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Bitcoin and Progress: A Cautionary Tale
In everything the West has done since the Industrial Revolution the effect of progress is to give the commoner what was once the sole…
In everything the West has done since the Industrial Revolution the effect of progress is to give the commoner what was once the sole province of kings. We call it ‘progress’ but it is in that way nothing more than sharing with many what few used to possess. There was a time when riding a horse was the difference between the peasant and the knight. In time the skill of riding a horse became the entry into a previously tiny economy in which now hundreds of thousands became horsemen. It brought power. It brought liberty. It brought a new way of thinking of the possibilities of an ordinary peasant. Now think of your sixteenth birthday. A driver’s license. A freeway system. A road trip. A new realm for your possibilities, a new way of situating yourself in the world previously bounded by walking or bicycle distance or dependence on other drivers.
Bitcoin offers to financial peasants what banking kings have been doing since the beginning of time. Cross border payment is not banking, any more than making a left hand turn is driving. It won’t be until you understand everything a bank is capable of doing that you will have comprehended what world is open to you.
So here is the caution.
The internet gave mass communication back to the masses. And what did they do? They made cat videos and hamsterdances. And that part of your brain is now wasted because you know it. There is a vast difference between the power of all kings and the wisdom of good kings. That means every peasant will take what power he gets, but few will discipline themselves towards wise acceptance of the responsibility of power.
So don’t be surprised when Bitcoin is used for fractional reserve banking. Don’t be surprised when Bitcoin is used for payday loans. After all, you can’t control it. It only acts on behalf of the majority. Like democracy. What will peasant bankers desire most?
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will offer power and liberty from the now to the new. It will be different. There will be many capable of what the few can do now. What’s funny is that the more convinced you are that evil is what banks do, the more likely you will replicate that evil given the power of what this technology offers. Too many people have been focused on Bitcoin as an alternative. It is not an alternative, it is simply a powerful technology. People will do with power what they do. Peasants can be as evil as kings. Kings can be as virtuous as peasants. Who is small-minded? Who wants something for nothing?
The internet is everything I’ve ever wanted it to be and more. That’s why I don’t complain about Facebook. I know how to build a website with open source tools. I don’t just consume. I will build with open source tools blockchain stuff, not just consume Bitcoin. I will take some responsibility with the power and liberty I get from this ‘progress’ and I will know more about banking because I can do it myself.
There will be no demise of Bitcoin, because the masses already know they can get their hands on it. And they will. Just like they got their hands on The Google, and so they Googled without any thought whatsoever about how and why Google worked. And when Google said it would “Do no evil”, the masses believed and so they Googled. Now Bitcoin promises to do no evil in the banking world, and the masses eat it up.
Don’t be surprised. There still is no free lunch, except at Las Vegas casinos.