The 2008 financial meltdown and an unprecedented level of government corruption has led to the weakening of trust in traditional institutions. This is a crisis of Western liberal democracy, a particular style of governance that was developed in the U.S. and was exported around the world.
Bitcoin emerged as a response to this global crisis of legitimacy. Now, in 2019, after Bitcoin’s 10 years of existence, Western liberal democracy continues to lose its standing. We are now seeing a real test in the U.S. government’s attack on the First Amendment, being carried out through its relentless persecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
The seeds for this crisis of legitimacy were planted at the very founding of the United States. Thomas Jefferson, author of America’s founding document, predicted that there would come a time when the American system of government would degenerate into a form of “elective despotism.”
There was a security hole in the U.S. model of governance in the mechanism of “checks and balances of power” implemented in the U.S. Constitution. These internal flaws allowed the American form of governance to diverge from its original vision as articulated in its white paper, dated July 4, 1776.
Laws of Nature
In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson put forward ideas for a new system of governance that could free people from the British monarchy. Jefferson wrote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
He made it clear how these rights promised to the New World were entitled by laws of nature. What are the laws of nature that Jefferson referred to? He was pointing to an invisible force that governs the universe. Nature has its own way of governance that binds us all equally, regardless of our social-economic status, color of skin or nationality.
It is like the laws of gravity and electricity and magnetism. Whether we know it or not, we are all part of this natural force that exists in our world. These laws of nature existed long before humans arrived on this planet. Isaac Newton didn’t invent the law of gravity. He simply discovered it. Electricity was already there. Ben Franklin didn’t invent it. It was waiting to be discovered and Franklin found a way to demonstrate the connection between lightning and electricity through his kite experiment.
We observe nature and its activities. Upon it, we formulate principles and theories. With this knowledge, we humans make applications that can benefit a larger society. In the continent of North America, before Europeans arrived, civilizations based on nature’s laws already existed.
Principle of Peace
There were those who understood these laws of nature and developed a form of governance that is true to the force of nature. They were Native Americans. They observed how nature works through decentralization and that its model of governance is democracy.
For instance, the Iroquois Nation understood nature’s way of governance as the principle of peace and established the Great Law of Peace. Their confederacy is one of the oldest living participatory democracies on Earth.
The Native American’s concept of peace diverges from European religious and ethical principles of dualistic morality that creates a radical separation between good and evil. Their understanding of peace is the state of neutrality that acknowledges an interconnectedness of good and evil and includes all the forces of life, even what we often call “evil.”
Upon this foundation of peace, the Iroquois instituted a rule of consensus — a decentralized decision-making process, with the emblem of free speech, in which everyone is given equal freedom to voice their opinions and no one should be forced to do things against their will. They used the wampum belt, a traditional shell bead to recite the Great Law and to settle disputes, resolve affairs between different tribes and conduct diplomatic business.
Subversion of Nature’s Law
In the development of the United States, European settlers failed to understand the wisdom inherent in nature and created laws that violated nature’s underlying law of democracy. As the system of governance became hierarchical, the European path of civilization went separate ways from the one of Native Americans.
Civilization is nature’s first application. Any civilizations that are not based on nature’s laws are insecure and become destructive in the end. The U.S. model of centralized governance was not secure because it didn’t lay its foundation on nature’s laws. As a result, it created a concentration of power in the hands of an elite few, turning the American republic into a global empire that emphasizes militarism.
In this digital age, the weakness of security in the system was further exploited to compromise free speech through surveillance and censorship online. As the conquest of nature continues in the form of surveillance, capitalism and the military occupation of cyberspace, Bitcoin has emerged.
Permissionless Free Speech
Bitcoin, the native currency of the internet, has begun to restore the laws of nature. Here, Native Americans’ governing principle of the rule of consensus is revived on a piece of mathematics. Bitcoin, as a project of free software, preserves peace with its defining feature of censorship resistance and permissionless free speech.
Bitcoin allows people all over the world to exercise their right to free speech in the form of money as speech. Bitcoin validates every transaction regardless of what the content is, as long as it follows network consensus rules.
Bitcoin can be used by anyone, regardless of their economic status, background and political affiliations. This money doesn’t censor speech and discriminate against people who use it. Bitcoin does not exert moral authority over any speech trying to regulate it by deciding what is a good and appropriate use of money, which is done in the existing financial system.
Application of the Laws of Nature
Bitcoin’s core consensus algorithm is an innovation that is created through the application of the laws of nature. The anonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto observed the force that governs nature manifested in the law of physics, specifically thermodynamics — principles concerning heat, temperature and their relation to energy.
Combining this understanding of natural law with the knowledge that human nature contains the paradox of man being selfish as well as being altruistic, the creator of Bitcoin found a way to coordinate human actions to build a new economy.
So, what is the significance of Bitcoin in the world we live in right now? When we look around the world, we see ongoing natural disasters, economic turmoil and conflicts among nations. This is as if nature is giving humanity a warning and we are approaching a critical time of decision.
We create applications on top of the laws of nature. The question is: How do we build applications? Do we choose to honor nature’s laws or go against them? There are those who made the decision to build a civilization in harmony with nature. They are cypherpunks, a group that advocates social and political change with the use of strong cryptography.
Cypherpunks recognized that the laws that are created by men are imperfect and they are corruptible. They find the source of nature’s wisdom in mathematics. They write code to restore nature’s way of life in society.
Jefferson acknowledged, “… whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of” its citizens’ unalienable rights “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”
As governments all over the world become destructive and old systems begin to crumble, Bitcoin has begun disrupting the world. What is Bitcoin? Bitcoin is nature’s revolt. No one can rig markets governed by nature’s law. Nature is dynamic, spontaneous and alive. This nature’s code of equality and liberty for all people is unstoppable. Wherever we live, regardless of nationality, language spoken and skin color, we are all made equal under the law of nature.
What is encoded in the Bitcoin white paper could be a pathway to reunite with Native American elders. In the past, a gift of nature allowed the Iroquois nations to create a wampum belt to carry nature’s laws. But a wampum belt was not strong enough to withstand violence. Now, in the age of the internet, the imagination of computer science offers a way for us to preserve the rights granted by nature securely, making them our universal and unalienable rights.
New networks are being made by linking the knowledge of computer science with the wisdom of the First Nations, who have lived nature’s way of peace. Western settlers and Native Americans, two minds from the same roots that once diverged paths, can come together to begin a new civilization.
This is a guest post by Nozomi Hayase. Opinions expressed are entirely her own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.
Nozomi Hayase, Ph.D., is a writer who has been covering issues of freedom of speech, transparency and decentralized movements. Find her on Twitter @nozomimagine