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Cryptocurrencies and Anarchism: A New Libertarian Flag

Giving a definition of Anarchism has always been problematic. The anarchic movement has acted and preached in a heterogeneous and sometimes even contradictory way throughout history. Perhaps it is this same mobile character – that of mutating through time and not remaining static – that makes anarchism so resistant to definitions, so reluctant to limits. The truth is that, in the multiplicity of faces he has taken, anarchism has persisted in founding values ​​that amalgamate and give meaning to all libertarian thought: anti-authoritarianism and freedom. Today these values ​​take the face of the Internet, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, as the anarchist movement with the greatest repercussion in history.

Although rigorously can not speak of anarchism before the intellectual birth of Pierre Joseph Proudhon, many libertarian ideas germinated in different human societies throughout history and in all latitudes of the globe. From the naturalistic reaction of Lao-Tsé to the totalizing legalism of Chinese Confucianism of the 7th century BC; passing by Diogenes of Sinope and his mockery to the power of Alexander the Great; the first Christian hermits -mainly Carpocrates- and the ekklesiasof common goods; up to the criticism of egalitarianism to English parliamentarians by William Godwin at the end of the XVIII; all the prehistory of anarchism seems to us to point out that the feeling of anarchy, that spirit of rebellion before the established powers is part of something essentially human and, therefore, suprahistorical.

This essentially human thing of anarchism is freedom. All these thinkers have had in common the desire to end the authoritarian exercise of power to make way for more free societies. In the heart of anarchism there has always been a dialectic between Thanatos and Eros, between destruction and creation, whose only synthesis is freedom.

Of course, history shows us that the objectives of these movements of State dissolution and of the vertical relations of command and obedience have not been achieved except in brief periods of time. Many are the causes that could be used to justify why this has happened: from the exercise of force by the repressive organs of the State, as well as the difficulty of self-government in the numerous human societies. The certain thing is that this apparent impossibility has decided in which the anarchism was relegated contemptuously to the scope of the utopias. For this precise reason, we can ask ourselves what we mean by utopia.

The etymological debate regarding the origin of the word utopia has oscillated between those who trace it to the Greek ou-topos -where the prefix ou implies negation and the root topos suggests place- and eu-topos, which would translate good place. Thus, a synthesis of both meanings would result in a good non-place, an ethical ideal of society that has not been concretized in the world but is projected as desirable for humanity.

Since the end of the 20th century and even more so in our days, the good non-place of anarchism -within its permanent dynamism that makes it mutate through time to protect the flag of freedom- has found space beyond the tangible, being consistent with its utopian character and its titanic will that overflows any type of limit or definition. This space is Internet. And those who have given themselves the task of leading the task gave themselves the name of cryptanarchists.

The term cryptanarquism was coined by the electronic engineer and cryptographic activist Timothy May in 1988 in the so-called Cryptanarchist Manifesto, where he expresses his ideas of revolution through the tools provided by the Internet and cryptography.

The Cryptanarchist Manifesto, together with the mailing list of the cypherpunks , laid the foundations for the further development of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. It was from these properties that important figures such as Wei Dai and Hal Finney – the creator of the first digital money experiment and the recipient of the Bitcoin White Paper, respectively – gave their contributions in the construction of a freer society and a more decentralized cyberspace. .

It is precisely from this community that Bitcoin is born , Cryptocurrencies and, consequently, blockchain technology . Among the elements that define cryptanarquism, May lists: encryption, digital money, anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero knowledge (zero knowledge, anonymity test currently used in cryptocurrencies such as Zcash ), reputations, information markets, black markets, collapse of governments. All this was already swarming the Internet in 1988. 21 years later, Satoshi Nakamoto opens the way to concrete these proposals.

In the Cyphernomicon , another of the texts written by May for the e-mail list of cypherpunks, where he delves into his ideas about cryptanarquism.

Today, almost 30 years after its publication, May’s words sound almost prophetic. Although since the launch of Bitcoin in 2009 -whose main target of attack were banks- the direction taken by the community has deviated to a certain extent from the original values ​​of this technology, and today we are witnessing the inevitability of change that introduce cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to the economy and social interactions. Nakamoto and May now belong among that line of thinkers who devoted their efforts to ending the authoritarian exercise of power to make way for more free societies.

The cryptocurrencies gave individuals the possibility to issue their own money freely and disintermediated. If it is wisely implemented, the blockchain technology, in its range of possibilities, could not only limit the power of the State, but make it obsolete. The true potential of a decentralized network of peer exchanges is often underestimated.

However, it is still uncertain what will be the final impact that this technology will have on society. Banks and governments of the world resist their replacement by adopting blockchain for their internal processes, and there are even countries that have decided to launch their own State cryptocurrencies in an effort to maintain control over the issuance of money and inflationary decisions.

In spite of this uncertainty, the importance that cryptanarquism has and will have as a manifestation of the multiplicity of faces of the anarchist movement in history is undoubted. The creation of cryptocurrencies and blockchain is the most important impact that any libertarian movement has had in the world , both in terms of depth and scope. And while it may be that the ethical-political sense originating from blockchain and cryptocurrencies is forgotten as technology becomes widespread, it will always be opportune to have reminders of where this technology really roots.

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Cryptocurrencies and Anarchism: A New Libertarian Flag


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