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Ascension of Bitcoin versus the DC Leviathan
In a first, a national policy summit focused solely on Bitcoin and the promises it brings to both the US and the world.
In the world of DC politics, it’s no secret that “crypto” is oft a more-invoked term than “Bitcoin”.
Centralized coin companies, lobby groups, and affiliated industries spend tens and hundreds of millions to thrust their views on various coins, exchanes, and the legislation that should guide them.
The epic downfall of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, a goofy finance whiz who ended up a vegan billionaire grifting his own tokens with a pretty slim paper treasury, is a perfect example.
Despite his fairly crooked operation, he held sway over many in Washington with deep pockets for campaign funds, swanky events, and somehow dozens of meetings with powerful people that you or I could never get. The incentives of the system welcomed Bankman-Fried, despite the literal papertrail of fraud left in his wake.
Bitcoin, on the other hand, has no CEO, no official lobby group, and no central entity crafting messaging or rolling out lobbyists to figure out how best to present specific bills or schemes to legislators and regulators.
That’s what makes Bitcoin’s ascension in DC both unique and suprising. And its led by some great advocates for the orange coin.
This week in Washington, the Bitcoin Policy Institute held its first-ever Bitcoin Policy Summit. As both a visiting fellow at BPI, and someone known to dabble in consumer choice policies, I was pumped to meet and hear from speakers, entrepreneurs, and human rights activists who provided real examples of Bitcoin’s power and promise.
Whether it was inner city enterepreneurs and educators making a difference in low-income schools, President Joe Biden’s former campaign manager, human rights campaigners from Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Palestine, and two sitting senators and a congressman, each person had a story to tell not about a specific product or company, but the magic of the Bitcoin protocol.
I must admit: I have encircled many events with open bars in DC over the years, and they usually have a clear cut mandate: oppose or support this bill, this politician, or this cause. Very few aim to teach attendees about a novel financial technology and how it is actively causing a seismic shift for millions of people — and policy — today.
BPI’s Policy Summit was definitely the latter, and provided more nuanced hope than any measure of gloom. So hats off to the organizers David Zell, Grant McCarty, and Stephen Pollack.
Because the fact remains that if Bitcoin isn’t embraced naturally in the US capital, its HODLers and entrepreneurs have all the incentive of the world to go abroad or underground. That’s how Bitcoin runs now anyway. It doesn’t need special permission from DC or any other world capital. The people who want to use it just want easier on-off ramps so they can safeguard their wealth on a decentralized system of value.
It’s something that Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, our favorite Capitol Sat Stacker, certainly recognizes.
In the closing fireside chat, she did not speak of Bitcoin as a separate currency, coin, or network that she just found interesting. She described it as “our protocol,” something “we must defend” for us and our families. She thanked the crowd for standing up for Satoshi’s innovation and giving positive examples of how it is changing people’s lives.
Important note: she spoke in the first person because she’s already been convinced of Bitcoin (as her own BTC financial disclosures remind us). Her goal, as she stated, is to convince her colleagues to HODL too, and to give more certainty to the people and industries that also want “in” on Bitcoin.
Sen. Ted Cruz, who was quite boisterous about “buying the dip”, said he understands mostly the ideological impact of Bitcoin, rather than the technology. His flamethrower politics align with some aspects of Bitcoin, while they juxtapose others. He’s also got a more territorial angle, as Texas — his own state — has emerged as somewhat of a Bitcoin hotspot in recent years. But none of that should be overlooked. He gets it.
To the Leviathan crowd — Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other technophobes who unfortunately didn’t join — they view Bitcoin as a threat to a vague status quo somehow worth protecting. Not only is it a threat, but the people cannot be trusted themselves to acquire it and use it responsibly (not even to mention mining).
As such, the federal government, and all the power it possesses, should do everything it can to dissuade and prevent ordinary citizens from choosing a more sovereign path.
There have been many more eloquent pieces written about why progressives should be much more eager to embrace Bitcoin (maybe I have one), and it was great to actually hear these stories from other writers and thinkers at the summit itself.
For me, the event truly was something different and unique. The topics were rational and grounded, and the strategies for advancing Bitcoin policy were laid bare.
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Though may those in Bitcoin who shun those who work in advocacy and policy, or who even want to meet or convince a politician (I see y’all on nostr). But if our goal is truly to fix the money, and to elevate Bitcoin, we will need proponents and those who truly get it in all corners of society.
If the goal was to make a political impact and start something truly beautiful, the Bitcoin Policy Summit was a great start. Let’s ride.
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