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Bitcoin: A Cult Phenomenon

Though the term “cult” has a negative connotation, adherence to the Bitcoin ideology is about changing the world for the better.

According to Tim Draper, an American venture capital investor, Netflix will be the next Fortune 100 company to buy bitcoin. Moreover, the billionaire believes that it’s only a matter of time before Amazon has little option but to accept the cryptocurrency for payments. This comes at a time when the likes of MicroStrategy and Tesla are moving parts of their corporate treasuries into Bitcoin. PayPal has been busy purchasing a technology firm called Curv, which engages in the secure storage of cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.

But these institutions are only entering the game long after devoted believers laid the groundwork. This is not a criticism, it’s a fact. After all, Bitcoin needs the likes of Tesla and PayPal to get involved, otherwise any aspirations of becoming a global currency simply can’t be fully realized. These huge companies give the crypto sector a seal of approval it desperately needs, and it’s one of the reasons why Bitcoin has become so incredibly successful.

But what are some of the other reasons for the cryptocurrency’s success?

It’s decentralized in nature, it offers security and anonymity, it’s free from third party interference, etc. What I am asking, however, is this: What are the factors, at a human level, that make Bitcoin so desirable?

And not just desirable, but highly desirable. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that Bitcoin has a cult-like following. Why?

The word “cult” is most commonly used as a pejorative. It conjures up images of chaos and despair; names such as Charles Manson and Reverend Jim Jones instantly spring to mind. Irrational and dangerous. But, one wonders, can some cults be grounded in complete rationality?

What is a cult? It’s simply a deviant group which exists in a state of tension with society.

Across the world, there are thousands of cults. Some of them, of course, are very dangerous. Nevertheless, as researchers at Tennessee State University have noted, “a cult is simply a group or movement held together by a shared commitment to a charismatic leader or ideology.” It purports to have a “belief system that has the answers to all of life’s questions.” Furthermore, cults tend to offer a novel “solution to be gained only by following the leader’s rules.” Lastly, for a cult to be truly successful, it “requires a high level of commitment from at least some of the members.”

Manson had devoted followers, many of them young women. The ”Manson girls,” as they came to be known, were willing to do almost anything for the leader. Ideological loyalty and commitment to the group’s philosophies were essential. Charles Manson was clearly a dangerous criminal and his ideas were inherently racist.

What if another cult happens to have ideas that are both rational and economically sound and open to all people, regardless of sexual orientation, skin color, etc? What if the underlying ideology is, in fact, rooted in the idea of genuine unity?

In Christian doctrine, the Trinity consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; a unity of sorts, three persons in one Godhead.

The doctrine of the Trinity is “considered to be one of the central Christian affirmations about God.”

Cults also tend to have their own Trinity-like doctrines. First, there’s differentiation; second, there’s the promotion of a lifestyle; and third, there is the promise of liberation from oppressive forces.

Bitcoin, like Apple and Tesla, is truly different. Although thousands of cryptocurrencies exist, bitcoin is a blue whale in a sea of anchovies. It was the world’s first ever cryptocurrency; the world’s first ever “digital gold.” Again, like Apple and Tesla (as well as Ikea and Harley Davidson), Bitcoin promotes a certain lifestyle, one free from banking constraints and third-party intermediaries. Essentially, it promotes a lifestyle based on a greater degree of financial autonomy. Lastly, though it might sound extreme, Bitcoin does appear to offer genuine liberation.

Currently, around the world, one billion people are either unbanked or underbanked; bitcoin offers many of these people a credible alternative. By allowing financial exchanges within an easily-accessible network, the need for centralized financial institutions disappears. Such a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, decentralized in nature, is designed with the people in mind.

Cults consist of deviants, people who wear the badge of nonconformity with a degree of honor. Considering the combined worth of all cryptocurrencies accounts for about 0.7 percent of the world’s money, bitcoiners are most definitely deviants, at least from a financial perspective.

Though the term “cult” suggests something sinister, context is incredibly important. If the underlying ideology is based on sound principles, then, strict adherence to the ideology appears to be rational. Again, the term “ideology” carries its own share of negative connotations (for obvious, historically-significant reasons). Yet, the word merely denotes a system of ideas and ideals. Some ideas and ideals are abhorrent; others, meanwhile, change the world for the better.

Bitcoin aims to do the latter.

This is a guest post by J. Mac Ghlionn. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

Source: Bitcoin magazine

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Michel Foucault And The Misdiagnosis Of Bitcoin

Philosopher Michel Foucault’s antiauthoritarian thinking offers a provocative lens through which to view the revolution of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin recently surpassed the $50,000 mark. The moment was both historic and telling. It was also incredibly sweet. Bitcoin has not only proved doubters like Paul Krugman wrong, it continues to grow in influence and importance. 2021 may very well prove to be the year that bitcoin becomes death, destroyer of fiat.

The $50,000 mark was especially sweet because Satoshi’s creation has been misdiagnosed for years. If French philosopher Michel Foucault, a man who knew a thing or two about misdiagnoses, was around today, what would he have to say about Bitcoin?

Finding Foucault

As a divisive figure, for every fan of the Frenchman, a detractor exists. Does Foucault deserve a place in the pantheon of great thinkers? American literary theorist Leo Bersani certainly thinks so. He considers Foucault to be a most “brilliant philosopher,” more original “than any other contemporary thinker.” On the other hand, American philosopher Noam Chomsky famously called Foucault “totally amoral,” prone to the wildest of exaggerations.

The truth, one imagines, lies somewhere in the middle.

Though I agree with Chomsky to some degree, Foucault’s ideas are both provocative and engaging. And, more often than not, they carry a great degree of truth.

A proponent of self-governance, Foucault abhorred the idea of bureaucratic overreach. He was especially critical of political and psychiatric establishments. Members of the latter, he believed, were in the business of misdiagnosing and forcibly confining anyone who dared stray from the prescribed path. He warned against a system of diagnosis that could be manipulated for political purposes. Who, he asked, was doing the diagnosing? Were they to be trusted? Were their intentions pure? How “sane” were they?

The Foucauldian Perspective On Bitcoin

How, exactly, can a Foucauldian perspective can be applied to the world of Bitcoin?

Well, for more than a decade, members of the establishment have been misdiagnosing BTC. It has been called every economic epithet imaginable: Ponzi scheme, pyramid scheme, bubble (about 400 times), etc. Warren Buffet called it rat poison. Peter Schiff thinks it’s fool’s gold.

History is littered with the misdiagnoses of individuals and ideas. The labelers tend to come in two forms: the first, too ignorant to understand; the second, understanding fully and genuinely perturbed by the possibilities. Once considered aberrational by those in power, we now see many of these ideas and individuals for what they truly were (and still are): revolutionary.

From Einstein to Eminem, innovative thinkers have always faced backlash from those in positions in power. When the former published his theory of relativity, a number of prominent scientists vehemently dismissed it as “Jewish physics.”

The latter, when he first burst onto the scene in the ’90s, was considered a grave threat to society. His lyrics, many argued, would inspire anarchy in the streets. In reality, they inspired two phenomenal albums and a number of highly forgettable ones.

Bitcoin has also faced a host of wild accusations. In 2013, the economist John Quiggin called BTC “the most demonstrably valueless financial asset ever created.”

The three examples listed here show how the world tends to react to unorthodox ideas. First, there is shock, quickly followed by criticism, often extreme in nature. However, if the ideas happen to be of high quality, they stick. In fact, they grow, they mature and they gain acceptance. In the case of Einstein, his ideas infiltrated the cultural psyche, redefining the way in which many of us see the world. Bitcoin, too, appears to be on a similar, upward trajectory.

Committed To Change

A champion of heterodox thinking, Foucault was a powerful orator. He encouraged freedom of expression and a willingness to be bold. He dreamt of a “new age of curiosity,” a day in which traditional “familiarities” faced the greatest levels of scrutiny. Foucault encouraged dissent, especially if the dissent resulted in a change for the better.

In order for progress to occur, society benefits from what the comedian Bryan Callen calls “idea sex.” One person has an idea, another person has an idea (often very different in nature), with these two ideas coming together to create an idea baby of sorts.

Greatness doesn’t come from comfort; it comes from disruption. George Carlin knew this. Steve Jobs knew this. And Michael Foucault most definitely knew this.

The controversial theorist encouraged his followers to be more independent, to be brave and to challenge authority. Be a critical thinker, not a passive receptacle, he preached. Instead of blindly accepting traditional norms, question them, question their origins. If you are perturbed by the answers you find, let the discomfort be a catalyst for change.

If one substitutes Satoshi’s name for Foucault’s in the above paragraph, those sentences still make complete sense. The Bitcoin philosophy and the Foucauldian approach are cut from the very same cloth. As the academic Dr. Mary Klages writes, Foucault was “the founder of his own school of thought.” Satoshi, in many ways, also founded his own “school” of thought.

Foucault said it was his job to make “windows where there were once walls.” Now, I ask, is there a better way of describing the Bitcoin philosophy?

This is a guest post by J. Mac Ghlionn. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

Source: Bitcoin magazine

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Bitcoin As Fiat’s Antithesis: The Future Of Finance In Hegelian Terms

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a difficult man. Even his name is a mouthful to say.

With more layers than a wedding cake, the German philosopher was the human equivalent of quantum theory. 

As physicist Richard Feynman famously said, “Anyone who claims to understand quantum theory is either lying or crazy.” The same accusation can be applied to Hegel’s philosophies. If anyone claims to fully understand Hegel, they are either lying or crazy, or quite possibly both. Just like the works of James Joyce, no one actually reads Hegel’s works, not because he had nothing to say, but because he was a linguistic enigma. Deciphering Hegel is like trying to baptize a cat. Stressful and somewhat traumatic.

But, somewhat mercifully, at least for the purposes of this article, Hegel’s dialectical method is easy to digest. Presented in a threefold manner, first comes the thesis, an established narrative of sorts. Think of the thesis as conventional norms: nuclear families, monotheistic religions, traditional political parties, etc. A reaction to the thesis comes in the form of the antithesis, which seeks to undermine or supersede the thesis. An obvious tension between the two arises, which, we’re told, is then resolved by the synthesis, the final part of the Hegelian triad. 

With the basics established, how can the German’s method be applied to the world of Bitcoin? More specifically, how can it be applied to the contrasting worlds of fiat currencies and Bitcoin?

Fiat Vs. Bitcoin, In Hegelian Terms

As you have no doubt surmised, fiat currencies represent the thesis.

A sound thesis is supported by sound evidence. The current arguments in favor of traditional fiat are highly unsound, to say the very least. Firstly, fiat money is backed by governments, not by a physical commodity like gold, for example. Furthermore, fiat is a product of faith, and faith in fiat is incompatible with the facts.

Ever since the Nixon shock some 50 years ago, the bastardization of fiat, especially the U.S. dollar, has increased exponentially. In October of last year, Politico’s Caitlin Emma warned readers that the federal deficit had “tripled to a record $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2020, with the budget gap ballooning to a share of economic output unseen since World War II.” 

According to Emma, government spending “exceeded more than $6.5 trillion in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, up from $4.4 trillion in fiscal 2019.”

This is worrying on many levels, both domestically and internationally. No world currency exists — not yet, anyway — but, when it comes to reserve currencies, the U.S. dollar is king. Now, though, the king looks frail. Worse still, he’s senile, impulsive and drunk on his own power. 

A coup, in the form of the synthesis, is well overdue.

Based on a system of transparency and superior technology, Bitcoin provides a legitimate answer, a negation of the thesis, so to speak.

Thesis Vs. Antithesis

Tyler Winklevoss, founder of cryptocurrency exchange Gemini, certainly think so. In a recent blog post, he had this to say:

“Money stored in a bank will get run over. Money invested in assets like real estate or the stock market will keep pace. Money stored in gold or bitcoin will outrun the scourge. And money stored in bitcoin will run the fastest, overtaking gold.”

He makes a compelling case. After all, more than a fifth of all U.S. dollars ever created were created in the last twelve months. Yes, you read that correctly. 

Joe Biden once said that “reality has a way of intruding.” Well, Joe, as Philip K. Dick famously wrote, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” The dollar’s decline necessitates a solution, rapidly.

Digital gold and digital oil (in the form of bitcoin) provide us with a sophisticated escape. After all, embracing non-fiat derivatives makes complete sense. Bitcoin has exposed the financial fault lines that exist in the traditional system; Blockchain technology, the often unsung hero, allows us to exploit them. John Zanni, president of the Acronis Foundation, believes that blockchain technology will have a transformative effect similar to that of the internet “back in the 90s and early 2000s.” Just like the synthesis works to negate the thesis, blockchain technology excels by cutting out the middleman. 

In a recent exchange with famous investor Raoul Pal, Erik Voorhees, the founder and CEO at ShapeShift, spoke about the future of finance and the inevitable, widespread adoption of both Bitcoin and blockchain technology. 

When asked about fiat currencies, Voorhees responded: “They fall apart on their own. They collapse on their own because they’re printed into oblivion.”

Describing bitcoin as a “credible alternative,” Voorhees believes that greater levels of individual autonomy will lead to a “reduction in coercive government.”

Alas, although many of us dream of a decentralized Garden of Eden devoid of any governmental gods, the reality of the situation may prove to be very different. 

Regulatory creep is inevitable. It always was. This brings us on to the third and final part of the Hegelian triad: the great compromise, otherwise known as the synthesis.

Now that the world of crypto has started to encroach upon the establishment’s turf, we have started to see a greater degree of pushback. 

In the world of DeFi, according to an Electronic Frontier Foundation report, “the U.S. government has been increasingly taking steps to undermine the anonymity of cryptocurrency transactions and importing the widespread financial surveillance of the traditional banking system to cryptocurrencies.” Meanwhile, in Europe, Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank, recently called for a global regulation of Bitcoin, to prevent any further “funny business” from occurring. 

Moreover, if Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab’s nebulous concept of stakeholder capitalism is realized, BTC will likely face a host of coercive, highly bureaucratic  measures.

Commenting on Schwab, Professor Jeffrey M. Herbener, in a piece for Mises.org, wrote of the very real threat posed by a “singular global monopoly,” in which the powers that be dictate the flow of finance — who gets what, how much, etc. 

As the aptly named writer Luke Savage recently commented, somewhat savagely, the world of finance is run like “a roulette wheel at an Atlantic City casino,” with those who run the table possessing the “keys to the vault.” Thus, with this power, they “always get to determine the rules of the road and who’s allowed to play.”

The Time For Synthesis?

For BTC to get an internationally-recognized seat at the table, a compromise will have to be met, whether we like it or not. Resistance is futile.

Hegel, no fan of compromise, talked about something called the totality. Encompassing a number of stages, many of them radically different in nature, the totality is the absolute whole, the cumulative effect. Hegel referred to the stages — the ingredients, if you will — as moments; After various negotiations are settled and amalgamations have occurred, the totality emerges.

When it comes to the financial totality of the future, we’re likely to have a fusion of moments from the traditional sector and moments from the blockchain-driven future, with hopefully more from the latter than the former.

Truth, Hegel said, is found “neither in the thesis or antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.”

This is the dawn of an emergent synthesis. As for reconciliation, only time will tell.

This is a guest post by J. Mac Ghlionn. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

The post Bitcoin As Fiat’s Antithesis: The Future Of Finance In Hegelian Terms appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Source: Bitcoin magazine

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Bitcoin: A Hedge Against The Dystopian Present

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, when asked about the potential of Bitcoin, Kenneth Rogoff, an economist and Harvard faculty member, conceded that the cryptocurrency has a future…. but only if the future is “dystopian” in nature.

But what if the dystopian future is already here? Without wishing to engage in linguistic inflation, let us start off by defining the term “dystopia.”

A dystopia is simply “a community or society that is undesirable or frightening.” One needn’t be living in a Mad Max nightmare to find modern day existence both undesirable and frightening. Unlike utopias, which are both idealistic and unattainable, dystopias are both brutal and entirely attainable.

From “Resident Evil” to “RoboCop,” truly dystopian societies are violent, often brutally so. However, one needn’t escape into the world of fiction to find volatile societies. With rates of violence reaching dangerous new highs in major cities like New York and Ontario, for example, acts of brutality are alarmingly common.

As Cormac McCarthy’s magnum opus taught us, dystopian societies are also mired in poverty. Considering that 45 percent of Americans have absolutely nothing in savings, it’s safe to say that daily existence is a dystopia for a sizable portion of the United States. In the U.K., things aren’t much better, with one in 10 people having no access to savings. When it comes to emotions, despair is very much the flavor of the month. 

For millions around the world, without access to savings, the threat of homelessness is never far away. From Catalonia to Caracas, that threat is very much a reality.

Meanwhile, governments across the world are drowning in a sea of debt. Last year, we saw global debt hit new, historic highs. Expect new, historic highs to be reached again this year. 

How do governments continue to finance their debt? By printing money, of course. Meanwhile, unemployment rates are dangerously high, economies continue to shrink and suicide rates continue to rise. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown thinks the U.K. is close to becoming a failed state.

Dystopian enough for you, Professor Rogoff? 

In his 2004 book, “In Praise of Empires,” Deepak Lal wrote:

“Empires have been natural throughout human history. Most people have lived in empires. Empires and the process of globalization associated with them have provided the order necessary for social and economic life to flourish. By linking previously autarkic states into a common economic space, empires have promoted the mutual gains from trade adumbrated by Adam Smith. Therefore, despite their current bad name, empires have promoted peace and prosperity.”

When examining the American system, one should ask, for whom does it ensure prosperity?

In “The Sleeper Awakes,” one of the greatest dystopian novels of the 19th century, H. G. Wells depicted the governing class as decadent in the extreme, superficial, callous and devoid of any compunction. Over 120 years later, in the age of corporate socialism and Cantillon principles, little has changed. 

Noam Chomsky once wrote, “for the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” In California, for example, it’s perfectly fine for the governor to ignore lockdown regulations. If someone in a less powerful position behaves in a similar manner, however, they end up losing their ability to make a living. 

Estonia has taught us that the best governments are the ones that govern the least. In dystopias, though, governments hold a vice-like grip over society. Language is weaponized, newspeak reigns supreme, terms like “stakeholder capitalism” actually means economic fascism.

Technological control is another theme of dystopias, where the rulers of society control the masses in both the most implicit and explicit of ways. Bentham’s panopticon is a global one. Privacy is no longer an option.

As Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have shown the world, if you expose this very fact, you are deemed a dangerous actor. This is the age of phone tapping and indiscriminate sharing of data, a dystopian age ruled by men named Dorsey and Zuckerberg. 

Should we be worried? Considering Facebook supposedly feeds users’ private messages to the FBI, I think so. From “1984” to “Black Mirror,” dystopian offerings are known for darkness, both thematically and visually. Ever since the abolishment of the gold standard some 50 years ago, the shadows of inflation, fiduciary negligence and technocratic governance have dimmed the lights on democracy. 

If Bitcoin is a technology that is only viable in dystopian times, then, dear readers, that time is now.

This is a guest post by J. Mac Ghlionn. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

The post Bitcoin: A Hedge Against The Dystopian Present appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Source: Bitcoin magazine