Wendy McElroy: The Centralization of Crypto and the Banality of Evil

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The Centralization of Crypto and the Banality of Evil

The Satoshi Revolution: A Revolution of Rising Expectations
Section 3: Decentralization
Chapter 8, Part 3
The Centralization of Crypto and the Banality of Evil

First we must realize that all actions are performed by individuals… If we scrutinize the meaning of the various actions performed by individuals we must necessarily learn everything about the actions of the collective whole. For a social collective has no existence and reality outside of the individual members’ actions.

–Ludwig von Mises

In 1963, the political philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote a book Eichmann in Jerusalem, about “the banality of evil,” which redefined that concept forever. Evil is not usually committed by sadistic monsters, she argued, but by ordinary people who relinquish personal responsibility for their actions and obey the orders or rules of a corrupt system. (Here, evil is defined as deliberately and callously inflicting great harm on innocent people.)

Arendt reached this conclusion while reporting for The New Yorker on the trial of high-ranking Nazi Adolf Eichmann, which occurred in Israel. As a German Jew who fled the rise of Hitler, she should have been appalled to be in the same room with Eichmann. Instead, Arendt was fascinated by him. There was no guilt, no rage, no sense of responsibility, nothing exceptional. As her book explained, Eichmann kept repeating that, “He did his duty…; he not only obeyed orders, he also obeyed the law.” He was also assisted by a vast network of average people—clerks, railroad workers, low-ranking soldiers—who sent innocent others off to prison or worse fates, without a second thought. It was the law.

Cryptocurrency confronts the banality of an economic system for which the word “evil” is not too strong a word. Opening with Arendt may seem like hyperbole, but it captures something important. The central banking system and the other economic controls imposed by government seem benign because they are so familiar; people grew up with them. And bank clerks can be very pleasant as they demand Know Your Customer data; if the customer objects, they answer “I am doing my job, and it is the law.” Nothing benign occurs in the system. Hard-working people are robbed of their wealth through measures like inflation and the monopoly of fiat currency; food is taken from the mouths of children; innovators who could produce a better world are shackled; in some nations, people die for want of nourishment or medical care.

Venezuela is an extreme example of economic evil, as well as an example of the remedy. When the economy collapsed in 2014, many people’s lives were ruined while many others survived by using the only alternative they had to worthless fiat: cryptocurrency. President Nicolas Maduro was well aware of the dynamic. That’s why he issued the first-official state crypto—the Petro—which was announced last December (2017). The Petro is doomed,  of course. When centralized in Maduro’s hands, it will become just another form of fiat. But the Petro indicates one of the main ways the economic system will try to defuse the threat of crypto—namely, centralize crypto by either issuing coins or regulating a few institutions approved to handle it, such as exchanges.

Two main factors in how long the Petro will last are the centralization of power, and how many average people will accept the official status quo because it is (or will become) the law. These are the people who will work in the financial system, or turn in a neighbor for mining, or vote to ask for regulation. They are the banality of economic evil, without which the system could not exist.


Methodological Individualism

The harm done to freedom by those who act against decentralized-market crypto is more than just a denial of financial independence to others. Free-market crypto  fortifies some of the most important concepts of liberty. One of them is “methodological individualism,” which is the exact opposite of what Arendt called “the banality of evil.” Instead of individuals relinquishing their responsibility for actions to an institution, like central banking or the military, individuals are entirely accountable for their own behavior.

The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises rested much of his philosophy on methodological individualism. He declared that, ultimately, only individuals exist; only individuals act. Even within the dynamics of a collective, such as the state or society, it is individuals who comprise the structure and carry out all actions. Mises famously stated, “The Hangman, not the state, executes a criminal.” Individuals who look at the hangman [and] see the state in action do so only because they have created an abstraction known as ‘the state’ in order to provide a context. The hangman may be pressured to perform his job, but the performance is ultimately his choice. Equally, people never truly see or hear a group conversation. All they see or hear are individuals speaking, and then they label the sum of the exchange as ‘a group conversation’.”

Mises argued that collectives-such as family or society–were valuable abstractions that people used to describe their interactions with others within a specific context. He did not deny the worth of many collectives. Quite the contrary. He explained, “Methodological individualism, far from contesting the significance of such collective wholes, considers it as one of its main tasks to describe and to analyze their becoming and their disappearing, their changing structures, and their operation. And it chooses the only method fitted to solve this problem satisfactorily.” Individualism was the key to understanding collectives.

What does this have to do with cryptocurrency?

The most difficult area in which to implement methodological individualism is  finance, which is one of the most powerful collectives in existence. Central banks, tax agencies, and reporting forms are ubiquitous types of evil. Governments do not produce any wealth. And, yet, they need vast amounts of it to finance bureaucracy, the military, and the other centralized trappings of power. This means governments need to steal vast amounts of wealth. But to do so directly would cause resistance. So they issue fiat and bonds, and force all finance to go through institutions they control. For a long time, for most people, there was no viable path around the centralization.

And, Then: Cryptocurrency

Free-market crypto is methodological individualism writ large in an essential area of life. Methodological individualism is an incredibly powerful challenge to the centralized control of economics. It was designed to be so.

The concept arose in response to the theory of social holism that became popular in the early twentieth century. Social holism claims that systems must be viewed as wholes rather than as collections of their parts. It maintains that a collective has a dynamic that differs from the sum of its parts. In short, the collective is greater than the individuals who comprise it.

Marxists often accuse those who espouse methodological individualism of being atomistic, or unable to bow to the greater social good. Some go so far as to assert that the individual, and not society, is the true abstraction. That is, individuals do not exist without society. As Mises observed, “The notion of an individual, say the critics, is an empty abstraction. Real man is necessarily always a member of a social whole.”

Karl Marx argued this point by using a Robinson Crusoe example. An individual who had been born and immediately abandoned on a desert island, he contended,  would not be a human being at all. His point was that human beings are social organisms-social constructs, if you will-who cannot be lifted from their defining context and still remain human. Reversing Misesian logic, Marx claimed that society created its individual members. To create the “right” type of people, all social institutions had to be thoroughly regulated for the social good, however that was defined. The brutal conformity of communism is an example of centralization. So is the expression, “I was only following orders.”

Classical liberals argued that a person raised in utter isolation would still be a human being with human characteristics. For example, he would have a scale of preferences, and he would act to achieve the highest one first. Without social interaction, of course, huge parts of the person’s humanity would never develop. But this would not make the individual less human. Collectives do not define humanity. Human beings define collectives.


Conclusion

Coerced centralization is so inculcated into the culture that it is considered to be normal and healthy. Public schools, central banks, public works, tariffs, …many people cannot envision society through any other lens. But coerced centralization demands that people surrender their moral compass to a collective authority. It is the source of Arendt’s banality of evil.

Methodological individualism is the cure, especially through the dynamics of a  free crypto, which is implemented through decentralization. But how does a decentralized society create the free-market institutions valued by Mises? The answer is another key concept of liberty: spontaneous order.

[To be continued next week.]

Reprints of this article should credit bitcoin.com and include a link back to the original links to all previous chapters


Wendy McElroy has agreed to ”live-publish” her new book The Satoshi Revolution exclusively with Bitcoin.com. Every Saturday you’ll find another installment in a series of posts planned to conclude after about 18 months. Altogether they’ll make up her new book ”The Satoshi Revolution”. Read it here first.

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Markets Update: Bear Market Adds Cryptocurrency Trading Uncertainty

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Markets Update: Bear Market Adds Cryptocurrency Trading Uncertainty

Cryptocurrency markets have had a rough week over the last seven days as many digital assets lost quite a bit of value most had gained two weeks prior. Currently, markets are seemingly consolidating and have remained somewhat stable over the last 24-hours. At the moment Bitcoin Core (BTC) values have been hovering around $7,470-7,560 during the last few hours. Meanwhile, Bitcoin Cash (BCH) prices are steadily holding just above the $1K region at $1,038 per BCH at the time of publication.

Also Read: Bank in Argentina Launches BTC Settlement Services

A Crazy Volatile Week in Crypto-Land Filled With Lots of FUD

It’s been another crazy week in the world of cryptocurrency markets as most of the recovered gains most digital assets gathered from three weeks ago have been erased. Trade volume has been considerably low for nearly every market as the $13Bn worth of trades is less than half the volume we saw two weeks ago. Many cryptocurrency enthusiasts witnessed the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) initiated a probe earlier this week that aims to look for manipulation in Bitcoin market values. Interestingly enough those watching order books watched thousands of cryptos being sold at market rates just before the mainstream media announced the DoJ probe, which to some traders that phenomenon indicated actual manipulation from the very organization’s initiating the probe.    

Markets Update: Bear Market Adds Cryptocurrency Trading Uncertainty
Cryptos have been in a bear market since the year started.

Bitcoin Cash Market Action

Bitcoin Cash markets have been seeing some losses over the past few days since our last markets update. Today’s trading sessions show BCH prices hovering around $1,038 as the past 24-hours have seen a drop of about 1 percent. Over the last seven days, BCH markets are down 13 percent with today’s trade volume hovering around $538Mn. Top exchanges trading the most BCH on May 26 are Okex, Hitbtc, Lbank, EXX, and Huobi. The top currency swapped with BCH today is BTC as the asset captures 44.8 percent of trades today. This is followed by tether (USDT 29.9%), USD (15.5%), KRW (7%), and the ETH (1%).

Markets Update: Bear Market Adds Cryptocurrency Trading Uncertainty

BCH/USD Technical Indicators

Looking at the 4-hour and 1-day charts for Bitfinex (BCH/USD) shows some mixed signals and deep consolidation. Right now RSI levels are around 39, showing oversold conditions, and the MACd shows convergence around -5 revealing momentum may pick up today. However, the two Simple Moving Averages (SMA) trend lines are still spread with the 100 SMA below the long-term 200 SMA. This indicates a continued bearish outlook as the path to resistance looks to the downside.

Markets Update: Bear Market Adds Cryptocurrency Trading Uncertainty
May 26, 2018, BCH/USD Bitfinex.

Bulls have eaten through lots of resistance over the past 24 hours and need to push past $1,070 for smoother seas. The next pitstop will be around $1,125 as BCH bulls will need to break this zone. If the bears continue relentlessly beating crypto-markets there are some solid foundations on the backside of BCH order books. Going downwards we will see pit stops at 950 and 900 per BCH if prices happened to drop that low going forward. Beyond that books become much thinner.

The Top Cryptocurrency Market Performances This Weekend

Overall most cryptocurrency markets are seeing some slight recovery today and consolidated behavior. Bitcoin Core (BTC) markets are up a hair at 0.61 percent for the intra-day but over the past seven days, markets are down 8.8 percent. BTC’s current weighted price average is $7,560 as BTC bulls are trying to break above current resistance. The second highest market cap held by Ethereum (ETH) is up today 0.42 percent and the price hovers around $605 per ETH. Ripple (XRP) markets are up 1 percent as one XRP is priced today at $0.62 cents. Lastly, the fifth position is still held by EOS, and out of the top five, it has improved the most seeing a 2 percent gain today. EOS is averaging around $12.65 per token at the time of publication.

Markets Update: Bear Market Adds Cryptocurrency Trading Uncertainty
Top ten cryptocurrency valuations on May 26, 2018.

The Verdict: Uncertainty Remains

The verdict this week is similar to our last markets update as traders still seem uncertain to where the ‘Good Ship Crypto’ will take them. 2017 was a wild ride but 2018 has been nothing but FUD, regulations, and bearish market sentiment. Even exciting developments and positive developments this spring have not been able to lift markets beyond the $10K region for weeks on end. Currently across social media, forums, and big trading groups on Telegram the sentiment remains uncertain over the course of the short term but long term sentiment continues to be bullish.

Where do you see the price of BCH, BTC, and other cryptocurrencies headed from here? Let us know in the comments below.

Disclaimer: Price articles and markets updates are intended for informational purposes only and should not to be considered as trading advice. Neither Bitcoin.com nor the author is responsible for any losses or gains, as the ultimate decision to conduct a trade is made by the reader. Always remember that only those in possession of the private keys are in control of the “money.”


Images via Shutterstock, Trading View, and Satoshi Pulse.


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Spending Bitcoin in Europe Is Getting Easier Thanks to Wirex and Paytomat

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Spending Bitcoin in Europe Is Getting Easier Thanks to Wirex and Paytomat

European cryptocurrency holders have reason to be cheerful. Slowly but surely it’s becoming easier to spend BTC, BCH, and a range of other cryptos throughout the continent, with payment services like Wirex and Paytomat leading the charge. It’s now possible to spend bitcoin in hundreds of restaurants and stores throughout Eastern Europe, as well as anywhere that accepts Visa in the whole of mainland Europe and the UK.

Also read: SA Central Bank Comes Up With Another Nickname for Cryptos – “Cyber Tokens”

Wirex Rolls Out Its New Crypto Debit Cards

When crypto debit cards were cancelled in Europe last year, with a Visa subsidiary to blame, tens of thousands of cryptocurrency holders were left clutching worthless pieces of plastic. But as crypto companies have forged new alliances with payment processors, crypto debit cards have started to return, and hopefully this time they’re here to stay. In the past two weeks, Wirex has begun dispatching physical cards to UK and mainland European customers who were on its waiting list. News.Bitcoin.com had a chance to put one of the cards to the test, topping it up with BTC and then spending it in-store and online, and was impressed with the results.

Spending Bitcoin in Europe Is Getting Easier Thanks to Wirex and Paytomat
Processing a cryptocurrency payment with Paytomat

A full review of the Wirex crypto debit card follows below, after a quick look at what Paytomat have been up to. The cryptocurrency payment system supports 11 cryptos including bitcoin cash and zencash, and has support from over 330 restaurants and stores at present, mostly in Eastern Europe. It’s since expanded into Western Europe, however, with a launch that took place in an Amsterdam soup kitchen earlier this month.

Spending Bitcoin in Europe Is Getting Easier Thanks to Wirex and Paytomat

Paytomat CEO Yurii Olentir said: “Amsterdam is one of the most crypto-friendly places, so we chose it for our kick-off in Western Europe. With millions of tourists visiting every month, cryptocurrencies can be a very convenient payment method. For example, a transaction in Bitcoin Cash takes just a couple of seconds and the fee is miniscule.”

In total, Paytomat supports BCH, ZEN, XEM, DASH, WAVES, LTC, ETH, NANO, DCR, XZC and BTC, and as a video demonstration shows, paying for a meal with bitcoin cash is quick and easy:

A Quick Look at the Wirex Crypto Card in Action

Spending Bitcoin in Europe Is Getting Easier Thanks to Wirex and PaytomatI applied for a Wirex card weeks ago, and succeeded after several failed attempts at address verification. At one point I feared I was never going to convince their KYC I lived where I claimed to live, but a stamped bank confirmation letter finally did the trick. The team’s customer support was helpful throughout, to their credit. Last week, Wirex announced that its cards were finally ready to ship. Mine arrived in a beautifully packaged sleeve that folds out to reveal the slogan “The most versatile payments card in the world” accompanied by a heart emoji face.

If I thought the presentation was good, the activation turned out to be even slicker. With the Wirex app already installed on my phone, all I had to do was hold the card in proximity to the device and the NFC chip automatically extracted the last four digits of the card and the CVV number. I clicked the verification email link and that was it: my card was good to go. Wirex accepts BTC and LTC, but no BCH or ETH unfortunately. Hopefully they’ll add more cryptocurrency support in due course. For now, I fired over some BTC, and not long afterward a notification informed me that my coins had arrived.

Spending Bitcoin in Europe Is Getting Easier Thanks to Wirex and Paytomat

A Few Hiccups, But Otherwise Impressive

For users who don’t already have cryptocurrency to hand, Wirex enables you to top up your card using your existing bank account; transfers reportedly clear within a few hours. With my BTC loaded, I tried to transfer the balance to GBP so I could spend it, but accidentally swapped into LTC instead; the process is a little confusing. At the second time of asking, I worked out how to complete the swap, and within seconds my litecoin had been exchanged for British pounds. My daughter had been pestering me to buy more reading credits for her iOS app, and so my first £10 of crypto went on purchasing virtual gems.

Spending Bitcoin in Europe Is Getting Easier Thanks to Wirex and Paytomat

I planned to test the card at a restaurant next, but when it came to pay the bill realized that I didn’t know the PIN for the Wirex card, and was forced to use an alternate method to settle up. Back home, I searched through every submenu of the Wirex mobile app and desktop platform to find where the PIN number was located. I got there, eventually, though it wasn’t intuitive at all. This minor grumble aside, the card works perfectly, and there’s even 0.5% in cashback to be earned on all purchases – paid in BTC.

Spending Bitcoin in Europe Is Getting Easier Thanks to Wirex and Paytomat
Every time you use your Wirex card, you’re credited cashback in satoshis

Naturally, Wirex make their cut in terms of the exchange rate you’re offered every time you switch from fiat to crypto and vice-versa. This is still preferable to having to cash out crypto through Localbitcoins.com or similar every time you need to spend money in the “real world.” On first impressions, the Wirex card looks very good. My only concern is that now my kids and girlfriend have a direct line to my bitcoin, I fear for my crypto.

Do you use a crypto debit card and if so what’s your experience of it? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Wirex, and Paytomat.


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Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Crypto Hiring and Blockchain Welfare, From Down Under

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Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Crypto Hiring and Blockchain Welfare, From Down Under

Instant crypto-denominated salaries and blockchain-based social security payments feature in Saturday’s Bitcoin in Brief. Reports about these promising developments in the labor market and the public sector come from Australia. Also, the Slovak tax authority intends to use blockchain technology for more efficient tax collection.  

Also read: Bitcoin in Brief Friday: Luxury Jets, Cheap Air Tickets Now Offered for Bitcoin Cash

Crypto-Based Hiring Platform Supports Instant Pay Option

A new employment service offers to cut out banks and pay workers in real-time using cryptocurrency. Another feature will rate employees using a blockchain-based reputation and review process, designed to ensure that higher quality work gets paid better. The “Pay As You Go” system has been launched recently in Australia.

Sergei Sergienko, the entrepreneur behind the project, claims that instant salary payments are possible with cryptos, tokens, and thanks to the underlying technology – blockchain. His “global job platform” Laborx is developed to do exactly that – pay employees while they are working, so that everyone can start spending on the way home.

“The way for people to be remunerated is based on pre-Industrial Revolution kind of wages – you spend the time in the factory, and you get paid,” he said, quoted by Business Insider Australia. “If you look around, everything else has changed. And it’s really, really weird that the way people get paid for their services, for their time, for their work, has not gone through any revolution of sorts,” Sergienko noted.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Crypto Hiring and Blockchain Welfare, From Down Under

The businessman, who owns a successful labor hire, staffing and training company called the Edway Group, believes that the revolution comes in the form of the “Labour-Hour Tokens” (LHT) and the hiring ecosystem of Laborx, which is now live in beta version. Using it, companies can hire anyone – from top experts from around the world, to local fruit pickers – and pay them instantly with cryptocurrency. “A fair hour’s pay for a fair hour’s work” has been promised.

Laborx also features a tokenized reputation system. Its developers say that it combines dozens of candidate data points and stores the information on a blockchain. The platform is said to ensure job seekers get their best market rate, while also eliminating payment delays and disputes. “If your reviews are consistently good, you can charge more per hour for your services. And the person who hires you knows you’re worth it,” Sergei Sergienko explains. Other cryptocurrency projects to be trialing this model include time-based “knowledge transfer” service Whenhub, founded by Dilbert creator Scott Adams.

Distributed Ledger to Be Used For Welfare Delivery

While the private sector has been developing a crypto-hiring platform, Australian authorities have been planning to employ blockchain technology to improve the welfare payments delivery in the country. The intentions were made public recently by the Digital Transformation Agency, a government body tasked with the digitization of public services and government institutions. The project to put social security payments on blockchain will pilot the wider implementation of the technology.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Crypto Hiring and Blockchain Welfare, From Down Under“Our plan is to look for use cases across the Commonwealth with an initial focus on the welfare payment delivery system. Then, working with our digital service standard, we’ll conduct user research with a view to having a prototype by the end of next financial year,” said DTA’s acting CEO Randall Brugeaud during the Cebit Australia conference in Sidney last week.

Recently, The DTA received AU$700,000 from the 2018-19 budget to probe the implementation of distributed ledger technologies in the public sector. Brugeaud commented that the funds will give his agency an opportunity to explore innovative ways to securely and efficiently deliver government services using blockchain.

Slovak Tax Authority Eyes Blockchain for Efficient Collection

The Financial Administration of Slovakia aims to become a pioneer in blockchain technology implementation. The tax authority in Bratislava intends to use it to streamline its processes and procedures. The main objective is to make tax collection more efficient, the president of Finančná Správa, František Imrecze told Hospodárske Noviny.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Crypto Hiring and Blockchain Welfare, From Down UnderThe technology, which underpins most cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, will be implemented in Slovakia’s taxation system to initially process about 2 percent of all tax payments, the publication details. The use of blockchain technologies is expected to increase the trust of taxpayers and protect their personal data. Authorities also hope to increase the transparency of tax collection, reduce red tape and minimize costs, Imrecze explained.

Members of the local crypto community and the non-government sector are not sure about the prospects of the project. According to Martin Lindák, analyst with the liberal think-tank F. A. Hayek Foundation, the transparency and security of blockchain applications are there only when they are decentralized. A blockchain lacking this key feature would be just an overpriced database for the public administration, Lindák warned in conversation with the newspaper.

Do you think crypto and blockchain technologies can be successfully implemented in public services and labor relations? Tell us in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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