As disheartening as it is to watch the price of Bitcoin take the beating that it has in recent weeks, it’s important to remember that Bitcoin has usefulness and value far beyond its currency value, and this usefulness will, sooner or later, propel it to mass adoption and a far-higher market price.
The headline that reminded me of this today comes from Ars Technia: UK prime minister wants backdoors into messaging apps or he’ll ban them. In this article, Ars Technica tells how British Prime Minister David Cameron is using the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris as a reason to fight end-to-end message encryption and make a case that companies that provide secure messaging must provide a backdoor to governments. Messaging services that use encryption, and companies like Apple that provide strong encryption, he claims, are posing a serious risk to the public by allowing criminals and terrorists a way to communicate secure from the prying eye of the vigilant government.
At Bitcoin Warrior, we strongly believe that it is a legitimate role of government to protect the populace from crime and violence. At the same time, we assert that the government can only do so within bounds set by law and with strict public oversight. If the government acts to protect us by acting outside the law and without public oversight, than that government becomes a cure worse than the disease. We further believe that no right like total access to our communications can be given to any government without a solid expectation that that right will be abused by the government to control the people. This is not an indictment of any specific government, it is a comment on human nature. Further, no government, not Britain, and not the US, would ever allow itself to be opened to enough public oversight to mitigate these concerns.
If a backdoor were to be provided for governments, then everyone’s communications would become ripe for NSA style data mining. More, if the government wanted to tarnish or imprison any citizen, they could cherry pick from a vast treasure trove to do it. Conversely, just as now, individuals requesting information from the government would be blocked and delayed at every turn. We would truly be living in the age of Big Brother.
It’s important to note that one of the most potent arguments anti-encryption advocates use is almost worthless. They claim that total access would give them the ability to stop and catch terrorists like the Hebdo shooters. The fact of the matter is, though that law enforcement very often already has people like these on their radar. They had the 9/11 terrorists pegged, but lack of communication and coordination between federal agencies prevented them from acting on it. And the French new about the Hebdo shooters, even if they didn’t know the specific plan.
More than this, when authorities have access to that much information, they get buried in it, chase rabbits down holes, and miss the real bad actors. Many security professionals are on record saying that it’s not the quantity, but quality of information they have access to that counts. Even in a world of encryption, shoe leather still counts – and if the authorities were willing to get off their duffs instead of sifting through emails on a computer screen, they could be far more effective.
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Which brings us back to Bitcoin. One of the dangers posed by the current monetary system is that as it becomes increasingly digital, no transaction will be able to take place outside the view of government officials. When that happens, we will be completely in their control. In the age of cash, people still had the ability to make, save, and spend on their own terms. Bitcoin gives us back that ability in a digital age.
Thomas Jefferson is attributed with saying “That government is best which governs least.” There are certain things that governments need to do to protect the citizenry and promote the public good – but at the same time it should be as sparing as possible in its use of power. And we as citizens need to be vigilant and take action to be sure that the government is sparing. As it exerts more and more control, we need to find ways to abridge those powers. Bitcoin is the way we take back our money.