Does Bitcoin have its own politics? And if so, what exactly is it trying to say?
Thanks to the hype and misinformation surrounding the Bitcoin phenomenon, this question isn’t easy to answer, but it should be. As a peer-to-peer, open-source protocol, the Blockchain technology is a technological tour de force that can be used by anyone regardless of their philosophical beliefs and political agenda. You can find people interested in Bitcoin across the whole political spectrum.
Blockchain technology, powerful and flexible, like the Internet itself, is similar to a magic mirror politically. Hold it up to Libertarian and he sees a crystal clear image of himself, but the same can be said for anyone — Socialist, Nationalist, Republican or Democrat. Libertarians may be among the most outspoken supporters of Bitcoin, but they are hardly a majority. One reason is that the Bitcoin protocol is decentralized and open source and can be used to accomplish completely contradictory goals. For example, used one way it can guarantee transparency by making transactions verifiable and open. Used another way it can be used to protect privacy, giving us the tools to send encrypted information that can’t be hacked.
Where there is resistance to this technology it often comes from a lack of awareness, a mistrust in technology in general or a desire to protect the status quo. In Bitcoin’s defense, it is nothing more than one of the most exciting social and technological experiments in human history, but nothing less than that either. Bitcoin represents innovation.
Innovation is what naturally happens when the world’s traditional systems don’t meet all of the world’s needs. While it challenges the status quo and creates opportunity, it does not automatically, immediately replace the world we know. The Internet began its journey to the mainstream with similar ideals. Some of its initial promise has been broken and subverted by vested interests. That same comparison holds true for Bitcoin.
There is so much inspired innovation being carried out with this technology. If you ask them, insiders in the digital currency revolution will tell you that we’re just at the very beginning of a revolution of breakaway proportions, but it’s for the rest of the world to listen and spread the right message. The most important conversations, the ones that will take place in our community centers, town halls and living rooms have not even started.
It’s therefore fair to say that Bitcoin is politically still a blank slate for possibilities. Satoshi Nakamoto, the name of the developer or team of developers who created Bitcoin, did not launch Bitcoin into the world with any reference to currency prices in dollars or Euro. It was clearly not designed as money in the traditional sense, but as a digital barter token with treasure-chest full of non-financial applications waiting to be unlocked. Bitcoins are not money in the traditional sense, but digital barter tokens, and they will continue to be used that way.
Satoshi did, however, intend the technology to be a grass roots answer from the Internet community to the banking crisis of 2008. In fact, the Blockchain was launched with the following sentence encoded into its first block, known as the Genesis Block:
The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks
A year later, in 2010, Wikileaks announced a decision to accept Bitcoin due to the fact that many of its accounts and ties to the traditional financial system had been blocked or frozen. Satoshi Nakamoto made a strong public statement against this development:
WikiLeaks has kicked the hornet’s nest and the swarm is headed towards us.
Less than a week later Satoshi disappeared from the community he started, leaving the rest of us to continue the grand experiment without him.