The Power of the Coin - Thoughts on Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper


“The work we are doing here is dedicated to the goal of making Big Brother obsolete. It’s important work.” Hal Finney, one of the earliest Bitcoin developers and the first person to receive a Bitcoin payment, knew what was at hand with this strange cryptographic project he was helping to develop in his spare time. Currency has been a ubiquitous aspect of the human experience since its outset. But the quid pro quo nature of money has become obscured by big governments and their broken economies. With inflation rampant globally and governments becoming increasingly intrusive with the advent of the internet, Hal Finney’s side project appears more and more crucial to both personal and national freedom.

Monetary inflation has been a heavily discussed topic recently, with the U.S. government decision to issue over two trillion dollars in stimulus, leaving one in four dollars in circulation printed in the last twelve months. But this is nothing new for myriad countries around the globe. Americans take for granted that we can actually keep our money in a bank account and expect it to hold its value with relative stability.

This is not the case for the home country of Wences Casares, a tech tycoon and one of the earliest adopters of Bitcoin. Wences described to Digital Gold author Nathaniel Popper the extreme volatility of the Argentinian peso, which he explained changed value in huge swings by the minute. As a young boy, Wences’ mother would tell him and his sister to sprint through the grocery store aisles as quickly as they could, grabbing whatever they could carry and checking out, hopefully before the peso value was sliced in half, and they could no longer buy the food they needed. This was a normal trip to the grocery store for Wences and his struggling family.

With Bitcoin, Wences, who had built multiple financial technology startups aimed at solving this exact problem in his home country, found the apparent solution to the problem he had devoted his life to. As the elusive creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, wrote, “The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust.” Bitcoin, with its finite amount of coins and blockchain ledger, could not be inflated at will by some incompetent government. As long as the blockchain did not fail, Bitcoin was designed to be a stable currency once it reached mass use.

The democratization of the stable currency is the true beauty of Bitcoin. Marc Andreessen, co-founder of venture capital giant Andreessen-Horowitz, elucidated this point when he remarked, “Far from a libertarian fairy tale or a simple Silicon Valley exercise in hype, Bitcoin offers a sweeping vista of opportunity to reimagine how the financial system can and should work in the Internet era.” This vista of opportunity was understood by Wences, Satoshi and the thousands of other crypto pioneers. Hopefully, the democratizing power of Bitcoin will take root globally and continue to expand, eliminating the anachronistic need for bloated fiat currency.

- Charlie, May 2021