European bureaucrats barely allowed the blood to dry on Paris’s cafe floors before calling a “crisis meeting” on November 19 to plot new ways of seizing power over the emerging digital economy. Their targets: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as well as gift cards loaded with cash. Basically, any method of spending or receiving money without the state’s knowledge and permission.
Now, mind you, no evidence has emerged linking any of these things to the Paris attacks. The attacks weren’t the REASON for this new initiative; they were a PRETEXT for it. Bitcoin in particular and cryptocurrencies in general keep the political class lying awake at night. Terrorism is just an easy hook to publicly hang their fear on without revealing that fear’s real roots. When there’s no convenient blood on the floor to point to, they purse their lips and lecture us on fraud, identity theft and other nastiness they pretend to protect us from.
Why do our masters really fear unregulated, unsupervised, unlicensed transaction systems? Because they fear anything they can’t control. And so they should.
A brief digression: Reuters, like many other mainstream media outlets, characterizes Bitcoin as “a vehicle for moving money around the world quickly and anonymously via the web without the need for third-party verification.” Two of the four elements in that description are just flat false. Bitcoin is not naturally anonymous, and each Bitcoin transaction is verified by multiple third parties and permanently recorded on a publicly readable ledger called the block chain. Bitcoin is less anonymous than, say, cash — which the political class also seems determined to eliminate in favor of debit cards issued by government-supervised banks.
That said, Bitcoin transactions can be anonymized with a little work, and there are other payment systems with more anonymity-friendly features.That’s a feature, not a bug. Terrorists will always find ways to keep what they’re doing hidden; they have good reason to work at it. For the rest of us, if it’s not easy we get lazy.
Why do the politicians and bureaucrats fear and loathe personal privacy (that’s all “anonymity” is) so much, especially where money is concerned? Put simply, consider the old anti-war saying: “What if the Air Force had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber?”
That’s what’s at stake: If the politicians and bureaucrats don’t know who has money or where that money is or how to get at it, they can’t steal it from us at will to buy things “for us” that we’d never buy ourselves if given the choice.
Yes, that really is all it’s about. That’s what keeps them up at night. Don’t let them scare you away from Bitcoin with their scary fairy terrorist tales.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.