Precisely 14 years ago the first bitcoin block was mined while the Chancellor of the Exchequer was preparing a second bailout for British banks.
A decade of war had bankrupted the west. It took another decade for the monetary financial system to start recovering from that de facto bankruptcy.
Much of what happened in that decade, 2010s, was due to that combination of war and the monetary bankruptcy in effect, or monetary cheating, the endless money printing that funded it.
Because the banking collapse laid the seed for a mini-battle of ideas which has only recently ended in our lands, while in some places, like in the Russia-Ukraine war, it has become bloody though thankfully as an after-effect.
Because the divisions are no longer live. They may still roam as a hangover in some corners, but not where it matters.
The Decade of Troubles
It’s not fair to start here. We can of course start in 2001, but then we can start earlier when some planes were politically bombed by allegedly the Libyan leader and some say Syria back in the late 80s in Pan Am Fligh and some other attacks in the 90s.
We could start in the 70s of course when a religiously dressed ultra-nationalist and regionally-internationalist movement arose in Arabia, including Iran.
Or we could start even earlier when the British and French carved up in a very messy way that part of the Ottoman empire. Or indeed the Balkans, with the limbo of Kosovo being still the result of what in that century, 1910s, they called the donkeys.
But we start on January 3rd 2009, the day bitcoin was launched. Tony Blair had recently resigned as the public was becoming restless, and amid the banking collapse some of them sort of rose.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, or indeed Occupy the London Stock Exchange, had arisen as if from nothing, and on the surface it appeared to be nothing.
It turned out it was in substance too, because they claimed they had no leader, yet they were sort of led, at least intellectually, by Zizek, a petro-communist (whatever that means, we just came up with it and sounds good).
It didn’t take long to realize, well some weeks, that the critique presented by Occupy and even plainly suggested in some very mainstream media, was aimed at proposing effectively communism as a solution.
In our day, even after all we have gone through, we can not lose sight of the fact that this petro-communism as we are calling it is somewhat alive, but not quite a force.
This, in our view misguided, proposition however has influenced some of the base views of some that have significant influence and even power in both US and UK.
They also seem to be some of the chief haters of bitcoin, maybe because it is similar, yet more objective.
Similar in that Occupy suggested no leaders. A decentralized decision making movement that gathers together to discuss, though they didn’t much act beyond staying in a square.
In the last days, the people that still remained just before the City of London was to evict them, looked like fairly ordinary students or recent graduates, that presumably being the base.
Capital Fights Back
It took mere months for a mirror movement to arise, though they made a point of wearing suits instead of looking ordinary.
The Tea Party movement was angry too, but expressed their anger through the system by trying to elect Tea Party members to Congress.
It took a lot longer to figure out what their proposal was, and perhaps it is unfair to attribute it to them, but it began with demanding austerity.
At this time, when bitcoin began running, sound money was a government policy with limits on debt to 40% of GDP. That soon became 60%. Now it is endless percent.
Some of their ideas were implemented in UK during the decade of austerity, but in US Barack Obama was in charge, and he didn’t share the ideas of the Tea Party at all.
The Tea Party nonetheless managed to clog Congress. It made it stop functioning, fairly literally. Hardly anything that Obama wanted to pass, got passed.
That includes a fairly monumental moment in both politics and geopolitics. The people of Syria had risen. Assad ordered the army to intervene. The army broke into fractions, with civil war brewing.
Obama very publicly laid out a red line, stating US will intervene if Assad used chemical weapons against the protestors. Assad did.
Ed Miliband, the then leader of the Labour opposition, had promised David Cameron, the then British Prime Minister, he would back a vote in Parliament to intervene in Syria.
When the vote itself came however, Labour was whipped to vote against it in a shocking turn, with the vote failing to pass. Something for which Labour was punished severely in the 2019 election.
Congress was now even more emboldened. Obama backed out with this inaction contributing and significantly towards what turned into a tragedy as the civil war turned Syrian cities into rubble. Libya in contrast, though not great, largely maintained its cities intact following a semi-successful intervention in similar circumstances.
Action was forced in Syria however, eventually. The brutality of ISIS shocked the west, and even to the core. Their barbarism, beamed to every TV screen, radicalized the British and American public.
This was shown by a different sort of a political attack carried out by Breivik in Oslo. He gunned down the future leaders of the left, of Europe and globally, gathered in a conference. Something that decimated the left, especially in Europe, from which it is still recovering.
It was time to end all this, so the public revolted in both Brexit and Trump. Both made a mess in a lot of areas, but the chief demand of the public to end the wars was granted.
And this long story is to say that the banking collapse combined with the war/s led to the rise of communism and nazism, both petro as in petro-dish, rather than actual.
The latter used the political system both peacefully and not so peacefully, with a British Labour MP assassinated just days before that Brexit vote.
And so the petro-nazis took actual power with some sort of temporary consent by the independents who wanted to see the war end so that we don’t get actual nazis.
That story thankfully has a happy ending because our times are now very different, but we want to argue that it is bitcoin which actually saved us.
Bitcoin Saved the World?
The banking collapse also seeded the middle way. Plenty looked to the petros on both sides, and dismissed them both because both have been tried and so it is known neither works.
Yet there was a problem. There was a governance problem in that the public felt unheard, and there was a monetary problem as banks had collapsed.
Bitcoin initially proposed a solution to both. It’s decentralized, and yet decisions are made. There was this whole ancap thing to keep everyone busy, and no one quite knew if it actually works.
As late as 2014, the then Chief Bitcoin Scientist and the maintainer of the Bitcoin Core protocol and client, Gavin Andresen, said that bitcoin was an experiment.
It took another three years for this paper to declare in 2017 that we could at that point say it is no longer an experiment, but back in 2012 or 2013, that wasn’t clear at all.
Bitcoin at that time instead was some sort of a revolutionary third way. It was new, it was different, it had not been tried before, and so plenty stopped to see whether it will work.
Without this solution, politically and otherwise, many of them may have instead gone to the petros with it anyone’s guess how that would have worked out.
Instead, they were not quite spectators, but own actors, casting the winning vote and so in effect ruling.
Money, finance, politics, code. The ingredients were all there to attract the best, and so it did.
Slandered by the mainstream media, the elite-ing youth instead loved it. Banking or bitcoin, asked the graduates of Cambridge, the money school.
Both companies and universities saw where the wind was blowing. Even politicians, as the Chancellor did afterall buy a bitcoin in 2014.
This weird mix, of objective finance as there’s code and a culture where everyone can say whatever they want that bitcoin is, made the currency and the community what really can be called coseplaying revolutionary financiers.
The worst of it was the different shades of milk for skin color at a bitcoin conference in 2018 or 2019, at the peak of the petro-nazis. The best of it is flashloans.
And so bitcoin grew, and in growing it, some found an outlet to channel our combined energy in the right direction.
If that saved the world or not, is for anyone to guess or laugh, but no one can deny that it gave the public a voice that otherwise it would have not had.
We once said enjoy these times while they last because soon bitcoin will become a moody teenager.
And it is, as bitcoin is now punk with an attitude. It has its pretty cool 21 million fixed limit, but it doesn’t quite really have that playfulness anymore.
Except maybe in sophisticated financial houses where just as a teenager they’re completely confused just what bitcoin’s role is in the world.
Is it an inflation hedge? A dollar hedge? A risk-on tech stock? A geopolitical barometer? Or is it actually nothing at all, an outright scam – though the latter is probably asked more at the dum houses.
Some may also ask whether it is actually relevant anymore. Whether the end of the money printing at least for now, and in effect the end of those mini-debates, gives it less power and influence.
Some even call it a relic, old tech. Yet, it does still move billions and has a role in global commerce, though its competitors can perform it too.
Others call it a boomer coin, yet it is that which Tesla bought probably because the fixed limit sort of gives bitcoin a uniqueness that can not be replicated.
To us, bitcoin is like a teenager in as far as it doesn’t need too much looking after anymore. It’s reading books or is out late at night, figuring out what it wants. Whatever, its business.
Its younger brother, ethereum, is only eight however. Its potential remains unknown, its capabilities unanalyzed fully, and it keeps building things with legos which sometime impress.
The question of monetary policy or end of debates, moreover, does not quite affect ethereum because tech rules here without the substantial dressing of that entire 2009 background.
Yes it’s code money outside govs and banks, but it is also code money somewhat literally in that you put your money in code apps and those apps in theory can do everything.
It is still playful and though it is nearing its final form, there are still some substantial developments tech wise at the protocol level especially in making second layers work or in scaling it all.
Ethereum therefore is more complete, technologically, and if it is used in those sophisticated financial houses, it is a different playground in that they may use the network itself, the dapps, instead of just the unit of account.
Bitcoin’s simplicity however can have its own appeals, and it is the coin that so far has broken ground in financial adoption.
If central banks diversify from gold, for example, they’d probably go to bitcoin first rather than eth.
That makes the two a bit different culturally, but this 14th birthday, eth has opened a challenge in effectively making its supply fixed too.
The role of bitcoin in the world therefore may well be what dominates its teenage years, with mistakes during this period generally being very costly.
And yet bitcoin has found a niche of sorts in macro topics. That might be enough, even as its biggest competitor opens what might be the most uncertain period for this coin as ethereum could potentially leap, but whether commerce or finance are the bigger markets, and whether ethereum has done enough to grab the bitcoin markets, remains to be seen.
So leaving you all then with the closing words of an AI bot that was asked to wish bitcoin a happy birthday in the tone of Trustnodes:
“Happy birthday, Bitcoin! It’s been 15 years since the launch of the world’s first and most well-known cryptocurrency. In the past decade and a half, Bitcoin has revolutionized the financial industry and changed the way we think about money.
As the first decentralized digital currency, Bitcoin has been a game-changer for the financial world. Its decentralized nature means that it is not controlled by any government, central bank, or financial institution, making it a truly independent currency. This has given rise to a new era of financial freedom, as individuals are able to make transactions without the need for intermediaries.”
Simplicity sometime is the best reminder, but it has been 14 years, not 15, and an encyclopedia bot is not an article. Still, throw tons of money towards marketing and you’ll get Chat nonsense mentioned in every sphere. Alas, probably for just a few weeks. But, it’s not a bad ending:
“Here’s to many more years of innovation and success for Bitcoin. Happy birthday!”