Could “Bitcoin” bring about the downfall of feminism?
Feminism is the dominant ideology of our age. Its strangle-hold over our culture, media and institutions is such that it is difficult to imagine how things could ever be different. Certainly, I think it unlikely that the current hegemony will ever be brought down by men, or women, in organised revolt when so few understand its true significance.
Nevertheless, if we look at history, there is cause for optimism. If history has but one lesson to teach us, it is this — nothing lasts for ever.
Allow me to introduce you to the “Black Swan”, humanity’s equivalent of the forest fire which clears the ground of well established norms and, in doing so, allows the seeds of new ideas to take root. History is littered with examples.
Over much of the second half of the 20th century, we in the west worried ourselves half to death over a possible nuclear strike or European invasion from the east. I can vividly remember our primary school teacher telling our class that each and every one of us had a nuclear missile pointing at our heads and, at any moment, we could all be dead. (Those were her actual words to a class of seven year-olds, and I was sick with fear for days after.)
No one saw then how the status quo could ever be different. Yet, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet coup of 1991, it suddenly became apparent that a new age was dawning and news commentators everywhere began to conclude that the Soviet Union could never have competed economically with the US. While experts everywhere deluded themselves with the idea that we had known all along that the Soviet Union was destined to fall, the plain truth was that almost no one saw the revolutionary crisis coming.
Black Swan events seemingly come out of nowhere, bringing profound consequences that are impossible to foresee. Black Swan theory, as proposed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, describes how human beings consistently fail to expect the unexpected, but instead rationalise past events as being entirely predictable and inevitable when, in reality, the opposite was true.
Recently, I have been looking on the horizon for signs of the next major Black Swan event, and found myself on an admittedly rather speculative journey into the future — one in which the pre-occupations of our age have been washed away by forces beyond the control of any ideologue.
I’d like to share it with you.
Bitcoin is a new form of electronic money. Nothing like it has ever existed before. To use technical jargon — Bitcoin is an example of a cryptographic currency, or “cryptocurrency”.
I very much believe that cryptocurrency is the next step in the evolution of money. But why is this so important?
Whether we like it or not, money is how human society has organised itself for thousands of years, and the arrival of a radically new way of using money has the potential to change everything.
Before we go there, what exactly is cryptocurrency and how is it different form “ordinary money”?
Currently, the money we use is based on trust — trust in government and banks. Cryptocurrency, on the other hand, is digital money made out of the trust we are willing to place in modern cryptography. Forget what you already know about debit cards or internet banking, because with Bitcoin you will not even need a bank. In fact, Bitcoin has more in common with gold than the number you see as your online bank balance.
Actually, gold is a good place to begin if we want to understand what crypto-money actually is and why it may prove to be such a desirable way to conduct monetary transactions.
Traditionally, “fiat currency”, that is money printed by governments, was redeemable against gold. On the British £10 note are still the words, “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ten pounds.” The note itself was always exactly that — a promissory note which could be redeemed on request against gold. In other words, paper money was simply a proxy for gold. It’s all about trust, and as our trust in paper money increased, the need to redeem it against gold vanished — or at least until the bailouts of recent times that is.
So what is it about gold that made it such a desirable form of money in the first place? What is that makes gold so trustworthy? Why did we ever use gold and not, say, iron as a means of storing value? After all, iron ingots would be so much cheaper than gold ones.
But that’s precisely the point.
Here are some highly desirable qualities that money must have in order for people to trust and use it:
1. Scarcity. Precious metals are “precious” for a reason. Unlike iron, gold is not available in abundance in the Earth’s crust. If it were possible to mine it in huge quantities and dump it on the market, the relative worth of gold would plummet — along with the wealth of everyone who holds their savings as gold. Indeed, a bitter criticism made against western governments and their policy of “quantitative easing” is that, by issuing large quantities of new money, they are not only reducing the relative worth of government debt, but are also destroying the value of ordinary people’s wages and life-savings.
2. Divisibility. If your lunch costs you a gram of gold, but all you have is a 12 kg gold bar and no means of breaking off a small amount, then your lunch is going to prove very expensive indeed. Gold, however, is almost infinitely divisible, and small denominations can simply be held as coins.
3. Durability. Money must not easily corrode or decompose, otherwise nobody would want to hold on it. As we all know, however, gold is highly durable.
4. Transportability. Gold coinage was easily transportable by the measure of times gone by. In today’s world, gold has been superseded by more transportable forms of money — first by promissory notes (paper money), and then by electronic transactions.
5. Non-counterfeitability. Money must not be easy to duplicate otherwise its worth would be destroyed by counterfeiters. Over the centuries, many a budding alchemist has been frustrated by their inability to turn common base metals into precious gold.
Common arguments against Bitcoin include the point that it is not “backed by anything”, or that it cannot possess intrinsic value because it has no physical form. However, gold is not “backed” by anything other than trust — trust made possible because it possesses the necessary qualities that make “good money”. And we are all use to handling non-physical money in the form of credit cards and direct debits which are, in effect, nothing other than a way of changing numbers stored on our behalf by a bank.
It’s all about trust, not physical tangibility, and with today’s money we simply put our trust in banks to accurately keep the tally of our account. Bitcoins, on the other hand, are not tallies of an account run by some trusted third-party on our behalf — they are unique mathematical entities that exist in their own right. You can, if you really wish, print out Bitcoin money as QR codes on paper and store them in a traditional safe.
What’s important in this discussion is simply that crypto-money does, indeed, possess all the above desirable qualities of money, plus several profoundly significant new ones. Let’s take non-counterfeitability for example — what is there to stop you making multiple digital copies of a single bitcoin and spending them all?
At the heart of the Bitcoin currency is a public ledger system called the “block chain”. A transaction takes place when it is recorded on this ledger, so that all legitimate Bitcoin transactions can easily be verified by anybody and everybody for all time. Crucially, no one person, organisation, bank or state body controls this ledger — it is distributed across computing networks the world over. Furthermore, it is designed in such a way that to falsify a Bitcoin transaction on the block chain would require more computing power than that available to the block chain itself. The block chain is both distributed and scalable, and as technology improves, so does the computing power available to the block chain which, today, already far exceeds that of the world’s top 500 supercomputers combined.
However, it is not just the non-counterfeitability of cryptocurrency that make it such a radical proposition. Just as there is a finite amount of gold waiting to be mined from the Earth’s crust, there is a finite number of bitcoins waiting to be discovered. Now, what if I were to tell you that there are 21 million bitcoins in existence, and only around 11 million of these have so far been discovered?
In fact, the process of discovering new bitcoins is referred to as “mining”, and in principle, anyone can mine for new bitcoins using their computer. The days when you could generate your own Bitcoin wealth simply by having your laptop crunch numbers overnight are long gone however, and dedicated hardware must now be brought to bear in order to stand any chance of mining new bitcoins.
And the significance of this is what exactly?
Well, new bitcoins, just like gold itself, cannot be issued by any state bank and, in the future, national governments will no longer have a license to bailout investors of schemes “too big to fail” simply by “printing” new money at the expense of ordinary people.
What’s more, despite a reliance on a very public ledger system, Bitcoin transactions are potentially anonymous. This anonymity is made possible because, in principle at least, there is nothing linking a transaction on the block chain to a real-world individual. Bitcoin transactions are made to a “receiving address”, not a named person.
Critically, you will not need a bank or government agency to assign you a receiving address — you can generate as many as you like yourself. In fact, receiving parties will typically generate a new address for each transaction they make, so in this way receiving addresses are not only anonymous — they are disposable.
Put simply, pure Bitcoin transactions will present a very challenging proposition for any government to tax.
Are you starting to get the picture now?
Once we accept that Bitcoin not only has all the necessary requirements for good money, but also has some pretty compelling new features (such as a anonymity and a built-in escrow-like capability), it becomes entirely plausible that Bitcoin, or some other cryptographic currency, is destined to succeed the fiat currencies in the 21st century.
Crypto-money can be used by anyone in anonymity, without the requirement for a bank to store or facilitate transactions other than in servicing the conversion from or back to fiat currency. By the time state machinery starts to wake up to the tsunami that threatens to wash away its ability to tax and to “quantitatively ease” itself out of debt, devaluing the wages of ordinary people in the process, cryptocurrency will be too big to fail. Indeed, I would argue that whatever action governments take, cryptocurrency is one of those inventions which once invented, can never be uninvented.
So what does all this have to do with feminism?
Anyone who knows my writing will also know that I do not regard feminism as a benign philosophy of equality, but an ideological parasite that has ridden upon the back of the changing relationship between men and women — change brought about, not by feminism as we have been told, but by industrialisation, urbanisation and contraception.
What has really enabled feminism to flourish, however, is how its stated aim of destroying the family has so suited the interests of both capitalism and errant governments. By forcing women into the workplace (whether they wanted it or not), feminism has helped to facilitate a near doubling of both the workforce and consumer base. More consumers mean more profit for big business, and more workers mean more tax revenue for burgeoning public sectors.
If you’ve ever wondered why the mortgage on a modest house now requires two full-time incomes to pay it — there’s your answer. Women have been imprisoned by a false idea of liberation, and children farmed out to “nurseries” so that the public school boys and girls* who make up today’s political and social elite can benefit.
Whether you share or oppose my perspective on feminism is irrelevant. The prospect remains that as more transactions take place using crypto-money, people will quietly cease to use their bank accounts, and a “black market” will emerge that will be beyond the state’s ability to criminalise.
However, I warn against any notion that a Libertarian utopia is just around the corner, or that such thing would be desirable. Public sector bodies are not going to downsize to accommodate lower tax revenues in acquiescence, but in outright resistance. Established financial institutions will not quietly fade into obscurity simply because their business models are irrelevant, but will fight to maintain the status-quo — no matter what the perversion. And faced with an inability to inspect and tax financial transactions, governments may adopt draconian measures and simply confiscate people’s wealth.
Do not doubt that these will be times of economic struggle and ordinary people will suffer. In all of this, however, the luxury pre-occupations of upper and middle-class feminists will cease to be anyone’s priority. More significantly perhaps, today’s public sectors — the great employers that finance today’s gender ideologues — will be face upheaval.
In truth, I’ve no idea whether the social and economic landscape of the mid-21st century will be better or worse than the one today. Potentially, our children may live in a dystopia — one in which the state manages to solve its tax revenue crisis only by appropriating draconian powers over the lives of ordinary people. At the other extreme lies the possibility of an anarcho-captialist nightmare, where the weak are quite literally allowed to fall by the wayside.
However, I like to be an optimist and here’s my alternative vision of a post-feminist world.
The gender ideology of the late 20th century will be washed by the changing times, and social commentators of the future, in rationalising past events, will delude themselves with the idea that the fall of feminism had always been inevitable and obvious to all.
Our children will not have to fight for daily survival in some anarcho-capitalist future world, but a form of stable government, along with a social safety net for those experiencing genuine misfortune will remain. However, a reduced ability to plunder the pockets of working people will mean that the state will be forced to address the real-world needs of families, not fund its own ideological based machinations.
Just perhaps, closer economic integration brought about by a single world currency, will make possible a 20 hour working week — not only providing full employment and a living wage for a workforce of both men and women, but allowing both working mothers and fathers to be real parents to their children. Children would no longer have to be farmed out to the care of strangers, and women would not be forced to choose between their careers and motherhood.
Most of all, fathers would no longer be made to fight for “access”, but would be important members of the family once more.
*Note. Somewhat counter-intuitively, the term “public school” in the UK refers to a private education.