Obi Nwosu is the CEO and co-founder of Coinfloor, the UK’s longest-running Bitcoin exchange. He has over 20 years’ experience building online marketplaces and bringing virtual currencies to tens of millions of people. Obi writes The Road to Bitcoin Hegemony, a weekly recap of some of the most impactful developments in Bitcoin.
In a month where so much has happened in Bitcoin (and the world) I’ve been thinking a lot about revolutions, past and present, to see what lessons we could learn and how they can help guide us as we journey along the Road to Bitcoin Hegemony.
The Revolution Will Be Decentralized
Since 1906, San Francisans have been living in dread of the Big One: the earthquake that doesn’t just kill dozens, but razes the entire city.
We’re waiting too. Not for an earthquake, but for a revolution that’s been brewing for decades. I’m not talking about skirmishes between the Far Right and Antifa, or the all-consuming obsession with identity politics. I mean real revolution: the blood and bullets kind; the one where people rise up and overthrow the governments that ignored them while they fell ever further behind.
Remember when politics was the art of the possible? Me neither. Since any of us can remember, politics has become about preventing this revolution using the age-old tactic of divide et impera. And it’s worked, with public opinion drifting in just a few years from the centre to the extremities:
This polarization around issues like culture and identity (and, more recently, the response to Covid) distracts us from far more important subjects, such as the fact that our society is close to collapsing under the weight of its own economic contradictions.
With record levels of peacetime debt, a splurge of inflationary money printing, and gross inequality, there are more than enough legitimate grievances for a revolution. So our oligarchs seize on any issues that keep us common folk divided, perpetuating increasingly anachronistic dichotomies of left versus right, blue versus red, and us versus them to prevent the hoi polloi from organizing and enacting a reordering of society on the scale of 1789 or 1848.
But this polarization only stores up the resentment that leads to revolution. As one great American said about his country as it stood on the precipice of civil war, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
But before you reach for your rifle, remember that not every revolution is a shooting war. In fact, the most successful ones are (almost) entirely peaceful. Look at Europe in the second half of the last century. In ‘56, the tanks rolled in and crushed the Hungarian uprising; in ‘68, the Soviets nipped the Prague Spring in the bud. But in ‘89, peaceful revolutions occurred all over the Communist Bloc, and the soldiers stood by and let it happen. Why?
Because in ‘89, people had a weapon they were previously denied: freedom. Gorbachev’s glasnost policy had opened up society just enough so that people could gather, talk, and share ideas. And, since they were no longer breaking the rules, people could present their petitions for change, and the soldiers couldn’t shoot.
Our society is faced with a very different kind of oppression from ‘89. Where Eastern Europeans sought the freedom to think, speak, write, and vote, we simply want to be in control of our financial future: the chance to create a nest egg, or merely to keep our head above water in an economic system that seems designed to crush our dreams.
Bitcoiners are modern day revolutionaries. We have not been granted a weapon of revolution, as Gorbachev did to the Poles, Hungarians, and Czechs; we created it for ourselves. And in doing so, we have the chance to forestall the more violent (and oft unsuccessful) kind of revolution — you know, the ones where people die — the Bitcoin Revolution requires neither guns or bombs – just a wallet.
We face a choice between 1789 and 1989: either a violent, seismic outpouring of pent-up resentment that will destroy our society, or a peaceful, technologically-led revolution. The great thing about the Bitcoin Revolution is that we don’t have to fight the oligarchs: we can simply turn our backs on them and their utterly discredited system. And in protecting ourselves from the coming earthquake, we can reorder the financial world for the better.
U-Turn if You Want to…
If talkin’ bout a revolution has put you in a spin, let’s treat ourselves to a well-earned I-told-you-so.
More experienced bitcoiners may remember that in 2017, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, dismissed Bitcoin as a fraud, telling an investor conference “this won’t end well.”
The cracks began to show almost immediately. It wasn’t long before Dimon started backpedalling on his comments, saying he believed in the underlying value of the blockchain. Then in May this year, JPMorgan announced that it was indeed dipping its toe into crypto by offering accounts to two Bitcoin exchanges.
Last week, JPMorgan completed its U-turn with the release of a report hyping Bitcoin’s “considerable upside” in the long-term and admitting that it is outperforming gold as an alternative currency.
Jamie Dimon is still head of JPMorgan, and it would be astounding if he had not signed off this report. So, props to him: like any good economist, when his information changed, he changed his mind.
Of course, Bitcoin was designed to never change its direction, but eventually all its detractors will. As one might say: “U-turn if you want to. The Bitcoin’s not for turning.”
So let’s welcome this spectacular volte face and recognize it is a small but significant revolution in itself: another step on the road to Bitcoin hegemony.