A handful of articles have entered my head this week, and as we speak they are mixing together like volatile chemicals about to explode. I’ve been on the Bitcoin bandwagon for less than a year, but I am constantly blown away by the innovations made possible by what is fundamentally a very simple idea. In the beginning I pretty much only used it to buy baklava. Now I’m buying gold and silver bullion with Bitcoin, and accepting it as payment for the various things that I sell. So, I have a pretty good sense of how the system works and I’m just starting to really get the economic ramifications of a digital peer-to-peer currency. I theoretically understand the impact it could have politically, at least domestically, but I’m just starting to get the first inkling of what the international political ramifications of Bitcoin might be.
This rabbit hole begins with US sanctions against Iran.
The people who argue in favor of sanctions against Iran usually strike me as economic buffoons. The same person who tells me the US needs to prevent Iran from engaging in international trade to weaken their economy will usually also tell me the US needs to stop engaging in international trade to strengthen its own economy. So this is where our journey begins.
Last month Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister and top economic policy maker Ali Babacan confirmed that Turkey was circumventing sanctions by trading Iranian crude oil for Turkish gold instead of dollars. In fact, in the last nine months Turkey, ostensibly a strong ally of the US, has tripled its pre-sanctions exports to Iran. It’s essentially a thumb in the eye to US legitimacy, and the global banking system.
Good for them, I thought. It’s a powerful proof of concept for the efficacy of alternative currency. But then I remembered another recent story about gold in Iran. In October hundreds of currency protesters gathered in Tehran’s historic Grand Bazaar outraged over the plunging Iranian rial. In response hundreds of riot police stormed Tehran’s currency exchange district arresting “illegal money changers.” Imagine that. It is a crime for honest merchants to exchange one baseless paper note for another baseless paper note because the sociocrats that issue those notes don’t get along. What’s interesting is that the 80% drop in the rial’s value was largely blamed on sanctions, but the head of the national police said that people holding stashes of gold was “perturbing the currency market.”
So, it’s perfectly fine for States to use gold to protect themselves from economic sanctions, but not for the lowly civilians. But more importantly, holding stashes of precious metals may be an adequate protection against foreign sanctions, but not against your own State. Well, what are the Iranian people to do? I found the answer. Iranian Musician Mohammad Rafigh has translated some Bitcoin software into Farsi and is talking up Bitcoin in Iran. Rafigh accepted Bitcoin for his latest album. He wrote “I wish the culture of using digital money spreads all over the world, because it does not have any dependency on anything like politics.”
Using Bitcoin Iranians living abroad can send money to their families, or exchange them for rials or dollars. It allows them to store their wealth digitally where the currency police can’t seize it, and most importantly it allows the people of Iran, at the individual level, to skirt US sanctions and maintain an economic connection to the outside world. When US sanction against Iraq killed an estimated 1 million innocent civilians in the 90s it’s easy to see how important that is.
All the pieces came together when I read that AntiWar.com now accepts Bitcoin donations. PayPal and many credit card companies block access in over 60 countries for largely political reasons. Bitcoin offers what no other currency can. Access to everyone, everywhere.
AntiWar.com was launched in 1995, to oppose the Bosnian war under the Clinton administration, but as wars have escalated so has opposition to war. Today the site is the leading hub of anti-war news and activism in the liberty movement, devoted not only to opposing war, but also the assaults on freedom that result from it. Bitcoin was created in 2009 by an infamous programmer names Satoshi Nakamoto, but it is unlike any other currency in the world in that it is not issued by any central bank or ruling State. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult if not impossible to track, regulate or block.
What this means is that right now, in the world we live in, it is possible for civilians living in Iran to donate to the anti-war movement in the US, and it is possible for civilians in the US to donate to the relief efforts in the countries the US bombs. People can now cooperate across national boundaries, and there is virtually nothing that States can do to prevent it.
Bitcoin has already changed the world, and it will continue to do so in fantastic and unpredictable ways. Given that wars must be funded by taxes, national debt or currency debasement, all of which can be protected against with Bitcoin, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for imperial powers to fund their military budgets.
French economist Frederic Bastiat once said, “If goods don t cross borders, armies will.” I suggest that when States can no longer prevent goods from crossing borders, armies won’t.
The AntiWar.com donation address is: 1M87hiTAa49enJKVeT9gzLjYmJoYh9V98