I've been pretty excited about Bitcoin, before reading this post, for a few reasons:
- every time I thought about buying some, shortly after the price has skyrocketed. If I hadn't been so anxious about doing it, and if I had cashed out immediately every time it doubled then bought back in after the next crash, I would have a reasonably larger amount of money than I have right now.[1. Astute readers may notice that there are two explicit, and one more implied, if in that sentence, as well as the dubious claim that my memory of when I wanted to buy Bitcoin is perfect and not at all distorted by confirmation bias.]
- I really like the idea of a functional currency that's not dependent on any central storage location.
- Infinite divisibility is built into the nature of Bitcoin, and I think that's an economic concept that's going to matter.[2. Not only am I not an economist, I'm not even reasonably experienced at guessing about economic theories.]
- When I first heard about Bitcoin, I was significantly more sympathetic to libertarian politics than I am now.
It's embarrassing to open up a blog you really admire and discover a post viciously tearing apart something you'd previously thought well of. I'm drawing attention to this one in particular because Stross's post not only totally changed my mind about Bitcoin,[3. I'm wary of sudden conversions of point of view in general, but this one seems more like a specific-application change to a broader, longer-term shift in views.] but helped dig up some of the libertarian political ideas that I hadn't realized were still hanging around in my head, being problematic and gross.
First and foremost, and the only one I have a huge amount to say about right now, the super popular internet-libertarian political view "Child pornography is a small price to pay for FREEDOM" -- You don't have to examine this view too deeply before dozens of things emerge that are horribly wrong with it, but there's a convincing surface-level argument in favor of it: "You can't rule out a possibility just because it makes you feel gross" can be convincing if you don't look at it too hard, and can easily be enough to change someone's mind if they (Like I was at 19) are paranoid that they're not being intellectually rigorous enough.
By the way, just to make me feel a little less gross, here are some of the many problems with that argument: (a.) monitoring all the content on the internet and monitoring all exchanges of funds are hugely different levels of surveillance, and this case equates them; (b.) it dismisses the possibility of increased effectiveness by targeted surveillance, which is more possible with a monitorable currency; (c.) on this point the libertarian philosophy is self-contradictory: it protects the rights of pedophiles and child pornographers to own and profit by their content, but not the rights of children to their likeness, bodily autonomy, or privacy; (d.) in the case of child porn, the squick factor is actually a pretty solid case.
Damn, this post got darker than I thought it was going to. The stuff-I-used-to-think folder in my brain gets grosser every time I unpack it a little more.