Crypto Offers Plenty For the Political Right and the Left
Bitcoin Originated as Libertarian Cause But the Left Should Also Embrace the Asset
By: Will Szamosszegi •Op-ed
For its first decade of existence, Bitcoin was largely associated with the libertarian values of freedom from state control.
The digital store-of-value was born out of an online community of cypherpunks, a group of idealistic computer scientists and cryptography enthusiasts. They sought to create an internet-native currency as a means of avoiding government censorship and control within the burgeoning world of cyberspace.
Although no one knows Satoshi Nakamoto’s true identity, the Bitcoin creator was almost certainly a cypherpunk and regularly corresponded with the other cypherpunks via email. It is not an exaggeration to say that absent right-wing libertarian ideology, Bitcoin would likely not have been created.
Bitcoin spread far and wide from those early cypherpunks in the years following its genesis. In 2018, the modern ‘Bible’ explaining the what, how, and why of Bitcoin was published by economist Saifedean Ammous,The Bitcoin Standard. In his book, Ammous explains the many problems with government-imposed money, so-called fiat currency, and that Bitcoin is the free market solution to all of the problems that fiat currencies induce.
For Ammous and his many followers, Bitcoin is indeed a libertarian technology, one that drastically constrains the Leviathan State, fortifies private properties, and empowers the individual.
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To be sure, these right-wing libertarian arguments are true. But they are not the only pro-Bitcoin arguments. In recent months, left-wing arguments have emerged for Bitcoin, coming from new progressive voices that recognize Bitcoin’s potential to satisfy their political objectives.
In broad strokes, these progressive Bitcoiners argue that Bitcoin helps to achieve two core left-wing goals: 1) mitigating man-made climate change and 2) empowering individuals in third-world countries who live under oppressive tyranny.
With respect to Bitcoin’s potential to improve humanity’s relationship with the environment, philosopher and Bitcoin Policy Institute Fellow Troy Cross, cleantech investor Daniel Batten, and political advocate Dennis Porter are working to explain both to the public and to legislators that Bitcoin mining could be the key to a renewable future.
Professor Cross has spoken at a number of conferences and Bitcoin podcasts, making the case that man-made methane emissions is a more urgent climate emergency than we’d previously thought and that Bitcoin mining is the solution. Mining is the only available technology that can utilizecollocate where methane where it is produced , utilize methane as its power source at scale, and operate during any time of the day.
The burgeoning ‘Green Bitcoin’ faction is helping Porter to ‘orange-pill’ left-wing politicians in power.
Daniel Batten has been an environmental activist for a long time and has supported Greenpeace for over four decades. He was initially skeptical of Bitcoin precisely because mining consumed so much energy. To Batten’s credit, he did his own research and concluded that Bitcoin was actually a net positive for the environment. He has since written data-driven articles on the topic with appropriately confident titles such as “LFG = Landfill Gas: Bitcoin mining Can Turn Gas from Garbage into Money” and “Bitcoin Mining Can Prevent Climate Change”.
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Dennis Porter co-founded and chairs the Satoshi Action Fund, a “nonprofit educational organization dedicated to informing the policymakers and regulators about the benefits of Bitcoin mining and how it can be used as a tool to support other public policy goals”. Porter has only recently come around to the idea that Bitcoin mining can further humanity’s aims at solving the climate crisis.
Before this realization he may have had an easier time selling the benefits of Bitcoin to Republicans than to Democrats. Yet the burgeoning ‘Green Bitcoin’ faction is helping Porter to ‘orange-pill’ left-wing politicians in power.
Freedom From Oppression
Finally, Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Officer at the Human Rights Foundation, published a compendium of essays this year titled Check Your Financial Privilege: Inside the Global Bitcoin Revolution. The title is a clear nod to the left-wing phrase, “check your privilege”, and one of Gladstein’s messages is that most people do not enjoy the privilege of low inflation and a stable fiat currency. It would be difficult for a liberal to read the book and not recognize the role that Bitcoin will play in furthering classic causes of the Left.
As Iyad el-Baghdadi, Arab Spring activist and President, Kawaakibi Foundation, put it: “Alex is one of the few experts who truly understands what Bitcoin can mean for the billions living under dictatorship – but also, how the current system creates and sustains inequality, authoritarianism, and imperialism.”
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In the U.S., financial regulation is driven by the political party in power. If Bitcoin maximalists want a clear, consistent, and long-lasting legal framework around Satoshi’s invention, it is imperative that Bitcoin appeals to both sides of the aisle.
We have already seen glimpses of bipartisan efforts to integrate the Bitcoin economy into the U.S.’ legal order: This summer, Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) co-sponsored the Responsible Financial Innovation Act to establish a regulatory framework around digital assets (including Bitcoin). While it is unlikely to pass this year, political attention on Bitcoin is bound to increase in the coming years.
It is not enough for Republicans like Lummis, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) to favor Bitcoin. If the West is to lead the way towards a future with Bitcoin as the global reserve asset, we need Democrats’ approval, too.
Bitcoin is a rare instance of a revolutionary technology with genuine bipartisan appeal. Right-wingers like Bitcoin because it offers an alternative economic system outside governmental influence.
And now, left-wingers are coming to realize that Bitcoin empowers billions of citizens currently living under the thumb of tyrants, and that Bitcoin reduces humanity’s harmful impact on the environment.
We live in a time of deep political polarization. As the saying goes, Bitcoin fixes this.
Will Szamosszegi is Founder & CEO of Sazmining