I’m not the first Leftist™ to analyze what crypto and blockchain could or could not mean for the future but I have to admit that there aren’t very many that have gone into much detail. Let’s take a look at two Leftists™ takes from their interviews with PRIMO NUTMEG. Also, check out his YouTube channel here.

Noam Chomsky — Starting @ 26:30 on Monetary Theory and Central Banking

TLDW: The interviewer asks Chomsky about his thoughts on cryptocurrency acknowledging how other intellectuals have pointed to central banking as a source for many ills. Chomsky admits blockchain may be useful but doubts Bitcoin would be a major part of the economy in the future. They proceed to criticize the socioeconomic beliefs of right wing libertarians.

Richard Wolff

TLDW: The interviewer asks Wolff if he thinks that blockchain would be useful and his thoughts on cryptocurrency. Wolff thinks blockchain could be useful but is very against cryptocurrency because he sees it as a tool for companies to get around regulations and lead to a repeat of the disjointed 1800s American banking system where each state bank distributed its own currency (called scrip) but instead the multinational companies of today.

My Constructive Criticisms

Although Chomsky doesn’t go into much detail about how he understands blockchain, he does seem to be open-minded to the potential of the technology. Presumably, he knows the basics of how it works but not any clear examples beyond bitcoin. He sees it as useless towards any real revolutionary purpose and unlikely to even be important in any significant degree for the current capitalist system in the future and will therefore he doubt Bitcoin will continue to exist into the long term future.

Although I agree with most everything else he says in the clip, I think that last point is a bit short sighted. A few reasons why:

  • Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have already been central to the existence of the Dark Web markets which were valued at $180 million in 2015 by The Economist.
  • Bitcoin is nicknamed “Digital Gold”, the reason being that it is thought that it will disrupt the gold industry. The world’s gold inventory is valued at around $7 trillion depending on the price and just a small piece of that can be a significant amount of economic activity. Companies are even actively courting gold investors to switch their investments towards Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.
  • Many billionaires and other elites have been investing in cryptocurrencies for years now and therefore now have an economic incentive for making sure those networks continue.
  • Although it is impossible to know now how crypto markets will react to a recession, it is very possible that cryptocurrencies will be seen as an alternative investment to protect wealth during the next crisis.

All these reasons make me believe that it is unlikely that Bitcoin will fade into obscurity anytime soon. As long as we have the institutional contradictions inherent to capitalism, people will look for safe havens within a broken capitalist system. If there is no clear argument for Socialism in front of them, reform capitalist cryptocurrencies will represent the alternative.

Wolff makes a great point about Scrip, which was also mentioned by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during the Congressional hearings with Facebook about Libra, their proposed cryptocurrency (Video). This is something that actually needs to be said more in the blockchain space and that I find to be increasingly more alarming as tech giants like Amazon and Apple also admit to be looking into using cryptocurrency for new business opportunities.

However, Wolff’s point that “they won’t allow [cryptocurrencies]” because it’s too disruptive does not acknowledge the progress made around cryptocurrency acceptance into the corporate and investment space. The 2019 Deloitte Global Blockchain study found that more than 50% of the surveyed senior executives consider blockchain an essential strategic direction, up by 10% compared to 2018. Moreover, four in ten respondents said they plan to invest in 2019 over five million dollars to develop solutions based on blockchain. No matter what you think about these executives, these are not insignificant statistics. In Grundrisse Mark wrote “Capital undertakes only advantageous undertakings, advantageous in its sense” meaning that if there is an advantage for adopting a technology, Capital will find a way to do it. It may be disruptive, but we should keep in mind that capitalist markets are essentially battlegrounds for the bourgeois class and the pro- crypto segment of them are getting ready for that fight. Unfortunately, there’s a high probability that it will most likely be the workers who will suffer the most from that fight. I wouldn’t underestimate them.

Conclusion: The consensus of Chomsky and Wolff seems to be “Cryptocurrencies = definitely bad” and “Blockchain = Good Maybe?” They both make good points but they miss the forest for the trees. Their misconceived notions are understandable and doesn’t take away from the work that they’ve done for the Left, however Blockchain in a left wing context warrants a more robust analysis and I plan to do just that.

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