A Weekly Series Of Essays About The Language Of Bitcoin by Alex McShane
Lingua Contra Imperium
The Language of Bitcoin: 2
TL;DR – The government has pulled us into the deep waters, financially, to keep us vulnerable. Vulnerable people have the highest time preference, because they have the most future uncertainty. We’ve gone from a society that proudly claims to protect and nurture its most vulnerable populations, to a society that creates them as a matter of course. This is why you find yourself treading water financially. Vulnerable people consume without future regard.
If I were to hazard a guess as to what being a Bitcoiner is about, I’d say it’s about the restoration of order to the monetary system so that we can collectively progress in a more honest and efficient way.
Order can be thought of as the arrangement of people or things in relation to each other according to a particular sequence, pattern, or method. The key word here is “particular”. The dollar has no “particular” pattern. It is issued and debased arbitrarily.
As discussed last week, a centralized currency such as the U.S. dollar cannot hold. Moreover, markets run inefficiently on this ever varying unit of monetary measure. All fiat currencies fail because no one can resist the temptation to simultaneously print more money for themselves and debase the holdings of others. Bitcoin however, has unforgeable costliness, and a supply cap of 21,000,000.
Bitcoin’s systematic order looks markedly different from that of the U.S dollar. There is no single point of issuance or failure. The supply is fixed, and everyone can participate in the issuance or validation of new coins, and they wear the energy cost of that participation on their sleeve, or at least in a fairly transparent and calculable manner. On the other hand, the energy cost of U.S. dollars is computationally intractable.
What does progress mean? Progress to my mind means we are able to accrete values and goals with increasing efficiency over longer time scales, as individuals but also collectively. Bitcoin promotes honest value development and goal accretion by rewarding time spent pursuing both. The key words here are “time spent”.
Dollars do not store value long enough to promote the accretion of long-term goals. Dollars incentivize debt and instant gratification.
When you buy Bitcoin, you are buying yourself time later. You are exchanging time now for time later. Conversely when you buy debt-based dollars, you are wagering time later for time now.
Progress means we are able to meet our ends in increasingly efficient ways over time. I make no promises as to what this may look like. Work introduced into a system has no guarantee of yield. But through Bitcoin, the trade made for your time, and the incentive to work and provide maximum value in exchange for it is tremendous. Bitcoin is an incredibly resolute form of money.
Bitcoin is money with purpose. It promotes its own production, and inhibits its own destruction, at the expense of energy and its competitors. Dollars are printed arbitrarily, to no discernible purpose. With dollars, one is always playing with imperfect, incomplete information. Bitcoin is a game of more perfect though incomplete information. This means that knowledge about the fundamental operations of Bitcoin is available to anyone who is interested, although you may compete in the system as a miner, for example, without broadcasting complete information about your strategic business moves, making Bitcoin a game of incomplete though fundamentally perfect information.
Efficiency can be thought of as the work performed or energy expended by miners to secure the bitcoin network divided by the monetary savings the network secures. One way to calculate this would be to take the net mining energy expenditure, and divide it by the market cap. The current state of this equation is left as an exercise to the reader, and I challenge you to find or invent a monetary technology that is more efficient.
As a hard store of value, Bitcoin is essentially a monetary battery, with the quirk that inside this battery your buying power has historically increased over time even without the additional input of more Bitcoin, making the system exponentially more efficient, time-wise, than saving in dollars.
So saving in Bitcoin is efficient, and inversely, saving in dollars is deficient. Yes, saving in dollars is counter productive. This is why wealthy people spend time recasting their wealth into objects which they pray will leak value at a slower rate than the dollar.
The whole housing market and stock market are massively inflated bubbles. People turn to them, and other strange assets that simply don’t hold value very efficiently, because they understand that holding value over time in dollars is deficient and costly.
As the adage goes, Bitcoin is the pin. Bitcoin is the most efficient store of value there is. You can choose to ignore it, but you cannot insulate yourself from money that is harder than yours.
Bitcoin will drain the housing market and the stock market of all the monetary energy that is desperately stored there in hiding from the dollar.
Bitcoin, AI or general technological advancement won’t displace jobs anymore than the wheel or the loom did. But this is a discussion for another time.
People adapt, becoming more productive over time through collaboration. Capital accumulation and the successful redeployment of capital should function in such a way as to make work more efficient. Many people in first world countries have more capital, property, and time at their disposal than people living just a century ago would have ever thought possible. Although at the same time, some parts of the world remain basically as they have for centuries, as if isolated at a local technological optimum.
Technological advancement could cripple or destroy a society (Think of nuclear war.) but we tend to perceive the benefits of new technologies as outweighing their anthropic risks (Think of nuclear power.) What is important to remember is that you cannot put the genie, in this case Bitcoin, back in the bottle.
When a new technology is socially proven, its invention cannot be undone, for better or worse. Again, this is a discussion for another time. The takeaway here is that Bitcoin took the innovations of proof-of-work, distributed ledger, issuance halving and difficulty adjustment, and packaged them together in a way that is virtually unstoppable. So Bitcoin as a technology cannot be revoked or uninvented, but it can be improved. Although as it stands Bitcoins is a spreading societal meme, its adoption has historically only grown over time.
Bitcoin is built on leaderless, transparent economic principles that reward both cooperation and competition, and diminish future uncertainty. What is the dollar built on?
What is the dollar built on? This is an exercise to the reader. What energy is expended to secure the U.S. dollar? Remember it is issued by mandate and maintains its place in the world with the threat of and through violence. The dollar is an inherently authoritarian tool.
Dollars are used in America to meet our coincidence of wants because dollars have enjoyed enough longevity for the population to have forgotten they are making a choice to trade for these things.
Do not take dollars for granted as your currency. Think of them as a choice you make. You spent a lifetime working and trading your time for dollars, and in 2020 they created trillions more of them, debasing your savings by at least twenty percent, and that is only one recent example. You’ve chosen to store up all your time, all your purchasing power in U.S. dollars and yet every year they issue more. Your money is losing purchasing power every year.
Going forward, you have a choice. There are no legal repercussions for exiting the U.S. dollar individually. Many would tell you this is the trade of a lifetime.
One particularly American tragedy:
We allocate our time and the capital we have at our disposal to unproductive ends, ends which meet our immediate needs, rather than making low-time-preference, highly-collaborative investments with our bodies, minds and property in order to alleviate future uncertainty.
Delayed gratification is key to a successful life of capital accumulation
Owning capital is a responsibility and not a privilege. In order to become a capitalist, one must first produce something of value to others.
At every moment, successful capitalists must choose to abstain from taking payment to satisfy their own needs, but instead redeploy the capital to further provide value to others through increasingly productive processes.
Bitcoin is the meeting of our ends, the ending of our needs.
I would call this procedure of Bitcoin ending our needs a demonstrative teaching of wants. Over time, hodling has demonstrated to its practitioners the rewards of delaying gratification and adopting a low-time-preference lifestyle.
Your $1,200 stimulus check would be worth around $8,765 today if you’d bought Bitcoin with it in April 2020. Within a year, that same stimulus check held in a bank has lost value, irrevocably.
Your money held in banks is worth less over time. Rather than alleviating future uncertainty, U.S. dollars are its root cause.
Your wealth held in dollars will never regain value to outpace inflation. The value of dollars melts away day after day. Sure, some money is taken off the table when debts are paid to banks, but whenever the central banks issue a loan, they are bringing new currency into existence, and that is all on top of government printing.
There is an insidious misconception that we need inflation to support a growing population. Inflation is a covert, slow form of taxation. It thrives on your time.
So we’ve lost our ability to save effectively through U.S. dollars. We’ve lost our ability to use dollars as an honest unit of account over time. We were born inside a debt trap, a trap set to alleviate our basest desires in exchange for all of our productive energies.
In America, our money teaches us to serve and appease our limbic system first, and America promises in exchange we will be able to finance our dream future through debt.
Delaying acting out our immediate desires, or acting now in anticipation of future wants and needs is thought of as a low-time-preference mindset.
Children often want what they feel they want precisely when they want it. One way the dollar maintains its position of power is by using American consumerism to prey on your limbic system. The dollar does not encourage the deferral of consumption in exchange for future reward. Your ability to alleviate future uncertainty is in direct proportion to the extent to which you are able to stave off immediate desires
The government has drug us into the deep waters, financially, to keep us vulnerable. Vulnerable people have the highest time preference, because they have the most future uncertainty. We’ve gone from a society that proudly claims to protect and nurture its most vulnerable populations, to a society that creates them as a matter of course. This is why you find yourself treading water financially. Vulnerable people consume without future regard.
Invulnerable people hodl Bitcoin.
Selling fear is an effective smoke screen. It is a great filter that keeps people from accumulating enough power to effectively protest the government. Fear keeps one from effectively planning for the future. As you busily prepare yourself for the next pandemic, the next war, the next virtual emergency, the next environmental disaster, you lose sight of your long-terms goals.
Do not pursue what is illusory.
Hodl Bitcoin instead.
Wait but aren’t you selling fear of fiat money and the government?
Bitcoiners do not promote fear of the U.S. dollar. They promote education about it and the freedom of monetary choice. I’m urging you not to trust me. I need you to look into the validity of what I am putting forward for yourself and come to your own conclusions.
At the heart of this country is central banks, and in the heart of the heart of this country, is trust. Which is touching, but poor strategy at best, and a fly-by-night operation of theft that perpetuates oppression and is enforced by violence at worst.
At the heart of Bitcoin is transparency. Don’t trust, verify. Edify. Do your own research. If you need a goal, make your goal to increase your future certainty.
The goal may be to live the longest life allotted to you, in the company of people you care about, doing whatever it is you enjoy.
What does this have to do with Bitcoin?
Bitcoin alleviates monetary future uncertainty insofar as one can. Do you understand?
Bitcoin is dependable. I am not talking about the price. Every operation of Bitcoin is independently verifiable, and unlike the dollar, Bitcoin encourages the self custody of your wealth, which is the strongest form of property ownership. The rules of Bitcoin can change slightly, but rarely, with notice in advance and only when bitcoiners come to a majority consensus, in an open and public way.
Because our time is scarce, it is valuable. We can use it to provide ourselves with means. There is always an alternative, more valuable use of time for us, and that must always be taken into account.
Opportunity cost is the cost of an activity in terms of the forgone alternative one would have engaged in.
Bitcoin is a constant that can define the value of your time and become its organizing principle.
A seller always values a good less than its price, while a buyer values it more.
The goal is not to buy Bitcoin to sell at a later date for an objectively worse asset such as dollars. The goal is to exit U.S. dollars. Period.
What happens to dollars after you’ve traded out of them is irrelevant. They are unconscionably flawed. Holding Bitcoin is owning superior monetary technology. It is the hardest form of money.
You will likely see the value of your Bitcoin rise when denominated in dollars over time. Instead of selling your Bitcoin at that time for dollars, ask yourself why the buyer values Bitcoin more than its dollar price. Consider the opportunity cost of this trade. Consider the absolute savings advantage of the buyer.
Financial savvy requires the ability to compare both sides of any trade in your mind at once. I’m not talking about the stock market. I’m talking about the countless trades you make every day with yourself. I’m talking about for what you have traded your time.
Trading time for dollars is an objectively poor strategy. More and more, people are realizing there is a superior asset out there, one that is truly scarce, and relatively easy to acquire. Once you’ve traded your dollars for bitcoin there is no reason to trade them back.
There is always an alternative, more valuable use of time for us, and that must always be taken into account.
With regards to the dollar it’s time to determine the length of your torture, the limits of your endurance, your own fate.
As to the future, if the path we are walking were clear, we’d be on someone else’s. Bitcoin is singular. No one knows how this will play out, but Bitcoin is the best explanation for the way money is so far.
Bitcoin is the black swan. It is spooky action at a distance. Bitcoin is the singularity. It is the event horizon. It is the monetary technology that will subsume and eclipse the rest.
Bitcoin has no incentive to deviate from its initial strategy. For what it does, it has no competition. It is the final settlement layer. Bitcoin is the Nash Equilibrium of sound money.
Between Bitcoin and fiat, there is an extreme contrast of approach to solving the problem of money. People often smooth over these differences by classifying Bitcoin as an investment. Bitcoin is not an investment. Bitcoin is property and money at once. Once you’ve realized Bitcoin as your operating unit of account, there is no reason to ever exchange it for dollars.
The dollar is deliberate noise. Bitcoin is deliverance from noise.
Bitcoin has an opaque definition. You either control a positive sum of Bitcoin, some fraction of 21 million, or you do not. With dollars, there is no such clarity.
On the one hand you count with no more than five fingers, yet with just those five fingers you’ve managed thousands of sums, a lifetime of arithmetic, despite the fact that in actual practice no more than five objects were ever counted. This is Bitcoin.
On the other hand you have fiat, an unlimited series of digits, innumerable dysfunctional fingers, sprouting at all angles like a cancer, in service of nothing.
Any fixed amount of a money will suffice for the world to meet its coincidence of wants.
22 August 2021