Sovereignty is an often overlooked benefit of Bitcoin adoption, owing to its unconventional nature as observed in Bitcoin owners. It does not give them absolute power over others, but Bitcoin ensures that everyone has an equal playing field. This article attempts to dissect the various ways in which Bitcoin empowers people to become sovereign individuals.
According to Robert Breedlove, as expressed in the Miami Bitcoin Conference 2022, if you are operating within a group or country that is governed by a set of rules, and there is an individual or group that can make an exception that you cannot, that individual or group is sovereign over you. The sovereign individual or group has the power to bend the rules and take advantage of the unsovereign individual.
The ability to transact and store your money without requiring permission is the most visible aspect of Bitcoin’s ability to create sovereign individuals. Nobody can make exceptions for any Bitcoin owner who stores their Bitcoin wherever they want for any length of time. This is possible if you run your own node and/or use a non-custodial wallet to store your Bitcoin. Central banks, on the other hand, own fiat money and can make exceptions by printing more. In fact, you lack the authority to destroy your fiat money. It is illegal in the majority of countries around the world.
Bitcoin led to the rise of other blockchain projects and protocols that are now making it easier to own digital assets as is the case of NFTs. This means that we can agree to directly credit Bitcoin for the underlying technology that enables one to own their digital self. Developments on the Blockchain technology has made it easier to own your data, applications, creative work, and money which collectively allows you to own your digital self.
Before Bitcoin and its underlying Blockchain technology, most of the world population couldn’t own their digital selves. Their e-mail, profile, website, blog, digital money, digital wallet, creative work, and browsing data was and is still majorly owned by corporations that make billions of dollars using the data while they earn virtually nothing. Despite Facebook making billions off the content you and I create, I have never earned a dollar from Facebook. With Bitcoin adoption and development, a future is possible, where you will be able to own and monetize your entire digital identity thereby empowering you to become a sovereign individual.
Sovereignty can be broad or individual. If one party or group owns a big pie of a centralized project like Litecoin or Ethereum, they are able to make exceptions and that makes them sovereign over other project stakeholders. They have the ability to influence the project in such a way that it benefits them more than others. Bitcoin doesn’t offer this kind of individual sovereignty. Instead, it delivers broad sovereignty by making sure no one individual or group can make an exception. That is, no one is sovereign which makes everyone sovereign.
The fact that Bitcoin is censorship resistant is a key factor that gives the individual a choice. A form of sovereignty to choose how and where to spend your money as well as opt in and out of systems as you see fit. This is an exception that most people that don’t own Bitcoin cannot exercise, according to a recent article by the Bitcoin Magazine.
For instance, most Africans are often reduced to window shoppers in a large number of internet applications as they don’t have access to existing e-commerce systems. As an African, you may have fiat cash, browse a nice product in a popular social media platform, but you cannot purchase such a product since you don’t have access to the e-commerce system. This could be as a result of the vendor not accepting your fiat currency, the vendor not supporting your local bank, or the payments processing company not registering accounts in your jurisdiction.
Bitcoin empowers such an African to buy products from any person or organization in the world directly without any intermediaries. This removes sovereignty from a specific group of people from certain developed countries and distributes it to every Bitcoin user in the world.
Anti-money laundering regulations have made it suspect and almost illegal to operate large sums of cash. Your own money. If you want to withdraw or deposit a large sum of cash at a commercial bank in Kenya, you must fill out a special form describing how you got the money or where you intend to spend it. This is true for a wide range of jurisdictions, and I believe it is an overreach.
Money, in my opinion, is a technology that allows you to store value over time. So, if I use technology to store the value of my purchasing power, I believe I should have the freedom to spend it where, when, and how I see fit. Bitcoin eliminates the need for a commercial bank to safely store your value and transact globally. This restores the individual’s sovereign ability to hold large sums of cash without the fear of a bank or government agency arbitrarily freezing your account.
Central banks have the sovereign authority to print fiat currencies, resulting in the eventual depreciation of existing currencies in which stakeholders have stored their purchasing power. This means that you can put in a day’s work that earns you say three meals but when you save that value for use at a later date, the sovereign central bank’s money printing snaps up say one meal, and your stored value can now only purchase two meals. Bitcoin deprives central banks of this power and ensures that no one can make an exception for printing money and devaluing your savings.
Disclosure: I own bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.