Enslaving us with debt and inflation, the fiat system replaces sincerely-held beliefs. But Bitcoin gives us the chance to be human again.
This is an opinion editorial by Jimmy Song, a Bitcoin developer, educator and entrepreneur and programmer with over 20 years of experience.
We need beliefs. Belief is something that we live for, something that informs our morals, something that defines our metaphysical existence. We need belief because we need purpose. Belief is a necessary part of a fulfilling life and, traditionally, people valued their beliefs more than anything else. Sadly, fiat money debases our beliefs the same way Nickleback debases music and Joel Osteen debases Christianity.
The end result of fiat money is that those who win don’t believe in anything, at least in any traditional sense. And if you don’t believe in anything, you are a nihilist. You’re probably nodding along because the people in power seem very much like the inner party leaders in George Orwell’s “1984.” They change their beliefs to whatever the authorities tell them and do it on command. Heck, we saw that in real time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s the topic of this essay: What happened? And how is it that so many people are so willing to change their beliefs so quickly under government command? How did so many people, especially members of the media, academics and bureaucrats of all types, become sycophantic yes-men to what the government told us to believe?
Fiat money makes us obsessed with money. It does this by causing us to pay way too much attention to it.
Because fiat money is continually being debased, people with any wealth at all are forced to invest their money to keep up with that debasement. The more wealth you have, the more obsessed you have to be. The moderately wealthy research stocks and real estate. The truly rich have to research venture funds, private equity and special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). Speak with any rich person and they’re most likely to talk about the deals they’re involved in because this is pretty much the only thing that they truly believe in. The only way to stay rich in a fiat economy is to really be obsessed with money and get involved in Cantillon games, leaving very little room for genuine beliefs. Fiat money rewards cowards who conform to those who align with it and those are the people who get really rich. Ideological diversity is about as welcome in those places as Barry Silbert at the Gemini offices.
On the other end of the scale, those with no savings are bombarded by offers of debt. Loans and credit are readily available, so those without savings have the option to bring consumption forward. When combined with advertising, propaganda and a lack of savings vehicles, consumption becomes conspicuous. Unfortunately, that enslaves people for many years, possibly their whole lives, as the debt can be rolled over and consumption generally only goes up. Principles and beliefs and well-nigh everything gets sacrificed to serve the debt. Like an overweight person always waiting until tomorrow to start their diet, the cycle of debt puts genuine belief on hold.
Either way, under a fiat system, the only belief most people end up serving is that of the primacy of money. Sadly, money is a terrible and all-consuming god that requires the sacrifice of everything that makes life meaningful.
Anything For Money
The primacy of money has meant that other beliefs are put on the back burner, made to be less important and generally debased. In biblical times, tax collectors and prostitutes often made way more money than other people in the economy. Yet they were considered lower than scum. Why? Because they violated something that was more sacred than money: community morals and community belief. To violate those was to violate who you were.
This isn’t an isolated occurrence. In most times and places, it was considered completely dishonorable to make money at the cost of the community. If you made money through grifting, you might have money, but your reputation would be in tatters and many people would not trade with you. It was considered completely unacceptable to take other peoples’ property through deception, or by hurting the community in some way. Nowadays, that’s just called marketing. So what changed?
Debasement Of Politics
Fiat money debases communities because it makes communities completely reliant on its central control and, thus, its benevolence. Even the most tyrannical monarch of the past couldn’t control the money to the extent that central banks can today. Central banking was the fifth plank of the “Communist Manifesto” for a reason. Karl Marx recognized money’s integral function in any community and wanted to control it. It’s not a coincidence that the most debased communities, the ones whose very cultures were completely supplanted, were the totalitarian ones in the 20th century. We are all zombies to the necromancing of the central bank.
People used to believe in things and were willing to fight for them, especially against oppression. This was what led to the spirit of 1776. Belief was what held that community together.
Yet, looking at the state of politics today, it’s pretty clear that most fights are fights over money and power, not over belief. Fiat money is so powerful that it’s become the only thing to fight for. Belief has taken a back seat to the power to print money. Naturally, this means that beliefs are malleable and you get more psychopathic behavior from leaders.
Why is what we’re supposed to believe continuously changing? How is it that transgender bathrooms became such an issue so fast? Or Ukraine? Or terrorism? The beliefs that they tell us to believe are more inconsistent than CSW’s statements to courts of law. The short answer is that they do this because they can.
Debasement Of Work
As mentioned above, work used to have some bounds, but now, more than ever, rent seeking is accepted, even celebrated as noble employment. Thus, the psychopathic investment banking character that will do anything for money is something people strive to be. The moral nihilism of the character is something that they don’t worry about.
Of course, it’s not just investment banking, but many other professions. The goal is always to climb up the ladder of power at any cost. Status is no longer awarded on the basis of character, it’s rewarded on the basis of money and power. Fiat money has made work a place where beliefs go to die. The goal of getting more money has become all consuming and put beliefs completely on the back burner.
One of the things I’ve noticed about the Bitcoin community is just how vicious it can be toward people who would otherwise be welcomed with open arms in any other community. Venture capitalists like Raoul Pal and Mark Cuban would be deferred to and respected for their influence and money anywhere else. Yet in Bitcoin, we pay them no mind and have zero problems questioning their understanding or even making fun of their stupidity. There’s no buying your way to influence in Bitcoin. There’s no jumping in front of the parade because you have name recognition.
Bitcoin is decentralized and that’s how we like it, thank you. Anyone trying to speak for Bitcoin and trying to change it will be rightly derided as being a detriment to the community. If you try to co-opt this community for your own ends, you will be shunned like the ideological leech you are.
Altcoiners call this “toxic Bitcoin maximalism,” but this protection of the community is a good thing. Toxic maximalism is not just an immune system keeping the beliefs pure. It’s a rejection of the fiat model of doing things. Fiat institutions trade on status, influence and money and their beliefs can be changed for a price. Bitcoiners are principled and no one gets to tell us how it is. That’s the main feature of decentralization. The node I run is mine and you can’t change it. There’s no single point of failure to go bribe.
Contrast this with what Greenpeace USA started doing once Ripple’s executive chair gave it $5 million. It started FUDing Bitcoin because its beliefs are for sale. It is a fiat institution that can be bought. Cantillionaires can’t understand Bitcoiners because they’re used to being able to buy their way into everything with their printed dollars. Fiat slaves can’t understand Bitcoiners because they’re used to changing their beliefs when their fiat jobs depend on changing them. Bitcoiners are misunderstood because we have beliefs that are not for sale. We are not debased.
Altcoins Debase Belief
Altcoining, though, debases your beliefs pretty quickly. One need not look much further than Erik Voorhees, Trace Mayer and Udi Wertheimer to see that. The minute you sell out your belief and embrace altcoins, you are forced into a lot of mental gymnastics to justify your salary. You have to take untenable positions and end up supporting stupider and stupider projects to ensure some allies.
Thankfully, when these projects blow up, their reputations blow up along with them. Altcoins operate on the same fiat system of bribery using printed money, but with a lot more volatility and without the monopoly on violence. Hence, it’s very easy to get altcoiners to embrace any belief. This is why their pitches can be so stupid and still find an audience. You can buy your way to influence. But of course, this is unsustainable without violence. So in a sense, their crashes are as inevitable as Sam Bankman-Fried making a stupid public statement.
By contrast, what is endlessly frustrating for VCs, altcoin founders and Bitcoin affinity scammers is that it’s impossible to debase Bitcoiners‘ decentralized beliefs. This is in stark contrast to the fiat world. Just pay some money for influence and you’re good. You can’t do that in Bitcoin. No amount of money is going to get the toxic maxis to like you. There’s no jumping in front of this parade. Bitcoiners have no hesitation rejecting you and there’s no central committee to bribe. The rules are different here because Bitcoin is genuinely decentralized.
Bitcoin And First Principles
Bitcoiners have enriched their beliefs. We’ve learned to think for ourselves through analysis via first principles. Instead of swallowing what someone is selling us, we have learned to analyze things and come to our own conclusions. This is why you see so many Bitcoiners give carnivory or fasting or Christianity a chance. These are not popular now in the mainstream, but they’ve historically been popular for a reason. The fact that Big Ag has debased food or that Big Food has made fasting look ridiculous or that Marxism of many kinds has instilled atheism is not lost on Bitcoiners. They look at these things with fresh eyes because the blindfold of fiat money has been taken off.
In other words, our beliefs which once were debased, have arisen anew through first-principles analyses. Beliefs have become more real and personal through soul searching and logical analysis. This is in contrast to beliefs under the fiat system which are fake and wispy because they’re absorbed through propaganda. Talk to any Bitcoiner and you’ll likely see that they have many more strong opinions than your typical fiat slave does. That’s not a coincidence. Under a fiat system you say whatever to get along and get ahead. Under Bitcoin, you say what you believe.
Rent Seekers Don’t Believe Anything
Belief in a fiat system is a means, not an end. Most people have malleable belief systems so they can get ahead in their careers. This is especially so in the institutions infected most by fiat: academia, media, government, Hollywood and venture capital. The most successful in these institutions are the ones who believe whatever is most convenient to get ahead. As that is often the price of admission, their beliefs are lightly held, not analyzed for inconsistencies and really swallowed without much thought.
These are also very political institutions and the ability to gauge the temperature of your colleagues and bosses and adjust your beliefs is the key to success in those places. These are debased people, nihilistic at the core and only believing in power. To me, these are not really people at all. And it’s not a coincidence that the morals of the people in these places are often completely corrupt. Lest you doubt me, I’ll remind you that Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.
Belief Is Needed To Be Human
Belief is a necessary part of being human. Sadly, fiat money debases our beliefs and as we are more integrated into fiat money, the more nihilistic we become. The more nihilistic we become, the less human we are.
Bitcoin brings us back to having beliefs again because money is no longer our master, but our servant. The money works for us now by being a savings technology. It’s no longer our master who enslaves us through debt or forced investment.
Belief is a prerequisite to everything that is meaningful in life. Morals and purpose. It’s sad to see that these critical things are destroyed by fiat money. Thank God for Bitcoin. And that’s where your journey as a liberated human being can begin anew.
Now, go forth and learn.
This is a guest post by Jimmy Song. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.