|Anthony Freda Art|
If you’re an American around my age (I’m 28), a couple of things are becoming clear.
We’re one of the first generations since the Great Depression that is expected to live a lower quality of life than our parents. Significantly lower.
We all got suckered into paying $160,000 we didn’t have for a piece of paper that entitles us to apply for a bunch of entry level jobs that don’t even want us on account of our lack of experience.
Entry level receptionist or social media position. 3-5 years experience required.
The US job market is crazier than one of Jigsaw’s rusty machinations.
So now there’s a generation of us, walking around in a debt daze, unable to start families “on time” or leave the nest or invest in new businesses—or do any of the things that Americans in their late twenties and early thirties should be up to.
And yes, the media fucked us: by failing to acknowledge these problems exist, instead we’re all jovial Paul Rudd “slackers” who move back home or remain unemployed by choice—haha, alrighty then.
What emerged from this realization of mass fuckery were a variety of grassroots movements, which can be roughly divided into three categories: the Internet hacktivists, the Occupiers, and the Tea Party.
My generation never thought we’d have to protest anything. This is America.
But when you only have debts and long-term unemployment and some of your friends are coming back in body bags from Afghanistan and Iraq and the media doesn’t really explain why except MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, protest doesn’t sound so crazy anymore.
The federal government did an impressive job of disabling the hacktivists by striking fear into their Tor-loving hearts. Anything you do on a keyboard today, some old J. Edgar Hoover type can drag up a law from the 1970s or early ’80s—laws clearly designed for people like Pablo Escobar, not peaceful Internet activists—and find a way to put you in a cage, so you no longer have a voice.
Examples: Barrett Brown, Jeremy Hammond, and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz.
The latter committed suicide by hanging himself, as he was facing decades behind bars if convicted for a “crime” that had no victim.
I don’t think this cheerful public tech personality just decided out of the blue to hang himself. It’s quite clear the legal harassment drove him to end his life—it first drained his finances, then his morale, and finally his confidence in the future.
Occupy and the Tea Party fell victim to a combination of government infiltration and good old fashioned mission creep: Occupy became too full of itself. The Tea Party became part Water World, part Koch Brothers shill factory, and part convenient way for old school GOPers to pretend to be something new and different.
Something else emerged parallel and yet separate from all of this: Bitcoin. Globally decentralized currency that’s fair because every line of its code is open source, able to be reviewed and built upon by anyone with the interest and the time.
The media keeps painting Bitcoin as precarious and unfair to distract us from the core fact we aren’t supposed to learn: cryptocurrency is one of the most radically fair things humans have ever created.
Comparing central bank issued government currency to a digital cryptocurrency running according to impartial algorithm is like comparing a witch doctor ceremony to a modern operating room. There is no comparison.
Make no mistake: the technology that runs Bitcoin is one giant “Fuck you” to the corrupt banking establishment that drove my generation into debt, foreclosed on our parents generation, and has the nerve to take money from the Fed practically for free and loan it out to us at a 20% mark-up … but only if you’re a good boy or girl with a perfect credit rating and assets.
Over the last few weeks, many have noticed what appears to be a shift in government policy toward Bitcoin. I think they are trying to crush it, by offering regulatory guidance that is so contradictory no honest business entity or individual user will be able to stay on the right side of the law. (More specifically, the Treasury Department’s FinCEN is treating Bitcoin as currency, complete with all the cumbersome KYC/AML requirements currency transmission requires … while the Treasury Department’s tax collectors at the IRS have ruled Bitcoin is property and not currency at all, meaning the accounting and recordkeeping for this electronic “non-currency” has now gone beyond the point of practicality).
This is unacceptable, and we need to speak up.
If the idea of cryptocurrency fails in the United States, because no one can afford to remain “in compliance,” two things will happen:
- A vast increase in radicalism. Occupy, Anonymous and the Tea Party will appear as little more than prologue for what may come if people in my age group are forced to only work with banks that—as dramatic as this sounds—have made us modern-day indentured servants with little to look forward to. We don’t want to work with them anymore. Cryptocurrency offers people a way out of the high unemployment rates, lifelong debts, weak access to credit lines. Allows us to transact with each other peer-to-peer without involving Chase or Wells Fargo or Bank of America or the shady credit reporting bureaus. If that escape valve is shut off, people with nothing but debt will find they have little to lose by protesting every second of every day until we see real change.
- Huge amounts of wealth will be generated abroad. Middle class Americans will watch with rising envy and anger as billions are made in Hong Kong and London—now favored to become the cryptocurrency centers of the world, as they have taken a decidedly less draconian and less two-faced approach to regulation. When Americans see the amount of prosperity and efficiency the government has arbitrarily prevented them from participating in, I believe that anger and desperation will lead to even more of #1: radicalism.
In a sense what the government is doing is like that Greek myth about the king who receives prophecy his son will grow up to kill him—so he exiles the son to a distant kingdom. In so doing, he seals his own fate: years later, the son kills his father in battle, because he doesn’t know what his father looks like.
We are trying very hard to make this work, to peacefully improve the state of the world through more fair technology and more distributed networks for transferring and recording financial value.
If that is taken away, I don’t think the average person will have anything left to lose.
When the IRS’ Lois Lerner pleaded the Fifth before the House oversight committee, that was a wake up call. It made my stomach turn. IRS officials shouldn’t be pleading the Fifth when asked if they are involved in political targeting and harassment of citizens: the answer should be a clear no.
When the Director of National Intelligence lied to the American people while testifying before Congress, that was another wake up call.
When Obama unveiled his much awaited NSA reforms earlier this week—and it only applied to landlines, not our cell phones, text messages, Facebook accounts or Twitter activity—another wake up call.
Who are these people? And what do they have to gain by turning the American people into an enemy? What do they have to gain by keeping us shut out of what could be an enormous new growth sector of the economy?
The government has already spent a ludicrous amount of time kneecapping Bitcoin, yet lets real financial hucksters like HSBC off the hook (whose executives knowingly laundered as much as $670 BILLION! 67 times Bitcoin’s entire market capitalization).
Again, I don’t understand.
Bitcoin and whatever currencies come after it cannot be stopped. The government’s complex approach only hurts American businesses and consumers, and will lead to less tax revenue for the government itself, because people are becoming afraid to use Bitcoin.
With such a hostile government stance toward innovation, it makes it very hard for the US to remain the birthplace of companies like HP, Microsoft, and Apple. Steve Jobs built computers in his garage—today that’s probably a crime. Unlicenced computer manufacturing, and let’s throw in a CFAA violation or two—how’s life in prison sound?
We’re becoming a ludicrous Ayn Randian short story filled with vindictive regulator fiefdoms and unelected IRS thugs and NSA agents who spy on their own fellow citizens using euphemisms like “two hop analysis” to describe what is, without question, a wholesale violation of millions of our private communications.
I hope we wake up in time. These are not American values. The government needs to provide decisive leadership on Bitcoin: it’s either a currency or a property. The community can find a way to comply with either of those categorizations—but can’t be treated as both, because that makes no sense.
And it’s hypocritical for President Obama to call for all students to learn computer code, when those who do so face prosecution under the anti-computer, archaic CFAA and see their digital currency businesses face destruction from agencies like the IRS.
Maybe Obama should be calling on every student to become an oil company lobbyist or NSA snoop, because those seem to be far more certain career paths in America at the moment.