Ben de Waal is the VP of Engineering for Swan Bitcoin. In this interview, we discuss living on bitcoin, what it means to be a libertarian socialist, the issues with capitalism and why Bitcoin should be a home for those on the left and the right.
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The last year has been marked by a growing interest in Bitcoin from progressives. A number of high-profile liberal names have emerged from within the community extolling the utility of Bitcoin. But, this is not a new phenomenon: the community has always been a home for the full spectrum of views. Further, there are important reasons why Bitcoin appeals to those on both the left and the right.
Bitcoin has garnered a strong libertarian following. This was something Satoshi envisioned: in 2008 he stated in a post “It’s very attractive to the libertarian viewpoint if we can explain it properly.” This was successful; there are many who have been attracted to the Bitcoin community for its potential to provide an alternative to state-controlled currency, and thereby limit the size of government.
This alignment with the right has acted as a barrier to some on the left. But not all. The original cypherpunks philosophy was predicated on anarchist ideals, to work outside of government controls. This attitude is analogous to those on the left who feel disenfranchised by the current global capitalist hegemony. Bitcoin too offers those on the left a chance to opt-out of what they perceive to be a broken system. Increasing numbers are waking up to this opportunity.
The issue is obviously that the left and the right have been at loggerheads for centuries. Over this time debate has evolved into grandstanding. Misconceptions have been allowed to fester on both sides. This has been supercharged by social media where the general aim now is to marginalise an opposing opinion rather than seek to analyse and potentially assimilate different ideas.
If Bitcoin really is freedom money, then it needs to be a home to people of all opinions. The issue is that our society has become polarised; a winner takes all attitude has metastasized. We need to reaffirm the basis of a strong democratic system: a pluralistic society that tolerates and supports multiple centres of power. Where ideas are debated, solutions are found, and progress is made. We need the same philosophical approach as the United States’ founding fathers.