Rizwan Virk

@rizstanford

A Cryptocurrency Freedom Manifesto — Is it Too Late for Bitcoin?

A lot has happened since Satoshi Nakamoto introduced Bitcoin in a white paper in 2008 following the financial crisis. Part of his motivation at the time was to have an electronic based currency that no one government or central bank or institution had control over.

Since then, through numerous busts and boom cycles, even leading to the major run up in prices and ICOs in 2017 to the crash of 2018, the crypto world has lost some of that idealism, and the governments have significantly started to encroach on this idealized vision.

It’s not the fault of the pioneers or the technologists, but at first the venture capitalists and then later the wall street types converging on blockchain and the tokens. As the amount of money poured into, made, and lost in this space has gotten larger, governments around the world have started to introduce legislation that has made it harder and harder for cryptocurrency to fulfill its original mission.

One of the pillars of that original mission was to provide freedom of movement of money around the world, regardless of what any single organization or agency or government might think, regardless of the creed, religion or political views of those who owned the cryptocurrency.

It started with banks who refused to give accounts to startups that dealt with cryptocurrencies (though there are now some that have embraced the new digital currency). It spread via anti-terrorism and money transmitter laws, which were in place prior to 2008, but whose requirements around KYC and AML made it very difficult to transact fait to crypto exchanges. It progressed with various governments tried banning crypto to fiat exchange transfers (China seems to have tried this multiple times, Russia has flip-flopped on this). More recently, by declaring new tokens (most of which were ERC20 tokens built on Ethereum) as securities, the SEC in the US and other government agencies have moved in and added a whole new threat: if you are trading marketable securities you are suddenly under the thumb of securities laws from the 1930's! Not only did crypto not exist then, but niether did personal computers!

The promise of cryptocurrency is that no individual, no government agency, no financial institution, no inter-government agency, not the UN, not the World Bank, should be able to prevent the flow of funds for any reason whatsoever!

Your crypto is yours and her crypto is hers and you can transact, even if one of you is a member of the Rebel Alliance and the other is a stormtrooper in the Empire! Even if you are a resident of Gallifrey and the other is a member of the Dalek empire!

But, I hear *gasps*.

  • *gasp* that means that crypto could be used by terrorists and criminals!
  • *gasp* I hear some others say, that would allow “rogue” states to transact business without being subject to crippling sanctions.
  • *gasp* say others it might mean citizens of rogue states or revolutionary groups to easily transfer money in and out of their country!

I’ll remark on these scenarios in the commentary after the manifesto.

Mel Gibson as William Wallace in BraveHeart: Will They Take Our Freedom???

In a twist on a familiar adage about power, Frank Herbert once wrote that absolute power tends to attract the absolutely corruptible. By giving any government, including ours, the absolute power to stop any financial transaction by any other country or group or organization or individual, we are acquiescing to a type of tyranny: Financial tyranny. It might not bite us today (I say “we” because being in the US we are more likely to impose that tyranny on others). But, someday, when “we” are not in control of the world financial system, not having this kind of agreement could come back to bite us. If history has taught us one thing it’s this: Things change.

Voltaire once said “ I don’t agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” (this is actually a misquote; it was actually Evelyn Beatrice Hall commenting on Voltaire’s beliefs who said this, but let’s go with Voltaire).

As a paraphrase to Voltaire, what’s needed in the cryptocurrency world to fulfill the promise of bitcoin is a statement to the effect of: I don’t agree with how you spend your money, but I will defend to the death your ability to move money to whomever you want and however you want.

So, though the cryptocurrency genie is out of the bottle, so is the cryptocurrency regulation genie. Many nations, including the USA, PRC, the nations of the European Union, Russia, and others have already started to introduce restrictions on who can have a crypto account at exchanges, who can buy and who can sell cryptocurrency, and other countries are trying to impose restrictions.

Which of these two genies will win?

Will Bitcoin and cryptocurrency be regulated or will it be given a special status?

With that in mind, here is a draft of the cryptocurrency freedom manifesto:

The Cryptocurrency freedom manifesto:

(v1.0: December 31, 2018):

definitions:

Government Organization: a state or municipality government, or government agency, or cross-governmental agency (such as the UN),

Private Entity: a corporation, limited liability company, non-profit, trust or other entity

Quasi Public Entity: quasi public entities like the Federal Reserve and Central Banks.

Person: Any person that is recognized as a human being on Earth(can be expanded to include artificial intelligence or other planets in the future).

  1. No Bank or financial institution shall deny an account or close an account for a Person, Private Entity or Public Entity simply because of their possession of, sale of, or transactions based on cryptocurrency.
  2. No Government Organization or Quasi Public Entity or Private Entity shall interfere or restrict the ability of a person or Public Entity or Private Entity to anonymously conduct cryptocurrency transfers from one wallet to another.
  3. No Government Organization or Private Entity or Quasi Public Entity shall restrict the ability of a Person or Private Entity or other Public Entity to exchange fiat currency for cryptocurrency or vice versa (i.e. buying or selling crypto via fiat).
  4. No Government Organization or Quasi Public Entity shall, or cross-governmental impose taxation on any individual or private entity conducting crypto to crypto transactions.
  5. No Government Organization shall threaten to or actually imprison or fine a Person solely on the basis of buying, possessing, selling, trading, or transferring cryptocurrency (including tokens).
  6. No Government Organization, Private Entity or Quasi Public Entity shall restrict the right of any Person or Private Entity or Government Organization citizen to purchase or sell cryptocurrency for fiat by requiring registration of any kind; this includes the need to present identification or proof of citizenship or other registration in order to conduct fiat to crypto transactions.

Quick Commentary:

This should cover most scenarios — including the ability to get around any sanctions any sanctimonious overzealous nation might try to impose on other nations! But feel free to reach out if there are situations not covered which should be (we can increment the version number).

There’s an old saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. After September 11, 2001, this phrase started to become not just unpopular but downright unpatroitic in the US! But we seem to have forgotten our history: What if the British had been able to cut off all financial transactions that George Washington and the colonists could make because they were “terrorists”? What if the Nazi’s could cut off all Jewish or French freedom fighter transactions? What if the US could cut off all Islamic aid organizations simply by labeling them “terrorists”? What if Russia, China, India and Brazil could impose sanctions and cut off the ability of US companies to transact business around the world? What if the Islamic countries decide alcohol (or interest) is illegal and all countries that sell or consume alcohol should be cut off from the ability to conduct financial transactions? What if the UN were to vote that any nation that started a war that killed more than 250,000 civilians was a rogue nation and should be subject to financial sanctions (hint: it’s not North Korea or Iran that would be the rogue nations in this scenario)? Should it be allowed? What if you are accused of being a (communist, terrorist, you name it) and can no longer get access to funds that are yours?

Now, notice that even with this manifesto, governments are free to describe what is or is not a crime within their jurisdiction. So, if you use cryptocurrency for a nefarious purpose in a nation that doesn’t allow it (and keep in mind that other nations may allow the same behavior by defining that action as not a crime) — you are still on the hook for the crime in that jurisdiction, but simply using crypto cannot be the crime in and of itself!

This would allow crypto to be a backdoor in the case of financial tyranny of any kind in almost any situation — including if, and its possible this might happen, the current masters of the world financial system may no longer control things.

To be realistic, It’s unlikely that this will ever get adopted by any government in the world (nor of any financial institution that comes from any of those countries) since it would threaten their absolute power to do as they like over their citizens, and more importantly, the citizens or finances of other countries. Therefore, this is a thought exercise more than a real manifesto in the current world order.

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