Peter Todd went on the Let’s Talk Bitcoin show yesterday and said something that hit home: Satoshi was wrong about some things.
Now, Satoshi was a technologist, that is, a sort of scientist. He’d love to have been wrong, it would give him an opportunity to find something new. Specifically, they were discussing block size limits. Todd, the outspoken Bitcoin developer, spoke directly to the issue of raising the block size limits, and said at one point that the whole debate had become more philosophical than technical. In essence, Todd feels that raising the block size limit to 20 megabytes, as Gavin Andresen suggests, does not solve the central issue, but rather “kicks the can down the road,” thereby making it an issue we’ll only be dealing with again in the future.
Todd could be right about that part. It’s not even what I’m actually here to write about. I’m here to address the “libertarian” and “anarcho-capitalist” contigent of Bitcoiners. I’m here to deliver a simple message: your ideas don’t matter. Bitcoin is a digital cash, difficult to censor, and resistant to regulation. It is an implementation of cryptographic principals which people have dreamed about since the 80s if not sooner: the ability to transmit value without a trusted third-party to mess things up. Bitcoin does not answer to your ideals, it does not care about your stance on this or that issue. Bitcoin is not a person, in effect it is not even a community. Bitcoin is a technology.
There is a large group of people running around on the Internet, corporatist apologetics firmly in hand, completely forgiving of all the evils that capitalism perpetuates worldwide. Oh, Chevron murdered protestors in Nigeria? Coca-Cola killed Colombian peasants? Well, was it done in the name of profit? Oh, so be it. These are the kinds of the things the objectivist, Ayn Rand-loving “anarcho-capitalist” can freely forgive. Nevermind that these aren’t the only effects of globalization and corporate capitalism, that they weaken the very economies which these willfully ignorant individuals derive all of their wealth and strength from.
“Anarcho-capitalism” is a contradiction in terms. True anarchists don’t believe in the freedom of the “market,” they believe in the freedom of the individual, which will inevitably, yes, lead to markets free of regulation. Because, as was illustrated in the true anarchist novel “The Dispossessed” by Ursula K. Le Guin, a new morality will be born in the inevitable post-government society. One that puts people and ecology ahead of the person or profit. That is to say, true anarchists tend toward a form of socialism, often dubbed “anarcho-socialism,” but that, too, has been hijacked by perversions of anarchism. Allow me to be very clear: the truest anarchists in society have long foregone the term “anarchist,” as it dawned on them some years back that the use of the word “anarchy” implies that government is the natural state of affairs. Anarchism is more a verb than a noun, more a decision than a philosophy. Anarchy is a return to the natural human order more than it is a fight against the existing one.
The poverty against which man has been struggling throughout history is not merely the poverty of material goods; the ennui and disorientation experienced by the members of the middle and upper classes in today’s wealthy industrial nations have revealed the poverty of Western existence itself. –-Some Real Anarchists
The traditional, non-capitalist anarchist movement has mostly not acknowledged the Bitcoin technology. They are a very intelligent bunch of people, as evidenced by their continued existence. Around 100 years ago, anarchists represented a far greater portion of Western civilization than they do now. They did things like organize wild cat strikes against bosses who pathologically did not care how they lived, no matter how much money they made for them. The Pinkerton bosses were willing to murder their workers for even having the idea that they deserved a better lot in life.
The central appeal of Bitcoin to all political dissidents will be that it is resistant to censorship. Satoshi was uneasy about the idea of Wikileaks accepting Bitcoin when their bank accounts were being shut down, for fear that it would bring unneeded attention to the protocol. Satoshi was right about that, for it wouldn’t have done much good for either party. But this is irrelevant to the matter at hand. There is no such thing as anarcho-capitalist. The people who invented and defined the term “anarchist,” and in more recent times have abandoned it in favor of words like “human being,” who, in the words of one great anarchist text, “fought [the] fascists tooth, nail, and knife in the streets, when no one else would even confront them in print,” they were not capitalists.
In fact, if you’re reading this, you are very unlikely a capitalist. A capitalist is not someone who believes in capitalism. A capitalist is someone who controls the means of production. A person who supports capitalism but does not control the means of production is a fool; a person who opposes capitalism and does not control the means of production is a revolutionary. But, if you’re one of these “anarcho-capitalist” types, and you’re reading this, again, have fun with the term. We’re glad it’s cool enough for you now.
Remember, as a great man said: if someone says that miners, or McDonald’s workers, or any group of workers or poor people is organizing, nobody blinks, nobody is surprised. But if someone says that the rich are organizing, they are a conspiracy theorist. Be wary of anyone who says they’re going to liberate you by making it easier for rich people to get richer. Be wary of any movement which embraces the wealthy classes and looks at them with no suspicion. Be wary of anyone who believes that the problems of society have a single solution.
Anarchism is about challenging power, free thinking, and, occasionally, about challenging anarchists. Anarchists demand a future free of government and other hierarchical structures of control (such as capitalism). Anarchism is not about morally agnostic movements which suppose that, somehow, it’s okay to take profit from the hardship of others so long as there is some illusion of choice made by the disadvantaged millions. If you’re not okay with those goals, you are not an anarchist, and that’s okay, too. Neither do most anarchists identify with the anarchist movement.
If you’re not well-versed in the works of Emma Goldman, the CrimethInc. Collective, John Zerzan, and others who have come before, then what does that make you, if you’re utilizing the word “anarchist,” trying to sanitize the long history it has in direct opposition to the things that “anarcho-capitalism” proposes (such as privatizing the water, the air, the land that belong to all of humanity), then what does that make you? It makes you a scumbag hipster.