Matsakis interviewed David Golumbia, an assistant professor in the Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, who denounced Bitcoin and crypto as ideological tools of the extreme right-wing in the 2016 book “The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism.”
In October 2016 I wrote a very critical review of Golumbia’s book, titled “Review: ‘The Politics of Bitcoin’ Offers a Flawed and Misleading Partisan View,” published in Bitcoin Magazine. So, I was also interviewed by Matsakis to provide counterpoints.
I won’t repeat here my considerations in my October review (just read it), but add some points.
“Right-wing” and “Left-wing” are, in my opinion, obsolete political categories that can only obfuscate contemporary political discourse. For example, it’s often said that right-wingers are conservatives. But the Alt-Right doesn’t seem that conservative to me. Perhaps you hate Big T, but please don’t tell me that a sledgehammer is something that conserves. More like smashes down.
Another example: It’s often said that right-wingers are homophobic. But then what do you make of maverick billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who said “I’m proud to be gay” while speaking in support of Big T at last year’s Republican National Convention? What do you make of controversial media phenomenon Milo Yiannopoulos, a very outspoken gay who tours US campuses with a show titled “Dangerous Faggot Tour” (amidst violent “liberal” protests)? Homophobic? HOMOPHOBIC? Really now.
This is not a defense of the Right, old or Alt, but just an exhortation to use language properly. Feel free to promote your political position as forcefully as you want, but if you tell me that black is white, I call BS.
If Golumbia tells me that real freedom comes from oppressive 24/7 state control, I call BS.
Golumbia makes a lot of valid points in both the book and the podcast, but astutely mixes them with political propaganda. It’s true that there are lots of dangerous scams in the Bitcoin world, and the volatility of the cryptocurrency itself is a danger for unprepared investors, but centralizing everything under the “benevolent” control a bureaucratic nanny-state is not a good solution. You know, it isn’t like bureaucrats and nannies are always honest and always have your interest in mind.
Golumbia criticizes Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin for being among the Thiel Fellowship alumni. But what’s wrong with that? Buterin made the free choice to accept money freely offered by a wealthy philanthropist and drop out of the official education system, which both Buterin and Thiel consider as flawed. As a result, Buterin is now a wealthy young man and a fast-rising star in the tech world, which doesn’t seem failure to me. More like spectacular success.
Golumbia criticizes the Ethereum community for wanting to replace proven centralized governance with yet unproven decentralized crypto-governance. What Golumbia doesn’t want to see is that decentralized crypto-governance projects in Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) and Corporations (DACs), though unproven at this moment, could soon develop viable and more democratic alternatives to centralized governance, which could be positively deployed in society at large. Looking at the world around me, I suspect we do need alternatives, and soon.
It’s often said that left-wingers love Big Government and hate Big Business, while right-wingers love Big Business and hate Big Government. But what if one (like me) dislikes both Big Government and Big Business? What if one wants to see alternatives to both? What if one just wants everyone to be F R E E ?
I am persuaded that crypto-tech inspired by Bitcoin and BitTorrent can re-decentralize the web, which has been stolen and centralized by Big Government and Big Business. Some promising examples are under development. I am also persuaded that the technologies and procedures that are being experimentally prototyped in today’s DAOs, DACs and token-based cooperative initiatives could usher in a new age of Decentralized Autonomous Work 2.0 where everyone will have the option to be a free agent instead of a wage slave and a drone controlled by Big Brother.
David, please tell me what the foo is wrong with that.
I am persuaded that the real political conflict of our times is not between the Right and the Left, or between liberals and conservatives, but between live-and-let-live libertarians on the one side, control freaks and thought cops on the other. Regardless of the flaws that current crypto-systems might have, Bitcoin and crypto are firmly in the libertarian camp, and the current efforts to develop next-gen crypto are important political acts.
Picture from Pixabay.