Speech to the Bitcoin Conference, “Bitcoin and the Entrepreneur”

April 29th, 2014

I have selected as the title of my remarks today “Bitcoin and the Entrepreneur.” Some may suggest, knowing of my distaste for Crony Capitalists, that this would be more naturally worded “Bitcoin Versus the Entrepreneur.” But those are not my sentiments as I write this.

My purpose in this piece is not to deliver the usual assault on the so-called monolithic Big Brother state and its Crony Capitalist clients. On the contrary, in recent months I have rarely heard anything positive about any current administration anywhere in the press except from a few Mocking Bird Talking Heads. Nor is it my purpose here to discuss or defend the spread of different Alt Coins. I think it is highly beneficial to have some 20,000,000 Alt Coins and derivatives, side chains and other projects regularly transacting on the internet, if I may say so, the incisive, the intelligent and the courteous qualities displayed by developers is most refreshing and experiment is vital to the progress of Bitcoin.

Nor, finally, is this essay intended to leave un-examined the proper degree of privacy which the State should allow to any person on the internet.

My topic here is a sober one of concern to all users of Bitcoin as well as users of the internet in general.

I want to talk about our common responsibilities in the face of a common danger. The events of recent weeks may have helped to illuminate that challenge for some; but the dimensions of its threat have loomed large on the horizon for many years. Whatever our hopes may be for the future–for reducing this threat or living with it–there is no escaping either the gravity or the totality of its challenge to our survival and to our security–a challenge that confronts us in unaccustomed ways in every sphere of human activity.

This deadly challenge imposes upon our society two requirements of direct concern both to the Bitcoin user and to the public at large–two requirements that may seem almost contradictory in tone, but which must be reconciled and fulfilled if we are to meet this threat to freedom. I refer, first, to the need for a far less invasive State; and, second, to the need for far greater privacy in all spheres.

I

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. To be specific, to secret operations like PRISM, so bravely exposed by Edward Snowden. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of individuals the pertinent and intimate facts about them, far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify those intrusions. Even today, there is little value in supporting the benefits of an open society by accepting the State’s arbitrary mass surveillance. Furthermore, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of mass data collection and concealment of such collection. The president of the United States should not permit these intrusions to the extent that it is in his power to stop the abuses. And no official of his Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should use the pretext of keeping America safe as an excuse to spy on Americans, to torture, to rain death on people with drones, to cover up America’s mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

I ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the world to re-examine his own standards, and to recognize the nature of their country’s peril. In times of seismic technological change, the government and the press have customarily worked oppositionally in an effort based largely on self-interest, to prevent the State from transforming totally into the enemy. In times of unprecedented change the courts have held that even the privileged rights of the First Amendment must not yield to the State’s need for national security. This is why Bitcoin should not ever fall subject to legislation, in direct violation of theprotections it naturally has as a form of speech.

Today no war has been declared on Bitcoin–and however disruptive Bitcoin may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion as was the case with the ill fated “War on Drugs”. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy in the form of the New World Order are advancing around the globe. The survival of our Liberty is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired, save legislative and regulatory ones.

If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it decides to come to the defence of Bitcoin, then I can only say that no government ever posed a greater threat to our Liberty as does the present crop of nation states. If you are awaiting a finding of absolute proof of this then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent. A cursory look at the arbitrary arrests and raids on Bitcoin businesses, users and traders provides a stark picture, vivid and terrifying even for the most inured journalist.

What is required is a change in outlook, a change in tactics, a change in missions–by the Bitcoin entrepreneur, by the people, by every businessman or labor leader, and by every newspaper. For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence–on infiltration instead of invasion, on undemocratic regulation instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on judge made law by day and armed raids by night. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine of tyranny that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.

Its preparations are concealed, and until the revelations of Snowden, not published. Its mistakes are brushed aside as “learning experiences”, not headlined and always without consequences to the unlearned perpetrators. Its dissenters are exiled and mercilessly threatened, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumour is printed, no secret is revealed. The State conducts itself as if the Cold War had not ended, in the new clothes of the “War on Terror”, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match, or indeed tolerate.

Nevertheless, every democracy now recognizes the necessary de-funding of the police state apparatus commonly misconstrued as national security–and the question remains whether that de-funding and ultimate restraint needs to be done quickly or if we are to promote this liberty restoration projectas a long term one in the form of death by a thousand cuts.

For the facts of the matter are that all nation’s foes have openly boasted of acquiring through central banking, control of the money supply that they would otherwise hire agents to acquire through theft, bribery or violence; that details of the Federal Reserve’s money printing to defraud the world’s financial operations have been available to every newspaper reader, friend and foe alike; that the size, the strength, the spread and the nature of our money and principle weapon of inflation, and our plans and strategy for the money’s use, have all been pinpointed in the Libertarian press and other news media to a degree sufficient to satisfy any curious reader; and that, in at least in one case, Ron Paul, the publication of details concerning the secret mechanism whereby money is created and its alteration from a sound gold standard is now a matter of acknowledged fact, even by the Bank of England.

The newspapers which refuse to print the truth about this are disloyal, unpatriotic, irresponsible and bear ill will to their readers. Had we been engaged in open warfare, they undoubtedly would not have published such items. But in the absence of open warfare, they recognized only the needs of page views and advertisers and not the standards of journalism. And my question here is whether additional reliance on theso called “Mainstream Media” should not now be abandoned.

The question is for you alone to answer. No public official should answer it for you. No governmental plan should impose its restraints against your will. But I would be failing in my duty to you, in considering all of the responsibilities that we now bear and all of the means at hand to meet those responsibilities in the form of new software like Bitcoin, if I did not commend this problem to your attention, and urge its thoughtful consideration and ultimate resolution.

On many earlier occasions on this Blog, I have said–and your gut has no doubt constantly said–that these are times that appeal to every citizen’s sense of impending change to liberty and freedom. It calls out to every citizen to weigh his rights and comforts against the vile tyranny leering at him through CCTV in direct opposition to those rights and the common good. I cannot now believe that those citizens who work in the software business consider themselves exempt from that appeal.

There should be no calls for or desire to establish a new Office of Bitcoin, or to enact Bitcoin regulation, or BitLicenses, guidelines or legislation to govern the flow of Digital Currency. I am not suggesting any new forms of thinking or any new types of security classifications. I have no easy answer to the dilemma of how society will reorganize itself without a State, and would not seek to impose it if I had one. But I am asking the members of the software profession and the Bitcoin industry in whatever country they are to re-examine their own responsibilities, to consider the degree and the nature of the present danger, and to heed the duty of self-restraint which that danger imposes upon us all.

Every entrepreneur now asks himself, with respect to every Bitcoin story: “Is regulation really needed?” All I suggest is that you add the question: “Is regulation in the interest of the consumer?” And I hope that every group in the world and the institutions that make it up–unions and businessmen and public officials at every level– will ask the same question of their endeavours, and subject their actions to the same exacting tests and ethics, coming naturally to the conclusion that the controls of the State are not needed.

And should the entrepreneurs of America consider and recommend the voluntary assumption of specific regulations or guidance, I can assure you that we will cooperate whole-heartedly with those recommendations if they are in fact purely voluntary and in our interest.

Perhaps there will be no recommendations. Perhaps there is no answer to the dilemma faced by free and open software in a free and open society in a global and all pervasive internet. In times of technological disruption, any discussion of this subject, and any action that results, are both painful and without precedent. But this is a time of disruption and peril which knows no precedent in history. This is what we are facing with Bitcoin.

II

It is the unprecedented nature of the Bitcoin Blockchain and sovereignty and their challenges that also gives rise to your second obligation–an obligation which I share. And that is our obligation to correctly inform, protect and alert the users of Bitcoin–to make certain that they possess all the facts that they need, and understand them as well–the perils, the prospects, the purposes of Bitcoin and the choices that we face.

No entrepreneur should live in fear of a crack down by the violent State or scrutiny of his programs. For from that scrutiny comes from mis-understanding; and from that mis-understanding comes support or opposition. And neither of these are necessary. I am not asking newspapers to support Bitcoin, but I am asking for your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of citizens whenever they are fully informed.

I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers–I welcome it. All Bitcoin entrepreneurs intend to be candid about their errors; for as a wise man once said: “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.

Without Liberty, no business man and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why the American press was protected by the First Amendment– the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution (except Copyright, which was the Founding Father’s greatest and most damaging error)- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. Bitcoin, being first amendment protected speech, can also annoy, mold, lead, indicate by its flows, crises, and ultimately, give the public what it wants. This is is at the very core of the Bitcoin revolution. It belongs to everyone and no one, and all men have an absolute right to it, as they do to speech itself.

Bitcoin has greater coverage and absolute penetration of international borders–for money recipients and transmitters are no longer far away and foreign but always close at hand and local on the internet. It means greater and improved flows of money as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to refrain from violence against you with the fullest possible humility since it can no longer steal your money to hurt you, even under the absurd pretext of national security–and we intend to make this happen.

III

It was early in the Seventeenth Century that Francis Bacon remarked on three recent inventions already transforming the world: the compass, gunpowder and the printing press. Now the links between the nations first forged by the compass and made real and onerous by the Federal Reserve have made us all part of a connected world, the hopes and threats of one becoming the hopes and threats of us all. In that one world’s efforts to live together, the evolution of gunpowder to its ultimate limit has warned mankind of the terrible consequences of failure. Bitcoin changes this dynamic utterly. No longer will gunpowder or the printing press work together to enslave mankind, for the printing press, used to defraud and finance the waging of war on men is now rendered useless as a new and wondrous incorruptible money comes into being.

And so it is to the internet and the personal computer–to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news, the sender of his love letters and the mover and protector of his wealth–that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with or without your help, man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.

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