched upon by a commenter there), was Bitcoin. Of course, in 2012, Bitcoin stood virtually alone in the cryptocurrency world and was not yet a big deal according to most forecasters. I guess here is the part where I say, “Boy has that ever changed!”

Bitcoin, as the premiere and still predominant cryptocurrency, almost crossed the $20 thousand Federal Reserve Note mark within recent memory. At the time of this writing, it hovers at somewhere around $14,500 FRNs. A far cry from the days when 10,000 bitcoins bought two large pizzas. Its price index remains volatile for the time being, making it both attractive and bearish to some investors, and the number of places where it can be exchanged for real goods and services is expanding slowly for the time being. It also faces much competition. At present, there are well over 1,300 Bitcoin imitators, with new ones cropping up on an almost daily basis. Some emphasize expediency and low computing power requirements (like NEM's XEM – now the second most popular cryptocurrency in Japan), others stealth and privacy (Monero, Dash, and the nascent Spectrecoin come to mind). Still others thrive on marketability and name-recognition – such as Litecoin, or the Bitcoin blockchain-fork derivatives, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold.

But back to good old standard Bitcoin for a moment: In a recent New York Times opinion piece, that arch and dogmatically committed advocate of all things Marxist and retrogressive, Paul Krugman, has delivered what might be considered an ultimate and unabashed coup de grace showing of his hand (as if one were still needed at this juncture). The title leaves little room for speculation about Krugman's attitudes towards free markets and individualism.

“Bitcoin Is Evil” makes sure to decry both the cryptocurrency and gold itself (though the latter to a slightly lesser degree, predictably), while touting centralized banking and the almighty Federal Reserve Note as the only bastions of socialist sanity in an ugly, reckless, and flat-out bizarre world of anti-governmentalism and capitalist greed. Just bear witness to the quote Krugman cites from an article by fellow uber-leftist Charlie Stross:

BitCoin looks like it was designed as a weapon intended to damage central banking and money issuing banks, with a Libertarian political agenda in mind—to damage states ability to collect tax and monitor their citizens financial transactions.”

Before uttering “Duh, Sherlock!” we might first pause a moment to consider that Krugman, Stross, and all those who think like them – a considerable segment of the population – see nothing wrong whatsoever with centralized banking and money issuance, taxation, and the ability of governments to monitor all financial transactions.

In fact, not only do they see nothing wrong with these things – they see any attempt to hinder or thwart them as “evil.”

This is what we are up against. And I hold out little or no hope that such a twisted mindset can ever change.

Fortunately, emerging technologies have the ability to bypass people's belief systems in ways that render their objections meaningless. Yes, that's a double-edged sword, and states can and do use technology to violate privacy all the time. But with cryptocurrency now on the digital map, I get the feeling we're going to finally start giving more than we're getting when it comes to sticking it to Big Brother. Ultimately, even lefties like Krugman – who infamously once opined that the Internet would lead to no greater changes than were introduced by the fax machine – will likely be co-opted into using cryptos whether it dissolves their Marxian leviathan agenda or not. People en masse rarely if ever think about the philosophical ramifications of a new technological development that makes life quicker, easier, and less expensive – even if and when it contravenes their belief system. In the case of cryptos, this works in favor of liberty, and not at all against it. Just like most if not all prior leaps in technology.

The development of the Internet itself, and the social and alternative medias which have sprung up as a result, may have expanded and accelerated the ability of freedom advocates to reach others, and to a not insignificant degree this has borne fruit. That said, the libertarian message has run and is still running up against the resistant and obstinate nature of the human mind. Bitcoin, and all of its crypto-progeny, are encountering very few of such psychological barriers.

And this is cause for some hope.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 153

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales.  He has also written and published poetry, non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues.  He currently lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University.  Alex's Amazon page can be found here, and his work may also be found at both Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.  His MeWe group can be found here.