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Author Topic: Governments and Bitcoin  (Read 10255 times)
eMansipater
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March 26, 2011, 03:21:03 AM
 #1

I realise that there are many anarchist-inclined bitcoin enthusiasts excited about the fact that bitcoin isn't government-run; obviously however we're not all anarchists so just thought I'd try and flesh out the topic of governments and bitcoin from the other angle.  Yay textwall!

It's one thing to be opposed to governments in principle, but especially for people who don't know anyone working in government there's a bit of a tendency to go all crazy around here about what "the government agenda" is or how "the government" will try and automatically repress any new idea.  The truth is that governments are just made up of people.  Forming any kind of cohesive idea amongst government members is a massive job in and of itself, as I well know from my own experience in politics--it's simply not true that there's one big organised conspiracy called "The Government" in any country.  Even flat-out dictatorships have a wider array of differing opinions "within the ranks" than you might think.

Governments and technology have an interesting relationship.  On the one hand members of governments tend to be well-connected, established people with an investment in the status quo.  It also takes a lot of time to succeed in politics at any significant level, which means that many policymakers aren't exactly on the cutting edge of technology.  I won't be so unkind as to call them flat-out dinosaur luddites (or maybe I just did Wink ) but they don't tend to grasp the value and significance of new, disruptive technologies quickly.

On the other hand, I actually know many individuals who work at high levels of government, and a significant portion of them are genuinely trying to improve society's function through their work.  Don't forget that, as amazing as it sounds, a government invented the internet (the american government no less!).  Governments sent humans to space.  Governments even created the first computers!!  The american government created Tor!!!!!!!  Shocked -my head just exploded.

Governments are not mindless anti-tech zombies.  When something is really different they often have trouble understanding it.  Like p2p filesharing--they've completely dropped the ball on that one!  And vested interests generally tend to distort and mess things up.  But if the regular actual people who work in governments see a true opportunity for something to benefit everyone, they tend to get just as excited about it as "us" (intended in the most fully ironic sense as if there is some fundamental divide between anyone-who-can-use-bitcoin and anyone-who-works-for-a-government).  At the end of the day, if bitcoin can present a good case for providing real value to interests across the board in an area where other solutions have been sorely lacking, I think a lot of people-in-governments can get on board with that.

But one thing's for certain--if we turn bitcoin (or even the community surrounding it) into a destroy-all-governments, end-of-all-fiat-money, never-pay-taxes-again conspiracy, it will end up on the terrorist watch list before the first report even hits the desk.

tl;dr:Bitcoin is what bitcoin is.  Like the internet, it enables both traditional enterprises and disruptive possibilities.  There's nothing wrong with loving bitcoin because of the latter, but it's worth it to differentiate between your reasons for loving bitcoin and bitcoin itself.  Get excited about the fact that bitcoin could be the first successful non-government-initiated currency!  But don't fall into this trap of thinking that there's some fundamental reason that governments and bitcoin are in a conflict to the death.  I can tell you that any dinosaur worth his salt goes completely glazed over when any such topic comes up.  It's too psychologically complicated at that point in life to actually parry and dissect really different ideas--it's a lot simpler to just shut them out and bitcoin with them.

For any anarchist who faults the state on its use of force, the only fair response is to out-compete it fair and square.  If anarchism is truly better, bitcoin will probably be an important milestone in the path to getting there.  Work hard on it!  Help make it succeed!  But remember that bitcoin is about all of us, not just about those who believe that.  Don't worry though, I still love you even if I think the world isn't ready for anarchism yet Smiley .

And for anyone else out there who thinks anarchism leaves something to be desired--stick around!  You're not the only one.  We need you because the way bitcoin actually succeeds is not as some fringe project of the libertarian community (no offense to the hundreds of toes I just stepped on there Smiley ) but as a truly world-changing technology that encompasses people from many different points of view.  Bitcoin won't succeed unless non-anarchists accept it and that's pretty much that.

/steps down from soapbox, however briefly

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March 26, 2011, 03:29:30 AM
 #2

The government just labeled anyone who supports competing currencies a special kind of domestic terrorist. Maybe its time to stop defending them and get on board with the Libertarians Smiley
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March 26, 2011, 04:50:49 AM
 #3

I'm an anarchist and I agree with what you wrote so I don't think you have much time left as a non-anarchist.

Those good things the government did, individuals actually did them. The bad stuff, stealing, destroying, lying, was also individuals. As an anarchist all I'm saying is that you don't get a pass when you do bad stuff because you are dressed a certain way or have the approval of a certain process.

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March 26, 2011, 04:53:46 AM
 #4

Well said, eMansipater. I'm not personally an anarchist either, nor am I much one for conspiracy theories. I simply see the value in switching to a currency that is decentralized and limited in quantity. I would much rather have my government sanction bitcoins (provided they do not attempt to control the network) than oppose them. Not everyone is willing to break the law. Opposition from governments would severely limit our user base.
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March 26, 2011, 05:34:02 AM
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And for anyone else out there who thinks anarchism leaves something to be desired--stick around!  You're not the only one.  We need you because the way bitcoin actually succeeds is not as some fringe project of the libertarian community (no offense to the hundreds of toes I just stepped on there Smiley ) but as a truly world-changing technology that encompasses people from many different points of view.  Bitcoin won't succeed unless non-anarchists accept it and that's pretty much that.


You were doing fine until you conflated anarchism and libertarianism.  For the record, they are not the same.  Ideologically speaking, an anarchist is one who believes that he can govern himself, and that all individuals can rationally do so as well.  A libertarian is someone who believes that government is an evil that attracts the worst kind of person to be trusted with it's power; but that it is a necessary evil, and that there is a few minimum functions of government that are legitimate, and the kind of people who shouldn't be trusted are also the same kind of people that tend to be very good at actually performing those core functions so long as they can be restrained in expanding the scope of their authorities.  (i.e. sociopaths make great generals, but crappy overlords)

Personally, I'm of the latter camp.  I can see the potential for success in anarchism, but I can also see the potential for an epic failure.  I believe that violence is not a legitimate means of social or political change, but I also believe that there is such a thing as justifiable use of force, either collectively or individually.  I also believe that the founders went through this same kind of discovery process; which is why they chose to replace the Articles of Confederation with the US Constitution. moving from an almost anarchist society of states to a more uniform, but more restrictive, libertarian state.  Not a perfect example of either, mind you.

Still, even as I contest the idea that anarchy is sustainable, I can accept that it is possible; and perhaps one day technologies that we can't even imagine today will make a stable anarchy a reality.  That could only come if technologies make the primary functions of governments obsolete.  But as we have all witnessed over the past 20 years, we can't really fathom what may yet be.

If Neal Stephenson is to be believed (and I am one to wonder if the man is really a technological prophet, not a sci-fi writer) then the emergence of a digital, anonymous and distributed monetary system is the technical precursor to an entirely different form of political association, based upon voluntary social and cultural identities, as opposed to to geographical association and imaginary lines on a map. 

Time will tell.

"The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent meetings and conferences. The apex of the systems was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world's central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank...sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world."

- Carroll Quigley, CFR member, mentor to Bill Clinton, from 'Tragedy And Hope'
eMansipater
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March 26, 2011, 07:09:44 AM
 #6

@FreeMoney we'll have to see Smiley  @ryepdx Thx netizen!  @CryptikEnigma Don't you mean someone within a particular government did?  No one who sets policy I live under has, to my knowledge.  But I'm not really here to defend anyone or anything, except BitCoin.
And for anyone else out there who thinks anarchism leaves something to be desired--stick around!  You're not the only one.  We need you because the way bitcoin actually succeeds is not as some fringe project of the libertarian community (no offense to the hundreds of toes I just stepped on there Smiley ) but as a truly world-changing technology that encompasses people from many different points of view.  Bitcoin won't succeed unless non-anarchists accept it and that's pretty much that.
You were doing fine until you conflated anarchism and libertarianism.
It's true, the text does sort of lump them in together despite their clear differences.  But combined what percentage of the planet's political spectrum do they represent?  What I mean to say is that bitcoin as a technology needs to be bigger than either or both.  The community needs to be whoever cares about the technology, whether they match the world's spectrum perfectly or not--but it's good for newcomers to clearly understand they are welcome in it even if neither term is homebase.

Regarding imaginary lines on a map--that I can get behind.  Bitcoin and other borderless realities are the way of the future!

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March 26, 2011, 08:00:53 AM
 #7

Not everyone thinks the government here is evil. I genuinely believe there's many individuals who believe they can do/are doing good for people. However the entire system has evolved into a corrupted organism. It's not an evil conspiracy but a 'stand alone complex'.
Quote
Stand Alone Complex eventually came to represent a phenomenon where unrelated, yet very similar actions of individuals create a seemingly concerted effort.
Many of these government institutions once instituted can never disappear. A cancerous growth that drains it's host. War budgets will only ever get larger.

Quote
Still, even as I contest the idea that anarchy is sustainable, I can accept that it is possible; and perhaps one day technologies that we can't even imagine today will make a stable anarchy a reality.  That could only come if technologies make the primary functions of governments obsolete.  But as we have all witnessed over the past 20 years, we can't really fathom what may yet be.
People are socially evolving and changing as a species. New attitudes are taking the place of old attitudes. Economies are shifting to non zero-sum game, service oriented. We may see the first people on Mars this century. In a creative economy, one sees neighbours as team mates rather than competitors because the sum of intelligence of the whole > the few. Because a country has more to gain by pooling intelligence with others than by warring it's inhabitants.

Quote
Regarding imaginary lines on a map--that I can get behind.  Bitcoin and other borderless realities are the way of the future!
Whether one likes it or not. The leaderless future is inevitable. Extrapolate the ongoing trend and it's clear where everything is headed. Technology has helped massively.
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March 26, 2011, 12:29:47 PM
 #8

I'm an anarchist

Im an antichrist. Pleased to meet you.

Bitchez dont know bout my helicopters.
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March 26, 2011, 12:48:14 PM
 #9

I'm an anarchist

Im an antichrist. Pleased to meet you.
Don't know what I want but I know how to get it  Huh

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March 26, 2011, 12:57:34 PM
 #10

I'm an anarchist

Im an antichrist. Pleased to meet you.
Don't know what I want but I know how to get it  Huh

And our figurehead [ben bernank]
Is not what he seems

Oh God save history
God save your mad parade

(etc etc, repeat to fade)

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March 26, 2011, 02:40:41 PM
 #11

I realise that there are many anarchist-inclined bitcoin enthusiasts excited about the fact that bitcoin isn't government-run; obviously however we're not all anarchists so just thought I'd try and flesh out the topic of governments and bitcoin from the other angle.  Yay textwall!

It's one thing to be opposed to governments in principle, but especially for people who don't know anyone working in government there's a bit of a tendency to go all crazy around here about what "the government agenda" is or how "the government" will try and automatically repress any new idea.  The truth is that governments are just made up of people.  Forming any kind of cohesive idea amongst government members is a massive job in and of itself, as I well know from my own experience in politics--it's simply not true that there's one big organised conspiracy called "The Government" in any country.  Even flat-out dictatorships have a wider array of differing opinions "within the ranks" than you might think.

Governments and technology have an interesting relationship.  On the one hand members of governments tend to be well-connected, established people with an investment in the status quo.  It also takes a lot of time to succeed in politics at any significant level, which means that many policymakers aren't exactly on the cutting edge of technology.  I won't be so unkind as to call them flat-out dinosaur luddites (or maybe I just did Wink ) but they don't tend to grasp the value and significance of new, disruptive technologies quickly.

On the other hand, I actually know many individuals who work at high levels of government, and a significant portion of them are genuinely trying to improve society's function through their work.  Don't forget that, as amazing as it sounds, a government invented the internet (the american government no less!).  Governments sent humans to space.  Governments even created the first computers!!  The american government created Tor!!!!!!!  Shocked -my head just exploded.

Governments are not mindless anti-tech zombies.  When something is really different they often have trouble understanding it.  Like p2p filesharing--they've completely dropped the ball on that one!  And vested interests generally tend to distort and mess things up.  But if the regular actual people who work in governments see a true opportunity for something to benefit everyone, they tend to get just as excited about it as "us" (intended in the most fully ironic sense as if there is some fundamental divide between anyone-who-can-use-bitcoin and anyone-who-works-for-a-government).  At the end of the day, if bitcoin can present a good case for providing real value to interests across the board in an area where other solutions have been sorely lacking, I think a lot of people-in-governments can get on board with that.

But one thing's for certain--if we turn bitcoin (or even the community surrounding it) into a destroy-all-governments, end-of-all-fiat-money, never-pay-taxes-again conspiracy, it will end up on the terrorist watch list before the first report even hits the desk.

tl;dr:Bitcoin is what bitcoin is.  Like the internet, it enables both traditional enterprises and disruptive possibilities.  There's nothing wrong with loving bitcoin because of the latter, but it's worth it to differentiate between your reasons for loving bitcoin and bitcoin itself.  Get excited about the fact that bitcoin could be the first successful non-government-initiated currency!  But don't fall into this trap of thinking that there's some fundamental reason that governments and bitcoin are in a conflict to the death.  I can tell you that any dinosaur worth his salt goes completely glazed over when any such topic comes up.  It's too psychologically complicated at that point in life to actually parry and dissect really different ideas--it's a lot simpler to just shut them out and bitcoin with them.

For any anarchist who faults the state on its use of force, the only fair response is to out-compete it fair and square.  If anarchism is truly better, bitcoin will probably be an important milestone in the path to getting there.  Work hard on it!  Help make it succeed!  But remember that bitcoin is about all of us, not just about those who believe that.  Don't worry though, I still love you even if I think the world isn't ready for anarchism yet Smiley .

And for anyone else out there who thinks anarchism leaves something to be desired--stick around!  You're not the only one.  We need you because the way bitcoin actually succeeds is not as some fringe project of the libertarian community (no offense to the hundreds of toes I just stepped on there Smiley ) but as a truly world-changing technology that encompasses people from many different points of view.  Bitcoin won't succeed unless non-anarchists accept it and that's pretty much that.

/steps down from soapbox, however briefly

I agree with all of this.

I'm tired of whining about libertarians, and I'm sure libertarians are tired of hearing it too, so I've been trying not to do that anymore. But I think the forum is so focused on people that hate government or are paranoid of evil banking cabals that... that I for one have found it off-putting. I'm way more interested in bitcoins and the possibilities of them than I am about the ideological tone of the forum. I think a lot of people would find it off putting. Bitcoin should be above politics.

People can agree or disagree about whether it's a good idea to have an agency that is (in principal) democratically empowered to do things like build hospitals, schools and roads etc. People can agree or disagree as to whether bankers are the most evil force in the world, or just a corrupt oligopoly that needs to be replaced by something better, and people can agree or disagree about whether inflation is part of an elaborate scheme to steal wealth from people or just one of the poorly controlled forces that are a flaw of the money system we have now. But bitcoin itself can be used quite happily by anyone regardless of their political/economic point of view.

I think this should be recognized, this should be a Big-World technology, not just a political niche affair for people of a certain political mindset. Bitcoin has something to offer everyone, heh, even state-socialists, fascists and Islamic theocracies probably.

Having said all that, I did start a thread about bitcoin on an anarchist forum, and on a forum that's quite left-wing. Maybe the bitcoin forum itself though should be more politically neutral, for the good of bitcoin itself.

Just my two satoshi.


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March 26, 2011, 05:50:52 PM
 #12

For any anarchist who faults the state on its use of force, the only fair response is to out-compete it fair and square.  If anarchism is truly better, bitcoin will probably be an important milestone in the path to getting there.  Work hard on it!  Help make it succeed!  But remember that bitcoin is about all of us, not just about those who believe that.  Don't worry though, I still love you even if I think the world isn't ready for anarchism yet Smiley

I think you are confused about something. A government, by definition, does not 'compete fair and square.' Just to use an extreme example, Kim Jong Il does not let the people of North Korea try out new ideas. He throws them into a labor camp for an indeterminate amount of time for dissenting. This is an extreme example, but there are many other less extreme examples which are analogous. I cannot open a private post office in the U.S. that delivers first class mail as a less extreme example.

A government is an entity that externalizes costs. What this means is that the government consists of individuals allocating, diverting and regulating resources that are not their own. They do this through the popular belief that their political processes grant them the de jure right to do so. It is this belief that I vehemently challenge. No political process can grant anyone the right to touch resources they didn't receive on a voluntary basis. People in the government may or may not be trying to do 'good things', but they are doing it with other people's resources. I don't care what they invent, or what your or they think they are doing. The grabbed other people's stuff under duress.

To sum all of this up, my desire is to destroy any entity that externalizes costs. This includes, gangs, thieves, mafias and governments. For me there is no 'government lite'. Smash it all to bits NOW is my modus operandi.
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March 26, 2011, 06:19:51 PM
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A government is an entity that externalizes costs. What this means is that the government consists of individuals allocating, diverting and regulating resources that are not their own. They do this through the popular belief that their political processes grant them the de jure right to do so. It is this belief that I vehemently challenge. No political process can grant anyone the right to touch resources they didn't receive on a voluntary basis. People in the government may or may not be trying to do 'good things', but they are doing it with other people's resources. I don't care what they invent, or what your or they think they are doing. The grabbed other people's stuff under duress.

Bang on!

What brought me here is the the possibility that I can exchange goods and services without paying tax! I'm not paying for one more god damn fucking war! I've had enough! I'm not going to dance around the issue! And I'm not going to hold back logic and reason to attract more PC people to the forum.
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March 26, 2011, 06:48:27 PM
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A government is an entity that externalizes costs. What this means is that the government consists of individuals allocating, diverting and regulating resources that are not their own. They do this through the popular belief that their political processes grant them the de jure right to do so. It is this belief that I vehemently challenge. No political process can grant anyone the right to touch resources they didn't receive on a voluntary basis. People in the government may or may not be trying to do 'good things', but they are doing it with other people's resources. I don't care what they invent, or what your or they think they are doing. The grabbed other people's stuff under duress.

Bang on!

What brought me here is the the possibility that I can exchange goods and services without paying tax! I'm not paying for one more god damn fucking war! I've had enough! I'm not going to dance around the issue! And I'm not going to hold back logic and reason to attract more PC people to the forum.

Whatever has Political Correctness to do with the matter?  Huh

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March 26, 2011, 07:09:22 PM
 #15

Whatever has Political Correctness to do with the matter?  Huh

Nothing hopefully. That was kind of my point.
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March 26, 2011, 07:09:38 PM
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PC people
Whatever has Political Correctness to do with the matter?  Huh
I think he's a Mac user Tongue

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March 26, 2011, 07:15:55 PM
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Whatever has Political Correctness to do with the matter?  Huh

Nothing hopefully. That was kind of my point.

Well, I do see your point, I find it difficult not to challenge what I consider to be wrong-headed thinking as well. It's just that I want bitcoin to succeed, once it succeeds that victory (whatever that means to you in terms of bitcoin) is a... what do the French say... a fait accompli?

Anyway, when there's enough interest in bitcoin in the general populace that lots of people that don't hate government as an article of faith want to discuss it, then I'm sure that people will start other forums, or just discuss it on the forums and other internet media to which they are already partial.

So er... carry on. Hell, I'll even join in... "Government Sucks! Grrrr!" Angry

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March 26, 2011, 07:17:18 PM
 #18

PC people
Whatever has Political Correctness to do with the matter?  Huh
I think he's a Mac user Tongue

 Grin

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March 26, 2011, 08:07:09 PM
 #19

PC people
Whatever has Political Correctness to do with the matter?  Huh
I think he's a Mac user Tongue

NEVER! .. I like to right click on things!  Grin
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March 27, 2011, 12:06:25 AM
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@. thanks netizen!
For any anarchist who faults the state on its use of force, the only fair response is to out-compete it fair and square.  If anarchism is truly better, bitcoin will probably be an important milestone in the path to getting there.  Work hard on it!  Help make it succeed!  But remember that bitcoin is about all of us, not just about those who believe that.  Don't worry though, I still love you even if I think the world isn't ready for anarchism yet Smiley

I think you are confused about something. A government, by definition, does not 'compete fair and square.' Just to use an extreme example, Kim Jong Il does not let the people of North Korea try out new ideas. He throws them into a labor camp for an indeterminate amount of time for dissenting. This is an extreme example, but there are many other less extreme examples which are analogous. I cannot open a private post office in the U.S. that delivers first class mail as a less extreme example.
I wasn't calling the government to compete fair and square, although I do in other arenas of life demand a higher standard from it than what I typically see.  I was speaking specifically to anarchists who fault the state on its use of force.
A government is an entity that externalizes costs. What this means is that the government consists of individuals allocating, diverting and regulating resources that are not their own. They do this through the popular belief that their political processes grant them the de jure right to do so. It is this belief that I vehemently challenge. No political process can grant anyone the right to touch resources they didn't receive on a voluntary basis. People in the government may or may not be trying to do 'good things', but they are doing it with other people's resources. I don't care what they invent, or what your or they think they are doing. The grabbed other people's stuff under duress.

To sum all of this up, my desire is to destroy any entity that externalizes costs. This includes, gangs, thieves, mafias and governments. For me there is no 'government lite'. Smash it all to bits NOW is my modus operandi.
That may be your desire, but if you act on it you do end up rather hypocritical--faulting the state on its use of force yet considering it fine to use force for your own agendas.  It's kind of a "don't sink to their level" issue, dontcha think?  If anything, I would think a political process has more legitimacy behind it than an individual's desire does, though I personally think the way forward is to give people more freedom as to which jurisdiction they want to live under.  Speaking of which--Somalia is pretty anarchist these days.  Just saying.  The option is there.

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