From refugees trying to smuggle their money across a dangerous border to supporting unruly truckers occupying a key bridge between the United States and Canada, coiners are increasingly coming to view their holdings.—especially bitcoin, the ur-crypto—as an essential tool to ensure their own freedom. Last year, much of the talk around the value of crypto was a hedge against rising inflation. Now it’s much more: a last bulwark against governments that deprive citizens of the only right that matters: the right to transact. For some libertarian-minded coiners, the right to freely trade crypto takes precedence over opposing a Russian invasion of a sovereign nation. In the most fundamental corners of crypto, the individual is sovereign and the state has no authority to limit what a person can do with their assets, digital or otherwise.
While crypto culture is far from monolithic, recent political upheavals have made some coiners more certain that traditional forms of governance cannot be relied upon, that they can only rely on themselves. “Not your keys, not your coins,” goes a common crypto meme, which means coiners must “self-custody” their own coins, without handing over their private keys (passwords, essentially) to exchanges or third parties. other third parties. In the arch-individualistic world of crypto, “trustless” is synonymous—in the sense of eliminating even the need for trust—with the harsh certainty of code and so-called “smart contracts” replacing the mess and autonomy of human intermediaries and traditional, regulated financial institutions.
In the eyes of crypto-watchers like David Golumbia, the author of The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism, recent events have exposed the illiberal politics and self-interest at the heart of crypto. “All forms of libertarianism use the rhetoric of freedom and democracy to mask the raw pursuit of personal power,” Golumbia wrote in an email. “Critics of political libertarianism have long pointed out that many of its leading figures ([Friedrich] Hayek, [Ludwig von] Mises, Milton Friedman) ended up supporting right-wing dictators, notably Pinochet. Others note that the elevation of what libertarians call “economic freedom” at the expense of all other values and rights very quickly leads to dictatorial politics. »
Within this ideological framework, a war that tears apart the democratic fabric of society is a validation of the beliefs of coiners. This reinforces the commonly expressed idea that contemporary political systems absolutely cannot guarantee the financial freedom that is supposed to be the precondition for all other rights. What is most troubling, then, is not just the primacy that some coiners give to the freedom to transact over other more pro-social rights. It’s that they’ve given up on politics altogether and will switch sides in a war depending on how it affects their pocketbooks. When nation states are overrun and economies teeter toward collapse, they find a moment of opportunity, a moment to invoke another fundamental cryptographic mantra: this is bullish.