Obama: Encryption Unpatriotic; Dimon: Regulators Unpatriotic

In reading through the slew of ‘Bitcoin is dead’ articles being published in the mainstream media this week, a comment under one of the articles caught my eye. The author claimed that a ‘made-up currency’ that was widely known to be used for drugs and terrorism shouldn’t exist at all. This caused me to stop for a moment to reflect that although it’s true that Bitcoin has a rep for being used for drugs and terrorism, the currency of choice for people engaged in those activities is resoundingly still the USD.

The author ends his comment by saying that there simply isn’t any need for Bitcoin. For this, I had to scratch my head. Saying this implies that everything is alright in how money is minted and managed in our economy. From my perspective, it’s just really hard to make that case. Even more, it implies that the author thinks that, more or less, the way the governments are run and the way the world is going is alright. That’s even more perplexing.

Bitcoin is one part of a rising movement of decentralization that is going to overtake the world in the next few decades. The movement started with the creation of the Internet and the democratization of information, is now moving to the decentralization of money which will wrest monetary control from governments and institutions and restore it to the people, and it will move on to things like decentralized contracts, decentralized politics, and decentralized energy.

The argument for Bitcoin, therefore, is not just one of money. It’s an argument that our current institutions are corrupt and that we need a better way to handle how the world is managed for the betterment of everyone.

Now we haven’t seen it yet, but one of the claims that you’ll start to see used increasingly against Bitcoin is that it’s not patriotic. In the news this week we’ve seen this claim made twice, once by President Obama and once by JPMorgan head Jamie Dimon.

President Obama made the comment that companies that don’t provide a backdoor to encrypted services like email are being unpatriotic. Obama echoes the claims of law enforcement officials who claim that not allowing law enforcement the ability to break our encryption is aiding and abetting terrorists. Obama continues with the point that the government has long been able to monitor electronic communications, typically with warrants. It’s the comment about warrants that has me the most up-in-arms about this claim.

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“Typically?” If there is no warrant, there is no due process. If there is no due process, there is no freedom. If there is no freedom, America exists in name only, her ideals having been long forgotten.

When taken this way, we would turn the comment back on Mr. Obama and ask him not to unpatriotically strip away our civil freedoms with the excuse of protecting us. Speaking as someone who supports the constitutional role of the government, I don’t see how making everyone’s life an open book to the government will make us any freer or safer.

Mr. Dimon’s claim is even harder to stomach. He is complaining that with new financial regulations, he has to talk to four or five regulators instead of just one, and claims that it’s unpatriotic.

This is coming from a bank that seemingly intentionally overlooked all the signs that Bernie Maddoff was running a Ponzi scheme, that was front and center for the LIBOR scandal, and numerous others. In fact, after the pain we have all gone through after role JPMorgan played in the crash of 2008, many have argued that these banks need to be under greater scrutiny, that bankers more (or even some) bankers should be charged with crimes and sent to real (not minimum security) prisons, and that the banks should be broken up as being too powerful and potentially destructive instead of being allowed to grow even larger (as is the case).

For Mr. Dimon also we say that his bank has been acting in opposition to the greatest principles of American society and is thus unpatriotic.

Cries that someone is unpatriotic are a great way to shut up the opposition and has long been used to do things like get us into senseless wars. Let’s remember that Bitcoin emerged because of the corruption in the current system and that, although it won’t cure all ills, it does at least give some power back to the people and allow them to try to create something better.