Shapeshift.io CEO Erik Voorhees was interviewed by Decentralized Applications Fund Managing Director David Johnston at the Texas Bitcoin Conference in late March, and the topics covered in the fireside chat involved everything from Bitcoin regulation to Voorhees’ evolving stance on altcoins.
Near the middle of the discussion, Johnston asked Voorhees about his philosophical beliefs and what drives him to continue his successful work in the Bitcoin space. Voorhees responded with a fascinating analogy between the freedom to choose one’s religion and the freedom to choose one’s money.
The Separation of Church and State
When first asked about what drives him to continually push Bitcoin to as many people around the world as possible, Voorhees was quick to point to theseparation of church and state. He explained that this is something nearly everyone in developed nations agrees with and understands, and he would like to see this freedom of choice applied to other areas of society:
“We all grow up in school – most of us, sadly, in public school – but, nevertheless, we learn about this thing that happened hundreds of years ago, which was the separation of church and state. We learn why that was so important that humans used to live in societies under which their religion – something very personal and precious to them as individuals — was under the management of an organization that could control those things. [They] could tell you what to worship and how, when and why. Somehow, society realized perhaps that was unethical – that we shouldn’t permit control of something so personal and important to your life to be controlled by the state.”
The Separation of Money and State
After discussing the separation of church and state, Voorhees applied the philosophy of freedom of choice to money. The Shapeshift.io CEO claimed the freedom to choose your money is, for many people, more important than being able to choose a religion. He noted that a separation of money and state might be just as – if not more important than – freedom of religion:
“It is that narrative of human development under which I believe that we now have other fights to fight, and I would say in the realm of Bitcoin it is mainly the separation of money and state. Money is absolutely as fundamental to our lives as religion, and for many people it is far more fundamental to their lives as religion. It affects how your life unfolds. The choices that you make about money dictate the ramifications of your life and those around you. And so, to have an institution like money so controlled by a central entity — by a monopoly — is absurd. It is immoral. We should get rid of it.”
The idea of free markets is still somewhat popular in the United States, but this logic never seems to apply to money. Although many Republicans often espouse the benefits of the free market in various political speeches, essentially none of them bring up the idea of competing currencies. Most politicians in any part of the world seem rather selective when it comes to which markets are allowed to freely operate without government intervention.
Bitcoin Can Bring About This Much Needed Change
Due to the decision by lawmakers to create a monopoly on money in each, separate jurisdiction, it has been difficult for alternative forms of money, such as gold and silver, to compete. Although the struggle in the past has been to convince politicians to allow different forms of money to compete with fiat currency, Voorhees alluded to the fact that Bitcoin may create a situation where those politicians don’t have a choice in the matter:
“It seems crazy to say this, but perhaps we should permit competition in money, permit competition in financial structures, just as we permit competition in religion. We allow multiple churches to exist. Why do we do that? And why don’t we do that with money? I think it’s a hypocrisy that our children will someday look back on and realize, ‘Wow, that was really obvious.’ And Bitcoin is what will bring that change about.”
Bitcoin is already competing favorably against the Venezuelan bolivar when it comes to its usefulness as money, but it still has a long way to go before it can take down giants like the U.S. dollar or euro. Such a revolutionary change in what people use as money may never happen, but at least there is now competition for fiat currencies.
Kyle Torpey is a freelance writer and researcher who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured in VICE Motherboard, Business Insider, NASDAQ, New York Post,The Next Web, American Banker, and other media outlets. You can view all his work at kyletorpey.com or sign up for his personal newsletter.