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Politics After Satoshi

There have been many posts here about politics lately. People are arguing whether bitcoin is intrinsically libertarian, or right wing, or politically neutral. I submit for your consideration that this way of thinking might only makes sense before satoshi.

What if, after satoshi, politics changed, permanently?

Before satoshi, reliably owning _anything_, of any kind, in a way that it couldn’t be taken from you, required violence. Because violence is expensive and risky, ownership evolved to relying on courts and an entire hierarchical system for resolving disputes. If that hierarchy broke down, there would be violence. But the base layer of the stack was always violence.

You might see these dispute resolution mechanisms as being [a distributed consensus mechanism](https://apxhard.com/2021/05/09/distributed-consensus-algorithms-in-the-animal-kingdom/). In other words, “proof of work + longest chain” should be seen as an alternative to things like courts and armies.

During the english revolution, some people proposed giving everyone the right to vote. But the intellectuals agreed this didn’t work – they wanted a ‘proof of stake’ model where only landowners (i.e. stakeholders) could vote. This time period – in the 1500’s – also saw a nascent communist sect (the diggers) as well as the origin of ideas like freedom of religion. We’ve been having the same ‘before satoshi’ arguments for hundreds of years.

Bitcoin is, indeed, something new under the sun.

After satoshi, yes, you _can_ own property without needing violence or courts.

After satoshi you can send that property long distance, without needing roads that are maintained by states and protected with violence and the threat thereof. The lightning network is the first way to send value, anywhere in the world, more or less instantaneously, more or less free, without relying on a _single specific_ hierarchy that uses violence to enforce claims on property.

Yes, virginia, there is one hierarchy today. The dominant hierarchy that exists today has no name; ‘bretton woods’ or Davos might be as close as we get. This hierarchy is made up of nation states, of courts, of militaries and banks and NGO’s and people meeting in Davos to buy $30 hotdogs in 2016, before they exported their inflation to the rest of us. This hierarchy is also made up of drug cartels, mafia states, and terrorist millionaires like osama bin laden. The hierarchy consists of the chinese communist party, the democrats, the republicans, corporate media, big technology, and every other existing corporation that has a stake in keeping the current game going.

This hierarchy has used ‘before satoshi’ politics to keep itself intact.

The costs this hierarchy has imposed on us are nameless and uncountable. Debt, misery, violence, fear, genocide. Widespread anxiety stress and panic as we realize the world is far beyond our control. Neighbors fighting neighbors. Babies having babies. These are the costs inherent in ‘before satoshi’ politics, a layer of violence concealed by a layer of kabuki theatre. The cheap seats are miserable; if you can pay the cost, the expensive seats reward you for sitting closer. And if you’re brave and gutsy enough, you can even get up on the great stage. Pay no attention to the stage crew, management is making sure they are taken care of. Welcome to the greatest show on earth. They call it “the aristocrats.”

In contrast, the entire bitcoin infrastructure operates based upon individuals freely and voluntarily interacting and exchanging with each other. You might object that mining facilities still need property rights and violence. You’re right about this!

Yes, each individual node in the bitcoin network still _DOES_ require physical infrastructure, and thus courts, armies, the rule of law, etc. Every fiber optic cable that makes up the network still does require a system of courts to resolve a situation in which a cow is buried upon the fiber cable, crushing the cable and blocking traffic. What happens if that cable drifted into someone else’s property due to tectonic shift. Who’s liable for the repair costs? And what of the emotional damage to old betsy’s children who saw, from the corner of their factory farm, mama’s corpse dug up by a backhoe? (This actually happened once – I spent years working at google on this kind of physical infra. Not all of it, but the “cow buried on a fiber cable” part.)

But remember the concept of stacks! Don’t just stack your sats! Stack your model of causality so that you can see how ‘layers’ of reality form computational stacks!

Human societies are stacks: commerce relies on the law, the law relies on violence. Bitcoin is a new layer on top of the existing stack which *doesn’t need violence.* We might think of bitcoin, again, by analogy to TCP – a purely consensual layer of global human interaction. Even though individual packets can be dropped, TCP connections that use lossy packets can still reliably deliver messages.

TCP enables a form of communication that is pure and correct atop a system of noise and loss. Bitcoin – built atop of TCP – is the same, only it allows us to communicate about one of the most important aspects of human reality – the scarcity which constrains our material existence.

So yes, _pieces_ that make up bitcoin’s infrastructure rely on violence – just as individual packets that make up a TCP message can indeed be lost. Just as the signals that make up an ethernet frame can be garbled or lost. The powerful mathematics of information theory allowed humans to build lossless communication mechanisms atop of lossy ones. The powerful mathematics of computer science allowed us to build a violence-free way of interacting at scale.

Bitcoin, a nonviolent form of interacting, will become the new global norm. Our old “before satoshi” politics are now meaningless! They are arguments over what we should do in the absence of bitcoin.

Before satoshi, all systems of property rights were built atop a system for projecting violence. We might see all of before-satoshi politics as being arguments about the system of property ownership – who should pay for that system of violence, and how much? Since we have this system for doing violence and enforcing property rights in place, what else should it do? Anything? Everything?

The best proof that bitcoin is nonviolent is to consider what happens in case of a future world war. Bitcoin would still run. Nations could cut themselves off of bitcoin, but capital controls have been notoriously difficult to enforce in history – especially in times of crisis. Each nation state might lay claim to all of the resources inside of it, just as FDR grabbed everyone’s gold prior to world war two, and both the nazi regime and the soviets insisted that it was the state that has rights to all resources. They _had_ to do this to fund their war. That world war can’t happen today because the nation states can’t seize property from their members, through heavy taxes and inflation, to pay for the war. Britan just recently finished paying for debt from world war one, over a hundred years ago. That is the nature of before-satoshi politics. Debt and violence are the two ends of a pair of handcuffs.

Before satoshi, If your country was invaded, none of your property rights would be secure.

After satoshi, there is now a form of property rights that does not require any _specific_ system of violence at all. After satoshi, if your country is invaded and taken over by a hostile power, you can leave with most of your wealth in your brain, and the invaders can’t take it. They may not even know you _have_ it. This is a revolution in human affairs.

Bitcoin will likely enforce and protect property rights, not with one expensive hierarchical system of violence, but with numerous smaller systems that will be forced to compete on cost. Hard money will pay for private defense, and invasion will be such a terrible investment that nobody would bother. You can’t seize wealth like invading armies used to. Nation states will still exist, they’ll still skm off the top as always, but they’ll be reduced to the status of homeowners associations. Most people dislike their HoA’s, but none of our HoAs has printed a trillion dollars or bombed their own citizens without trial or constructed a global panopticon that spies of all of us. The bad ones will annoy people enough that they will move out, and this will force them to change.

Let’s call this situation what it is: the death of ‘before satoshi’ politics. After satoshi, new political coalitions and factions will emerge. The old divisions are dead and busted. They only make sense before satoshi.

It’s time for politics after satoshi.

Civilization has been a tottering tower to the heavens. Bitcoin is an asteroid in geostationary orbit. It sustains and lifts the tower; it will turn this tower into a space elevator and get us off of this rock. Yes, the tower heaves and sways. Yes, it’s scary. But see, the asteroid atop? It GROWS! With each sat you stack, you add mass, social inertia, gravitas, we WILL go to space, we will make our descendants as numerous as the stars because we will populate the entire galaxy! We will build a dyson sphere around the sun, and [8% of the sun’s energy will be used to mine bitcoin](https://apxhard.com/2021/08/20/block-3400000/), and it will be glorious.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.



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10 Comments

  1. This reads like someone who just finished ‘The Sovereign Individual’ by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg .. a book I like.

    A key allure of bitcoin, as you mentioned, is privacy, and the ability to (almost instantly) transfer value across borders w/out government interference.. that is great, but, what about the overly-broad reference to digital assets in Biden’s infrastructure bill requiring reporting of crypto transactions over $10,000? Is it fair to say that ultimately, countries that pass laws like this, that invade a key attraction of bitcoin (privacy), will be pushing out innovation? What is the point of BTC w/out consumer privacy? So much of the reason BTC is attractive is because you DONT have to share private information to engage in routine transactions.. now the U.S. is saying you have to?

    Why is nobody talking about the ‘Keep Innovation in America Act’? Senators are pushing this in an attempt to clarify or undue this ambiguous language from Biden’s infrastructure bill to prevent this intrusion into consumer privacy. Will it pass? Call your lawmakers.

  2. Couldn’t agree more, OP! Bitcoin is going to cut out huge fetid chunks of institutional cruft, and leave them to die in the sunlight.

    That is IF we decide to use it as our public currency, and not just a way to “make money”.

What do you think?

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