Bitcoin and the disruption of monetary oppression

Jimmy Song on why Bitcoin is a profound invention and the impact it's having on society and human rights.

By Jenn Webb
November 8, 2019
Foo Camp 19 interview

In this interview from O’Reilly Foo Camp 2019, Programming Bitcoin author Jimmy Song talks about why Bitcoin is a profound invention, the impact it’s already having on society, and its path to monetary relevance.

Highlights from the interview include:

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In the physical world, we have centralized and decentralized scarcity—think numbered prints from artists (centralized) versus gold or salt or glass beads (decentralized). Until Bitcoin, Song argues, there was no decentralized scarcity in the digital realm. “Decentralized digital scarcity is a profound invention,” Song explains “because it lets you transfer value without an intermediary. There is no permission involved, there’s no censorability, and that makes it an excellent, excellent [form of] money.” (1:03)

One of the tangible social impacts of Bitcoin can be witnessed in the human rights arena. As one example, Song offers an overview of the refugee crisis in Venezuela, explaining that Bitcoin is allowing those wishing to flee the country to sell their belongings and retain their money when crossing the border to Columbia. “There’s very clear evidence of this,” Song explains “because the price of Bitcoin in Columbia is actually lower than everywhere else in the world because there’s such a big supply. Four million Venezuelans have left. That’s 10% of their population. That’s a serious impact. Usually in refugee crises, it has gotten so bad that people were willing to leave everything behind. With this, they get to carry their wealth. It undermines the Maduro government to a large degree.” (5:51)

The US’s market-driven monetary imperialism has led, Song argues, to a sort of global US dollar hegemony—the impact of which is that all global trade is settled in US dollars; if you’re in Kenya and want to trade with someone in neighboring Nigeria, you have to trade for the US dollar and then back to the Kenyan shilling. Song notes this basically gives the US dominance over everything and allows dictators, who control their economies through their central banks, to use money as a tool of oppression. “Bitcoin gives you a politically neutral money, one that’s not dominated by a single country. I say all this about the US dollar, but imagine a world where the Chinese yuan is the dominant currency.” (10:42)

Post topics: Innovation & Disruption
Post tags: Deep Dive, Foo Camp '19