In a recent interview with Bloomberg, when asked about the potential of Bitcoin, Kenneth Rogoff, an economist and Harvard faculty member, conceded that the cryptocurrency has a future…. but only if the future is “dystopian” in nature.
But what if the dystopian future is already here? Without wishing to engage in linguistic inflation, let us start off by defining the term “dystopia.”
A dystopia is simply “a community or society that is undesirable or frightening.” One needn’t be living in a Mad Max nightmare to find modern day existence both undesirable and frightening. Unlike utopias, which are both idealistic and unattainable, dystopias are both brutal and entirely attainable.
From “Resident Evil” to “RoboCop,” truly dystopian societies are violent, often brutally so. However, one needn’t escape into the world of fiction to find volatile societies. With rates of violence reaching dangerous new highs in major cities like New York and Ontario, for example, acts of brutality are alarmingly common.
As Cormac McCarthy’s magnum opus taught us, dystopian societies are also mired in poverty. Considering that 45 percent of Americans have absolutely nothing in savings, it’s safe to say that daily existence is a dystopia for a sizable portion of the United States. In the U.K., things aren’t much better, with one in 10 people having no access to savings. When it comes to emotions, despair is very much the flavor of the month.
Meanwhile, governments across the world are drowning in a sea of debt. Last year, we saw global debt hit new, historic highs. Expect new, historic highs to be reached again this year.
How do governments continue to finance their debt? By printing money, of course. Meanwhile, unemployment rates are dangerously high, economies continue to shrink and suicide rates continue to rise. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown thinks the U.K. is close to becoming a failed state.
Dystopian enough for you, Professor Rogoff?
In his 2004 book, “In Praise of Empires,” Deepak Lal wrote:
“Empires have been natural throughout human history. Most people have lived in empires. Empires and the process of globalization associated with them have provided the order necessary for social and economic life to flourish. By linking previously autarkic states into a common economic space, empires have promoted the mutual gains from trade adumbrated by Adam Smith. Therefore, despite their current bad name, empires have promoted peace and prosperity.”
When examining the American system, one should ask, for whom does it ensure prosperity?
In “The Sleeper Awakes,” one of the greatest dystopian novels of the 19th century, H. G. Wells depicted the governing class as decadent in the extreme, superficial, callous and devoid of any compunction. Over 120 years later, in the age of corporate socialism and Cantillon principles, little has changed.
Noam Chomsky once wrote, “for the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” In California, for example, it’s perfectly fine for the governor to ignore lockdown regulations. If someone in a less powerful position behaves in a similar manner, however, they end up losing their ability to make a living.
Estonia has taught us that the best governments are the ones that govern the least. In dystopias, though, governments hold a vice-like grip over society. Language is weaponized, newspeak reigns supreme, terms like “stakeholder capitalism” actually means economic fascism.
Technological control is another theme of dystopias, where the rulers of society control the masses in both the most implicit and explicit of ways. Bentham’s panopticon is a global one. Privacy is no longer an option.
As Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have shown the world, if you expose this very fact, you are deemed a dangerous actor. This is the age of phone tapping and indiscriminate sharing of data, a dystopian age ruled by men named Dorsey and Zuckerberg.
Should we be worried? Considering Facebook supposedly feeds users’ private messages to the FBI, I think so. From “1984” to “Black Mirror,” dystopian offerings are known for darkness, both thematically and visually. Ever since the abolishment of the gold standard some 50 years ago, the shadows of inflation, fiduciary negligence and technocratic governance have dimmed the lights on democracy.
If Bitcoin is a technology that is only viable in dystopian times, then, dear readers, that time is now.
This is a guest post by J. Mac Ghlionn. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.