Bitcoin, vegetarianism, and world peace

On Wednesday, Jack Dorsey suggested that bitcoin might be connected or lead to bringing about world peace:

We have all these monopolies off balance and the individual doesn’t have power and the amount of cost and distraction that comes from our monetary system today is real and it takes away attention from the bigger problems.

All these distractions that we have to deal with on a daily basis take away from those bigger goals that effect every single person on this planet and increasingly so. You fix that foundational level and everything above it improves in such a dramatic way. It’s going to be long-term but my hope is definitely peace.

Jack Dorsey during the B word conference

The following is a thought experiment about how bitcoin might bring about world peace.

one: fewer distractions, more reflection

Jack contends that our lives are distracted, and it’s in large part due to the monetary system. Here are a few of the ways that today’s monetary system is distracting:

  • The financial news obsessively covers every word from the Federal Reserve board. Lots of people pay attention because enormous amounts of money hang in the balance.
  • The federal government has more power than it otherwise would, because of the ability to print money. This causes us to spend more of our attention fighting over who is in charge (i.e. politics and the culture war) than we otherwise would.
  • Most people are impoverished by the money system, as it redistributes wealth in a regressive fashion (from the bottom to the top). This incites class resentment and civil unrest—definitely distracting.
  • Being impoverished also means we have to stay busy working just to pay the rent. Working is a big distraction.
  • We are driven to store our savings in risky assets such as stocks, because our cash is not safe. This means anyone who wants to keep their savings intact has to invest, and it’s increasingly difficult to tell the difference between investing and gambling. Even after all this time and energy is poured into so-called investing, we remain financially insecure.

These distractions go away once we adopt bitcoin. Let’s imagine:

  • The financial news covers markets, not the Fed; but nobody cares anymore because only a small subset of society is impacted by financial markets.
  • The federal government’s economic power is limited by what it can raise in taxes, which is in turn limited by how popular those taxes are. Because of this, federal politics becomes about as interesting as state-level politics, i.e. boring and a lot less distracting.
  • Most people are enriched by an economic system that distributes productivity gains broadly across society, and enables social mobility. Class resentment and civil unrest give way to a greater unity and sense of common goals.
  • Being enriched, we have more leisure and more of an empowering sense of plenty. Now we have both the time and the resources to tackle the big problems that face us.
  • We store our wealth in bitcoin, because it’s safe there. Nobody needs to invest, most people do just fine by working and saving. Investment returns are modest by today’s standards. Conservative investments exist. Most people are financially secure and don’t need to spend much attention on investing.

Freed from manufactured distractions, we will have time and attention to spare. Perhaps we will refocus our attention on improving our lives individually and collectively. And perhaps long term, like Jack says, this will lead to peace.

two: higher standards

As the whole world gets used to prosperity, we can start to relax. No longer frantically chasing solutions to our own problems or the deteriorating conditions around us, we can take time to look outside of ourselves and see the world more clearly. Feeling empowered economically, we might feel we can actually make a difference in our lives and those around us. We might also begin tolerating less and less suffering.

We might stop tolerating the destruction of our environment. Equipped with more time and a longer-term outlook, we will have room to care for the natural environment around us. We will no longer settle for pollution in our energy or food sources.

We will likely stop tolerating despots and dictators. Abusive rulers and authoritarian governments will fail, as one of their key levers of power—the monetary printing press—has been permanently removed. In fact, the entire notion of a nation begins to make less sense as the world becomes more interconnected by a global currency.

Our governments will necessarily be more efficient, because they will be beholden to do what they say and nothing more. Unless the people actually want it, the people won’t be willing to fund it. Unpopular overseas military interventions and wars will be impossible to fund.

As the standard of living for ordinary people continues to rise globally, how can war, which is such a dramatic destroyer of living standards, stand a chance?

three: vegetarianism

Will bitcoin bring about more vegetarianism? It’s a bit of an odd thing to suggest, as there’s a very vocal cohort of bitcoiners that are adamantly anti-vegetarian. However, I suggest that the future is vegetarian (vegan, really) regardless of currency, but on an accelerated timeline with bitcoin. And once we establish a vegan ethic, our society is unlikely to initiate wars of aggression.

As our standards increase, we may also stop tolerating the use of animals for food.

As we begin to be more reflective, we may see factory farms as the abominations that they are. We may find it increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that animals are individuals capable of suffering by our hands.

Assuming we begin to be less tolerant of ecological destruction, our food system will have to evolve. The food system currently involves vast amounts of ecological destruction, driven by the massive cultivation of plant foods that are used as feed for farm animals. By eliminating the animals and eating the plants directly, we can drastically reduce the land, water, and overall environmental footprint of our food system.

As government spending becomes more constrained by bitcoin, environmentally unsound farm subsidies will be attacked. Furthermore, as wage earners gain increased bargaining power, unpleasant and dangerous slaughterhouse work will begin to cost more. These factors will lead to high prices and in turn push the majority of consumers to eating plant-based.

Once most people are vegan, eating meat will become less acceptable. Imagine the lone meat eater seated with five vegans — they will necessarily feel a lot of pressure to conform. Society will transform to be almost exclusively vegan.

Once we are not eating meat, we will be able to access greater intelligence and compassion. No longer seeing an animal’s body on a plate as an object, we now know that they were a living, breathing somebody with a personality and perhaps even hopes and dreams.

At this point, we are able to live more in alignment with the golden rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We can live with this ethic in our daily lives, and finally apply it to our fellow humans all the world around.

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