Essays

Essays

  • The End of Super Imperialism

    In 1972, one year after President Richard Nixon defaulted on the dollar and formally took the United States off of the gold standard for good, the financial historian and analyst Michael Hudson published “Super Imperialism,” a radical critique of the dollar-dominated world economy.

  • The Quest for Digital Cash

    How Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin project married the concepts of digital cash and digital gold and how pioneering cryptographer Adam Back continues the work of making it a better tool for freedom.

    One summer day in August 2008, Adam Back got an email from Satoshi Nakamoto.

  • Bitcoin And The American Idea

    Has America strayed from its founding ideals? An activist and a refugee think Bitcoin can help it get back on track.

    Today, Americans celebrate 245 years of independence from the British Empire.

  • Fighting Monetary Colonialism With Open-Source Code

    France still uses monetary colonialism to exploit 15 African nations. Could Bitcoin be a way out?

    In the fall of 1993, Fodé Diop’s family was saving up for his future. A brilliant 18-year-old living in Senegal, Fodé had a bright path in front of him as a basketball player and an engineer. His father, a school teacher, had helped him find inspiration in computers and in connecting with the world around him. And his athletic talents had won him offers to study in Europe and in the United States.

  • Inside Cuba’s Bitcoin Revolution

    As political demonstrations show the world that Cubans are tired of dictatorship, Bitcoin is providing an option to peacefully protest and opt out of a broken system.

    Lucia is a 30-year-old medical worker and Bitcoin user living in Matanzas, a city of about 150,000 people sitting about 50 miles east of Havana on Cuba’s northern coast. Named after an aboriginal rebellion against Spanish colonizers, the word “matanzas” literally translates to “slaughter.” The settlement later turned into a 19th-century epicenter of slavery and sugar plantations. Today, like all Cuban cities, it is ground zero for a financial and human crisis.

  • Can Bitcoin Be Palestine’s Currency Of Freedom?

    Bitcoin gives Palestinians a powerful avenue for peaceful protest, and the opportunity to find sovereignty among oppressive economic policies.

    One day last week I spoke to a Bitcoin user inside the Gaza Strip.

  • The Village and the Strongman: the Unlikely Story of Bitcoin and El Salvador

    Tracing Bitcoin’s journey in El Salvador, from new hope in a small village to a new law by an increasingly authoritarian government.

    I was standing in a small coffee shop just off of an unpaved street, in a Central American village with no traffic lights, an hour’s drive west on curvy jungle roads from the nearest major city.

  • Finding Financial Freedom In Afghanistan

    A pioneering female CEO has been promoting Bitcoin in Afghanistan since 2013 and sees it needed in her home country now more than ever.

    Roya Mahboob — the first female Afghan tech CEO, one of TIME’s most influential people in the world and one of the first entrepreneurs to introduce Bitcoin to Afghanistan — was seven years old when the Taliban first took over her country and invaded her hometown in 1996.

  • The Humanitarian And Environmental Case For Bitcoin

    Can Bitcoin reduce aid corruption, help end dependency and bootstrap renewable energy for emerging markets?

    Bitcoin is typically thought of as an investment and a strictly financial innovation. But what if some of its greatest impact over time ends up being in the humanitarian and environmental spaces?

  • Check your Financial Priviledge

    While those comfortable in the dollar bubble deride Bitcoin, the stories of three emerging market users demonstrate why it is so important.

    In the eyes of most Western elites, investors, journalists and academics, Bitcoin rates anywhere from an annoyance to a disaster.

  • The Hidden Costs of the Petrodollar

    The world’s reserve currency relies on oil, dictators, inequality and the military-industrial complex. But a Bitcoin standard could change this.

    In its growth from conceptual white paper to trillion-dollar asset, Bitcoin has attracted an enormous amount of criticism. Detractors focus on its perceived negative externalities: energy consumption, carbon footprint, lack of centralized control and inability to be regulated. Regardless of the validity of these arguments, few critics stop to think comparatively about the negative externalities of the world’s current financial system of dollar hegemony.

  • Bitcoin is a Trojan Horse for Freedom

    In Book II of Virgil’s epic poem “The Aeneid,” one of the most iconic plotlines of classical mythology unfolds with trickery and subterfuge. The Greek forces, having failed to capture the City of Troy after a decade-long siege, attempt an ultimate attack on their enemy not by strength, but by guile, through a clever plan hatched by Ulysses.

    In the fields outside of Troy’s impregnable walls, the Greek army departs, but leaves behind a massive wooden horse. A lone remaining soldier leads the Trojans to believe that the horse is a tribute to Minerva, the goddess of war and strategy, and is an apology for the blood that the Greeks spilled. The Trojans think their rival has sailed off in surrender, and — despite warnings from Cassandra and Laocoön, who gives us the famous saying “beware of Greeks bearing gifts” — they bring the horse into the city as a trophy of victory. Blinded by zeal, they think it will make them invincible.

  • Can Governments Stop Bitcoin?

    Since its creation more than 12 years ago, Bitcoin is undefeated. Its price has leaped from $5 to $50 to $500 to $5,000 to now past $50,000. The number of global users has eclipsed 100 million. The system’s network security, number of developers, and new applications are at all-time highs. Dozens of companies including Tesla and Square have started to add Bitcoin to their corporate treasuries.

  • In the Fight Against Extremism, Don’t Demonize Surveillance-Busting Tools like Signal and Bitcoin

    In the past few weeks, millions of Americans have joined Signal, a free open-source encrypted chat app. Users are fleeing from WhatsApp in droves, sparked by a pop-up disclosing that the messenger will share personal data with Facebook, and by broader concerns over big tech in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

  • COVID-19 and the Normalization of Mass Surveillance

    In the past few months, governments ranging from Australia to the United Kingdom and corporations as influential as Google and Apple have pushed the idea that cellphone tracking can be used to effectively fight COVID-19. There was even an essay here at Quillettearguing that a mandatory phone tracking app would save lives while also saving jobs as a policy alternative to economic lockdown. Unfortunately, the idea that phone apps should be popularized or even mandated to fight outbreaks is techno-utopian, based on optimism rather than evidence. The real impact of such an approach on society wouldn’t be better immunity, but rather the acceptance and creeping growth of an even more powerful and omniscient global surveillance state.

  • Dictatorships Are Making the Coronavirus Outbreak Worse

    China, Iran, North Korea, and other authoritarian regimes have concealed information and exacerbated the spread of the disease.

    ON FEBRUARY 27, in the midst of the now-growing worldwide coronavirus outbreak, Chinese human rights activist Yaqiu Wang pointed out a tragedy: “No matter how stretched government resources are, silencing criticism will always be the Communist Party’s number one priority.”

  • A World Without Bitcoin

    The year is 2040, and cash is gone. The money you use on a daily basis has fully transitioned into a tool of surveillance and control.

    In midtown Manhattan, you tip sidewalk performers with a scan of your wearable, your face, or your fingerprint. Coins and dollar bills are now curiosities—fossils from a forgotten age.

  • A Human Rights Activist Explains Bitcoin’s Importance

    We talk with Alex Gladstein, the Chief Strategy Officer at the Human Rights Foundation. He explains why he sees Bitcoin as an essential tool in his fight for human rights all around the world.

  • How Bitcoin Can Protect Free Speech in the Digital Age

    Think about what happens when you buy a newspaper at a local cafe with cash. The shopkeeper takes your paper money, and gives you the item. They don’t know your name, address, phone number, email, or what you bought yesterday. They are not collecting any data about you. Until now, this level of financial privacy was perfectly normal.

  • Dissidents and Activists Have a Lot to Gain From Bitcoin, if Only They Knew It

    We are in an era of gradual global bitcoin awakening. The technology has proven robust and resistant to attacks. Over time, the price has continued to climb from pennies to thousands of dollars. Brilliant entrepreneurs and scientists are improving the protocol’s usability, privacy, decentralization and network resilience. Still, it’s important to remember that only a very tiny percentage of people on this planet understand its value as a tool of freedom.

  • In China, it’s Blockchain and Tyranny vs Bitcoin and Freedom

    China’s centralized blockchains couldn’t be any farther from Bitcoin’s. Designed for maximum control, they will become tools for improved surveillance and social engineering.

    On October 24, 2019, President Xi Jinping gave a major speech about how China is going to make blockchain technology a national priority. He said China would “take the leading position in the emerging field of blockchain” and explore its use “in people’s daily life.” China’s most-watched daily news show covered the speech in primetime, and the next day, the People’s Daily propaganda newspaper ran a front-page story on Xi and blockchain. Searches for “blockchain” on China’s most popular browser Baidu rose 200 percent.

  • The Moral Case for Lightning: A Global Private Payment Network

    The other day, I went to buy dog food at my local pet shop. I bought a large bag of dog food and some treats for my dog that claimed to be able to make her breath smell better. Toothbrush-shaped treats. I paid with my Chase Visa card and walked out of the store. A few minutes later, I happened to check Twitter and saw an advertisement pop up — for toothbrush-shaped dog treats. I thought: this was not an online purchase. I used nothing but my credit card. How did this happen?

    The advertising was too specific to have been pulled from the geolocation of my phone, even though my iPhone was in my pocket and certainly knew that I was more or less at the location of a pet food store. If that was the case, then I could have been offered an advertisement for cat food, or normal dog food, or bird food, or any of the other hundreds of items on sale. But it was the toothbrush-shaped dog treats.

  • Bitcoin could change the game for foreign aid

    Today’s humanitarian aid model is fundamentally broken. Whether you’re a foundation making a donation to a nonprofit abroad, a government distributing aid to another government, or an individual sending emergency funds to family members across borders, your money only gets to where it needs to go after passing through intermediaries. Even in the simplest payment scenario, there’s your bank; a coordination network; and the aid recipient’s bank. But often, there are even more middlemen, with money moving along complex chains of third parties.

  • Why Bitcoin Matters for Freedom

    In the border city of Cúcuta, Venezuelan refugees stream into Colombia, searching for food to feed their families. Years of high inflation, projected to top 1 million percent, has turned bolivares into scrap paper. More than 3 million Venezuelans have fled since 2014, and 5,500 exit for good each day. According to the United Nations, the exodus is “on the scale of Syria” and is now one of the world’s worst refugee crises. As Venezuelans escape, they leave with close to nothing, desperate and vulnerable.

  • The Kim-Trump Summit Is a Tragedy for the North Korean People

    As U.S. president Donald Trump prepares to sit down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un Tuesday in Singapore, it has emerged that the U.S. government has decided not to mention human rights at all during the talks.

  • How the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals undermine democracy

    This weekend, the Group of Seven (G7), an informal alliance of the world’s advanced economies, will meet to discuss today’s most pressing global challenges. A key theme of the meeting will center on progress made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including gender equality, climate change, “building peace,” and “jobs of the future.” These issues are certainly worthy of concern, and on the surface, there would appear to not be much to criticize. Conveniently missing from the menu of high-level discussion topics, however, are the very causes of the world’s most persistent social ills: lack of respect for democratic values and basic human rights. Indeed, this is by design and not at all a coincidence.