Welcome to the first edition of the Liberty Crypto Reader! Ideas, once released into the wild, carry their own unstoppable force that can never be fully stamped out. My goal with the Liberty Crypto Reader is to curate both the most important information as well as the most insidious, delicious and liberating ideas.
With that - let’s dive in!
Wait…crypto is dirty?
This week from the front lines of hypocrisy are numerous stories of banks - you know, those big old institutions that have been around since the Templars protected assets on the pilgrim trails of medieval Europe - being accused and convicted of money laundering. Swiss Bank UBS AD was fined $5.1m (3.7m Euros) by a Paris court, while Swedbank was implicated in a $5.8b money laundering scheme that included $26m in Russian tax fraud that has been uncovered by and eventually led to death of accountant Sergei Magnitsky. If crypto ever really wants to learn about crime, all it has to do is hang out with the big kids, I guess.
Can’t beat ‘em…sue em!
Our friend Nic has been a great source for interesting takes on crypto adoption in oppressive monetary regimes. This week, he wrote about DolarToday - a Venezuelan exchange site that publishes a Bitcoin-implied Bolivar Soberano-USD exchange rate based on the prices from LocalBitcoins. The problem is that publishing market exchange rates is illegal, and consequently the Venezuelan central bank is in the midst of a lawsuit. If this weren’t interesting enough, the site is run by a Home Depot employee in Alabama (who…okay, was a US-trained colonel who tried to overthrow Hugo Chavez before Maduro took power). This isn’t a new story, but it’s great to see Nic highlighting it and bringing it to a wider audience as crypto gets more interested and engaged with the situation in Venezuela.
A View From The Ground
Speaking of Venezuela, as the world continues to watch the unfolding political events, the New York Times gave Venezuelan economist Carlos Hernandez a platform to describe exactly why Bitcoin has been so important for surviving against the backdrop of hyperinflation.
Sometimes, it’s about the implications
A few months ago the US Office Of Foreign Asset control added two Bitcoin addresses connected, they said, to “Iranian malicious cyber actors” to the individual sanctions list. In a recent podcast (and accompanying Twitter transcript), Andreas Antonopoulos explained why this isn’t a technological control - as it’s incredibly easy to get around - but instead a political control which is demonstrating the growing “weaponization” of commerce and surveillance.
Beware the evil…sandwich?
We all love Venmo, right? It’s fast, convenient, and all our friends use it. Well, god help you if you ever want a delicious fancy ham and cheese. Posted over on r/Bitcoin and brought to Twitter by WhalePanda, an unassuming victim was caught in a censorship trap when they tried to pay their friend back $7 for buying them a “cuban.” This is, on the one hand, hilarious. On the other, it is completely chilling. It’s all fun and games and deliciousness until you realize that the cost of the convenience of your modern life is being part of a massive surveillance machine.
From The Gladstein Files
Especially since publishing his seminal “Why Bitcoin Matters For Freedom” in Time Magazine, Human Rights Foundation’s Alex Gladstein has become one of the most prominent voices in Liberty Crypto. His Twitter feed is like a never ending liberty stream, both curatorially and in terms of content he produces. This week, he’s got enough for an entire section of this all on his own, including:
- Pointing out the absurdity of a central banker claiming on Twitter that “you can’t transfer value”
- On the excellent Global Coin Research podcast, discussing Bitcoin and China
- Responding to the latest anti-Bitcoin screed given oxygen this time by Foreign Policy magazine
Meshing our way to Net Neutrality with Bitcoin
The always thoughtful folks at CoinCenter have been on a roll lately. If you haven’t checked out their excellent manifesto about the importance of privacy in the age of digital surveillance, it is a must read. This week, they published an opinion piece in Wired about how micropayments via Bitcoin could help solve the last mile issues of excess bandwidth capacity to enable incentivized mesh networking that could truly enshrine “Net Neutrality” as a reality outside of the ability of politics to control.
It can’t happen here, though, right?
Last year, Ugandan strongman president (33 years and counting, baby!) introduced a new social media tax after mass protests. Outside observers were worried that it would constraint important financial and political activity. And guess what, they were right! Mobile money usage has declined by 20%. What’s more, the areas that are most impact are those that are already worse off. Think of it as a nice case study for all the other authoritarians around the world.
So uhhh..about that 23andMe test
China is tracking people via DNA. We’re just going to leave this here:
The Living Room Revolution
Finally, as nervous as much of what’s happening now makes us, one of the things that gets us most excited about the potential for the future is the growing accessibility of tools for a very different, more just age, where citizens of every nation have more sovereignty over their data, information and money. To make this real though, it will take a massive distributed network of people. We call this The Living Room Revolution.