Bitcoin History: Libertarianism and the Economy’s ‘Final Boss’ – CoinDesk
In the great game of the world economy, the final boss victory for crypto would be to rob nation-states of the ability to issue legitimate money – at least, that would be the libertarian win condition.
In Byrne’s view, libertarianism is a close cousin of the original philosophical core of crypto: cypherpunk. Cypherpunks want control over how much anyone knows about them, but libertarians have a more profound agenda: They want to eliminate coercion of any kind. So it makes sense that libertarians would gravitate to a technology that undermines nation-states’ ability to mandate which money we all use with each other.
The book predicted that money would play a key role in undermining state authority, largely due to nation-state preference for continually downgrading the value of their currency. Remarkably, they predicted a money native to the internet (“cybermoney”) would be key to this undoing. They wrote:
“Today it is almost heresy to suggest that scientific knowledge is not the sum of all knowledge,” Hayek wrote 75 years ago. “But a little reflection will show that there is beyond question a body of very important but unorganized knowledge which cannot possibly be called scientific in the sense of knowledge of general rules: the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place.”
In a conversation with CoinDesk, Bjerg contrasted bitcoin with the banking industry, which he said has no conviction. “Banks and the financial system, they would portray themselves as: ‘We are capitalists.’ … They’d say, ‘We need competition and innovation. Innovation is good.’”
But then when entrepreneurs actually try to compete with a genuinely new, disintermediating way to manage payments, Bjerg continued, “then all the sudden the banks become state socialists and say: ‘No, no, we can only have one currency.’ What I see is bitcoin has shown the true face of the banking system in a way. It was all about monopoly.”
James Ellis is an independent philosopher and scholar who has been investing in cryptocurrencies for some time. Ellis is better known as Meta-Nomad to his followers online. He said the project of cryptocurrency “was sort of philosophical from the start. Not anarchic but detached. An element of leaving something behind and finding your own space.”
“If you can cordon off your own currency then arguably you can cordon off your own state,” Ellis said. This is the idea that cypherpunks and libertarians share, but not all libertarians are cypherpunks and not all cypherpunks are libertarians.
“One of my goals when I’m talking about politics with people is to get them to see the gun in the room,” Chainstone Labs CEO and Satoshi Roundtable co-host Bruce Fenton told CoinDesk in an interview. An OG both in bitcoin and libertarianism, Fenton invests to express his viewpoint.
A worldview needs practitioners like Fenton and theorists who can help fellow travelers envision the next steps after they are victorious. Travis Corcoran is a Kickstarter-enabled novelist who self-describes as a “Catholic anarcho-capitalist.”
Libertarians, in other words, can be a little extra, as the kids might say – perhaps even sometimes a bit self-delusional (suburban dads cosplaying as Delta Force). Or they can at least come off that way to those who don’t buy in. Fenton granted to CoinDesk that the school-of-thought has some image problems.
But realistic or not, takes such as Heinlein’s make it a bit surprising to hear libertarianism’s proponents propound this non-aggression consensus, an idea that sounds – while not exactly pacifistic – more like pacifism than the typical, say, Western head-of-state would endorse.
But while libertarians have that one point in common, they differ in many ways. Byrne provided the most helpful way of breaking out the various categories without making it over-complicated. He described three varieties of libertarians:
Ludwin wrote, “Decentralized applications are a new form of organization and a new form of software. They’re a new model for creating, financing and operating software services in a way that is decentralized top-to-bottom.”
Ludwin would go on to say that blockchains really only had one advantage over other kinds of software, but that one advantage had a distinctly libertarian tinge: a means to circumvent coercive powers’ ability to silence.
“That’s quite central, I think, to the crypto doctrine, to reasserting extremely strong property rights that can’t really be interfered with. That’s the new thing about crypto that distinguishes it from other assets. It’s just really hard to confiscate,” Carter said.
Said another way, the libertarians don’t break the princess out of the castle; they build another castle beneath the castle. Then the princess slips from one to the other when Bowser isn’t looking.
Libertarians seem to believe people could live side by side more amicably by building a system around what people are capable of rather than around protecting against what might harm them – a system geared more for the next opportunity than the next larceny.
For example: “If we can agree that the economic problem of society is mainly one of rapid adaptation to changes in the particular circumstances of time and place, it would seem to follow that the ultimate decisions must be left to the people who are familiar with these circumstances,” Hayek wrote in 1945. “We must solve it by some form of decentralization.”
“What crypto is giving me is the ability to experiment with societal-level, institutional-level building blocks, with structures and designs, without having to go off and create an entirely other country. The costs are just lower tremendously. And I think that allows for a lot of innovation,” Sills said. “It’s very consensual.”
One future that came up again and again in CoinDesk’s conversations was one described by the aforementioned Konkin. In his manifesto he described a way of thinking he called “Agorism,” an ideology where all problems could be solved in the market. Adherents would practice counter-economics, a black market, not because of what it sold but because its participants abjured established authorities.
“That is the fundamental paradox of libertarianism,” Cowen wrote. “Overall, libertarians should embrace these developments. We should embrace a world with growing wealth, growing positive liberty, and yes, growing government.”
“In terms of the multiple kinds of libertarians, there is definitely a strand of people who call themselves libertarians who are primarily concerned about not being kept down by considering other people,” Sills said. “What I like to think about is: You can agree to constrain yourself in ways that are beneficial to society.”
This content was originally published here.