The life of an addict is characterized by three stages: active addiction, rock bottom and recovery. These stages can overlap, reverse, repeat and do not necessarily occur sequentially. Generally speaking, however, every recovering addict walks this path.
It is this author's opinion that, first of all, addiction is a problem of pandemic proportions. Second, the addiction pandemic is manifest within our systems of money creation and debt. Third, we're heading for rock bottom. And, finally, this will bring about the opportunity for recovery, with Bitcoin being a crucial part of that effort.
A Pandemic Of Epic Proportions
Most people's understanding of addiction is based on the image of a junkie with needles stuck in their feet. Of course (and unfortunately) that happens. But that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The vast majority of addicts are functional addicts. These are people who are able to maintain a semblance of normality while hiding the downward spiral of addiction behind a facade of societal acceptability.
In fact, one of the world's foremost experts on the stigmatized topic of addiction, Dr. Gabor Maté, openly admits to being a shopping addict who couldn't stop buying classical music records. To the extent that he had no space left in his house to keep them. In this video, he talks about his experience treating the most extreme cases of opioid drug addiction and how this experience led to the observation that his own behavior (despite the appearance of normality) was fundamentally indistinguishable from the behavior of the addicts he was treating.
Many people's lives are characterized by similar obsessive-compulsive behaviors. People can be addicted to work, sex, food, power, wealth, possessions and so on. Any external source of stimulation that can cause a change in the chemistry of the brain can (potentially) constitute the basis for the development of an addiction. If we define addiction in terms of its behavioral patterns, rather than societal perception, it is clear that the pandemic of addiction is far more pervasive than commonly understood. In fact, some addictive behaviors, like shopping, are not only acceptable within society but even encouraged. Despite the fact that it can just as easily become as compulsive as using drugs.
Addiction To Debt And Money Creation
Total global debt stood at the completely unsustainable level of 355% of global GDP at the end of 2020, with household debt-to-income ratios in the Eurozone, U.S. and China all equal to or exceeding 100%. While all of the world's largest governments across America, Europe and Asia are struggling with debt-related problems. The U.S. continues piling onto its gargantuan debt of almost $30 trillion while not having had a budget surplus since 2001, only recording five surplus years since 1969. Japan holds the dubious honor of being ranked number one, in terms of its national debt-to-GDP ratio, at 266%. Germany, Europe's largest economy, is seeing its highest levels of inflation since EU harmonization in 1997, coinciding with its highest government debt levels in over25 years. While governments in many other major developed countries like Canada, France, U.K., Italy and the Netherlands are all near (or far above) debt levels equal to 100% of GDP, with no sign of reversing trends. China, on the other hand, has become the world's largest creditor with outstanding claims exceeding 5% of global GDP, while simultaneously witnessing its largest property developer teetering on the edge of default. This is no small matter considering that real estate accounts for 25% of Chinese GDP.
Throughout this time, central banks around the world have expanded their balance sheets by record numbers. The U.S. Federal Reserve alone added more than $4 trillion dollars to its balance sheet in 2020, equal to 40% of everything it has ever printed and the greatest one-year increase in its history. This is to be expected as it is well documented that debt issuance and the creation of money is inextricably linked in our modern financial systems.
Seen through the lens of addiction, it should come as no surprise that the world finds itself caught in a downward spiral of endless borrowing and spending. It is easier to borrow from the future to pay for what we want now, rather than save for the future until we can afford what we want. Given the right (or wrong) circumstances — excessive stress, trauma or violence — the instant gratification brought about by spending or any other behavior that causes chemical changes in the brain can easily develop into a compulsive behavior in a subconscious attempt to alleviate the circumstances. And so, both governments and their citizens are addicted to short-term relief, with little to no thought for the long-term ramifications. This is classic addict behavior and the compulsion to use is never stronger than moments before the final collapse.
This is what separates functioning addicts, who remain functional but addicted, from those that are pushed into recovery. It can be sought out as was the case for Dr. Maté but this is the exception rather than the norm. In most cases, if the addictive behavior isn't extreme enough, it is unlikely that the individual will recognize the dysfunction caused by addiction.
Those who enter recovery do not do so by choice. They are typically pushed as a matter of last resort. A matter of survival. Those addictions are the ones where the compulsion is so strong, and the behavior so destructive, that the intensifying obsession eventually results in a complete collapse, bringing the problem into such stark contrast that it becomes undeniably obvious. While it is very hard to draw concrete lines, the differentiating factor is often the rate of progression. Enter history's largest borrower, the U.S. government. With a projected debt level of $50 trillion by 2030, almost double what it is now, the accelerating trajectory of the underwriter for the global financial system seems undeniable.
And yet denial is precisely what keeps the addict going until there's no other choice left. Until their world comes crashing down. Until they are left with nothing and no one. Until complete annihilation threatens their survival. Most addicts have to hit that rock bottom. It takes nothing less than that level of naked reverence for the magnitude of the problem. And that's when recovery becomes possible.
But there's a catch.
Because the mind of the addict is the source of the problem, it is also incapable of finding its own solution. Recovery must, therefore, begin with the recognition that the addict cannot solve their own problem. The solution begins with surrender. Surrender to a source of wisdom and power that is not under the addict’s direct control. A source of wisdom, the words of which cannot be manipulated by the addicted mind so as to lead the addict straight back to finding an excuse for using. Recovery demands guidance from an incorruptible source. A source that can be internalized but which cannot be contained internally in its entirety.
What is Bitcoin if not a system of monetary rules that lies beyond the will of any one single individual, group or government to change as they see fit? And yet, Bitcoin is a system which has its fate held in the hands of both anyone and everyone at the same time.
Recovering addicts refer to this as a higher power, a reference which is often misinterpreted by non-addicts as being religious, but nothing could be further from the truth. Religion implies dogma while recovery is decidedly nondogmatic. Any framework will do, even a nonreligious atheistic one, provided that the addict submits themselves to a system of guidance not of their own individual making alone. Whether that be the guidance of an existing religion, a human mentor or the promise of technology-enabled decentralization of power, it matters not.
What does matter is that, if the endless money printing and debt issuance leads to a rock-bottom collapse — and the world does not take the opportunity to adopt a system where the levers to change the rules are beyond the control of any individual or group of people — then, in typical addict-like fashion, we will eventually end up right back where we are now: drowning in debt, needing more and more to achieve a diminishing effect.
This is a guest post by Hermann Vivier. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.