This is an opinion editorial by Jimmy Song, a Bitcoin developer, educator and entrepreneur and programmer with over 20 years of experience.
We’re being robbed of our dreams.
Remember when you were little and wanted to grow up and do something great? You wanted to change the world for good and make a real difference. Yet, as you grew older, the realities of the fiat economy, particularly fiat companies, changed your goals. You dismissed your youthful desires as the unrealistic visions of an immature child and decided that the grim realities of the “real” world wouldn’t allow for such fanciful dreams.
Instead, you pursue the next promotion, the bigger car, the nicer house — something just incrementally better than what you already have. You’ve succumbed to the trinkets the fiat system dangles in front of you. Is this all that life is? To pursue the minor wins in a meaningless game rather than the dreams of your more idealistic self? You pursue what will give a little more status from a group of people you don’t particularly like and work yourself to death for it. You realize that what will give meaning to your life has not been a consideration for some time and that the rat race has exhausted you to the point where pondering such things seems like a burden itself. Better to indulge in video games or porn or social media and distract yourself.
People pursue the fiat things because they seem to be the only things realistic for them to get. They rationalize that they are pursuing something good, even if it’s really rent-seeking in the worst way. Your dreams have not been so much altered as they have been debased. Not to spoil things too much, but the debasement of your dreams is a debasement of your life.
The Meaning Of Life
Most people throughout history found meaning in the pursuit of something greater than themselves. Whether it be family, community or religion, the participation and expansion of what they believed in was what gave their lives meaning. The pursuit of a legacy that lasts — whether by building cities, raising progeny or teaching ideas — was what they pursued and found meaning in.
Family, community and religion were all integral parts of civilization. They were a firm foundation to build society on. Building required all sorts of different skills and talents. The hard work involved meant something because the creations would last.
For example, cathedrals throughout Europe were built with volunteer labor over many decades, sometimes centuries. Many of the people working on them wouldn’t see the fruits of their labor in their lifetimes, but it meant something because these structures and what they represented would last. Of course, it wasn’t just cathedrals, but family legacies and community organizations that lasted past the lives of those who contributed to them were just as forward looking and just as meaningful.
Contrast that to what’s happening today. Many people work in companies that go bust in a few years. Even the companies that are relatively old are essentially zombie companies, surviving off of Cantillon effects and government subsidization. The buildings we live in are not meant to last. Research that’s done is for rent-seeking purposes and not the pursuit of truth. Fiat money has raised the time preference of every traditional source of meaning and has debased those sources along with it.
The last vestiges of meaning like family, community and religion while continuing to exist, have also been debased, especially over the past 50 years. Families have grown smaller, communities more distant and religion invaded by fiat culture.
I’ve already written much about fiat education, fiat companies, fiat science, fiat art and fiat knowledge. These are substitutes for real meaning and real communities. The fiat substitutes are like parasites that have drained meaning from all possible sources of a genuinely meaningful life. The drain is ostensibly to perpetuate the fiat money game.
Fiat Education Versus Family
Fiat education has become a substitute for family. Traditionally, families were where values and skills spread. Each generation would learn and pass on the values and skills to the next generation. Legacies of families would continue not just in wealth but in names.
Names used to mean something. Giving a child a good name meant that the child was expected to have certain manners and values. Each family had an identity that was consistent and reliable. Instead, this role of propagating certain values and skills has now been subsumed by fiat education. As a result, where you graduated from means far more in the marketplace than your name because that’s where values and skills are obtained.
The substitution is supposedly more fair, but is in reality a method to instill more compliance to the state. The values have largely become uniform and “progress” always seems to be going in a direction antithetical to the competition, that is family. Identities are increasingly based on large ideological camps with little variety in between.
Further, values change every generation because the whims of the elites change. Whoever is in charge gets to set the agenda and that agenda has little consistency. The state has taken over the passing down of values and skills so it’s no wonder so many people will do what the state says and believe what the state says to believe. Compliance is the main value taught by fiat education.
Compliance is a very poor substitute for the real virtue of love. Families encourage duty, loyalty and sacrifice because there is a natural love among kin. The state tries to get the same from compliance, which is a deeply debased form of love.
Fiat Companies Versus Community
Fiat companies have become a substitute for real community. A real community is where people know each other and trade with one another their goods and services. Each individual builds without needing permission from authorities. Community values are enforced through social ostracization. Rent-seeking, for example, is shunned. Merit is how goods and services are judged and it produces better stuff through competition. The result is a unique culture, values and bonds that provide meaning.
By contrast, companies have an artificially large authority structure meant to serve the fiat money game. They have a set of values that are given top-down. The larger they are the more they are infected with rent-seeking. Politics is the main means by which benefits like promotions and raises are handed out. As a result, the people in them pursue power which consequently turns companies into sociopathic nightmares.
The reason why companies are such poor communities is that the incentives are so terrible. Fiat companies exist to make a profit and not build up anything significant or long lasting. Because of the presence of fiat money, financialization is inevitable for any company that lasts for any significant amount of time. A financialized company can make money in the short-term without providing much value and this is generally preferred to the hard work of producing low time-preference, civilization-building goods and services. Given the Cantillon effects available to large corporations, the souls of these companies are quickly consumed by fiat money rendering them zombie-like.
You would think these places would have lots of easy cushy jobs because of the significant amount of rent-seeking available. Yet, because of the politics and power dynamics at play, these jobs tend to be just as hard or even harder than a non-rent-seeking job. Because of the political demands of leadership positions, they are just as taxing, or more so than non-rent-seeking positions. Making partner at a law firm can require working 80 hours a week. Same with founding a VC-backed startup or getting to a C-level position. Achievement in this context comes at the expense of everything else. You may be powerful and make lots of money doing very little real work, but you also do lots of busy work and barely see your family. You are winning at a game that really doesn’t matter in the long run. Few people will remember that you were made a partner 100 years from now.
No wonder so many people in these places are depressed. Many are winning Cantillon status games, but they are doing so without achieving anything real or creating any sort of legacy. They are ultimately just stealing from everyone else through financial games enabled by the state. These careers have little meaning and deep down, most people know it.
Communities, by contrast, have hope in a common future and build what will outlast them. Companies, in other words, are deeply unsatisfying as far as meaning is concerned.
Fiat Politics Versus Religion
Politics has become a substitute for real religion. It gives some pretense of larger meaning, but it’s shallow and limited mostly to rhetoric. The prize of the money printer has heightened the stakes more than ever. Being beset by rent-seekers, there’s now an academic priesthood whose work is more bureaucratic than philosophical.
This has had an unfortunate effect on science. The pursuit of knowledge was, for many pioneers of science, a way to learn more about God. Science was an extension of their religious devotion and meant more than the status contest that it is today. They found meaning in the pursuit of science precisely because it aligned with their values.
By placing politics in the place of true religion, fiat science has become more and more unanchored from reality. The metaphysical and philosophical basis for science has been replaced with a political agenda and thus, truth and reality have been tossed aside for rent-seeking. Fiat science embodies nihilism and power of politics rather than truth and reality of philosophy. It’s no wonder so little progress has been made despite the enormous amount of centrally planned money that has gone into it.
Fiat art similarly reflects a lack of a metaphysical anchor. The art itself is incredibly convoluted and esoteric reflecting once again the nihilism and power games of politics. Instead of reflecting truth and beauty, it’s reflecting the meaninglessness of the politics that produced it. Artists of the Renaissance, for example, were deeply religious and saw their art as an extension of their religious devotion. It was considered uncouth to paint anything that didn’t honor God. But because of its essentially political anchoring, fiat art has become a giant status game. What was transcendent beauty has been debased to rent-seeking.
Fiat money, in other words, sucks the life out of everything that would normally be meaningful. This is in no small part due to the immediacy of monetary debasement. We’ve been engaged in high time-preference behavior and everything has gotten infected by its inverted value system of money over meaning.
Fiat companies, fiat education and fiat politics all give the pretense of meaning through substitution. Instead of virtues like love, hope and faith, we get fiat substitutes like compliance, an authoritarian vision and nihilistic status games. We comply with these games because we don’t want our stuff to get debased even further.
Our choices are profoundly limited by what’s acceptable to the people in power. Our world of possibilities has shrunk into the sanitized versions which lack any soul. What was once meaningful has been debased to something that furthers the state’s agenda. Our jobs, our accomplishments, our communities and everything else that might provide meaning to our lives have been made into weapons of the state to further its goals, and not our own.
The typical things that give our lives meaning, like marriage, family, children and even identity have been changed by government decree. Meaning has been sucked out of them and we are being trained through propaganda to pursue only state-approved things. The authorities want us to be compliant to them and having any other loyalty would make us less compliant.
Compliant people are much easier to manage. These were the people quarantining for months at a time, supporting wars and even gender-transitioning young children. Compliance to the state and furthering its goals are the only meaning we are allowed to have.
We don’t build anything that lasts anymore, so we have to make do with political goals that the state is building toward. This is a common theme in socialist countries like Nazi Germany which wanted a racially pure world free from Jewish and Slavic people. Stalinist Russia pursued a worker’s paradise promised by Marx.
All the energy that would go into productive meaningful activity is instead directed toward some vision of the state given by the elites. These are narratives, which like the second law of thermodynamics get more chaotic over time. The current vision in the U.S. is toward a peaceful world that is policed by the U.S. where everyone in the U.S. can be taken care of without working very much so they can pursue a form of hedonism. In short, the vision is to become the first rent-seeking nation, without all the frantic busywork of politics.
Yet as we have seen, this vision is anything but a reality. The U.S. is engaged in more wars than ever. These wars keep costing more money, more equipment and more people. The U.S. is also spending more and more on social programs and bailouts. Even the dollar’s status as the global reserve currency is under threat. Yet this vision is pursued with religious fervor because everything else has so little meaning. Debasement of all that would give meaning has left only the state’s vision. We have been made to settle for fiat meaning.
Bitcoin And Prudence
The subversion of meaning has had truly depressing consequences. Identity used to come from family, community and religion, but it’s now about fiat education, fiat companies and fiat politics. The meaning people do find is in extremely shallow and high time-preference things like social media and political rallies. Reading Twitter about the outrage of the day is a good indicator of how little things really matter.
Meaning has to be, by nature, low time-preference. We’ve lost meaning because we’re being bombarded with high time-preference concerns. How do I measure up to these models on Instagram? What will these people think if I don’t keep advancing in my career? Notice how narcissistic such questions are. This is what high time-preference people look, sound and feel like.
What Bitcoin brings back is a perspective on the long-term. When living under a fiat standard, the future is very murky and the immediacy of the present, particularly with the debasement of savings makes looking at the long-term very difficult. By enabling savings, our minds are freed up to think about the long-term. We can think about the legacies we are going to leave and the ways we want to contribute to civilization. We have the mental space to dream about these things because savings allows us to plan.
The people that have been doing this the most are the much-derided Bitcoin Maximalists. They pursue more meaningful things because they have a long-term perspective. Having unhooked from the fiat system, they start to see clearly that the truly meaningful things need to be pursued at the individual level and not through a political program.
Traditional ways of finding meaning are being pursued. I know many who have started families, engaged in community and found religion. This transformation is surprising to people, especially those outside of Bitcoin, but it makes sense when looking through the perspective of virtue. Savings gives us that room to examine critically what we’ve been pursuing and the lies of fiat money become quickly apparent under even a little bit of scrutiny.
Bitcoin lets us pursue our dreams again.
Ten Meaningless Things You Are Way Too Concerned With
- The score of last night’s game.
- The approval of some internet random.
- The sequel to a movie that violates some previously established canon.
- The opinions of some celebrity.
- A carefully crafted public statement of any kind.
- Any rationale for bad behavior by public officials.
- Video game release dates.
- Number of likes on any social platform.
- Proving someone wrong on the internet.
- What a Kardashian did last week.
This is a guest post by Jimmy Song. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.