I was wrong
This is one of those world events that you can imagine a documentary of the future opening with: “It all started when…”.
By Capital Thinking • Issue #1046 • View online
To say I’ve been skeptical about Bitcoin and the rest of the crypto universe would be an understatement of epic proportions.
I was wrong, we need crypto
Since the early 2010s, some of my most ferocious Twitter battles have been against the HODL army with the laser eyes.
There’s just so much to oppose: Bitcoin’s grotesque energy consumption, the ridiculous transaction fees and low throughput, the incessant pump'n'dump schemes in shitcoins, the wild price swings in the main coins, the obvious fraud that is Tether, the lack of real decentralization in most of the current web3 infrastructure, and on, and on, and on.
Beyond all these very real problems and challenges, my bigger beef was actually fueled by a lack of imagination.
I could see the fundamental promise of a digital currency free of banks if you were living in a failing state like Venezuela or an overtly authoritarian one like China or Iran, but how was this relevant to the vast number of Bitcoin boosters living in stable Western democracies governed by the rule of law? Beyond the patina of philosophical respectability it could apply to yet another get-rich-quick scheme?
Now what’s that saying again. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you. It’s starting to smell like that.
Just because Bitcoin’s most virtuous argument was presented – in if not bad-faith then in fig-leaf-faith – by get-rich-quick boosters, doesn’t mean it isn’t true!
Enter the trucker protests in Canada. In just three weeks of honking, blocked streets and bridges, bouncy castles and flag waving, this peaceful protest movement managed to provoke the most shockingly authoritarian response from the Canadian government.
First the Ottawa police department got GoFundMe to confiscate donations with the intention of redirecting them to other causes, then after an outcry, they backed down to merely blocking the money for 7-10 days before refunding.
That seemed like a draconian escalation completely at odds with the tens of millions of dollars raised for social justice causes during the protest summer of 2020.
But at the time, I thought it was something another fund-raising platform – one less likely to collaborate with the Canadian authorities – could route around. And GiveSendGo indeed started doing just that.
Turns out the concern over the donations was quickly rendered insignificant, as just a few days later, the Canadian prime minister imposed martial law on the protestors.
Through powers intended for catastrophic events, he took to freeze the bank accounts of both Canadian protestors and donors, to compulsorily demand that tow-truck operators clear the streets, and forced insurance companies to drop policies for the protestors.
Together with police storming the protests with pepper spray and stun grenades, the area in front of parliament was cleared. But even that wasn’t enough.
Even with the protests cleared out, the police vowed to press their new financial powers against anyone involved for months to come.
So Canadians who donated to the truckers should now sleep with one eye open for the next several months, lest they have their bank accounts frozen, and indictments filed on the basis of laws enacted to prevent financing of terrorism?
Or maybe their bank will simply preemptively cancel their accounts if they appeared on the hacked list of donators from GiveSendGo?
This is crazy. Absolutely bonkers. Terrifying.
I still can’t believe that this is the protest that would prove every Bitcoin crank a prophet. And for me to have to slice a piece of humble pie, and admit that I was wrong on crypto’s fundamental necessity in Western democracies.
And that it was the Canadians who brought this on?
You might as well have told me that it was really the Care Bears who ran Abu Ghraib.
Especially since I had some sympathy with fears projected by the US progressive left who spent four years fretting Trump might pull stunts like these. Then it turns out that the worries of an authoritarian overreach would be fulfilled by Trudeau to the North instead? Who’s writing this script? M. Night Shyamalan?
Meanwhile, plenty of American commentators are cheering this on. Those terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad truckers got what they deserved!
To protest for a repeal of pandemic restrictions, so as to live the life enjoyed in Denmark by a population less vaccinated than the Canadians? That’s clearly beyond the pale!
But in a weird way, I’m glad we all got this warning from Trudeau in Canada and not Trump in America.
It would have been far too easy for Europeans in particular to dismiss authoritarian assertions of martial law from Trump as being irrelevant to the European experience. Just like I had for so long deemed the practical desire of people in Venezuela or Iran or China for crypto irrelevant to the entire Western experience.
Is France really that different from Canada? Is Austria? Is Denmark?
This is a real wakeup call.
A healthy democracy on the other hand would have engaged. Met with the protestors rather than demonized them.
Offered concessions were reasonable to show reasonableness. Included their voice in the conversation. That could have disarmed the brunt of the energy or at least diminished it.
Instead the response appears designed to radicalize further. To alienate. To ostracize. And to persecute.
It’s a response of vindictiveness, and guilt by association. It’s also the potential start of the kind of cycle that leads to nowhere good.
The logic of “beatings will continue until morale improves”.
And it’s all rooted in this word: Violence. It’s definition. It’s now tortured definition. It’s all encompassing reach.
Violence is violence. Everything else is people shouting.