Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bitcoin and Anarchism

Was reading an article about Bitcoin and came across a wonderful, wonderful quote:

Cypherpunks assume privacy is a good thing and wish there were more of it. Cypherpunks acknowledge that those who want privacy must create it for themselves and not expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless organizations to grant them privacy out of beneficence.

--Eric Hughes

Reminds me a bit of that Malcolm X quote about how "nobody can give you freedom or equality or justice or anything."  How Bitcoins are worth money still sort of baffles me, but it's a good kind of baffled.  While this article (I believe mistakenly) suggests that anonymous transactions are good only for tipping the stripper, I think the anarchism brought about in the discussion can actually be a positive and liberating thing.  To me, at least, it's not about destroying the system.  It's about revealing our true freedom in the most creative ways possible.

Which makes me go back to my go-to woman, Emma Goldman.  (Go-to woman for anarchist writings.  Don't worry, LOVE OF MY LIFE.)  In her 1911 essay "Marriage and Love," Ms. Goldman has the following to say about that most free of feelings:

Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king. Yes, love is free; it can dwell in no other atmosphere. In freedom it gives itself unreservedly, abundantly, completely. All the laws on the statutes, all the courts in the universe, cannot tear it from the soil, once love has taken root.

She goes on to continue to bash marriage, but that's not my point here.  (I mean it, LOVE OF MY LIFE.) This freedom is just a natural base state upon which regulation is built.  So neither Bitcoin nor the Folk Sneakernet operate outside the law so much as they operate in a space in which the law cannot intervene.

Of course, to the hegemons, that is an even more daunting prospect, more akin to heresy than crime.  But that's a story for another time.  Probably next time, actually.

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