Quoted in the image below is supposedly Gandhi’s description of a winning strategy for nonviolent activism. Although there is no record of Gandhi saying it this has often played out when new paradigms, political movements or technologies disrupt existing powers. It has also been true of bitcoin.
“First they ignore you”From 2009 to 2011 bitcoin was largely ignored.
“Then they laugh at you”In 2012 and 2013 bitcoin was laughed at, mainstream media video examples here and here.
Then they fight you
This began in 2014 but will soon get worse. Consider who is fighting bitcoin, why and how they are doing it. You can’t help but worry about the damage they can inflict and think that we have a tumultuous few years ahead.
Who is fighting bitcoin?
Those threatened by the rise of bitcoin who have the motivation and the means to fight it include;
- Organisations that depend on the current monetary system’s free and limitless creation of new money, debt and credit by banks and governments.
- Organisations that depend on charging fees for things that bitcoin does for free.
That includes most of the banking system, most branches of government, the military industrial complex and dozens of the world’s largest corporations.
Why are they fighting bitcoin?
Government’s power comes from controlling the monetary system. In particular the supply of new money; how much is created and who gets it. Governments also control what can and cannot be used as money in which types of transactions.
Governments guarantee demand for their currency by mandating that taxes can only be paid in that currency. This guaranteed demand is the only thing that ensures government currencies have value.
If people use bitcoin rather than a government currency then the demand for, and value of, that government currency falls. If enough people do this on mass it will result in hyperinflation causing the government currency to become almost worthless.
Currency collapses make it impossible for the government to pay for things or repay debts that are denominated in other currencies. This has happened recently in Venezuela, Zimbabwe and Argentina. It has happened hundreds of times throughout history and it will happen to every government currency in use today, the only question is when.
Banks depend on being able to create new money, debt and credit. Other businesses such as Western Union and Visa depend on charging fees for things that bitcoin does for free. If people prefer bitcoin to government currency for some transactions both of these business models will be less profitable.
How are they fighting bitcoin?
Bitcoin’s potential enemies are orders of magnitude more powerful and well resourced than the entire bitcoin ecosystem. In bitcoin’s favour is the fact that no one has the power to change the laws of mathematics and that there is no central point at which to attack bitcoin. No one can break bitcoin itself however there are many other things they can do.
Manipulation through the media
Bitcoin’s enemies are using the media to manipulate public opinion against bitcoin. This can be seen in the slew of groundless media releases attempting to connect bitcoin to ISIS or suggest that bitcoin is to blame for underage drug overdoses.
These are just the beginning, we can expect hyperbolic reports of bitcoin being used to fund child pornography, rig elections or anything else that can be used to smear bitcoins name. These reports will then be used to justify restrictive anti-bitcoin laws.
Lobbyists and shill politicians are enforcing anti-bitcoin laws such as a bans in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iceland, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam, double taxation in Australia and the restrictive bit-licence in New York. There are already too many cases to mention and these are just the beginning, the laws and their enforcement will only get more draconian as the existing power structure gets more threatened.
Dividing the community
Competing on features and services
The legacy financial system is slow, inefficient and expensive because it has not had to compete against anything better until now. Before bitcoin each country’s monetary system was a monopoly with little incentive to improve.
Now that the banks are forced to compete with non-banks they will greatly improve their services. For example banks can find a way to perform account to account transfers within an hour 24/7. They have not bothered to do that so far because there has been no faster option for consumers to use.
And then you win… unless you lose … or it’s a draw
On the surface it’s clear bitcoin’s more powerful and better funded enemies should win. However if you understand the advantages of decentralised, math based blockchains and the inherent problems of unlimited debt based money you can see bitcoin is at an advantage.
For the “and then you win” part to have more meaning we should define what winning is. I believe bitcoin has already succeeded. Bitcoin has
- Gone from being worthless to being worth more than $15 billion.
- Created thousands of jobs and businesses.
- Given everyone a way to opt out of the hidden inflation tax of government currency.
- Educated thousands of people about how the government currency system works.
Winning is for bitcoin to continue working and keep doing what it has been doing. We can ensure victory by educating our peers, building and promoting bitcoin services and putting as much of our net worth in bitcoin as possible.
Some would say the ultimate success for bitcoin would be the downfall of the legacy monetary system. However it’s more likely that bitcoin will exist alongside government currencies and the debt based financial system.
File sharing has won by disrupting the old music and film industry but it has not destroyed it. Ride sharing apps have won by disrupting the taxi industry but they have not destroyed it. The internet itself has won by disrupting mail, print media, TV and radio yet all those things still exist.
There does not have to be one winner and one loser for bitcoin to have a profound influence and disrupt the current financial system in a positive way by giving people a choice. When you have a choice of currencies the money you choose can be a form of expression. How much does the choice matter? Well how much does money matter?