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Man is Born Free But Everywhere He is in Blockchains

in Politics/Society by

With the advent of blockchain technology individuals can now, for the first time in history, both earn and spend money anonymously without geographic constraint.

The only physical limitations to this observation are access to electricity and access to an internet connection.

Surviving uniquely off of one’s Bitcoin may not be a particularly fun experience according to some accounts, but it is a relatively accessible option now for those who are sufficiently motivated to live entirely off the grid.

As the internet now offers a multitude of avenues for trading Bitcoin into cash with no paper trail, individuals can effectively choose to live anarchically if not within an anarchical society.

It is a relatively accessible option now to live entirely off the grid

And whilst they may represent a small proportion of humanity at large, there are probably hundreds – if not thousands – of individuals out there who now manage their wealth and earnings entirely on the blockchain away from prying eyes (meaning the tax man, for the most part).

The implications of blockchain technology for the social contract are indeed profound – at least in theory, if not yet in practice. Rousseau, were he to have witnessed the emergence of blockchain technology, would likely have felt compelled to water down his observation that Man Everywhere is in Chains with an acknowledgement that, with good health and reasonably good technical knowledge, he can choose to be free of the mastodons of government.

Libertarian Field Day

It is still too early to know exactly where the Blockchain will lead us in terms of its impact on human social organisation, but we are already getting some insight from a handful of initiatives that have emerged in recent months.

The blockchain’s ability to create a trust-less system which adheres to a pre-defined, pre-agreed set of immutable behaviours – and which also allows for interaction with that system in an entirely anonymous fashion – has opened up a whole new world of possibilities, particularly for purist libertarians.

To understand why, it may help to look at a concrete example – the BitNation project. The initiative describes itself as a governance platform which allows for network participants to voluntary enter into agreements whose outcomes are determined by smart-contracts and whose behaviour is guaranteed by the blockchain distributed consensus mechanisms.

Reading between the lines, however, it becomes quickly apparent that the concept can be expanded specifically to the creation of communities whose members agree to interact with each other according to a set of principles defined by the technology itself. BitNation is seeking to become, in other words, a platform that allows individuals to either define or voluntarily join with virtual nations which “choose their own Code of Law and Decision Making Mechanisms, whilst writing their own Constitution and defining their own Governance Services.”

It’s a striking implication of blockchain technology. Whether it takes off, on the other hand, is another question – but, whilst there is no guarantee of mass adoption, it nonetheless appears very likely that a small, dedicated coterie of human beings will always be attracted to this kind of proposition.

And thus, whilst the most die-hard libertarians may have to give up on the idea of a world in which everyone lives according to a libertarian contract, they can at least console themselves with the thought that there are now platforms which allow for libertarian communities whose values and behaviours can be both consolidated and guaranteed by the technology.

BitNation image
BitNation

Conflict and Coexistence

Where things may get complicated, however, is that if such platforms do emerge as mass adoption successes – and thus facilitate the ability for hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of regular citizens to opt out from the social contracts laid down in the real world, then the scene may be set for a real show-down.

We are, on the other hand, a long way off still from that kind of scenario – but it is one which will make for interesting observation: a Rousseauian virtual world of either right-leaning libertarians and/or left-leaning anarchists who find themselves confronted by the Hobbesian mastodons of the physical world. With the blockchain’s ability to offer anonymity, however, it may just be that both will have to learn to co-exist – albeit on two very different planes.