As The World Population Increases, Bitcoin Offers Freedom

As the world population increases (the global population passed the 7 billion mark in 2011), the percentage of people who live under a democratic regime decreases. It is estimated that if things continue as they are now, in the years’ time, those who live under democratic principles and the rule of law, will comprise merely 26% of the global population, as for now India remains democratic. A report from tells us that 2021 is the 15th year in a row that global freedom deteriorated and that authoritarian regimes, like the Chinese Communist Party, are rising. In the same report, it is mentioned that 75% of the global population lives in a country where democratic principles are deteriorating.

These significant numbers are very much a result of major countries that have abandoned democracy openly like China, or secretly like Turkey, or that are thinking about it, like India and Brazil, who’s next move is anticipated. However, authoritarianism has seeped into Europe as well with countries such as Belarus and Hungary.

But what is democracy? Well, the simple definition is that democracy is the rule of the people. The word comes from Ancient Greek and it is a derivative of two words: demos, meaning the populace, the common people, and Kratos, which means power, or strength. In ancient Greece, on the hill of Pnyx in Athens, Athenians would gather to discuss the issues of the city, which was a revolutionary approach back then. There, on that hill, anyone of those thousands could take the stand and share their opinion on the current issues. Decisions were made based on the merit of each option, not merely the social standing of the idea’s presenter.

Thousands of years later, societies grew larger, and the concept of representative democracy evolved We began electing certain people to the job of carrying our opinions to the legislature, and making decisions on our behalf. Eventually, societies and populations continued to grow and people had to come up again with a way to share the same reality, to find a new way to agree. This is where television and the mass media made their appearance. People were able to learn about the reality of the rest of the world. We now relied on the news reports to tell us about the world outside of us. However, the news had to be simplified, had to be packaged in neat, disentangled, 60-minute discussion topics, so that everyone would understand, regardless of education, age, IQ, or socioeconomic status. Now, the ones making the decisions are the few, the experts who are standing between the people and reality.

Later, with the advent of the internet, some would claim that this invention would bring democracy back to the hands of the people.

With the internet also came another type of freedom — financial freedom. On January 3, 2009, the Bitcoin network came into existence. Those who hold bitcoin see it as many things. It is potential, it is hope, it is independence. But is it democratic? Do the values and principles of democracy apply to the functions of cryptocurrency, and specifically of Bitcoin’s?

Andreas Antonopoulos once said during a Q&A session:

“Bitcoin is a system that decentralizes power radically. Politically many people call that cypherpunk, crypto-anarchy, other words we don’t yet have. Bitcoin is redefining political and organizational systems, not just bitcoin, open public blockchains. This technology born out of the internet and expressing some of the radically egalitarian open philosophies, a free flow of information, freedom of speech, freedom of association on a transnational basis that transcends not just borders but every aspect of identity, without identity. That’s a radical new political system, it started with the internet, it’s now happening to money, and we don’t yet have good words for it. Erm, some people might call it democracy, I don’t think that’s what it is.”

Bitcoin offers a way out to many living in democratic and undemocratic, financially oppressive regimes. El Salvador has recently rolled out bitcoin as an official legal tender. President Nayib Bukele claims that this will help the country, since many El Salvadorans work abroad and send money back home with huge transaction costs, and almost 70% of the population do not have a bank account. However, his critics say that bitcoin’s adoption may be a distraction from the steps he has taken towards dismantling democracy. In this case, Bitcoin offers freedom, and also is potentially used as a means against it. One can’t help but wonder whether the adoption of bitcoin as an official currency negates the purpose of its existence in a way.

Bitcoin, in the end, can mean a lot of different things for different people. For some, i.e., those who have been “cashing in” bitcoin has simply been a great way for them to make money. For others bitcoin represents hope for the future: a future where even if someone lives in one of the most authoritarian regimes, they hold a piece of freedom in their digital wallets. Something that cannot be controlled by the few. If the history of humankind has taught us anything, it is that all things can be used for good or evil. It always depends upon in whose hands they end up.

This is a guest post by Eva Vasileiadou and David Showunmi. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.


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Bitcoin Creates Digital Ownership For The First Time

Bitcoin Sovereignty: Part One

So, you have taken the orange pill and are now going down the Bitcoin rabbit hole. You may be wondering what’s at the bottom? What is the core innovation of Bitcoin, from which all of wonderland is created? The answer may surprise you.

Along your Bitcoin adventure, you will meet many fascinating characters. They will tell you Bitcoin is many things: digital gold, a store of value, digital scarcity, peer-to-peer cash, proof of work. But at the bottom of the rabbit hole, we find something even deeper, an entirely new type of property rights — an entirely new type of ownership.

What we can own, and how we protect those property rights, lies at the very core of the type of society we live in, and the sovereignty we have to lead the lives we choose. If we can’t own the things that are important to us, we can’t own our own destiny, our choices are constrained, and we’re impoverished. Freedom is a very abstract term, but it is made concrete when you recognize that it means ownership. Freedom is ownership of yourself, your choices and your property.

The way we operationalize freedom is through property rights. Every single human right is effectively a form of property rights. Your ability to make sure nobody attacks you, that’s ownership of your body. Your ability to decide whether or not to get a vaccination, that’s ownership of your health. Your ability to travel, to speak your mind, to create things, these are all forms of ownership of your body and mind.

At the end of the Bitcoin rabbit hole is a new kind of ownership, more subtle and powerful than any we have had before. A new type of property with more powerful rights protection than any we have had before that provides us all with an unprecedented path to self-sovereignty and freedom.

Bitcoin Is Digital Property Rights

Until Bitcoin came around, there was no such thing as digital ownership.

Sure, you could be on the internet, but you couldn’t own anything on it. Music? Copied. Your search history? Owned by Google. Your connections with friends? Owned by Facebook. Your opinions? Owned by Twitter and censored by Twitter. Even PayPal, which was supposedly designed to provide you with a free market in which you could buy, sell and own things, saw them reserve the right for themselves to kick you off their platform, confiscate all your funds or censor your transactions.

A world without ownership is a public toilet.

Nobody cares about public toilets, and they are very frequently disgusting. Everyone uses them, no one wants to keep them clean. A lack of property rights on the micro level gives you a public toilet.

A lack of property rights on the societal level gives you the Berlin Wall.

Berlin was split into two, almost as a natural experiment in what happens when you provide one group of people with secure ownership and leave another group without it. What happened in Germany was what happened everywhere this same experiment has been tried: People in the place with property rights became more prosperous, while those in the place that didn’t provide those rights had to build a wall to keep people in because the people didn’t own property, the people became property.

The Mystery Of Missing Productivity Growth

This helps us to understand a mystery. For over 25 years now we’ve had the world wide web and people were predicting that by connecting the world the internet would create phenomenal prosperity and greatly increase economic growth but instead we’ve seen economic stagnation. Wages have stagnated, economic growth has slowed and become completely reliant on money printing, just to stay above zero. The mystery is how could this be?

Well, part of the answer is we married this 21st century technology, the internet, to a system of economic sophistication straight from the bronze age. Therefore, the internet owners, like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, are the only sovereigns — modern day pharaohs — who instead of controlling the Nile and the water streams control the servers and the data streams. This leaves you, we, us, as the serfs. The pharaohs have thrived while we have stagnated.

But then there is Bitcoin, a democratic revolution for the digital sphere in the same way that Athens and Rome were democratic revolutions for the ancient world. Democratic in the original sense: Demos meaning the common political unit of the people. Bitcoin is the invention that provides a way of protecting the rights of individuals. Bitcoin is a global jurisdiction of a new kind: Providing borderless, permissionless property rights to all its censorship-resistant citizens. Permissionless because it relies on no pharaoh. Censorship resistant because no pharaoh can stop it.

Bitcoin Is A New Flourishing

Societies flourish when people are provided with such secure property rights and know that what they create and exchange voluntarily with others will remain theirs.

Until Bitcoin, the power to protect and secure ownership rights was based on the logic of violence: Either you needed to protect yourself from violence or had to rely on governments or other powerful groups to protect those rights for you.

Bitcoin created a conception of rights based not on the power of violence but on power of a different kind: the logic of cryptography, math and shared truth. It replaced violence with cooperation.

That is why it’s important to take the Bitcoin rabbit hole all the way to the end so we understand what’s at stake here. Digital rights which can be enforced for all people, globally, across borders, without violence. Bitcoin, this new power, finally puts us — the individual — in the driving seat, with sovereignty over our own lives.

Bitcoin also has created a newly powerful Demos, a wealthy community of Bitcoiners who together control a global jurisdiction. This gives us the opportunity and responsibility to create a new civilization, based on the free cooperation of sovereign people.

Now we have that power, the one remaining question at the bottom of the rabbit hole is this: How will we use it?

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


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Bitcoin And The Philosophy Of Free Choice

The profoundness of philosophy is typically measured in extremities and diversions from a central understood point. This can address the thought collective, or the individual, when discussing knowledge and experiences with the intention of developing a grandiose understanding of the subject at hand, or positing real and lasting change. The road map for such a study is as follows: First, we define the problem of a system. Second, we define a solution for the system. Third, we implement the solution that allows us into a new system. Following this path, we must first define our central understood point, or the problem.

The Problem Is Money

This isn’t your typical “digital gold” conversation, we will step outside of this box for now. No matter one’s political alignment, everyone can basically agree the system is broken. But which “system” are we referring to? A system can be anything from the order you prepare yourself in the morning, to machines used to further our understanding of quantum physics.

Do we mean the financial system? Sure, that plays into it. The nonstop inflation, the quantitative easing growing, repo rates going to never-before-seen levels, certainly finance has to do with it. Covid-19 vaccine response to less than your liking? Public education response to a global pandemic not conducive to your wants? Did the moratorium on rent only succeed in delaying interest-frozen debt? Job never called you back when you were deemed unessential? Social Security’s absence for your retirement causing existential questions of the requirements asked of your income? Maybe it’s just the fact that you can’t stand needing a license for every “freedom” you think you have. Well, who controls all of this?

The Problem Is The State

This is not a manifesto for anarchism, though I do wander closer to it each day. The problem is that the state has failed us. Financially, bureaucratically, generally, and fully, the state has failed us. The reason for this failure is the incentive. The incentive to serve the people of majority in the system has evaporated and the majority amassed far less wealth than the minority, and the minority reigns as the supreme being. Legislation is crafted under the burdensome weight of cash.

In a fiat standard, the answer is always more: more printing, more bailouts, more tax cuts, more quantitative easing, more securities, more taxes, more, more, and more. In an ecosystem of debt, we will just raise the ceiling.

If the system is the state, and fiat fuels the system by allowing the minority to ignore the majority for lack of voice in the existing system, then exit the system. This brings us to the solution.

The Solution Is Exit The State

Easier said than done, right? Not anymore. This isn’t as simple as “if you don’t like it then leave.” Exiting the state, or exiting the existing system, does not imply nor encourage complete nullification of the state. Exiting the state simply means choosing to opt-out of the system designed against you, and opting into a system that is designed for you.

In a previous article, I spoke on how “Fiat Is The State”, and “Bitcoin Is Stateless.” Without rehashing what either of those statements means, let’s just assume they are true. Fiat currencies are beholden to their states, and bitcoin is beholden to no one, it is “stateless.”

Theoretically, if our problem is the state, and the antithesis of the state is being anti-state, or “stateless,” then Bitcoin stands as the logical solution to the existing problem as it allows you to exit the current system by utilizing its global network to exit the given system of your state.

Buying bitcoin isn’t enough to fix the system, it simply allows the individual gratification of successfully exiting a system weighted against you, and this is only if one follows in the path of becoming sovereign over their own wealth, as the purchase of a coin does not constitute a full exit. How then do we accomplish this for the collective, rather than the individual? How do we implement sovereignty?

Implementing A Solution Of Sovereignty

This piece is not a technical walkthrough such as the setting up of a node or explaining how wallets work. Instead, we will focus on a solution for the collective, rather than the individual. How do we accomplish a collective exit of the current system? One person at a time.

The first premise must be understood. There is a problem, and that problem is the state. Bitcoin allows individuals to operate outside of the bounds of any surrounding state (go read that article from earlier if you still haven’t), making Bitcoin the solution, or the exit from a system. To implement exiting the system, you must first be capable of truly exiting the system. Most individuals are not yet fully capable of a complete exit of the system, and that is okay. We don’t need to all do it; we may not even need to do it all. We must simply be willing to if we need it. What does it mean to exit the system?

Bitcoin functions as a global currency, backed by the efforts put into maintaining the network by nodes and miners. Nodes are basically just people with a computer that validates transactions. Miners actually solve the encryption used by Bitcoin by expending electricity. This expenditure of tangible resources allows us to associate a value based on the resources spent. This system exists outside of the state, as the state has no power over the protocol. The state cannot decide to create more bitcoin, only a network consensus can do that. The state cannot hide transactions because Bitcoin is a public ledger that keeps everyone accountable. Any node can check any transaction that has ever happened. Owning your own coins, taking the sovereign leap, and taking control of your own coins with self-custody, and being able to function with a fungible currency anywhere in the world, that… is exiting the system.

Once enough individuals have taken their exit of the system, not completely abandoning it, or leaving, but by the possession of a new asset, they can now exist outside of the state. Now, one person, one coin, one wallet, may not be the largest concern of the state. However, were 30, or 40% of citizens or more capable of an exit, or threatening an exit, then perhaps the state becomes willing to listen. Perhaps, to get this new asset you hold in a system they cannot touch, they create more incentive for you to want to opt back in with rewards of some sort. Perhaps it’s a restructuring of the entire system, and perhaps the old way is cast to the darkened pits of human failure, written about in learned texts of the future, telling of a lost and scattered time.

To state it shortly, exit the system together, and make them work to get you back. Once this takes place, we move to the last ideal in this pursuit of sovereignty. We must now replace the system, but with what?

The Network State Versus A Network State

These are two separate ideals that represent completely different ideologies. One of them is now, and in almost everything we do, while the other is a not-too-distant future.

“A Network State” is something that has been popularized by Balaji Srinivasan. He argues that the collective bargaining power of like-minded individuals that are prepared to exit the system can control a heartily-weighted opinion that is difficult to ignore. He speaks to the possibilities of these voiced collectives earning statehood, pooling assets, buying properties, and creating their own virtual and physical communities within, or outside of specific nation-states.

“The Network State” is something else entirely. It’s the nomenclature of collective consensus:the ideas that permeate within each individual that steps out of the current system. Once a Bitcoiner becomes a Bitcoiner, they then enter into the collective consensus, or “The Nation State of Bitcoin” (if you will).

“The Network State” allows for collective thought and continued growth in ideals as well as countless other benefits. “A Network State” is the manifestation of a digital community that is recognized in an official capacity. “A Network State” is not a requirement but is most assuredly the path we are set upon. “The Network State” is imperative, nay, essential for future adoption.

“A Network State” would have to be born of those belonging to “The Network State.” But being part of “The Network State,” does not require admittance into “A Network State.” Read it again.

This choice is inherent and arguably dogmatic of Bitcoin. A requisite to enter a network state after exiting the existing system stands in opposition to the ideology of freedom deeply rooted in the protocol. To enter the system of a network state requires the absolute release of the previous system, but also requires the absence of any system.

Both the leaving of the original system and the lack of need for a new one, are what gives an individual true choice in the adoption of a new system. Without choice, you were simply forced into upgrading your analog system for a digital one.

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


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Bitcoin: The Stateless Emergence

Bitcoin transcends the nation-state and all expectations that come along with being associated with a fiat standard. Let’s talk about what it means to be a state currency so that we can understand Bitcoin’s transcendence.

How Fiat Is The State

Fiat currency, by definition, is a government-issued currency that is not backed by a commodity, such as gold. Governments manage nation-states and control the supply of fiat currency — this can be referred to as M1 supply, which encompasses most physical representations of money.

Now, most of us (speaking from the western point of view as an American), do not currently have all of our money as cash tucked under our mattress, or nestled into a physical wallet which we carry around daily. Most of us use a bank because it is unsafe to carry all wealth as cash that can be taken by force, if you’re one of the lucky few that possess too much cash to carry.

When you agreed to bank that state-issued currency that the government can increase the supply of, therefore devaluing your cash (inflation), you were required to do a couple of things. The first requirement was you needed to be 18 years old (excluding tailored accounts). Why did you need to be 18? Because you need to be legally capable of making bad decisions and sticking your name on them so they can come after you.

Once you’ve met the age requirement, or a guardian agrees to sign their name on your behalf, you need to provide your personal identification, usually your Social Security number (serial number) that was issued by the state. The bank needs to know everything about who you are, and where you live.

Once you’re a proper legal product of western civilization with the necessary identification and the bank accepts you as a client, they then have the opportunity to use all of your money to make themselves more money, and yet will typically charge you a maintenance fee — among other fees — to do so.

Want to make a withdrawal? Show your state-issued identity. Take out a loan? Show your state-issued identity, plus all the financial records we’ve kept of every transaction you’ve ever made with us, and then we will view your credit score, which is tied to your state-issued identity where we judge your capacity for borrowing and paying back money.

You do not move in this financial system without the state’s knowledge. Sure, you can take out some cash and buy whatever you want here and there (yet why is bitcoin the one most often stated to be used for drugs?), but to accomplish any purchase of worth, the state is going to be part of it, just like they will be part of allowing you to have the cash, to begin with.

How Bitcoin Is Stateless

Editor’s note: the following story is from a presentation at the HCPP hacker conference in Prague.

I heard a wonderful story this past weekend.

Here follows the account of Tey Erjula, the “invisible man.” But first, a quick reminder of what bitcoin is.

“A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution” – Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin whitepaper.

In its purest form, Bitcoin is meant to allow transactions without the need for middlemen. Sending money from one person to the next, with little to no fees, no third parties, quickly.

Now for the story: Tey Erjula is born in Kuwait, raised in Lebanon, worked in Dubai, and moves to the Netherlands in 2010. It is also important to note that his father is Syrian. In 2014, around the climax of the civil war in Syria, his work contract in the Netherlands came to an end. At this point, immigration services in the Netherlands tells him he must return to where he came from.

He informs them he came from Dubai, and they say no because he is not a national of Dubai. He then tries for Lebanon, yet with the same result. Because he is not a product of the state, absent nationality, they won’t allow his return.

So, our friend needs a visa, as he is only a national in Syria. While at war, Syria refused to assign new visas. He does not want to return to Syria, as it is in the midst of a civil war. Since his work contract has run out, and he does not want to return to Syria, the only option is to apply for asylum in the Netherlands so that he can stay. Then, he renounces his Syrian citizenship, becoming stateless, and approaches immigration services once more seeking asylum.

In order to seek asylum, he is required to go to a refugee camp, as he is technically a Syrian refugee seeking asylum. Now, keep in mind that he worked in the Netherlands already. He has a house, a dog, belongings and speaks the language, so he’s hardly a foreigner at this point. His name and personal information as a contracted worker in the Netherlands, as well as his fingerprints and all forms of identification, are stricken from the record. He will possess a new identity at the end of his asylum period. He’s told this process will take three months.

It takes two years. Two years of living in a refugee camp, in a country that you have a house in. You cannot leave the camp without identification because there is no path of recourse within the country you live in without identification (ownership) from the state.

Remember what we said you needed to use the banks earlier? That’s right, state-issued identification. He has become invisible.

Skipping ahead, Tey talked of his struggles with eating the same food, over and over and over. After a certain point, the same food repetitively can make anyone depressed, especially if it wasn’t good to begin with. Luckily, Tey owns bitcoin and has a mobile device with him. He finds a local pizza shop that accepts bitcoin as payment, and in the absence of identity, the absence of a bank, the absence of state ownership, Tey purchases a pizza. Once delivered, the refugee camp workers obviously react by asking “HOW?” because obviously, no one has access to the financial institutions in the Netherlands that are in this camp, and he couldn’t have paid online with cash, so they were perplexed.

Now, Tey becomes the bank of the refugee camp. He started this with the intention of getting things into the camp, so people could be happy. Then it evolved. Suddenly people are using bitcoin to send money out of the camp to relatives. Relatives are sending Bitcoin into the camp to help with goods and services.

Suddenly, refugees have access to a financial system, while they are stateless.

The Conclusion

Bitcoin has no state-issued identification, no fingerprints, no credit score, and no middlemen. All Bitcoin needs is two willing participants with a functional wallet and access to the internet. The stateless emergence of Bitcoin does not nullify the state, nor does it require the absence of the state. Bitcoin simply allows you to transcend the state. 

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


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A Story Of Freedom In Taliban-Controlled Afghanistan

I vividly remember the day I cursed all the banks operating in my country. My friend and I were desperately going from bank to bank, trying to figure out a way to get paid online. The day before, we had made a decision: We wanted to become freelancers.

I know the geography of Afghanistan quite well. It is a landlocked mountainous country, loaded with bare rocky ridges that intersect throughout the land. The mountains stretch in all directions, creating gorgeous valleys while making it difficult to make inroads into different regions.

But the world has developed, countless novel technologies have emerged, people have even found their way to space. Still, the banks in Afghanistan have such a strict set of obligations that over 90% of the population can’t meet them.

In order to open an account, the banks require proof of income, a house deed and some other documents that most adults (let alone youth) cannot provide. Even if one manages to open an account, the banks here are largely restricted in terms of services — PayPal, Venmo, Wise, and other payment solutions don’t support Afghanistan.

As I learned this, I became more disappointed and frustrated. I couldn’t let go of all my dreams so easily. I decided to keep looking and, meanwhile, started my career as a freelance writer.

Within a couple of weeks, I got my first client, a nice gentleman from India. When he figured out I was from Afghanistan, he asked me if I was interested in getting paid in bitcoin.

It was a watershed moment for me. Bitcoin, a decentralized, permissionless and borderless asset. It was everything I could ever ask for. As I was learning Bitcoin, I found myself obsessed with it. I came to know the ecosystem of decentralized finance and the immense world of digital assets. I decided to work in the industry.

By the grace of crypto, I found new friends from all around the world. Despite living in different jurisdictions, we all shared one common objective: We wanted to be able to connect and interact without the meaningless borders and regulations defined by the governing powers.

Doomed To Fail

Even before getting acquainted with bitcoin, I somehow knew that the legacy finance dominant here is fundamentally flawed. In the first place, Afghanistan has excessive reliance on physical U.S. dollars.

This is mainly because Afghanistan imports more than it exports, which is rooted in the decades of war and conflict that have destroyed even miniature developments that could have contributed to the growth of domestic production.

With no sustainable sources of growth, Afghanistan has heavily relied on U.S. dollars to defend its currency. Reports reveal that planeloads of U.S. dollars were regularly landing in Kabul, sometimes even on a weekly basis.

International aid grants have also been playing a major role in financing Afghanistan’s spendings. According to the World Bank, U.S.-led international aid grants financed around 75% of the country’s public spending.

Afghanistan’s economy was already struggling with lockdown measures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, decades of war and the onset of a drought, only to worsen with the upcoming events fueled by the Taliban’s takeover.

Crisis To Catastrophe

The already failing economy of Afghanistan has only been deteriorating after the Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover. With an acute shortage of cash, a depreciating currency and swiftly rising prices of basic goods, recent events have laid out the worst-case scenario for everyone living here.

Dozens of my friends, doctors, university teachers and staff of the collapsed government have all been adversely affected. While some are now earning one-tenth of what they used to earn, the majority are not even that lucky. The situation in the private sector is no better, with businesses stalled due to a shortage in cash.

The U.S. and global financial bodies’ backlash further exacerbated my nation’s fragile economy.

The U.S. announced that it has frozen over $9 billion of the country’s central bank assets. This prompted American banks to exercise more caution when interacting with their Afghan counterparts.

Subsequently, Western Union and MoneyGram International, two of the world’s largest money transfer companies, suspended their services in Afghanistan. Since remittances from abroad by family members constitute 4% of Afghanistan’s GDP, accounting for around $800 million a year, this suspension would further aggravate the crisis.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) blocked Afghanistan’s access to its reserve, halting more than $450 million in funds that were set to arrive on August 23, 2021.

All of this would stir up uncertainty and erode confidence among Afghans, pushing people into converting their local currencies into U.S. dollars. When banks and local exchanges refuse to convert due to a shortage of cash, people will rush to exchange their currencies for goods — which further pushes their prices up.

Without immediate action, there is the risk of the Afghani currency collapsing, which would be followed by a financial crisis that can inflict even more long-term pain on the people of Afghanistan — and beyond.

As a short-term remedy, the Taliban could get cash injections to defend the local currency — which is quite a challenge considering that the group is recognized as a terrorist organization by most of the world. The Taliban has imposed many challenges onto the people of Afghanistan. Women can no longer maintain their jobs — they’ve been asked to temporarily stay home. Though no one knows how long this “temporary” measure will last. Women are also strongly advised to not leave their homes without the supervision of a male relative. Just like our personal freedom, our economic freedom is swiftly disappearing, as many anticipate we’re on the brink of an all-out economic collapse. Fortunately, developments around technology have provided us with an alternative.

Crypto: A Small Window To Freedom

Digital assets, while not a guarantee of freedom, can assist in obtaining some level of freedom. They can be beneficial in bypassing oppressive power structures by offering users 24/7 access to funds in a permissionless manner.

With legacy finance in Afghanistan on the brink of collapse, a vacuum for another system is already felt. Surely, Bitcoin can’t fix Afghanistan, but it suggests an alternative financial system for every Afghan man and woman who has been cut off from the world.

Since the Taliban takeover on August 15, 2021, all banks and local exchanges have been closed across the country. People have queued up in front of banks, hoping to withdraw their money in this time of extreme urgency. Yet, it is unclear when the banks will open up again and whether they will have enough resources to pay all depositors.

In this time of great disruption, Afghan crypto users have been the least affected. I, for one, have been able to normally continue my financial activities as if nothing has changed. With almost 100% of my portfolio in crypto, inflation is the last thing I need to worry about.

This is also true for other Afghan crypto users. Many Afghan crypto investors and traders are not affected by the recent spike in prices and devaluation of Afghani currency, since bitcoin has remained a surefire inflation hedge — a guiding light in the dark reality of our economic situation.

There is yet another vital role for crypto inside Afghanistan. With over 200,000 Afghans displaced internally and over 100,000 having left the country with little more than clothes, nonprofit organizations refer to crypto as the most efficient medium to deliver donations now that giant money transfer firms have halted their services in the country.

And while women are currently unable to return to their jobs — jobs which they’ve previously held for years — they, too, can access digital assets. Such networks do not discriminate like the Taliban. Instead, they empower. They empower women to an alternative means of economic freedom — even when the Taliban are causing the complete opposite.

Crypto can play a constructive role in the lives of many. It can literally save lives. Afghanistan’s tragedy has demonstrated it.

I don’t know how we can fix Afghanistan. But I do know that crypto helps. It provides us with a slice of an important human element that we otherwise do not have: economic freedom.

I’m living proof.

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


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Bitcoin Is Freedom From Institutional Plans To Control The World

To paraphrase “The Communist Manifesto,” it seems to many that all the ruling powers of the state — also known simply as “the elite” — have entered into some unholy alliance to exorcise the still-remaining spectre of independence and human freedoms, which they seem to believe haunts the modern world. These “powers” would include the World Economic Forum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Scientific Academia Network, all central bankers, the European Union, the City of London Corporation, the United Nations, the Kremlin, the Chinese Communist Party, the United States of America’s presumed “deep state,” Wall Street, mass media, the Islamic Jihaddist Emirates across the Middle East, the Socialist International, the Sao Paulo Forum in Latin America and the Jewish nationalist movement, Zionism.

All of these globalist powers are waging their own wars to see who will become the “one party to rule them all,” or to reach a one-world government agreement. By their increasingly-oppressive policies, all of them seem to have declared war on a common enemy: the individuals living within their boundaries, the so-called “citizens.” You may notice that all nations are also currently at war with one another economically. They are all attempting to starve each other through trade restrictions, and this occasionally erupts into violent warfare. This is a consequence of governments controlling the money supply. And money is, indeed, the core element of all human interactions.

Computer technology is on the verge of providing the ability for individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each other in a totally anonymous manner. Two persons may exchange messages, conduct business, and negotiate electronic contracts without ever knowing the true name or legal identity of the other. Interactions over networks will be untraceable, via extensive re-routing of encrypted packets and tamper-proof boxes which implement cryptographic protocols, with nearly perfect assurance against any tampering. Reputations will be of central importance, far more important in dealings than even the credit ratings of today. These developments will alter completely the nature of government regulation, the ability to tax and control economic interactions, the ability to keep information secret, and will even alter the nature of trust and reputation.

Privacy is necessary for an open society in the information age. Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn’t want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn’t want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world.

If two parties have some sort of dealings, then each has a memory of their interaction. Each party can speak about their own memory of this; how could anyone prevent it? One could pass laws against it, but freedom of speech, even more than privacy, is fundamental to an open society; we seek not to restrict any speech at all. If many parties speak together in the same forum, each can speak to all the others and aggregate together knowledge about individuals and other parties. The power of electronic communications has enabled such group speech, and it will not go away merely because we might want it to.

The technology for this revolution — and it surely will be both a social and economic revolution — has existed in theory for the past decade. The methods are based upon public-key encryption, zero-knowledge interactive proof systems, and various software protocols for interaction, authentication, and verification.

“The state” will of course try to slow or halt the spread of this technology, citing national security concerns, use of the technology by drug dealers and tax evaders, and fears of societal disintegration. Many of these concerns will be valid; crypto-anarchy will indeed allow national secrets to be traded freely and will allow illicit and stolen materials to likewise be traded. An anonymous computerized market will even make possible abhorrent markets for assassinations and extortion. Various criminal and foreign elements will be active users of CryptoNet. But this will not halt the spread of freedom, as ”the state” tries to strip individuals of their properties.

To a human, any violation of property, starting with a human’s own body and extending to the goods he has produced with his labor, is an injustice. Therefore, no property equals no freedom in the social and political realms.Humans, like other social mammals, appear to have an entire circuit within their nervous system that detects and responds powerfully to injustice.

And this violation of individuals’ properties is called slavery. And the state is “the slavery corporation” par excellence; the subtle parasitic caste thanks to the monopoly of violence.

Monopolies can’t exist unless they are supported by governments that protect them from competition. Monopolies in security and defense services have the same type of effects as other monopolies — poor quality products with high prices.

Governments particularly enjoy monopolies on security services because it prevents citizens from being protected from the government. One of the most effective ways that corrupt governments steal from their people is through printing money after they establish a monopoly on money.

A side effect of money printing is the boom-and-bust cycle that results in massive bad investment and great destruction of human efforts. Government intervention into the economy has greatly held back humanity from solving problems in the same way that it hindered citizens in Soviet Russia under communism. Thus, the removal of government intervention into the economy will result in rapid advancements in technology and quality of life.

Keep this in mind: money does not need to be provided by governments. Rather, it is another example of a solution discovered by the interactions of free people (the market) that was monopolized by the government. Money is used as a medium of exchange, a store of value and a unit of account. These are specific attributes of what we mean by the word “money.”

Money is a useful tool that facilitates better decision making and enables fruitful trades that would not otherwise take place. A barter economy is an underdeveloped economy. Bitcoin is the only money that is government resistant and this is the critical feature that makes it a good choice for preserving wealth.

The state has created the legal tender (fiat) system, which is the most subtle and sophisticated form of slavery mankind has developed to date. In this scheme, the predator forces the victims to use his “money” for transactions.

Moreover, the money is an asset that can be easily produced by the predator. For example, paper and insecure electronic money are common choices. The deception varies, but it generally applies the justifications of monopoly slavery to the production of money. The attacker also claims that using violence to prevent the use of other money is not a crime.

Bitcoin will break the legal tender monopolies because it is not bulky to transport in large amounts. As a result, it is not dependent upon approval from the predator, through border checks or the banking monopoly, for transfer to and between victims.

The first effect of this will be to reduce the amount of legal tender kept in victims’ savings. Bitcoin, by providing a store of value that is difficult to steal and has no storage costs, provides a better alternative. And since it is likely to become money in the future, victims will be rewarded with significant gains for investing in bitcoin. This reduces the predator’s ability to steal from victims by printing more money as the overall market value of the predator’s money is reduced.

Secondly, bitcoin will compete with the predator’s money as a medium of exchange. Once a large quantity of victims become investors, it will be natural for them to use bitcoin itself for any immediate exchanges. However, at this stage, and for exchanges that involve contracts and debt, the debtor will still choose to pay in the less valuable legal tender.

Finally, bitcoin will enable private security that will not recognize the predator’s money as a required, or even legitimate, means of paying debts. If a contract specifies payment in bitcoin, any security provider, other than the predator, would recognize the contract as written.

Remember: money must be one thing, and one thing only. If a society uses many monies it has begun to revert to a barter economy and money does not exist. Currently monies end at national borders, but this is also a result of government intervention.

Bitcoiners disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the will of humans acting over all existing economical barriers. Let the ruling classes tremble at a financial evolution. We are dedicated to building anonymous systems. We are defending our privacy with cryptography, with anonymous mail forwarding systems, with digital signatures, and with electronic money.

Our code is free for all to use, worldwide. We don’t much care if you don’t approve of the software we write. We know that software can’t be destroyed and that a widely-dispersed system can’t be shut down. The individuals have a world to win.

Bitcoin nodes of the world, decentralize! You have nothing to lose but your fiat chains!

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


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Bitcoin And The American Idea

Today, Americans celebrate 245 years of independence from the British Empire.

On this day in 1776, our Founding Fathers declared:

We … the Representatives of the united States of America … in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

This was a bold and risky action. Never before had a colonial state defeated its overlord, especially one at the apex of its global power.

Against all odds, the Founding Fathers rallied a young nation and won freedom. The Fourth of July is still, nearly two-and-half centuries later, a cause for great pride across our country. The idea of America, and the values on which it was founded, animate resistance struggles around the world. The principles of free speech, property rights, equality of opportunity, individual liberty, and checks and balances on government power are ones to aim for and live by.

But for some, the Fourth of July seems like a hollow festival. America the idea has grown distant from America the reality.

Our history is in many respects shameful: We enslaved African Americans; we pursued a genocidal conquest of Native Americans; we interned Japanese Americans in prison camps; we invaded Vietnam and Iraq and launched the “forever wars”; we backed coups against democratically-elected leaders; we have an ongoing War on Drugs and prison industrial complex; and we have developed a sophisticated surveillance state. These are just a few examples of how we have strayed from the breathtaking words of the Declaration of Independence.

At the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor rests a bronze plaque with the words of “The New Colossus,” a sonnet by Jewish American poet Emma Lazarus. The last few lines read:

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As essayist Allen Farrington has pointed out, the United States has, in many ways, lost this generous founding spirit. Over time, that spirit has been sacrificed on the altar of the self-interested schemes of politicians and elites and on the pacts that our leaders made with dictators to secure U.S. financial dominance. But could the Scarlet Letters on America’s history be dimmed by a new act of rebellion — a declaration of monetary independence?

If the 1776 declaration was a document of political freedom, then in 2009 came a document of monetary freedom: Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin White Paper.

As noted by Joseph J. Ellis in “Founding Brothers,” a Pulitzer Prize winning–history of America’s first leaders: “The creation of a separate American nation occurred suddenly rather than gradually, in revolutionary rather than evolutionary fashion, the decisive events that shaped the political ideas and institutions of the emerging state all taking place with dynamic intensity during the last quarter of the eighteenth century.” Many of the lasting pillars of American society and governance were established in the span of just a few short years.

This is happening once again. Not with politics, but, this time, with money. As Ellis writes, the framework for America “was built in a sudden spasm of enforced inspiration and makeshift construction,” as is happening now with Bitcoin.

The quest of the Cypherpunks and Satoshi to establish digital cash beyond the control of the state was animated, not by fear of an imperial power, but by the nascent threat in the 1980s and 1990s of the electronic surveillance state, and of the looming loss of our liberties as we entered the digital age.

In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a powerful farewell speech. He noted proudly how America was “the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world,” but he also warned how the military-industrial complex that had grown as a result of our wars abroad posed existential dangers. If one had told the Founding Fathers that, 150 years after their passing, the following words would be uttered by the leader of America to its people, it would have chilled them to the bone but probably not surprised them:

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.”

Eisenhower also noted the technological revolution underway and warned against the rise of a “scientific-technological elite” uncaring to our founding freedoms.

The Cypherpunks witnessed the realization of Eisenhower’s dark vision, as by the 1980s, they felt the surveillance state creeping in and laying down roots for future expansion. They also recognized the limits of what could be achieved at the ballot box. There were diminishing returns to asking the government to protect our freedoms. Some liberties would have to be seized with open source code.

Bitcoin is the instantiation of a revolutionary idea: a system that cannot discriminate; that does not wield violence; that does not have special rules for the rich; that does not require identification or a particular status or level of wealth or race or creed to use; and whose rules cannot be manipulated by governments. Satoshi arguably took the best ideas from Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and their colleagues and gifted them to people around the world.

As the Declaration of Independence says, “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce [people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Our “new guard” is Bitcoin. Not just a founding document, but a network designed to fight the despotism of central banking and financial surveillance, a despotism set in motion hundreds of years ago.

A debate over the money system was at the heart of America’s founding. One of Jefferson’s biggest regrets was that, in securing the capital’s shift south from Philadelphia to Washington, he compromised with Alexander Hamilton and agreed to assume individual state debts into a national debt, centralizing the American financial system. This centralizing momentum grew over the decades, finally manifesting in the Federal Reserve arrangement we have today, which gives unelected bureaucrats control of the monetary system.

Another item that gave the Founding Fathers pause was the weak performance of pre-revolutionary state paper currencies (which saw price inflations ranging from 800% to 2,300%) and the Continental dollar, which was printed into oblivion and lost 99.9% of its value during the Revolutionary War. Maybe in that one case, some thought, it was worth it to debase a currency to win a war, but in the future, the same action of being able to debase the currency may launch many new, unnecessary wars. Those that followed this line of thinking would have neatly predicted America’s current predicament — the “forever war” phenomenon, where the last three presidents have been at war every day of office, even though the domestic nation seems to be at peace.

What if our monetary future does not continue down this path of centralization and debasement but, rather, follows a new path of decentralization and growing value? Today’s dollar hegemony was engineered by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Tomorrow, the currency of America could be based on the twin ideals of the Founding Fathers and Satoshi Nakamoto.

Unlike America, which lost its first battle over centralization just a few years after its founding, Bitcoin won its first battle over centralization during the Blocksize War, where user control and personal freedom defeated business interests and the concentration of power.

On July 4, 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams warned of an America that would become a global imperium “in search of monsters to destroy.” An America where the “fundamental maxims of her policy” have “insensibly changed from liberty to force,” where we have become “the dictatress of the world.”

Perhaps Bitcoin can help Americans reflect on our history and remember that our true glory, in Adams’s words, is “not dominion, but liberty,” and that our true march is “of the mind” and not the sword.

To help ponder this, I spoke to two people whose families and ancestries have borne the brunt of America’s worst, who carry two strikingly different perspectives. They carry contrasting assessments of American history, and of our founding story, but own a similar optimism about the future of America, powered by Bitcoin.

Bitcoin And Black America

Isaiah Jackson is an entrepreneur and the author of Bitcoin and Black America, a searing critique of how the U.S. financial system systematically discriminates against African Americans to this day. The book is also a rallying cry for the black community to explore using Bitcoin as a way out of a system that unfairly benefits elites.

Jackson writes how “before Bitcoin, no matter how much money you raised to support a liberation plan, civil rights movement or march, ultimately you had to use the banking system … you continued to feed a system that did not have our best interests at heart. All of those deposits would enrich banks who encouraged redlining, denied loans to qualified applicants, and, even beyond race, bankrupted the entire financial system in 2008 [and then] gave themselves bonuses to celebrate.”

Bank after bank, Jackson points out, have been caught and fined for holding blacks to different standards than whites. In one recent study, “Borrowers in upper-income black neighborhoods were twice as likely as homeowners in low-income white neighborhoods to refinance with a subprime loan.” As a result of the legacy of slavery and practices like these, he writes that “black households have the lowest median wealth among races in America.”

His plan to change the fate of his community? To spread the word about “how Bitcoin could spark a revolution among regular, working class people.” He says: “I specifically showed how we could gradually reject fiat currency, use Bitcoin, and start or own local economies … I propose that we build our foundation of social change and protest by steadily moving our funds out of the banking system.”

Because of Bitcoin, forced dependency on a system that keeps black people down is, he says, no longer the only option. He summarizes his mission simply: “Hopefully, during the period of the biggest transfer of wealth in human history, the black community won’t be last to the party.”

I reached out to Jackson (or Zay, as he’s often known) to get his perspective on the Fourth of July as an American holiday, and his thoughts on the idea of America versus the history of America.

Jackson is half African American, and half Native American, with a family tree partly tracing back to slaves that were sold from Africa to Barbados and then onto South Carolina, and partly tracing back to Native Americans persecuted in Florida and Oklahoma.

He says that “growing up, in a black family, we’re celebrating on July 4th, but it’s not exactly a patriotic holiday. Hot dogs and cookouts and fireworks are fun, but for me, it’s about being with family and enjoying the time off, not paying tribute to the founders.”

Jackson says that July 4 really has become a “consumerist memorial,” and not something that carries a deep meaning. He points to Junteenth as something that resonates more, as it celebrates the emancipation of slaves and the liberation of humans.

Even on the idea of America, Jackson says that it was “their idea” of America. “Imagine,” he says, “if they allowed black people or women to sit in on the creation of the Constitution. We wouldn’t have had to wait around decades for the 13th or 19th Amendments.”

No, in practice, Jackson says, America is not the “land of the free.”

“We’re at a point in history,” he says, “where we’ve gone away from that completely.”

Jackson says that millions of Americans have been brainwashed by a broken public school system. He calls it the “Pocahontization of history,” where many kids think that the relationship between the European settlers and the Native Americans was as depicted in the Disney movie, as opposed to the brutal conquest that actually happened.

“As a former public school teacher, and as someone whose mother and grandmother were public school teachers,” he says, “let me just say: We didn’t teach kids about the real history of America.”

Jackson tells a story about his youth, when he was 14 years old and the U.S. government invaded Iraq. He remembers watching the TV screen and seeing estimates that the military operation would cost more than a trillion dollars. (To date the U.S. has spent more than $6 trillion on the War on Terror). He was stunned.

“A trillion dollars? I was sitting in a neighborhood filled with poor people. We had no infrastructure, terrible education, terrible healthcare. Even as a young kid,” he says, “I knew we should have used that money domestically, instead of using it to destroy another country.”

Jackson says he has one uncle who “doesn’t believe anything in the media.” Everyone, he says, thought this particular uncle was crazy for questioning the Iraq War, which was very popular at the time. His uncle told Jackson that the war would never end, and that even though they promised it would be short, that it would be long, and that the leaders of America want to be at war.

“I thought he was a crazy person, but he was right. That was 18 years ago,” Jackson says, “and we’re still fighting in Iraq today.”

Jackson says he is privileged to live in America. “Here,” he says, “we take indoor plumbing, air conditioning, having a robust transportation system, and even having a relatively stable currency for granted. Many people around the world lack these things.” He stops short of saying he’s proud to be American.

But, not wanting to depress you on your Independence Day, Jackson says despite the past he is hopeful for the future — because of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin, he says, is “more American than apple pie.” It is “based on the initial ideals, where we started with a revolution, an overthrow of oppressors taking taxes without representation, challenging tyranny.” He says Bitcoin “is doing the same thing, just in a global manner.”

Could bitcoin give real freedom where a piece of paper failed?

“The reason why the revolutionary dream remains unfulfilled,” he says, “is because the money is flawed. We have to fix the money.”

While Jackson feels no deep connection with July 4, he does celebrate January 3, which is the birthday of the Bitcoin software. Jackson actually helped advocate for this date to be celebrated, to remind Bitcoin users to withdraw funds from exchanges into self-custody. In a meme popularized by Jackson, “No keys, no cheese.”

Jackson tells stories of people in the black community who have had their lives changed by Bitcoin. One of his favorites, he says, is a 15-year-old kid, who came to one of Jackson’s presentations in 2016 with his mom. The mom thought Jackson’s lecture on Bitcoin was interesting, but it was the son who called him every day for a full month after the class. The kid ended up buying bitcoin after working small jobs. By the time he was 17, he had made enough money through bitcoin to pay for college. Now he is 22 and runs his own web development company.

Another story Jackson tells is of his friend Justin, who went to jail for two years, but then when he got out, got into bitcoin. He learned about dollar-cost averaging, mining, trading, and even started a food truck in Charlotte, selling food for bitcoin. Five years later, Justin has his own book, his own series on Clubhouse, and a program to help inmates earn bitcoin while they are in jail.

“People don’t like to talk about the prison system,” Jackson says. “I have a cousin and a friend who are both in jail. They are trapped, but they have cellphones, and they can hold Bitcoin.”

Justin has helped many prisoners find a future through Bitcoin. The prison guards do search the belongings of inmates, of course, but many are allowed to have cellphones, and the guards are not always combing through their phone apps.

“From the time we had slave patrols,” Jackson says, “we’ve always had police that were there to keep the lower classes away from the higher classes. That ended up becoming racial. We do need our police, but for the black community, they have been the victim of the double standard of crack and cocaine laws, which put black men in prison for 40 years, while only giving 1 year for white men. There are millions of black people in American jails today for non-violent drug crimes. I’d like to see these people who are locked up supported by Bitcoiners.”

Even if that does not happen, Jackson says, they are finding support in Bitcoin. “Every great leader in the black community knows we need allies,” he says. “With Bitcoin, we have allies everywhere.”

Jackson sees Bitcoin as remedying some of the worst aspects of jingoism and nationalism that have plagued America over the decades, whether it be the warfare state or the prison-industrial complex. In his mind, Bitcoin can help us achieve a greater connection with the world around us.

“Technically,” Jackson says, pointing to his Native American descent, “my people were here first. Whatever this plot of land was, it wasn’t called America. And it may not be America forever.”

Bitcoin, he says, helped him change his perspective. “If you look at a map of the world,” he says, “most of the lines were drawn by a group of colonizersa long time ago.”

“These lines,” he says, “have nothing to do with me or my generation. But I’m a citizen of the world now. The lines don’t matter anymore.”

From Baghdad To Bitcoin

“My first introduction to America,” Faisal Saeed Al Mutar says, “was a tank in front of my house.”

Al Mutar was born during the first Gulf War, and his first contact with the Americans was during the invasion of his country Iraq in 2003, when he was 12 years old.

He had grown up under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, in an education system whose goal was to “create as many ignorant people as possible,” teaching only “how to be loyal to the president.” He says you always had to worship, and you always had to say Saddam was right, no matter what.

To illustrate the climate of fear he grew up in, Al Mutar says, “Let’s say that your father was against the president … he’ll ask the son to kill the father with a pistol, and ask the son to pay the price of the bullet that he killed his father with. That is the way that he could instill fear in the son and [force him to] show his loyalty to the president.”

Al Mutar could not access the internet or watch more than two state-controlled TV stations under Saddam. “It was hell,” he says.

But eventually, Al Mutar broke through the firewall. He called the open internet a “black market” for knowledge, which helped him develop a belief in using “reason, evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry — rather than faith and mysticism — in seeking solutions to human problems.”

The first foreign political text he came across was Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason.” Al Mutar actually found it, along with writings from Orwell, on a heavy metal message board. This was his rabbit hole for discovering freedom. He became more inspired, starting a blog where he explored secular ideas, and even distributed copies of the American Bill of Rights to classmates.

Al Mutar credits his father for instilling in him the values of critical thinking. He would tell Al Mutar that if he was going to form a belief, then he would have to build the supporting evidence for that belief. You cannot just blindly believe. From these words, Al Mutar said he followed “a life of learning and not hating.”

When Saddam fell, he began to advocate for the separation of religion and state. “I advocated a lot for human rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights,” he said, “and that is not a friendly thing to do in the Middle East.”

At the time, Al Mutar often thought: “Why did America invade us, and not us invade them?”

After all, he comes from Baghdad, which was once the capital of the Ababasid Caliphate in the Golden Age of Islam. At one point, long ago, his people invaded and controlled a huge percentage of the planet, from the Atlantic Ocean to India.

“What the hell happened?” asks Al Mutar. “How did we move from a superpower to a failed state? How did we move from occupiers to occupied?”

When the Arab empire reached its peak, Al Mutar says, it built its power on science and inquiry. Algebra, the clock, the camera, paper maps, and surgery all came to the world through Muslim culture during its Golden Age. That, Al Mutar says, is when there was openness, inquiry, free thought, science and reason, and the separation of powers. And then, there was a long decay into religious dogma.

Al Mutar says he saw some of these same Golden Age attributes in the texts of the Founding Fathers. And this, he says, is why the U.S. is still dominating the world today.

During the occupation, Al Mutar would go up to American soldiers and ask a lot of questions.

“They would be sitting in a humvee and holding M16s,” he says, “but I was not afraid. I found the humanity in them. Some thought what they were doing was noble, others just wanted to pay bills. But after talking to so many of them, I didn’t see them as monsters trying to kill Iraqis. It was war. In war, it’s not good guys and bad guys, it’s very gray about who is good and who is bad.”

As he grew older, Al Mutar became a more outspoken atheist, founded the Global Secular Humanist Movement and became a target for Islamists over his writings and activities. “I survived three kidnappings,” he says. A Shiite by birth, Al Mutar and his family got fake ID cards made with Sunni-sounding names to clear Al-Qaeda–held checkpoints in their neighborhood.

Later, he said, his best friend was killed by radicals, possibly because they mistook him for Al Mutar. He ended up receiving death threats from Al-Qaeda and the Mahdi Army. His brother and cousin were killed in sectarian violence.

In 2012, Al Mutar finally fled Iraq and was admitted into the United States as a refugee. Over the past decade, he has founded and worked at a variety of organizations to connect activists from closed societies with Americans who can help them, and also to make knowledge and information accessible to individuals in the Arab World, who are, according to Al Mutar, surrounded by propaganda and fake news.

Most recently, Al Mutar founded the nonprofit Ideas Beyond Borders along with the Singaporean journalist Melissa Chen. Together, they have employed more than 100 young individuals to translate works on liberty, human rights, philosophy and science into Arabic, in total dozens of books and tens of thousands of Wikipedia pages. Al Mutar found inspiration for this work through the memory of the Bayt al-Hikma, or House of Wisdom, the storied Baghdad library that helped light up the Arab golden age.

Al Mutar tells the story of a famous bookshop that still operates in Jordan today, where Mein Kampf, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Communist Manifesto are proudly displayed outside. Beyond the Quran, he said, these are the three most popular texts in the region. “This,” he says, “is the stuff people have access to. Maybe people at the American University of Beirut would disagree, but for the average person in the Arab world, this is the text they can access. It creates a climate of hate.”

Al Mutar says his goal is to “prevent refugee crises from happening in the first place, rather than dealing with refugees.” He points to the fact that less than 1% of internet content is available in Arabic. “Ideas and knowledge,” he says, “will defeat ignorance and extremism more effectively than tanks and guns ever could.”

Perhaps surprisingly, given his military introduction to America through an invasion of his homeland, Al Mutar has become a huge fan. He is immensely proud of becoming a U.S. citizen on June 26, 2019.

“America,” he says, “provided me and many others with a lot of opportunity and potential. I don’t think another country could have made the best of me. I’ve lived in Europe and Asia. There were always restrictions, always obstacles. It’s no surprise to me that immigrants can be so successful in America compared to other places.”

“I could focus on the negatives,” Al Mutar says, hinting at anti-Arab discrimination. “Yes, some people send me hate mail. But there are a lot of people who send me love mail. If you always think of yourself as a victim, you will only focus on the negative. I try not to do that.”

“The immigrant experience in America today,” he says, “is largely positive because of the opportunities that exist and the values that this country was founded on.”

“Look at gay rights,” Al Mutar says. “In the past 50 years, there’s been a huge change of mindset, and a sweeping trend in favor of legalized gay marriage. Compare that to countries in Africa or Asia or the Muslim world. There are still places where they have the death penalty for being gay.”

He argues that, despite all its flaws, the world is in a much better place because of American leadership. “The fact that you can not only protest but change policy is not available to the billions living under authoritarian regimes around the world,” he says.

“People disagreed with Bush, so they voted for Obama,” he said. “This option isn’t available for those living under Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin. Will the Russians who were against the war in Syria ever vote him out? No, they don’t have that right. America is imperfect but the system allows for change which is different from the models of the other superpowers. We’d be living in a much worse world if the Soviets had won the Cold War,” Al Mutar says.

Looking back at America’s history, Al Mutar says that the evils that exist in the U.S. are not exceptionally American, that they, in fact, exist all over the world, and there is a case that can be made that America is one of the few nations that tried to move away from these evils.

“Yes, the Founding Fathers had slaves,” Al Mutar said, “but they also enshrined the concept of individual freedom. America leans good, because of its founding principles. To me, these principles are like the scientific method. They help the nation self-correct over time.”

“During their era,” Al Mutar says, “the thoughts of the Founding Fathers were absolutely revolutionary. The concept of individual rights was revolutionary. The world had never seen anything like it.”

“America,” he says, “was founded in a way in which the government should fear its people, not where the people should fear its government. This is the opposite of the society where I grew up.”

Recently, Al Mutar has grown an interest in how Bitcoin can play a role in helping to liberate people around the world. His organization handled the Arabic translation of “The Little Bitcoin Book,” and he has been exploring how to pay translators across the Arab world in bitcoin.

“Bitcoin,” he says, “is a tool that could spread American values more effectively than any war or intervention. I have seen how it can empower and connect people.”

He says it has a similar combination of innovation, anti-censorship and openness that made the American idea so great.

As the world continues to turn geopolitically, Al Mutar says we should consider how Bitcoin may benefit more open and free societies like America, that despite its flaws is based on enlightenment values, and how it may cause fatal issues for dictatorial regimes.

“Bitcoin expands free speech, property rights, individual sovereignty, open capital markets, and checks on government power. America was founded on these values, and can thrive with them. The Chinese Communist Party, Putin’s dictatorship in Russia, or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?”

“Not so much,” he says.

When asked who his favorite founding father was, he instantly says, “Thomas Jefferson.” The first thing Al Mutar did when he got to America, he says, was go to Monticello. He finds Jefferson especially inspiring on the subject of freedom of religion and compares his push for separation of church and state with Satoshi’s push for separation of money and state.

“Jefferson was not perfect,” Al Mutar says, “but who is?” He says slavery and the depopulation of Native Americans are the “original sins” of the United States. “These stories need to be taught and remembered,” he says, “but we cannot judge the values of those living three centuries ago with the values of those living today.”

“In 100 years,” he says, “we may look back at today and say that the t-shirts we are all wearing make us all immoral because they are made with slave labor. So are we any more moral than the founding fathers? Consider that,” he says, “in my part of the world, Mauritania didn’t outlaw slavery until 1980, and today so much of the Gulf cities are built with slavery, including the infrastructure for the upcoming world cup. Some say that Martin Luther King Jr. was homophobic — is that what we should judge him on?”

“No,” Al Mutar says. “We should acknowledge the evil and the good.”

Saddles And Riders

In 1935, the African American poet Langston Hughes wrote “Let America Be America Again.” Here are the final few lines:

“O, let America be America again — The land that never has been yet — And yet must be — the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine — the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME — Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again. Sure, call me any ugly name you choose — The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, We must take back our land again, America! O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath — America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain — All, all the stretch of these great green states — And make America again!”

Hughes’s words speak to the theme of this essay: that we have a constant tension in American experience between the animating idea so noble and the reality so flawed.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1826, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the Grace of god. These are grounds of hope for others; for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollection of these rights, and an unfinished devotion to them.”

But today we still have saddles and riders.

Jefferson’s own words reflect the ongoing imperfection of the American experiment, which has been lofty in ideals, but darkly tarnished in execution. The lead author of “all men are created equal” — and even the hand behind the pen that inserted a harsh condemnation of slavery into the Declaration of Independence, which was later removed by others — enslaved more than 600 people in his lifetime and did not free any of them upon his death.

The nebulous idea of America continues to defy simple black-and-white classification today. Even as Al Mutar is able to defend the greatness of America’s vision and freedom, Jackson shows how the nation has a great rot inside and asks us to think about how its systems are fundamentally broken for so many citizens.

In an amazing coincidence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both passed away on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. They could not possibly have predicted the struggles we face today, more than 200 years later, nor how the trade-offs they made to get America off the ground would evolve over time into civil wars, foreign occupations and an increasingly centralized financial system.

What Jefferson, Adams, Al Mutar and Jackson could all perhaps agree on is that, as we go deeper into the digital future, the original Declaration of Independence is not enough.

A new declaration is needed. One rooted in personal freedom, openness, prosperity, opportunity, property rights and free expression; one opposed to slavery, discrimination, theft, double standards, confiscation and censorship.

A declaration that could change America, just as its own people changed it from a place founded on slavery to a place where slavery was outlawed.

A declaration that can empower the black community, just as it can help immigrants connect to their families back home in countries far away.

A declaration that could credibly claim a place next to the Statue of Liberty, alongside Emma Lazarus welcoming the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.

In the end, Bitcoin may be that declaration, in the original American tradition of anti-authoritarianism and personal freedom, that helps finally rid us of our saddles and riders.

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


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The Quickest Way To Achieve Financial Freedom With Bitcoin

Upon realization of the idea of liberty, it is immediately thrust into reality, never to be forgotten by those having experienced it.

I believe that the Founding Fathers of the United States inscribed the idea that liberty is inherent to life in the Declaration of Independence. While they made an astounding first step in declaring this, there has been, since the uprising of technology, a necessity of this in monetary form.

I believe that bitcoin is the codification of monetary liberty. Like the Declaration of Independence, Bitcoin was set into existence from the very moment it was realized;

“The nature of Bitcoin is such that once version 0.1 was released, the core design was set in stone for the rest of its lifetime.” – Satoshi Nakamoto

The mere existence of the idea now facilitated a reality in which liberty was to be demanded. Having had the taste of freedom, man had realized the fullest potential of life, in that of sovereignty.

Financial freedom is achieved the moment you begin acquiring bitcoin. Immediately, you obtain digital value — verifiably scarce and unstoppably mobile. There are no outside entities who can lay claim to your property; there are no boundaries on the transfer of your money. Each individual reclaims their inherent right to liberty, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, and now too expressed in the form of Bitcoin’s code.

While the Declaration of Independence proclaimed the idea and theory of self sovereignty, Bitcoin created the physical implementation of such property rights, allowing the manifestation of such liberty to proliferate in reality. What the Declaration did on a theoretical level, Bitcoin achieves on a material level via monetary property rights.

It is interesting to think that such an achievement was only possible given the creation of the internet. As much as the printing press led to the proliferation of education, writing and reading — which were necessary for such a thing as the Declaration of Independence to occur — the internet enabled Bitcoin. The printing press, being the origin of worldwide mediums of content absorption, interconnected people across space and time. The internet accomplishes this feat even more so, more quickly and exponentially more effective.

And so, it is with this realization that we understand; Bitcoin, being enabled by a present global interconnectedness, is a physical manifestation of liberty. 


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Blockstream Releases Base Station For Bitcoin Broadcasting Satellite

Bitcoin infrastructure company Blockstream has introduced the Blockstream Satellite Base Station, a receiver for the satellite it maintains to broadcast the Bitcoin blockchain from space. The new product features an all-in-one antenna that enables users to access this broadcast and run Bitcoin nodes without internet access or any additional hardware.

“[The] Base Station is ideal for bitcoiners who want a secondary connection to the Bitcoin network for redundancy … or a primary connection for increased privacy,” according to the announcement. “It’s also useful for bitcoiners who live in emerging markets, remote locations, or who want to ensure Satoshi’s dream lives on in a Mad Max future.”

After it’s installed and aligned, the flat-panel antenna connects directly to the owner’s home network using Power over Ethernet (PoE), which passes electric power and data through a pair of Ethernet cables. Blockstream claims the Base Station works with its satellite network in most parts of the world.

Running a Bitcoin node using the Blockstream Satellite might seem unnecessary for many users. However, the company claims there are a unique set of advantages in doing so.

First, it lowers the barrier to entry for Bitcoin users who have limited internet infrastructure, helping drive bitcoin adoption. Second, the satellite improves reliability and hedges users and businesses against unexpected network disruptions. Finally, it allows users to interact with the Bitcoin network with “increased privacy and security,” according to the announcement.

The Blockstream Satellite Base Station is available for preorder through the Blockstream store for $499.


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Bitcoin Unleashes The Sovereign Individual

Are people actually able to govern themselves? Well, the likely answer to that question from most people you ask would be a resounding no. After all, most would agree that humans are too blinded by their own self interests to be able to create a peaceful and just society without some form of regulation. As a result of this being the widely-held belief, throughout human history we have organized into institutions that transfer power away from individuals to a central institution in the hopes that it can regulate the problems that arise from self-interested human nature.

These institutions have taken the forms of tribes, monarchies, empires and now nation states, and have been the exclusive holders of sovereignty, or in other words, “supreme or ultimate power.” Often, in order to gain their sovereignty, the use of force or threat of force is necessary. This is not to say that individuals cannot enjoy individual rights and freedoms under institutions, rather, individual sovereignty transcends such rights as personal property. When an individual has property rights, they have the right to own their property, but when an individual has sovereignty, they have the power and responsibility to fully control their property.

Adopting the Bitcoin standard represents an individual’s first step toward achieving personal sovereignty. By making the difficult decision to take their finances into their own hands, they are making the choice of freedom over safety. This is no easy decision to make, since the favorite phrase among Bitcoiners that it allows you to “be your own bank” turns out to be pretty literal. You are the only one responsible for keeping your bitcoin safe. You are the one for whom, if you are off by a single letter/number when sending bitcoin to an address, those coins are lost forever. You are the one who, if you lose your seed phrase, know that there is no bitcoin customer service agent to help you retrieve it.

Celearly, this is not the easy choice. It is, however, the price associated with freedom. The bitcoin holder now has full control over his or her monetary energy (all money is simply the energy of a unit of value) and the ability to transact with whoever they wish, without permission from any bank or government. Imagine then, that an individual can more than just transact value without permission from outside forces, but also conduct all parts of their daily lives without such pressure. When a person is able to do that, they will become a sovereign individual, and Bitcoin is the first step in making this possible.

Going back to the initial question I asked about whether individuals are capable of governing themselves, Bitcoin may provide a roadmap for changing the answer from a no to a yes. The Bitcoin network is made up of individuals incentivized to be self-interested, and yet even without a central entity in place, the network does not break down. It is a blueprint for how decentralized protocols of the future can build an infrastructure where self-interested individuals can interact with one another, without requiring an outside centralized party to ensure that everything moves smoothly.

Sovereignty, similar to freedom, is not meant to be easy. For that reason, it may be challenging to get the general population on board, since most people still choose the simple over the hard. That being said, with changes in the geopolitical landscape like a shift against civil liberties and the creation of central bank digital currencies that will only serve to cede more control from the individual to the state, the layman’s hands may be forced.

Fintech firms like Square and PayPal can provide the bridge between using accounts with legacy financial institutions and becoming a hardcore Bitcoiner running your own node, by introducing hundreds of millions of users to the world of Bitcoin. Sending bitcoin to your friend by simply typing their name into a user-friendly interface rather than a clunky address on a Bitcoin wallet (a feature that Cash App recently introduced) is an easier proposal for newcomers to accept. Needless to say, once these new users go even somewhat down the Bitcoin rabbit hole, they will become just as demanding of liberty as the rest of us Bitcoiners.

Bitcoin unlocks financial sovereignty, but its ideals and technology pave the road for the possibility of a fully-sovereign individual. When the idea of the sovereign individual is realized, gone will be the constraints placed upon citizens by modern nations. Instead, individuals are liberated from the mandate to organize based on arbitrary lines drawn onto a piece of paper and will be free to form communities out of their own volition. This is similar to how people already interact in the digital world. The communities people form on sites like Twitter and Reddit disregard traditional borders and form organically from people searching for like-minded others. Interaction over the internet seeks to be borderless and soon, so too will our interaction in the physical world.

The idea of the sovereign individual is certainly utopian, but so was the Bitcoin future and that now feels all but inevitable. Many Bitcoiners are preparing for a Bitcoin future in which there is little need for nation states, and in this future, they must also be prepared to become sovereign individuals capable of governing themselves.

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


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