Disclaimer: If we’ve been away for almost two months, it’s because our dear leader, Comrade Dylan, was grounded for shooting up some church in South Carolina, during which period he couldn’t hang out with his friends or go on the Internet.
It’s been about 20 or so years since books like The Sovereign Individual predicted the calculated economic starvation of the state by entrepreneurial supermen trading in digital, encrypted currencies. In the jazzy world of Clintonomics, starry-eyed Silicon Valley madmen like John Perry Barlow saw in the dawn of an Internet Age a future familiar and palatable to the average Rothbardian:
The Internet is too widespread to be easily dominated by any single government. By creating a seamless global economic zone, anti-sovereign and unregulatable, the Internet calls into the question the very idea of a nation-state.
As of writing this, the Internet has toppled a total of zero national governments and has proven totally regulatable. That’s all about to not change. The trouble with Bitcoin – that messiah of ’90s cypherpunks and inevitable writing topic of fledgling amateur libertarian bloggers – is that the countries that need it the most for its intended purpose are also the countries with the least reliable Internet service.
A countereconomy that exists explicitly to circumvent regulationism is by its nature an informal “gray” market. That being said, it must at least be a profitable alternative to the formal sector. The Anarcho-Capitalist Club of Cuba, whose members are regularly harassed and beaten by police (co-founder Joisy García was given a citation for being interviewed by the PanAm Post) and barred from legal employment, began accepting Bitcoin donations in February of this year. The rest of 2015 has brought about changes in Cuba’s Internet bureaucracy and its relations with the US that have streamlined the process in their favor. Namely, a recent push by Cuban government to lower Internet costs both by simply charging less for access, and installing more Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces around the island. Another silver lining: on the very day that I write this, July 20th, Cuba and the United States have re-established formal diplomatic relations with each other. It seems the 50+ year embargo may also be on its way out.
Don’t let this good news give off the impression that Internet is flowing over in the streets of Havana. Access to it is a hot issue with the political machine and general public alike. As the Castro regime hacks its aching lungs out, that general public will have more and more political capital to depend on. What I want to bring attention to, however, is that it isn’t Bitcoin that is ending decades of totalitarian communism. Rather, the continued liberalization of Cuban politics and economics will make Bitcoin more accessible.
In nearby Venezuela, crypto-anarchists have had better luck. The monstrous costs of computing power and bandwidth that Bitcoin mining demand are offset by that country’s subsidies. What happens when the government can longer afford to pretend those subsidies aren’t an economic drain, especially when people are exploiting them more regularly to subvert the state economy?
Enthusiasm about the untamed nature of the Internet belongs in the ’90s. The World Wide Web that you and I use has become a more domestic, gentrified place now that it’s taken its place as a vital social platform for cultural and creative elites as well as major corporations. That will invite greater and greater government fetters over the years. The net neutrality non-issue of news cycles past is the most glaring example; Its loudest proponent the EFF was on the front lines demanding greater freedom by, ironically, asking the government (you know, that thing that keeps killing and imprisoning people for most of its history) to reign in the pricing of Web traffic imposed by scary corporate ISPs, monsters it created with subsidies in the first place. It’s all very reminiscent of the railroad boom of the late 19th century. The mainstream Internet provided by Comcast and Verizon in the States relies on the old phone lines, a fact that opened the door to the establishment of natural monopolies from the very start. It was only a matter of time before the state stepped in to brush its own mess under the bed and doom our cyber-posterity.
The fact that Bitcoin, which in the First World is famous for being a 21st Century “tulip fever”, is a more stable currency than the Cuban peso is a testament to the incompetence of Latin American tin-pot socialism. The fact that it is being adopted in droves is testament to the itching desperation of the average Cuban, Venezuelan, Colombian, Brazilian, et al. Should citizens of these countries use Bitcoin? Yes. Cuba’s ancaps have no other currency to turn to at this juncture. It is a life raft for political dissidents in socialist states. That number of political dissidents can only grow from here, and as it does, Bitcoin may be there until de jure regime change is possible.
TL;DR: Bitcoin use is the symptom, not a cause, of the erosion of political power structures in Latin America. Increased Internet access will depend on trade liberalization, and this fact limits Bitcoin’s ability to do its job in second-world nations. Regardless, its adoption is a signal of positive growth in these problem areas.
Club Anarcocapitalista de Cuba takes BTC donations at the following address,
The money goes to conducting lectures on anarcho-capitalist theory
Okay I’m done shilling.