In the eyes of most Western elites, investors, journalists and academics, Bitcoin rates anywhere from an annoyance to a disaster.
In May 2021, American billionaire Charlie Munger described Bitcoin as “disgusting and contrary to the interests of civilization.” Warren Buffett, once the world’s richest person, sat next to Munger in obvious agreement. He has said Bitcoin is “a delusion” and “rat poison squared,” and he has warned that he is sorry about its rise “because people get their hopes up that something like that is gonna change their lives.” Bill Gates, who also used to be the world’s richest person, has said Bitcoin is a “greater fool theory” investment and that he would short it, if he could.
HBO host Bill Maher skewered Bitcoin in an extended segment on his show, saying that the new currency’s promoters are “money-hungry opportunists.” A few weeks earlier, the New York Times ran a story that said Bitcoin will “ruin the planet.” Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf has long pegged it as “ideal for criminals, terrorists, and money launderers.”
Alex Gladstein is chief strategy officer at the Human Rights Foundation and has been vice president of strategy for the Oslo Freedom Forum since its inception in 2009.
Prominent Ivy League economist Jeffrey Sachs has said that Bitcoin offers “nothing of social value,” while former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde has called it a tool for “totally reprehensible money laundering activity.”
Over the past decade, these financial experts, reporters, and policymakers have continuously pounded the narrative and told the world that Bitcoin is risky, dangerous, bad for humans and bad for the planet.
This is an excerpt from “Check Your Financial Privilege,” a publication of BTC Media and Alex Gladstein (2022). The book is available for order here.
They are wrong, and they are blinded mainly by their financial privilege.
How financial privilege blinds dollar users to Bitcoin’s importance
The critics cited above are all wealthy citizens of advanced economies, where they benefit from liberal democracy, property rights, free speech, a functioning legal system and relatively stable reserve currencies like the dollar or pound.
But only 13% of our planet’s population is born into the dollar, euro, Japanese yen, British pound, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar or Swiss franc. The other 87% are born into autocracy or considerably less trustworthy currencies. As of December 2021, 4.3 billion people live under authoritarianism and 1.6 billion people live under double- or triple-digit inflation.
Critics in the dollar bubble miss the bigger global picture: Anyone with access to the internet can now participate in Bitcoin, a new money system with equal rules for all participants, running on a network that does not censor or discriminate, used by individuals who do not need to show a passport or an ID and held by citizens in a way that is hard to confiscate and impossible to debase.
While Western headlines focus on Coinbase going public, Tesla buying billions of dollars’ worth of Bitcoin and tech bros getting fabulously rich, there is a quiet revolution happening worldwide. Until now, governments and corporations have controlled the rules of money. That is changing.
To learn more, I spoke to Bitcoin users in Nigeria, Sudan and Ethiopia, three countries with a combined population of 366 million, well in excess of the number of individuals living in the United States.