Why Bitcoiners Are Not Utopians
This is an opinion editorial by Aleks Svetski, author of “The UnCommunist Manifesto,” founder of The Bitcoin Times and Host of the “Wake Up Podcast with Svetski.”
It’s not just about freedom. It’s about Responsibility.
Bitcoin is RgU Tech, or in other words, “Responsibility go Up” technology.
To be a Bitcoiner is to be an individual who can balance freedom and responsibility, rooted in a line of consistent and congruent values that are as closely representative of natural law as possible.
This idea that Bitcoin is some magical panacea to all the ailments of the world or that it is some sort of utopian ideal is completely false.
Utopianism is a statist or collectivist ideal in which people are arrogant enough to believe the definition of perfection (a) exists, and (b) can be applied across all of society and its individual participants as if they’re just numbers on a spreadsheet, i.e, they completely ignore the differences and nuances present in all humans.
Bitcoiners, at least those worth their salt, abhor this notion of a utopia.
True Bitcoiners are realists, and I hope this short first-principles primer on their values and the concept of structuring society around responsible individuals will set the record straight.
I will draw upon an interaction on Twitter with someone in 2020 who asked some questions that I’m sure many others have too.
Let’s start with this comment about masks.
Unfortunately, our friend here is a bit confused about how Western societies work.
What actually propelled Western society was the idea that the individual is sovereign and responsible enough to make a choice on their own behalf, because he was most able to know what was best for him.
This is actually echoed in Eastern teachings such as the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, which was unfortunately forced out of and censored in China thanks in large part to the more collectivist and power-oriented philosophy of the confucianists.
Gru is right in one sense: this is no longer how “Western society” works, which is a big part of why it is decaying. In fact, this decay is rooted in the rapid rise — particularly over the past 200 years — of collectivism in the form of the “public” society, alongside the erosion of private property and the individual.
What we’re seeing around the world now is the peak of this stupid experiment, where:
- Imaginary “groups” take precedence over the real individual.
- Rights and entitlements proliferate.
- Responsibilities are shrugged off or ignored.
- Socially constructed ideologies supersede biological or evolutionary facts.
So yeah, he may be right that it’s not how Western society works any longer, but it for damn sure deviates from the original premise.
I disagree with this notion of it being a theoretical idea incompatible with reality.
It’s actually the idea that’s most compatible with reality, and without it America would not have gone from a newly colonized land to the center of innovation and subsequently the greatest economic power in the world within a century — and long before the statists or federalists took over.
What made America great was the lack of central government, the frontiersman’s spirit and the laissez-faire market in which innovation, great ideas and technology drove progress forward.
The original libertarian ideas of America can still be found in the American Constitution, and the inertia they gave that part of the world has continued to give it an edge, despite all the damage done by the “democratic republic” and the collectivists over the past 200 years.
Why we deviated from that is a topic of a much larger discussion, which people like Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand or William Davidson and James Dale Rees-Mogg discuss in their books.
The short version in my limited space here is that the advent of industrial technology and advantages of centralization at scale ensured the public apparatus known as “the state” was the most effective way of seizing and accruing power, especially with the threat of mass violence.
The most violent leaders were able to form monopolies, “voted in by the people,” and ever since, humanity has been living through a strange and evolutionarily deviant experiment where all systems, processes, natural environments, lifestyles, diets, information and opinions are being homogenized, standardized, sterilized and made as devoid of any variance as possible in order to cater to the lowest common denominator of bipedal humanoid.
The goal is sameness, so they’ve made everything fluid, relative and mutable. In this way, everything becomes meaningless, because when something is everything, it is nothing.
But alas (at least for the collectivists), nature is far older than humans, and life far too complex for our tiny minds to comprehend, so all of this centralization and globalization will only lead to an unraveling in the opposite direction.
Because life is messy. If you remove mess, you remove life. Trying to ignore entropy by creating and forcing everyone to live by an unadaptable utopian code will always fail. It’s impossible to fight entropy, you can only dance with it. It’s impossible to manage or predict complexity, you can only work with it. It’s impossible to fight reality, you must recognize it and live with it.
I don’t know about you, but voluntary means that you can choose to do so, or not to do so; It’s not a one-way function, so this statement is false.
Despite some paying taxes because they think it’s a good idea (not sure what drugs they’re on), it’s by definition not a voluntary act. Stop paying taxes and see what happens.
People who support taxation do so by virtue of the implicit threat and their conditioning. They must thus rationalize it in order to retain some semblance of sanity. The above is such an example.
At this point, I actually jumped into the Twitter exchange.
My reply is below, but I have added to it so it’s a little more well explained than a few tweets:
“Yes but libertarianism is not about a utopia. It’s about being realistic and knowing that violence exists and that the person who knows best for you is you, not some faceless, nameless, soulless “state” that thinks it can apply blanket rules to everyone as if they’re numbers on a spreadsheet.”
That’s not how reality works. Democracy is an experiment that’s going very wrong. It erodes personal agency over time and transforms people into blind drones who believe that some omnipresent authority knows how to best allocate resources on their and everyone else’s behalf, and what rules (i.e., laws) should blanket-apply to everybody regardless of their individual differences and preferences.
This is preposterous. There is no “one rule” for everyone. You can’t assume a few people know what’s best for everyone and that they know how to efficiently run everything. This is naive to think and is further invalidated when you inquire into how this idea can be effectively or practically implemented across large populations.
That’s why this shit doesn’t work.
Libertarianism is not a utopia, and Bitcoiners who get it don’t believe this in the slightest. They suggest that you should take care of your own stuff first, become the best version of yourself, and then come together with others who share similar values and build from there.
It all starts with taking personal responsibility for your decisions and actions, and with bitcoin being money that maps onto reality in a way that has no “rewind button,” the best course of action is the responsible one. This is therefore the basis upon which we can build a more voluntary, functional and robust “society.”
This is effectively how we evolved long before the advent of the modern “state.”
We continue …
To which I answered:
But there are dumb people all over the place that buy into ideas without understanding them deeply.” That’s a given. The natural corrective mechanism in life for poor judgment and understanding is generally poor results (notwithstanding the existence of the fools of randomness who got lucky).
The core values of Bitcoin not only suggest but by virtue of the chain’s immutability simply enforce that mechanism instead of passing the cost of someone’s poor judgment to everyone else in society that someone should bear themselves. And with Bitcoin, they must. Sure, someone else can choose to help them, voluntarily speaking, or they may attempt to “force” someone to give them alms, but neither of these acts are systemic forms of theft and socialization — as we have with democracy or the modern state.
This is the only way the individuals in a society can correct course and improve. The alternative is to continue eroding personal agency and the individual’s capacity to act or think for themselves.
This is the path to dependency and the welfare or communist state, where the incentive to be a productive member of society continues to diminish, while the expectation that someone else will give you something for nothing — because of your “needs” — continues to increase.
Again — this sort of society fails, and luckily (for us at least) we’ve had a chance to see evidence of this hundreds of times this century. Although unlucky for us, the morons in charge seem to think that they can run the same playbook with a different result. Madness.
In any case, this individual then sent me a strange reply:
I don’t know how he got there, but I tried to clarify:
Consequences are the natural corrective mechanism of life!
And because the individual is the atomic (and only real) constituent of a society, they cannot correct themselves if they are ignorant to the consequences of their actions, or if those consequences are borne by another individual or group.
I cannot go to the gym for you, nor should I die if you jump off a cliff!
There is no immunity to consequences in the real world!
Every action has a reaction and the only thing one can do is push the consequences of an action onto another.
Democracy is the most adept form of government in which the consequences of the actions of others are shared with everyone else.
This is a clusterfuck. If I have learned not to put my hand in the fire, or jump off a bridge, or step in front of a bus, why should I have to perpetually experience the partial consequences of others’ poor decision-making for the rest of my life?
It makes absolutely no sense. But this is what happens when the individual is disregarded and replaced with an imaginary collective.
The last comment which is relevant to this piece, and my answer to it, which I hope helps put Bitcoiner values into better context follows:
The idea that we invariably end up “where we are now” is patently false.
I replied with the following, which I’ll extrapolate on briefly below:
“The current incarnation of the ‘nation state’ is a modern experiment. The idea of public property managed by elected officials with NO skin in the game is a modern concoction and will tear itself apart because it is UNLIKE anything else in the natural world.
It worked as a method of gaining power over the last 2 centuries because of the advantages of scale and mass, in particular with respect to violence. That advantage is no longer as strong as it was, and will keep deteriorating as tech and sound money fragment centralized power.”
People who think the status quo is the “way it’s always been” or “way it will always be” generally have a time horizon that’s too short.
Centralized, homogenized and conformist institutions always fail. The speed is simply related to their degree of centralization and scale. The larger they are, the more fragile and unable to adapt to change (i.e., real world/real life) they become.
This is an axiomatic fact.
What becomes too large and centralized will tomorrow fracture and become smaller and decentralized.
In fact, small and decentralized is actually how nature has survived, evolved and adapted over billions of years. We humans just seem to be arrogant enough to think that we are separate from nature and can bend reality to our will without experiencing the consequences on the back end.
I proceeded to explain that this version of the statist experiment is only 200 years old and already falling apart. Compare that to a roughly 150,000-year timeline of Homo sapiens’ existence and you realize it is but a minor deviation.
In fact, so too is the 150,000-year history of Homo sapiens on the multiple million-year evolutionary progression that the primate has been in existence and experimenting with models and systems of social interaction.
Nature has tried much more than bureaucrats have!
For example, we know enough now and can state as a biological fact that “social order” is only found in primate groups via tyranny or territory.
And therein lies the basis of private property as a biological imperative — not a man-made social construct.
I am currently writing a much longer piece on this, but the fact of the matter is territory (private property) is nature’s balancing mechanism and is found not only among primates, but among all species who exhibit any form of social cohesion.
If it’s not territory, it’s tyranny (example: baboons).
Humans are a territorial species with natural instincts and inclinations that have evolved over hundreds of millions if not billions of years (depending how far back we want to assume our evolution started).
We managed to survive because we evolved alongside this territorial imperative, and developed more complex methods of implementing it into the societies we formed over time. We find balance and build functional hierarchies around territory in the form of private property. We do the opposite when we ignore this.
We are today, once again, experimenting with tyranny as a model for social cohesion. I suspect that once again, it’s not going to end well, not just because it’s antithetical to a “good life” but because it falls apart at scale.
If you lengthen your time horizon, and observe the consequential nature of reality, you will come to realize that the “libertarian way” — or more aptly: “The Bushido of Bitcoin” — is actually the only practical way for human beings to organize themselves because it most resembles natural order and the careful blend of freedom and responsibility.
It is the least utopian vision because it assumes that there are morons and aggressors out there from whom you will need to protect yourself (i.e., those who want to transgress or trespass on your territory), and that it actually includes not just random thugs, but organized institutions of thuggery. As a result you are first and foremost responsible to deal with this.
In stark contrast, the idea of a democratic nation-state suggests you trust the bureaucrats, pass all agency along to them, own nothing, have no property and be obedient. It is not only ethically and morally wrong, but it is a biological aberration.
Libertarians And Bitcoiners
There’s a famous meme (below) that this is what libertarians want. And that’s fine, although the older I’ve become, the more I realize that these decisions have consequences.
The differentiator with Bitcoin is that there are consequencential feedback loops that no one can escape. Turn your brain into mush with a little too much weed, and you may just make decisions that lead to your impoverishment.
Other than that, libertarianism or anarchy is as close to compatible with Bitcoin as just about any ideology can be. In fact, Bitcoin makes these responsibility-centric modes of governance possible.
Without money outside the reach of any institution, the tendency to socialize poor decision-making, redistribute to the needy and bail out the idiots will always exist.
A Final Note On Utopias:
They always turn into dystopias.
The collectivists, statists and pro-democracy mafias that believe in imaginary utopian ideals are those who wind up forcing them on others. This tyranny has many faces, historic and current.
Reject these fantasies.
To be a Bitcoiner is not about utopianism. It is about contending with reality and pursuing a greater quality of problem. This is how we mature as a species.
Bitcoin is not just about freedom. It is about bearing the responsibility of existence. To play, you must pay the price that the territory (reality) demands.
This is a guest post by Aleks Svetski, author of “The UnCommunist Manifesto,” founder of The Bitcoin Times and Host of The Wake Up Podcast. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.