If you read my last article you will know that since I started thinking in terms of ‘what if’ rather than ‘what is’ I have become very optimistic about the future. Instead of simply looking at all the problems in the world and becoming overwhelmed, my go-to thought process when presented with a problem is to start thinking of possible solutions outside the conventional feedback loop which currently consists of acting within the political system. Millions of people are waking up to the dark truths that lie at the core of the politics, yet for most the loop is difficult to escape. If you feel like you’re someone who can’t get their head around how voluntarism could create viable systems for humans to live under without the threat of state violence then this article is for you.
In this week’s edition of the Friday Five I will be looking at five reasons why decentralization will bring about the end statism, starting with the first category:
1: The Internet
We all know how life changing the internet has become but I doubt many fully take time to appreciate on just how many levels it has changed the global landscape. To paraphrase Jeffrey Tucker’s enthusiasm, “There are two periods of history: The internet age and all other time that came before it.” It’s a truly profound insight when you think about it. Yes, the internet has only been around for a few decades therefore the amount of history in the former period vastly outweighs that of the latter, but as ridiculous as it first may sound, it really takes such a grand, visionary statement to do justice to its importance. Before we had emails, peer to peer networks, 1-click buying and knowledge at our finger tips, humanity was always at the mercy of centralizing forces. From the cavemen who could lift the heaviest rock right through to the kings, queens and elected politicians of today, we have been subject to an authoritarian rule by force. Every aspect of our lives has been managed and controlled to some degree with violent consequence threatened for not obeying. From where we can buy our food, which substances we can ingest, the flow of information we can receive, where we can live and travel, who we’re supposedly at war or peace with, who we can work for, where we can get educated, where we can be treated if we get sick, who we can marry; the list is almost endless. Now, thanks to the internet, the power is shifting directly into the hands and minds of the individual.
New ecosystems are emerging online that embody the spirit of a true free market. Information no longer passes top-down from corporation or state institution to the individual. People can now share information and trade directly between each other and this paradigm shift is the framework for a new renaissance age.
One of the first casualties of freedom is war propaganda. In the past it was much easier to convince a population to willingly sign up to fight for their country in far off lands against a relatively faceless enemy. Now with the first generation of digital natives reaching recruitment age, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sell them a war due to the shifting media landscape. Online social media platforms have created fertile ground for freelance journalists and new independent media outlets to reach a wide audience and counter the conventional versions of events. The internet has given a voice to everyone, including previously faceless enemies, making it far more difficult for old media outlets to control the narrative.
While the propaganda is easier to see through, the physical threat of systemic violence still remains and is increasingly so against activists who use online platforms to reach their audience. This is in part due to fiat currencies and the fraudulent banking system allowing the proverbial debt can to be kicked down the road for years as lawmakers pass more laws to tighten their grip on power. This can be easily witnessed by pointing out the increased militarization of the police force, which has accelerated since the crash of ’08.
The threat that the internet poses to the state is directly in line with the measures taken to control it. With vast surveillance facilities collecting and searching through everyone’s digital footprints from emails, social media updates, online purchases and even selfies, the state is doing all it can to map out where potential threats could arise. Such measures have eroded the sense of privacy and freedom internet users used to enjoy. This has driven many entrepreneurs and hackers to create alternatives to the light net we use today. Leading the way in this are the Tor project as well as new startup company Maidsafe. The latter completely changes the architecture of the internet by doing away with central hosting sites that can have their information seized, hacked and spied on. It instead shreds, encrypts, copies and scatters all data across the whole decentralized network – think of it like the cloud on steroids. This means that user information cannot be intercepted and spied on therefore anonymity for individual users is restored. It will be exciting to see how this new technology enables on the growth of new ecosystems over the coming decades and particularly how governments choose to deal with users now that their spying infrastructure is rendered obsolete. In particular, it will be interesting to see how activist communities grow, especially if they start adopting the next item on this week’s list.
2: Crypto Currencies
I have been back and forth on where I stand on the use of crypto currencies since I first heard about bitcoin. My first exposure to the concept of digital money was an Aaron Russo documentary a decade ago where he claimed he spoke with a Rockefeller who said the elite’s plan was to create a cashless society where all money was stored on RFID chips inserted into people that could be switched off by a central authority. This kind of nightmare scenario sounds like a central planner’s wet dream where people who break the law can become ostracised from society. Once this type of technology is in place then protest of any form would likely result in people being switched off, greatly accelerating the growth of new tyrannical laws to establish more control and less dissent.
So with that information in mind I was wary of bitcoin as a cashless alternative to commodity backed monetary systems. However, after many conversations with friends and family as well as reading articles and watching countless hours of interviews and discussions about it I can now see the huge potential bitcoin has for allowing new ecosystems to exist and thrive free of any overarching central authority’s control.
I studied sociology at university and the theory that appealed to me the most was Functionalism, which is a consensus theory as opposed to a conflict theory like Marxism. This basically means that its theorists believe that all parts of society, like government institutions, businesses and people of all social classes, come together like different organs to allow society to function as one body or organism. This theory gets attacked by theories like Marxism because they don’t believe it accurately depicts the conflicts that emerge between the working and ruling classes, since it theorizes from a centralized viewpoint i.e. through the eyes of a central planner.
Now what if the theory removed government institutions and and by doing so took away their monopoly on violence which they wield against the organs to keep the body functioning? What if they were instead replaced with free market institutions and individuals whose only chance of thriving was to adopt moral principles deduced by reason and serve the market as moral actors?
Under the current system the only established currency in place is fiat based, which means it is only backed by the force of central governments and their power to tax their populations.
Mayer Amschel Rothschild knew the key role that money plays in society when he said in the 1800’s, “Give me control of a nation’s money supply and I care not who writes its laws”.
To explain the importance of that quote through a Functionalist lens, imagine the role of money in society being similar to the functions of blood in a body. Because of the threat of top-down systemic violence faced by each person (cell) in society (the body), we all feel obliged to participate or else be thrown into a cage. This doesn’t simply mean that we pay our taxes but also that we exchange goods and services in fiat denominations. We all have to carry fiat blood (thus keeping the system alive) if we want to live as part of society therefore those with the power to control the blood supply essentially controls every cell and organ in the body.
That was until crypto currencies came along.
This new technology means a new blood supply that has no central authority controlling its flow. This enables cells to now create new organs which make up new bodies. These new bodies can operate independently of inefficient central control mechanisms and instead rely on efficient (moral) market forces. An example of this in action is the Mt Gox case where the operators stole the funds of thousands of customers. While this was a tragic case for those customers hit with the loss, it is a long term win for the market as it learns from the situation and improves accordingly. Customers will now be more wary about leaving their money in the hands of exchanges and instead chose to focus on how they can be more self responsible with their coins by leaving them in their own secure wallets. There is also now increased market incentive for exchanges to evolve to offer customers more transparency and better security features in order to gain more trust.
The most important outcome in the situation is that Mt Gox failed and went out of business. There have been rumours of it making a comeback, but thanks to market forces i.e. reputation being so critical, it is highly unlikely that anyone would trust them enough with their money to allow them to become functional again. Compare that to the banking system today where banks that should fail instead get bailouts, which is money taken from taxpayers at the barrel of a gun. In this system failure is not met with upward moral pressure to improve the market but rather downward moral pressure as institutions shielded by government force can escalate the robbery to the point where they can create trillions of dollars out of thin air, set artificially low interest rates that steals from savers, hold entire countries to ransom and then buy their public assets at fire sale prices like in Greece and even reach in to peoples’ bank accounts and directly steal their money like in Cyprus.
With crypto currencies offering a way out of this centralized system, what I am most excited about seeing in the future is how decentralized online platforms utilize crypto currencies to offer businesses and individuals new ways to connect and trade.
I outlined much of what I look forward to solution/trade-wise in my last article under the section “You’re only looking at the problems” and this section will be an expansion of some of those topics.
Trade is the only peaceful way out of the economic mess we’re in. It’s the only way to grow the organs that will give life to the new functioning bodies which can in turn bring about a new renaissance age.
One new ecosystem that I think can greatly increase prosperity, especially in areas hit hard with structural unemployment, is a decentralized food industry. Food is the energy of all life and people need to eat every day, so what better way to grow new systems and get people out of the old paradigm than by getting them to buy food directly from each other in crypto currency?
Witnessing the growth of a volunteer built community garden in Houston last year gave me great belief that such projects have huge potential for creating new food networks, rebuilding communities and local culture, creating employment opportunities, lowering the employment ladder for many including the homeless as well as helping to tackle various health issues like obesity and diabetes that plague much of the western world.
Roughly a decade ago the founders of this community garden started dumping soil on what was an unused parking lot in a poor district of the city. Now it is a vibrant hub, rich with a variety of different vegetables growing and even a pond space to raise fish. There is a stage for musicians to perform or where yoga classes could be taught. There are regular workshops teaching anyone who wants to learn all the skills it takes to grow their own food and what it takes to run such a project so other communities can start their own. There are evenings where top local chefs turn the garden into a restaurant and cook freshly picked food. In the future there is even potential for local businesses to rent dedicated vegetable bed space to grow their own produce and even advertise, increasing revenue streams for the garden.
Now imagine combining this project with an open source crypto currency based version of an app like www.ripenearme.com. This app connects local food growers directly with their community, allowing users alternatives to conventional supermarket bought food. It could be from a community garden or it could just be from a neighbour living four doors down who is growing tomatoes in his aquaponics set up.
As well as connecting people with locally grown food it could also greatly increase the efficiency of managing community gardens and small farms. Workers could be paid anonymously in crypto currency, smart contracts for future use of vegetable beds could be agreed upon using the blockchain, there could even be a way to set up a voluntary tax on transactions where users apportion a percentage of each transaction towards a charity or organization of their choice thus showing how ‘public’ projects can be funded without force.
When you think of just how huge a movement this food evolution could be, you start seeing spaces in your community not just as underutilized concrete and grass but as possible grow spaces that could speed up the shift away from statism.
There are many other forms of decentralized trade networks that will have just as huge an impact on this shift. They will no doubt come to fruition on encrypted web platforms and use crypto currencies as their life blood. From replacement Silk Road platforms to open source 3d printing hacker spaces, humans will always find ways to develop trade paths that increase their prosperity. However if those paths are constantly blocked by a growing government and if peaceful trade between individuals is violently prevented, violating the NAP, then people may have to start justly reverting to the last resort they have.
If someone handed you a box and said there was a button in it that if pressed would give you back your freedom on the condition that those who created the financial collapse would die, would you press it?
Now imagine that box was an anonymous crowd funding platform and the button was crypto currency donated via a dark wallet. By ‘pressing it’ you create a contract offer for mercenaries to take out the top bankers and send a message to the elites that the world will no longer stand aside and watch them use their rigged financial system to steal everyone’s wealth.
If such a platform ever came into existence and became globally known, the world would change over night. Elites would worry that every step they took outside could be under the crosshairs of a sniper or every bite of food they ate was laced with poison. The world to them would become the prison they’re trying to make for everyone else.
To analyse this through a Functionalist lens, imagine these elites to be like cancer cells. They create nothing yet steal and control everything while slowly killing the organs and eventually the body.
This platform could avoid the removal of these cells being cast within the national emergency context in which wars are usually fought as key individual targets can now be identified, bypassing the propaganda machine that likes to collectivise defence efforts in nation states. It is not a nation attacking a nation but rather a group of individuals from all walks of life around the world funding the attack of individuals responsible for global financial meltdown. I find it hard to imagine what demographic of any western nation would jump to the defence of or take a bullet for these bankers when they can no longer hide behind any flags or anthems of a nation state.
Humanity at this point in time seems to be waiting for leaders to step forward in the form of superheroes to fly in and save the day. The leader, with the help of this technology, would be the market.
Imagine also a similar crowd funding based platform that gave monetary incentives to government workers to leak information regarding corruption existing within the layers of its bureaucracies. It would be hard to see how the propaganda machine of old stream media could spin objection to the leaks when the demand for them is market driven or how the institutions wouldn’t destroy themselves from the inside out by whistle blowers coming forward. With the levels of corruption that Edward Snowden is exposing, bounties worth several millions of dollars could be too enticing for many employees with any conscience remaining.
While I do not advocate this method until all other peaceful avenues have been exhausted, its inevitability, given the rise of decentralized platforms, makes it an area worth exploring now.
I think however that we will all be the better off for choosing the peaceful path of trade and prosperity, but which path we takes depends on the last category.
How do you identity yourself? As your name? Your religious or spiritual beliefs? Your political ideology? Your nationality?
When I think about the world I’d like to see in the future I try to think generations, centuries or even tens of thousands of years down the line and focus on how people then may identify themselves. Yes, with technological advancements accelerating at exponential rates, it makes predicting years in advance almost impossible, never mind centuries. But in spite of the changing technological landscape and how it restructures societies, whatever time humanity finds itself in, there timeless principles which we could live by that would enable peaceful coexistence.
One thing I don’t see holding up much longer in today’s globally connected world are national labels. What will “I am an American”, “I am Scottish” or “I am German” mean in ten thousand years time? I don’t have a crystal ball but I’ll hazard a guess that none of these labels will be around any more. So barring a great global catastrophe that results in humanity’s extinction, how will people in that time identify themselves? As their name? Their age? Their religious or spiritual beliefs? As a human being?
Saying “I’m an American” or “a proud Scotsman” doesn’t stand the test of time in this thought experiment because the labels are simply like operating systems that keep automatically updating their code and TOS, to the point where the system you originally installed is nothing like what you have anymore. In order to begin comprehending what lies at the root of a good ‘operating system’, attention should instead be focused on the code and not simply the brand name. To understand what makes good code we need to understand what is virtuous and to understand what is virtuous we need identify sound moral principles. Only once we have established principles such as the non aggression principle or an individual’s right to self defence or self ownership are we then able to start building other code on top of this non-violent foundation.
To bring back the Functionalist lens, this code (culture) becomes the nucleus of the organism, meaning it can live guided with rules rather than the force of rulers.
With the help of sound philosophy and technology, humans will evolve past statism and its imaginary lines on maps called borders.
With free market space travel an emerging industry, how will voyages into space as common as today’s commercial flights change the way people view humanity and their sense of purpose?
As a voluntarist who sees man’s purpose as far greater than mere world domination, I don’t see earth like the image on the left but rather than the image on the right.
We don’t live in a world of finite resources that must be managed by a central authority. We live in an infinite universe that cannot be dominated and therefore should simply be explored and utilized.
An objection many may sound to this entire premise of a society without leaders is that public utilities won’t get built or there will be no police services to protect us or no one to care for the poor and needy. The key word I always point to when confronted with these arguments is care.
Real genuine human care is what seems to be so lacking in the world today and I think statism and its many layers of bureaucracy is the root cause. Individuals are socialized into passing on the responsibility of caring to the state and so when it comes educating, market regulation, social security or even dealing with humanitarian crises, people credit government as being essential caring providers of these services. It is a sad reflection on humanity that people doubt the markets can do a much better job. Markets are simply people exchanging goods and services. The Market is you.
Do you care about poor peoples’ access to education? Then join together with other like minded people and open a local private school.
Do you care about the regulation of the banking industry? Join together with other like minded people and open a bank, trading in sound money and offering savers a fair interest rate.
Do you care about social security for the retired? Teach the value of financial responsibility to students at your school or alternatively, set up an app that automatically takes a micropayment or small percentage of every crypto transaction a person makes in their life and locks it up safely until they retire.
Care about helping victims of natural disasters? Send them crypto directly and avoid conventional charities absorbing over half of your donation before any of it reaches the actual victims.
While the likely objection to these types of solutions are “I can only start one school” or “I can only help so many victims, we need a social safety net”, the answer to this is do you really think you’re alone in caring for the plight of others? If I was to ask a thousand random people in an geographic location if they thought caring for others was an important part of being a human, the vast majority would overwhelmingly say yes. So why not invest that care in the market and see what returns you get? Open your own school and teach the curriculum that you care about and inspire the next generation to be smarter, better people. Start your own bank and see that those in your community are cared for and that their money is in safe hands, not to be gambled away. Start your own community garden and help bring people together through employment opportunities, through friendship and through economic and cultural exchange.
Sadly in today’s world of centralized governments, such projects can never take off due to the regulation politicians have put in place to keep out competition and protect their friends in the business world.
The beauty of voluntarism is that there are no leaders to create such grossly distorted markets. There is only free enterprise. It is growing and much like the Maidsafe network there are no heads to chop off to stop it. It is simply people following a philosophy built on sound principles. It is humanity decentralized from the nation state right down to the individual and because man’s mind is now free from such bondage, his thoughts and actions are now timeless and unstoppable.