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A fistful of dollars
From seashells, to the gold standard, to paper and bits: money is the most important human technology - today corrupted and used as a weapon for surveillance and censorship.
Today we'll talk about a topic that might seem detached from what I usually talk about, but which is actually closely linked to the concept of privacy and freedom: money.
We all use it from an early age, so much and often that we forget its meaning. Yet money is the technology that shapes our society more than any other.
Unfortunately today it has been corrupted and increasingly exploited to monitor us and censor our thinking.
It is increasingly risky not to know the basics of this technology and how its characteristics shape human society. We are on the verge of a huge global upheaval at the basis of which lies precisely the concept of money and it is better to be prepared.
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From sea shells to paper
The earliest examples of shells and objects used as money date back more than 75,000 years in South Africa.
From what we know, practically all human cultures, since prehistoric times, had the habit and interest of collecting artistic objects composed of sea shells, teeth and bones of various types, which were then used as jewels, necklaces or heirlooms to pass on to future generations.
But why did primitive men, perpetually in conditions of life danger and extreme scarcity of food, spend time collecting these things?
There are various psychological and evolutionary theories about it, but what interests us is that these objects very often also had a utilitarian function: the shells and bones of which they were made were used as a means of exchange within the tribes and between different tribes, as well as a method for maintaining the historical memory of "favors" and exchanges, in a time when man had not yet learned to write.
The shells were removed from the necklaces, to then be stitched back; each shell that was added to the chain of previous shells represented a successful transaction.
The system was efficient, because these objects could be worn to be sure not to lose them and could also be transported easily, thus facilitating transactions between different tribes.
But what gave them value? We could say that these objects derived their value from their relative scarcity: it took work and time to look for the sea shells, refine them and produce the necklaces, in a time when every hour spent not hunting increased the risk of not eating.
More than anything, however, these shells had value as a technology and were useful for decreasing the transaction costs that afflicted a system based on barter and lack of trust, in an age of extreme scarcity of resources, in which every tribe was a potential enemy. These heirlooms were also often used as payment to the strongest tribes, to avoid violent oppression. Basically, an ancestor of taxes.
Shells were gradually replaced by coins made from precious metals, such as gold and silver. Subsequently, it was the turn of paper bonds representative of precious metals, especially gold; this concept later came to be known as the “Gold Standard”.
The US dollar was born as a representative title of gold and silver, depending on the denomination. Until the end of the 1920s, dollars still bore the wording "silver/gold certificate". Unfortunately, the more the statism and centralization of the US government increased, the more this wording began to become smaller and smaller, until it disappeared completely - together with the wording "payable to the bearer on demand".
Over the years, the United States realized that they had printed and exported too many dollars: the Treasury's gold reserves were not sufficient to cover all the demand. Thus in 1971 Nixon unilaterally decided to put an end to the convertibility of dollars.1
Today we are experiencing an experiment never seen before in human history: we use a currency detached from any type of material resource, work and time, whose value is simply artificially imposed by law.
The morality of money
Many today look at money as a necessary evil - the result of profit and capitalism, an economic system despised by many people as the apical expression of human selfishness, cruelty and exploitation of others2. But is it?
First of all: money is a technology made possible by peaceful and productive men who preferred free cooperation to violence. Money certainly don’t derive its value from the violent parasites who appropriate the work of others. The coins represent the intellectual strength of productive and peaceful people, and certainly not the brute force that characterizes the oppression of the strongest over the weakest.
Money has therefore an ethical value: it’s what allows the value of ideas and work to be exchanged between people. Basically, money has value because it allows the exchange of intellectual effort. Money - any money - has value only when it can be exchanged for the result of the work of others.
In the words of Ayn Rand:
Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor - your claim upon the energy of the men who produce3.
The axiom is that every man possesses himself and the fruit of his own intellect and work.
Since the human intellect is the first and most important means of production, we could say that the first capitalist4 in human history was precisely the Homo Sapiens Sapiens, who thanks to his intellect invented money to exchange the resources he produced and increase the chances of peaceful survival in a hostile world. Monetary technology is the daughter and product of free market.
It is an indispensable tool for human survival. Human civilization is shaped by the characteristics of the currency we choose (or are forced) to use.
The end of the Gold Standard
Money is not just a technology for free and ethical exchange between people. It is also the barometer of society. By looking at the its state and characteristics, we can evaluate the virtuosity and health of the society in which we live.
Again, in the words of Ayn Rand5:
"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced.
Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, 'Account overdrawn.'“
The destroyers arrived in 1971 with the exit from the Gold Standard, turning the currency into future debt, with no connection with the objective reality that surrounds us and with the natural laws of our world, such as the time and resources used to mine and forge gold.
The exit from the Gold Standard has disrupted the roots of the entire human civilization (WTF Happened in 1971), starting with time preferences. A real coin has a particular characteristic: it maintains its value over time. This allows people to accumulate wealth across generations, thus increasing well-being and the chances of survival.
As Federico Riviwrites in his “Bitcoin Train Summer Stop #4”, quoting Saifedean Ammous: “the lowering of time preference is what starts the process of human civilization and allows human beings to cooperate, prosper and live in peace”.
Conversely, a higher time preference (i.e. short-term) leads people to prefer immediate results, even to the detriment of their own future. The concept is not as trivial as it seems: time preferences shape our way of thinking.
The more the currency is devalued, increasing the quantity in circulation, the more people's time horizon is compressed.
A shorter time horizon generates instability, fear for the future, and in general a lack of freedom resulting from lower purchasing power. In the last 20 years the euro has lost more than 50% of its value; the dollar more than 68%. We could say, in this sense, that today we are 50% less free than 20 years ago, and that in 2022 we are, for now, 10% less free than in 2021.
Giving more importance to the immediate benefit means giving in to instincts, giving up reason, planning, cooperation in favor of violence. It means, in short, getting close to animals.
What matters, however, beyond the economic effect of the end of the Gold Standard, is the effect on the very nature of the currency, which since 1971 has been devoid of any anchorage to the physical and real world.
Money should objectively represent the value, morality and virtue of human society. A currency at the mercy of politics, without any anchorage to the real world, cannot represent any virtue or morality. Thus society is doomed to double standards, contradictions, relativism, and violence.
Money as a weapon
Money has long ceased to be an instrument through which men exchange value and virtue to become a weapon of which goverments and central banks hold an absolute monopoly.
The Cantillon effect and inflation are economic tools through which the elites who control the currency and are closest to the source expropriate wealth and time from the rest of the world and diminish our freedom6.
The next evolution of money, the Central Bank Digital Currencies, will be even worse. These native digital currencies will allow States to completely dominate the freedom of thought and the ability to act freely of every person on the face of the earth.
Central Bank Digital Currencies transform monetary technology into mass surveillance and control technology.
Since the currency is an indispensable tool for human survival, and since the characteristics of the currency determine human behavior and the characteristics of the society in which we live, it is possible to say that whoever controls this technology has the power to control the world.
For the first time in the world, social changes will not be an indirect consequence of the characteristics of the currency, but predictable and programmable within the currency itself. For example, Central Banks and governments could encourage or discourage certain human behaviors thanks to this new currency-software. We are already observing small incentives of this type, for example with regard to the monitoring of the "CO2 quotas of each electronic transaction".
Giving in to the CBDC future means submitting one's thoughts, privacy and freedom to the thought and violence of a few subjects who will have an almost divine power over our lives.
Back to sea shells?
The history of money is one of progressive centralization, violent monopolies and increasingly evident estrangement between the creators of money and the users.
During prehistoric times each tribe had the power to produce its own currency (shell necklaces). This made each tribe autonomous and not subject to the power of others. Between 1200 and 1500, a glorious period in Italian history, each city-state produced its own currency: Amalfi, Venice, Genoa, Florence. The direct control of the currency was probably one of the causes of their prosperity.
Today, our currencies are even more distant from us. In Europe, the Euro is managed by a Central Bank that responds solely to its own rules, with obscure monetary policies often subject to political interference that radically impact the entire continent.
Fortunately, for the first time in human history, we have the opportunity to separate ourselves from the violent monopoly of the state and central banks, which impose the use of a currency that is debt, to free us from the chains that today are called inflation and financial surveillance.
There is an alternative to the yoke of debt and future totalitarian surveillance of Central Bank Digital Currencies and it is called Bitcoin. A free, decentralized currency, not controllable by anyone but verifiable by anyone.
A currency linked to objective reality through computational work and the laws of physics (thermodynamics). A currency that cannot be artificially devalued by introducing additional units into the system. A currency that ontologically separates the individual from the State, through a peer-to-peer monetary system that does not require any intermediary, either for production or for its use.
But above all, a currency that eliminates the transaction costs deriving from surveillance and state violence, which are increasingly evident and increasingly unsustainable. I am referring in particular to the numerous episodes of blocking of people's current accounts (and therefore their ability to survive) due to the nature of their transactions, their nationality or due to false positives by the automated surveillance and evaluation algorithms of banks.
Money is not evil and it is not the source of all evil. However, it could become so in the near future. It's up to us to choose which side we're on.
"Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own
destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns--or
dollars Bitcoin. Take your choice--there is no other--and your time is running out."
Thanks for reading!
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