Bitcoin And The American Idea
Today, Americans celebrate 245 years of independence from the British Empire.
On this day in 1776, our Founding Fathers declared:
“We … the Representatives of the united States of America … in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”
This was a bold and risky action. Never before had a colonial state defeated its overlord, especially one at the apex of its global power.
Against all odds, the Founding Fathers rallied a young nation and won freedom. The Fourth of July is still, nearly two-and-half centuries later, a cause for great pride across our country. The idea of America, and the values on which it was founded, animate resistance struggles around the world. The principles of free speech, property rights, equality of opportunity, individual liberty, and checks and balances on government power are ones to aim for and live by.
But for some, the Fourth of July seems like a hollow festival. America the idea has grown distant from America the reality.
Our history is in many respects shameful: We enslaved African Americans; we pursued a genocidal conquest of Native Americans; we interned Japanese Americans in prison camps; we invaded Vietnam and Iraq and launched the “forever wars”; we backed coups against democratically-elected leaders; we have an ongoing War on Drugs and prison industrial complex; and we have developed a sophisticated surveillance state. These are just a few examples of how we have strayed from the breathtaking words of the Declaration of Independence.
At the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor rests a bronze plaque with the words of “The New Colossus,” a sonnet by Jewish American poet Emma Lazarus. The last few lines read:
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
As essayist Allen Farrington has pointed out, the United States has, in many ways, lost this generous founding spirit. Over time, that spirit has been sacrificed on the altar of the self-interested schemes of politicians and elites and on the pacts that our leaders made with dictators to secure U.S. financial dominance. But could the Scarlet Letters on America’s history be dimmed by a new act of rebellion — a declaration of monetary independence?
If the 1776 declaration was a document of political freedom, then in 2009 came a document of monetary freedom: Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin White Paper.
As noted by Joseph J. Ellis in “Founding Brothers,” a Pulitzer Prize winning–history of America’s first leaders: “The creation of a separate American nation occurred suddenly rather than gradually, in revolutionary rather than evolutionary fashion, the decisive events that shaped the political ideas and institutions of the emerging state all taking place with dynamic intensity during the last quarter of the eighteenth century.” Many of the lasting pillars of American society and governance were established in the span of just a few short years.
This is happening once again. Not with politics, but, this time, with money. As Ellis writes, the framework for America “was built in a sudden spasm of enforced inspiration and makeshift construction,” as is happening now with Bitcoin.
The quest of the Cypherpunks and Satoshi to establish digital cash beyond the control of the state was animated, not by fear of an imperial power, but by the nascent threat in the 1980s and 1990s of the electronic surveillance state, and of the looming loss of our liberties as we entered the digital age.
In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a powerful farewell speech. He noted proudly how America was “the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world,” but he also warned how the military-industrial complex that had grown as a result of our wars abroad posed existential dangers. If one had told the Founding Fathers that, 150 years after their passing, the following words would be uttered by the leader of America to its people, it would have chilled them to the bone but probably not surprised them:
“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.”
Eisenhower also noted the technological revolution underway and warned against the rise of a “scientific-technological elite” uncaring to our founding freedoms.
The Cypherpunks witnessed the realization of Eisenhower’s dark vision, as by the 1980s, they felt the surveillance state creeping in and laying down roots for future expansion. They also recognized the limits of what could be achieved at the ballot box. There were diminishing returns to asking the government to protect our freedoms. Some liberties would have to be seized with open source code.
Bitcoin is the instantiation of a revolutionary idea: a system that cannot discriminate; that does not wield violence; that does not have special rules for the rich; that does not require identification or a particular status or level of wealth or race or creed to use; and whose rules cannot be manipulated by governments. Satoshi arguably took the best ideas from Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and their colleagues and gifted them to people around the world.
As the Declaration of Independence says, “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce [people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Our “new guard” is Bitcoin. Not just a founding document, but a network designed to fight the despotism of central banking and financial surveillance, a despotism set in motion hundreds of years ago.
A debate over the money system was at the heart of America’s founding. One of Jefferson’s biggest regrets was that, in securing the capital’s shift south from Philadelphia to Washington, he compromised with Alexander Hamilton and agreed to assume individual state debts into a national debt, centralizing the American financial system. This centralizing momentum grew over the decades, finally manifesting in the Federal Reserve arrangement we have today, which gives unelected bureaucrats control of the monetary system.
Another item that gave the Founding Fathers pause was the weak performance of pre-revolutionary state paper currencies (which saw price inflations ranging from 800% to 2,300%) and the Continental dollar, which was printed into oblivion and lost 99.9% of its value during the Revolutionary War. Maybe in that one case, some thought, it was worth it to debase a currency to win a war, but in the future, the same action of being able to debase the currency may launch many new, unnecessary wars. Those that followed this line of thinking would have neatly predicted America’s current predicament — the “forever war” phenomenon, where the last three presidents have been at war every day of office, even though the domestic nation seems to be at peace.
What if our monetary future does not continue down this path of centralization and debasement but, rather, follows a new path of decentralization and growing value? Today’s dollar hegemony was engineered by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Tomorrow, the currency of America could be based on the twin ideals of the Founding Fathers and Satoshi Nakamoto.
Unlike America, which lost its first battle over centralization just a few years after its founding, Bitcoin won its first battle over centralization during the Blocksize War, where user control and personal freedom defeated business interests and the concentration of power.
On July 4, 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams warned of an America that would become a global imperium “in search of monsters to destroy.” An America where the “fundamental maxims of her policy” have “insensibly changed from liberty to force,” where we have become “the dictatress of the world.”
Perhaps Bitcoin can help Americans reflect on our history and remember that our true glory, in Adams’s words, is “not dominion, but liberty,” and that our true march is “of the mind” and not the sword.
To help ponder this, I spoke to two people whose families and ancestries have borne the brunt of America’s worst, who carry two strikingly different perspectives. They carry contrasting assessments of American history, and of our founding story, but own a similar optimism about the future of America, powered by Bitcoin.
Bitcoin And Black America
Isaiah Jackson is an entrepreneur and the author of Bitcoin and Black America, a searing critique of how the U.S. financial system systematically discriminates against African Americans to this day. The book is also a rallying cry for the black community to explore using Bitcoin as a way out of a system that unfairly benefits elites.
Jackson writes how “before Bitcoin, no matter how much money you raised to support a liberation plan, civil rights movement or march, ultimately you had to use the banking system … you continued to feed a system that did not have our best interests at heart. All of those deposits would enrich banks who encouraged redlining, denied loans to qualified applicants, and, even beyond race, bankrupted the entire financial system in 2008 [and then] gave themselves bonuses to celebrate.”
Bank after bank, Jackson points out, have been caught and fined for holding blacks to different standards than whites. In one recent study, “Borrowers in upper-income black neighborhoods were twice as likely as homeowners in low-income white neighborhoods to refinance with a subprime loan.” As a result of the legacy of slavery and practices like these, he writes that “black households have the lowest median wealth among races in America.”
His plan to change the fate of his community? To spread the word about “how Bitcoin could spark a revolution among regular, working class people.” He says: “I specifically showed how we could gradually reject fiat currency, use Bitcoin, and start or own local economies … I propose that we build our foundation of social change and protest by steadily moving our funds out of the banking system.”
Because of Bitcoin, forced dependency on a system that keeps black people down is, he says, no longer the only option. He summarizes his mission simply: “Hopefully, during the period of the biggest transfer of wealth in human history, the black community won’t be last to the party.”
I reached out to Jackson (or Zay, as he’s often known) to get his perspective on the Fourth of July as an American holiday, and his thoughts on the idea of America versus the history of America.
Jackson is half African American, and half Native American, with a family tree partly tracing back to slaves that were sold from Africa to Barbados and then onto South Carolina, and partly tracing back to Native Americans persecuted in Florida and Oklahoma.
He says that “growing up, in a black family, we’re celebrating on July 4th, but it’s not exactly a patriotic holiday. Hot dogs and cookouts and fireworks are fun, but for me, it’s about being with family and enjoying the time off, not paying tribute to the founders.”
Jackson says that July 4 really has become a “consumerist memorial,” and not something that carries a deep meaning. He points to Junteenth as something that resonates more, as it celebrates the emancipation of slaves and the liberation of humans.
Even on the idea of America, Jackson says that it was “their idea” of America. “Imagine,” he says, “if they allowed black people or women to sit in on the creation of the Constitution. We wouldn’t have had to wait around decades for the 13th or 19th Amendments.”
No, in practice, Jackson says, America is not the “land of the free.”
“We’re at a point in history,” he says, “where we’ve gone away from that completely.”
Jackson says that millions of Americans have been brainwashed by a broken public school system. He calls it the “Pocahontization of history,” where many kids think that the relationship between the European settlers and the Native Americans was as depicted in the Disney movie, as opposed to the brutal conquest that actually happened.
“As a former public school teacher, and as someone whose mother and grandmother were public school teachers,” he says, “let me just say: We didn’t teach kids about the real history of America.”
Jackson tells a story about his youth, when he was 14 years old and the U.S. government invaded Iraq. He remembers watching the TV screen and seeing estimates that the military operation would cost more than a trillion dollars. (To date the U.S. has spent more than $6 trillion on the War on Terror). He was stunned.
“A trillion dollars? I was sitting in a neighborhood filled with poor people. We had no infrastructure, terrible education, terrible healthcare. Even as a young kid,” he says, “I knew we should have used that money domestically, instead of using it to destroy another country.”
Jackson says he has one uncle who “doesn’t believe anything in the media.” Everyone, he says, thought this particular uncle was crazy for questioning the Iraq War, which was very popular at the time. His uncle told Jackson that the war would never end, and that even though they promised it would be short, that it would be long, and that the leaders of America want to be at war.
“I thought he was a crazy person, but he was right. That was 18 years ago,” Jackson says, “and we’re still fighting in Iraq today.”
Jackson says he is privileged to live in America. “Here,” he says, “we take indoor plumbing, air conditioning, having a robust transportation system, and even having a relatively stable currency for granted. Many people around the world lack these things.” He stops short of saying he’s proud to be American.
But, not wanting to depress you on your Independence Day, Jackson says despite the past he is hopeful for the future — because of Bitcoin.
Bitcoin, he says, is “more American than apple pie.” It is “based on the initial ideals, where we started with a revolution, an overthrow of oppressors taking taxes without representation, challenging tyranny.” He says Bitcoin “is doing the same thing, just in a global manner.”
Could bitcoin give real freedom where a piece of paper failed?
“The reason why the revolutionary dream remains unfulfilled,” he says, “is because the money is flawed. We have to fix the money.”
While Jackson feels no deep connection with July 4, he does celebrate January 3, which is the birthday of the Bitcoin software. Jackson actually helped advocate for this date to be celebrated, to remind Bitcoin users to withdraw funds from exchanges into self-custody. In a meme popularized by Jackson, “No keys, no cheese.”
Jackson tells stories of people in the black community who have had their lives changed by Bitcoin. One of his favorites, he says, is a 15-year-old kid, who came to one of Jackson’s presentations in 2016 with his mom. The mom thought Jackson’s lecture on Bitcoin was interesting, but it was the son who called him every day for a full month after the class. The kid ended up buying bitcoin after working small jobs. By the time he was 17, he had made enough money through bitcoin to pay for college. Now he is 22 and runs his own web development company.
Another story Jackson tells is of his friend Justin, who went to jail for two years, but then when he got out, got into bitcoin. He learned about dollar-cost averaging, mining, trading, and even started a food truck in Charlotte, selling food for bitcoin. Five years later, Justin has his own book, his own series on Clubhouse, and a program to help inmates earn bitcoin while they are in jail.
“People don’t like to talk about the prison system,” Jackson says. “I have a cousin and a friend who are both in jail. They are trapped, but they have cellphones, and they can hold Bitcoin.”
Justin has helped many prisoners find a future through Bitcoin. The prison guards do search the belongings of inmates, of course, but many are allowed to have cellphones, and the guards are not always combing through their phone apps.
“From the time we had slave patrols,” Jackson says, “we’ve always had police that were there to keep the lower classes away from the higher classes. That ended up becoming racial. We do need our police, but for the black community, they have been the victim of the double standard of crack and cocaine laws, which put black men in prison for 40 years, while only giving 1 year for white men. There are millions of black people in American jails today for non-violent drug crimes. I’d like to see these people who are locked up supported by Bitcoiners.”
Even if that does not happen, Jackson says, they are finding support in Bitcoin. “Every great leader in the black community knows we need allies,” he says. “With Bitcoin, we have allies everywhere.”
Jackson sees Bitcoin as remedying some of the worst aspects of jingoism and nationalism that have plagued America over the decades, whether it be the warfare state or the prison-industrial complex. In his mind, Bitcoin can help us achieve a greater connection with the world around us.
“Technically,” Jackson says, pointing to his Native American descent, “my people were here first. Whatever this plot of land was, it wasn’t called America. And it may not be America forever.”
Bitcoin, he says, helped him change his perspective. “If you look at a map of the world,” he says, “most of the lines were drawn by a group of colonizers a long time ago.”
“These lines,” he says, “have nothing to do with me or my generation. But I’m a citizen of the world now. The lines don’t matter anymore.”
From Baghdad To Bitcoin
“My first introduction to America,” Faisal Saeed Al Mutar says, “was a tank in front of my house.”
Al Mutar was born during the first Gulf War, and his first contact with the Americans was during the invasion of his country Iraq in 2003, when he was 12 years old.
He had grown up under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, in an education system whose goal was to “create as many ignorant people as possible,” teaching only “how to be loyal to the president.” He says you always had to worship, and you always had to say Saddam was right, no matter what.
To illustrate the climate of fear he grew up in, Al Mutar says, “Let’s say that your father was against the president … he’ll ask the son to kill the father with a pistol, and ask the son to pay the price of the bullet that he killed his father with. That is the way that he could instill fear in the son and [force him to] show his loyalty to the president.”
Al Mutar could not access the internet or watch more than two state-controlled TV stations under Saddam. “It was hell,” he says.
But eventually, Al Mutar broke through the firewall. He called the open internet a “black market” for knowledge, which helped him develop a belief in using “reason, evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry — rather than faith and mysticism — in seeking solutions to human problems.”
The first foreign political text he came across was Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason.” Al Mutar actually found it, along with writings from Orwell, on a heavy metal message board. This was his rabbit hole for discovering freedom. He became more inspired, starting a blog where he explored secular ideas, and even distributed copies of the American Bill of Rights to classmates.
Al Mutar credits his father for instilling in him the values of critical thinking. He would tell Al Mutar that if he was going to form a belief, then he would have to build the supporting evidence for that belief. You cannot just blindly believe. From these words, Al Mutar said he followed “a life of learning and not hating.”
When Saddam fell, he began to advocate for the separation of religion and state. “I advocated a lot for human rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights,” he said, “and that is not a friendly thing to do in the Middle East.”
At the time, Al Mutar often thought: “Why did America invade us, and not us invade them?”
After all, he comes from Baghdad, which was once the capital of the Ababasid Caliphate in the Golden Age of Islam. At one point, long ago, his people invaded and controlled a huge percentage of the planet, from the Atlantic Ocean to India.
“What the hell happened?” asks Al Mutar. “How did we move from a superpower to a failed state? How did we move from occupiers to occupied?”
When the Arab empire reached its peak, Al Mutar says, it built its power on science and inquiry. Algebra, the clock, the camera, paper maps, and surgery all came to the world through Muslim culture during its Golden Age. That, Al Mutar says, is when there was openness, inquiry, free thought, science and reason, and the separation of powers. And then, there was a long decay into religious dogma.
Al Mutar says he saw some of these same Golden Age attributes in the texts of the Founding Fathers. And this, he says, is why the U.S. is still dominating the world today.
During the occupation, Al Mutar would go up to American soldiers and ask a lot of questions.
“They would be sitting in a humvee and holding M16s,” he says, “but I was not afraid. I found the humanity in them. Some thought what they were doing was noble, others just wanted to pay bills. But after talking to so many of them, I didn’t see them as monsters trying to kill Iraqis. It was war. In war, it’s not good guys and bad guys, it’s very gray about who is good and who is bad.”
As he grew older, Al Mutar became a more outspoken atheist, founded the Global Secular Humanist Movement and became a target for Islamists over his writings and activities. “I survived three kidnappings,” he says. A Shiite by birth, Al Mutar and his family got fake ID cards made with Sunni-sounding names to clear Al-Qaeda–held checkpoints in their neighborhood.
Later, he said, his best friend was killed by radicals, possibly because they mistook him for Al Mutar. He ended up receiving death threats from Al-Qaeda and the Mahdi Army. His brother and cousin were killed in sectarian violence.
In 2012, Al Mutar finally fled Iraq and was admitted into the United States as a refugee. Over the past decade, he has founded and worked at a variety of organizations to connect activists from closed societies with Americans who can help them, and also to make knowledge and information accessible to individuals in the Arab World, who are, according to Al Mutar, surrounded by propaganda and fake news.
Most recently, Al Mutar founded the nonprofit Ideas Beyond Borders along with the Singaporean journalist Melissa Chen. Together, they have employed more than 100 young individuals to translate works on liberty, human rights, philosophy and science into Arabic, in total dozens of books and tens of thousands of Wikipedia pages. Al Mutar found inspiration for this work through the memory of the Bayt al-Hikma, or House of Wisdom, the storied Baghdad library that helped light up the Arab golden age.
Al Mutar tells the story of a famous bookshop that still operates in Jordan today, where Mein Kampf, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Communist Manifesto are proudly displayed outside. Beyond the Quran, he said, these are the three most popular texts in the region. “This,” he says, “is the stuff people have access to. Maybe people at the American University of Beirut would disagree, but for the average person in the Arab world, this is the text they can access. It creates a climate of hate.”
Al Mutar says his goal is to “prevent refugee crises from happening in the first place, rather than dealing with refugees.” He points to the fact that less than 1% of internet content is available in Arabic. “Ideas and knowledge,” he says, “will defeat ignorance and extremism more effectively than tanks and guns ever could.”
Perhaps surprisingly, given his military introduction to America through an invasion of his homeland, Al Mutar has become a huge fan. He is immensely proud of becoming a U.S. citizen on June 26, 2019.
“America,” he says, “provided me and many others with a lot of opportunity and potential. I don’t think another country could have made the best of me. I’ve lived in Europe and Asia. There were always restrictions, always obstacles. It’s no surprise to me that immigrants can be so successful in America compared to other places.”
“I could focus on the negatives,” Al Mutar says, hinting at anti-Arab discrimination. “Yes, some people send me hate mail. But there are a lot of people who send me love mail. If you always think of yourself as a victim, you will only focus on the negative. I try not to do that.”
“The immigrant experience in America today,” he says, “is largely positive because of the opportunities that exist and the values that this country was founded on.”
“Look at gay rights,” Al Mutar says. “In the past 50 years, there’s been a huge change of mindset, and a sweeping trend in favor of legalized gay marriage. Compare that to countries in Africa or Asia or the Muslim world. There are still places where they have the death penalty for being gay.”
He argues that, despite all its flaws, the world is in a much better place because of American leadership. “The fact that you can not only protest but change policy is not available to the billions living under authoritarian regimes around the world,” he says.
“People disagreed with Bush, so they voted for Obama,” he said. “This option isn’t available for those living under Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin. Will the Russians who were against the war in Syria ever vote him out? No, they don’t have that right. America is imperfect but the system allows for change which is different from the models of the other superpowers. We’d be living in a much worse world if the Soviets had won the Cold War,” Al Mutar says.
Looking back at America’s history, Al Mutar says that the evils that exist in the U.S. are not exceptionally American, that they, in fact, exist all over the world, and there is a case that can be made that America is one of the few nations that tried to move away from these evils.
“Yes, the Founding Fathers had slaves,” Al Mutar said, “but they also enshrined the concept of individual freedom. America leans good, because of its founding principles. To me, these principles are like the scientific method. They help the nation self-correct over time.”
“During their era,” Al Mutar says, “the thoughts of the Founding Fathers were absolutely revolutionary. The concept of individual rights was revolutionary. The world had never seen anything like it.”
“America,” he says, “was founded in a way in which the government should fear its people, not where the people should fear its government. This is the opposite of the society where I grew up.”
Recently, Al Mutar has grown an interest in how Bitcoin can play a role in helping to liberate people around the world. His organization handled the Arabic translation of “The Little Bitcoin Book,” and he has been exploring how to pay translators across the Arab world in bitcoin.
“Bitcoin,” he says, “is a tool that could spread American values more effectively than any war or intervention. I have seen how it can empower and connect people.”
He says it has a similar combination of innovation, anti-censorship and openness that made the American idea so great.
As the world continues to turn geopolitically, Al Mutar says we should consider how Bitcoin may benefit more open and free societies like America, that despite its flaws is based on enlightenment values, and how it may cause fatal issues for dictatorial regimes.
“Bitcoin expands free speech, property rights, individual sovereignty, open capital markets, and checks on government power. America was founded on these values, and can thrive with them. The Chinese Communist Party, Putin’s dictatorship in Russia, or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?”
“Not so much,” he says.
When asked who his favorite founding father was, he instantly says, “Thomas Jefferson.” The first thing Al Mutar did when he got to America, he says, was go to Monticello. He finds Jefferson especially inspiring on the subject of freedom of religion and compares his push for separation of church and state with Satoshi’s push for separation of money and state.
“Jefferson was not perfect,” Al Mutar says, “but who is?” He says slavery and the depopulation of Native Americans are the “original sins” of the United States. “These stories need to be taught and remembered,” he says, “but we cannot judge the values of those living three centuries ago with the values of those living today.”
“In 100 years,” he says, “we may look back at today and say that the t-shirts we are all wearing make us all immoral because they are made with slave labor. So are we any more moral than the founding fathers? Consider that,” he says, “in my part of the world, Mauritania didn’t outlaw slavery until 1980, and today so much of the Gulf cities are built with slavery, including the infrastructure for the upcoming world cup. Some say that Martin Luther King Jr. was homophobic — is that what we should judge him on?”
“No,” Al Mutar says. “We should acknowledge the evil and the good.”
Saddles And Riders
In 1935, the African American poet Langston Hughes wrote “Let America Be America Again.” Here are the final few lines:
“O, let America be America again — The land that never has been yet — And yet must be — the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine — the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME — Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again. Sure, call me any ugly name you choose — The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, We must take back our land again, America! O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath — America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain — All, all the stretch of these great green states — And make America again!”
Hughes’s words speak to the theme of this essay: that we have a constant tension in American experience between the animating idea — so noble — and the reality — so flawed.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1826, Thomas Jefferson wrote:
“All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the Grace of god. These are grounds of hope for others; for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollection of these rights, and an unfinished devotion to them.”
But today we still have saddles and riders.
Jefferson’s own words reflect the ongoing imperfection of the American experiment, which has been lofty in ideals, but darkly tarnished in execution. The lead author of “all men are created equal” — and even the hand behind the pen that inserted a harsh condemnation of slavery into the Declaration of Independence, which was later removed by others — enslaved more than 600 people in his lifetime and did not free any of them upon his death.
The nebulous idea of America continues to defy simple black-and-white classification today. Even as Al Mutar is able to defend the greatness of America’s vision and freedom, Jackson shows how the nation has a great rot inside and asks us to think about how its systems are fundamentally broken for so many citizens.
In an amazing coincidence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both passed away on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. They could not possibly have predicted the struggles we face today, more than 200 years later, nor how the trade-offs they made to get America off the ground would evolve over time into civil wars, foreign occupations and an increasingly centralized financial system.
What Jefferson, Adams, Al Mutar and Jackson could all perhaps agree on is that, as we go deeper into the digital future, the original Declaration of Independence is not enough.
A new declaration is needed. One rooted in personal freedom, openness, prosperity, opportunity, property rights and free expression; one opposed to slavery, discrimination, theft, double standards, confiscation and censorship.
A declaration that could change America, just as its own people changed it from a place founded on slavery to a place where slavery was outlawed.
A declaration that can empower the black community, just as it can help immigrants connect to their families back home in countries far away.
A declaration that could credibly claim a place next to the Statue of Liberty, alongside Emma Lazarus welcoming the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.
In the end, Bitcoin may be that declaration, in the original American tradition of anti-authoritarianism and personal freedom, that helps finally rid us of our saddles and riders.
This is a guest post by Alex Gladstein. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.