John gray is a premier political philosopher, and formerly a lecture at the London School of Economics. His erroneous essay on Bitcoin deserves a philosophical reply. In the following I will refute John Gray’s assertions on the functions of money and benevolence of the state, in addition to displaying that he speaks from a place of anointed authority with a misunderstand of what the concepts of digital freedom and liberty mean. It is my hope that through refuting John Gray that I can offer a framework for understanding the maxims of Digital Freedom and thus digital currencies themselves.
In his essay, John Gray States:
“While the policies that were adopted in the wake of the financial crash may have saved the world from a rerun of the 1930s, they also mean that money is steadily losing its value as a store of wealth. With near-zero interest rates, small savers are robbed as surely as they would have been if the original Cypriot plan had been implemented, just more slowly.”
His error is in assuming that crisis has been averted. It is clear when looking at the big picture over the last five years, we can see that crisis has not been averted, but rather it has been mitigated for the current point in time. The Bank of England’s Governor stated that he believe that the current depression is worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the data supports this. Greece unemployment is greater than the U.S. had at the peak of the great depression, and they also in the 6th year of their Great Depression. It is no wonder that just like in the early 1930s that we are seeing the rise of Fascism in Europe again with Gold Dawn–the Neo-Nazi Party of Greece–which is now the third largest party in Greece.
Many other European states are not fairing much better. Italy is clearly floundering, with a -2.4% economic growth for 2012, bail-out being likely in the next 6 months, and having their prime minister convicted of tax evasion, and then evading even the very ruling banning him from politics–corruption is an issue that cannot be understated. This is also an issue in Spain where the prime minister and his People’s Party are under fire for allegedly accepting cash payments from construction firms. This is on top of the economy having a projected unemployment of above 25% until 2018, the largest protest ever for an independent Catalonia, and 20% of the economy going black. Let me remind you that this is a nation that tore itself apart in a civil war during the 1930s because of economic problems, it is not fantastical to think that it could happen again.
Perhaps the only accurate part of this statement is that money is steadily losing it’s value. This is due to the policies of Japan, The U.S., and The E.U. all engaging in ‘quantitative easing,’ which is a sophisticated word for expanding the money supply. Japan is trying to double their money supply to achieve a rate of 2% inflation ‘as soon as possible,’ and the U.S. has tripled their money supply since 2008. This may have helped combat the obvious deflationary forces that have been present since 2008, but this is akin to jumping out of the frying pan only to find yourself in the fire later on. I believe that we will see stagflation starting 2016, and with the global economy already doing this poor, it shall create massive political pressure that will go unheard again.
Moving forward, let’s look at more of the erroneous statements of Mr. Gray:
“The currency has been criticized as a tool of speculators and money-laundering and its value has oscillated wildly as a result of hacking.”
This is an assumption that should display Mr. Gray’s rudimentary knowledge of how Bitcoin and the internet functions. It has not been ‘hacking’ itself that has caused for the volatility of bitcoin prices, it is simply with the market growing and trying to establish itself. Some of the major bitcoin heist did temporarily effect the price, but to believe that it is the cause of volatility would be inaccurate. When you have such a small pool of wealth that is being dealt with (the market cap today is around $1.1 billion total–not just in circulation), it means that any shift of more than a few $100,000 is going to move the market quite a bit. If you moved more than $10 million into any currency on the ForEx market it would not even be noticeable–it would be a drop into the financial ocean.
Later in his essay Mr. Gray displays his lack of understand about the functions of the internet:
“[Cyberspace is] a site of unceasing warfare – abounding in worms and viruses, vulnerable to attack and decay, and needing scarce resources and energy to operate – the virtual realm of the internet is a projection of the human world with all its conflicts.”
His whimsical notions of how cyberspace functions should be more than enough to inform us that he does not understand how the internet works. First, war is an act of violence in its totality–violence simple cannot exist on the internet. Period. Calling viruses, worms, and hacking ‘warfare’ is a disservice to those that have died under the bludgeon of warfare, and creates a fundamental misunderstanding of what is occurring–violence is not one of them. Through allowing this ignorant idea that ‘war’ exist on the internet, Mr. Gray has endorsed the violence that the state brings to people like Pvt. Manning and Edward Snowden who have done no actions of violence whatsoever.
The internet in itself is a place of intangibility and human expression–that is the bases for the very code the the internet is written upon, and the functions that the internet carries out. Ideas, intangibilities, concepts, exchanges of information, and knowledge–that is what the internet is in all of its forms–nothing more and nothing less. It is from this very place that programmers of the 21st century have found themselves asking the same questions as the legal philosophers of the 16th century–in a very different light however.
The freedom of the internet is derived from the freedom of actions which one can do on the internet through the functions of the code that one is using–the code itself is a tool, a tool to help create these expressions and communications over the internet. Programs based upon this same form of logic that philosophers are subject to, hence why it is called logic. It is not surprising then to discover that with the building of the foundation of the internet that small community of cypherpunks found themselves discussing principals and values like freedom, privacy, and sovereignty.
It was from these discussions that the question of assurance came up: How can we be assured that our privacy is safe? We cannot trust someone else with our privacy, or else it would not be private, so how to we negotiate that? The answer to this question was math. Mathematics offer us statistically assurances that if we are to use a cryptosystem, such as a PGP key, or Bitcoin, that the statistic capability to break hash function is very, very, if not impossible hard to do. Thus, we arrive at a system of privacy that offers the mathematical assurance of privacy–not the lies of men sworn to protect these privacies. Armed with this knowledge, this same community that was just a bunch of ‘punks’ became the vanguard of the internet privacy and freedom.
From their deep thoughts to the question of liberty and government violations of that that The Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace came from. It was clear almost 20 years ago that the Internet was too powerful for megalomaniacs of governments to let it be. It was also clear that the defense of the internet was going to be needed and it is for the same reason that the Electronic Freedom Foundation was founded. Even back in 1995 it was clear that the freedom of the internet could not co-exist with the oppressive governments of the world–either the internet would be free along with the world it connects to, or it would be limited, choked, and exist only at the whims of those in the halls of power–just as our societies exist today. With the true extent of NSA spying today still unknown, I believe it is clear to see who is winning. As nation-states are clamping down on the freedom of their citizens and the internet across the globe, people are finding solidarity within that principal itself: The freedom of the Internet.
As a man that has called himself as a liberal, it is sickening to here such dribble as this be written from any man that calls himself a scholar:
“[Crypto-anarchy is] a philosophy that shares the fatal illusion of anarchism in all its varieties, the notion that most human beings actually want freedom from government. Invading personal freedom in times of crisis isn’t always unpopular – far from it. Not only during the 20th Century but throughout history, human beings have turned to governments, and often to tyrants, for protection and security. The safety they are looking for may be just a mirage. That hasn’t stopped them wanting it.”
I am shocked and horrified to hear a scholar advocate for the tyranny of governments–popular or not. Simply because Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini came to power through legitimate means and because a majority of citizens would willing have other citizens taken to the gallows for false promises of liberty does not excuse such actions in any way, shape, or form. Totalitarianism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism all have a deep and powerful appeal, particularly in times of great uncertainty. It is akin to the power of having Demi-God come to you and say, “Give me the power to kill and work outside of the bounds of the law–for I shall give you peace in our time.” It was these very feelings that caused for the the untold deaths of tens of millions of innocents during World War II–a horror that we cannot, must not, and shall not ever experience again.
What men like John Gray and his masters do not realize is that this is the beginning of the final push for a global liberated single humanity. Those that are Digital Natives understand the power of the internet and how it has, and shall continue to change the world. Digital Natives see how much closer we are to one another than we are to the elites that run run own respective nation. Our counterparts in Greece, Egypt, China, and the world over, that are struggling with the political oppression in their nation is the same struggle as our own. They are our brothers and sisters of the world, and fellow citizens of Cyberspace. It is with them, not the John Gray’s of the world that we shall find liberty together.
He concluded his essay with the following statement:
“Whatever happens, this will surely not be the last attempt to find freedom in cyberspace. While the freedom Bitcoin promises is an illusion, it’s one that will always have a grip on the human mind – the dream of finding some kind of talisman, a benevolent tyrant or a magical new technology, that can shelter us from power and crime and protect us from each other.”
It is tragic to see that Mr. Gray understand the human heart’s most basic yearning to find freedom, yet refuses to acknowledge that technology may have brought this within our grasp. I believe that this is where there is a fundamental difference in the world view of my generation and his generation. To take from the Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace:
“You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.”
We have moved into a world where those who hold economic and political power do not understand that which we are creating together in the Great Common known as Cyberspace, and so they seek to destroy the freedom we have created here. Because they do not understand us they have sent swarms of regulators to eat out our substance and subjugate us to laws that far outside of our jurisdiction. Because of their own stupidity and certainty of that stupidity that they have doomed themselves to fighting a war which they cannot win.
That is a war with freedom itself. This is not the glistening banner of shinny, pretty freedom that American politicians speak of, but true, unadulterated, messy, freedom. The freedom that is not just a promise, but a rule. One that is blind and unbiased, that functions from maxims and not opinions, and is of rules, not rhetoric. It is from this idea of advancing economic freedom from a categorical imperative that we are able to see the power of the federated cryptosystem that Bitcoin is.