The big picture here is clear and it is essential to understand that it represents a very significant paradigm shift. Whether it is online or offline, whether it is through a mobile app, an exchange or even through physical contracts, ownership titles to gold holdings keep changing hands. And thus, no matter the vehicle that is used to facilitate these transactions, the fact of the matter is that it acts as a gold-backed currency. This alone is remarkable: After eons of having to put up with fiat money, with all our other choices effectively and forcefully removed by decree, an increasing number of people is now once again reclaiming their right to execute voluntary trades with their peers, using what they understand to be real money.
What’s even more striking about this development is that it is fully and entirely organic and it came as the result of many different people arriving at the same conclusion freely and without coercion, direction or any kind of centralized authority. They were not forced to accept or use this gold-backed solution and they never forced anyone else to do so either. As for the solution themselves, they keep popping up and getting better, in an effort to outdo each other. This whole nascent field is in fact a perfect real-life manifestation of Bastiat’s axiom, that “competition is merely the absence of oppression”.
The decentralized aspect of this grassroots shift is also notable and can provide a multitude of lessons and solutions for other kinds of problems too that we face as individuals and as societies. Real, practical and viable answers never come from a single “expert”, a ruler or a special “committee”. Academics and theoreticians can opine from their high horses all they want and they can provide guidance to the “ignorant public” to their hearts’ content, but they have yet to offer a single useful practical fix for anything that ails us. That is and has always been the job of the individual who is actually and directly affected by the issue and those who agree, voluntarily, to work together with him or her.
This is what we’re seeing now in real time. There is coordination, obviously, but it is only taking place on the lowest possible level and scale. There is no government scheme or subsidy behind all these endeavors and there’s certainly no force involved in managing any of these initiatives. This fact not only ensures that human values are respected, but it also confers some very practical advantages too.
For one thing, the lack of central authority renders any project or movement a lot more robust, sustainable and protected from outside threats. This is the main argument in favor of all decentralized structures and it has been demonstrated clearly in all kinds of contexts and historic periods. From military examples, to the modern-day Crypto revolution, this element of robustness and resilience is simply undeniable. The possibility for “systemic failures” and top-down domino effects are eliminated and one mistake in one part of the network or the system does not affect the whole.
For me, however, while I fully appreciate the resilience advantage, the most important thing about decentralized systems is the way they promote innovation and allow for differences of opinion, of vision, of values and of priorities. In our gold-backed currency example, we see this play out clearly. Competition is fueling the advancement of the different applications and solutions, but this freedom is also bringing very different worldviews to the forefront. For instance, some users might prioritize ease of use and seamless transactions, while others might shun technology altogether and prefer to deal in physical formats, be it actual gold bars and coins or gold-infused paper notes.
But we also see this in very different structures. For example, we see it in political systems like the one we have in Switzerland. Here, decentralization is embedded in our way of life. Without a strong and essentially unlimited central government, like our neighbors have to live under, we get to govern ourselves, directly. Through the principle of subsidiarity and our constitutionally mandated and protected direct referendums, not only we get to keep a lot more of our individual liberties, but we also get a lot more choices.
This is the magic of decentralization, at least the way I see it. It facilitates and sustains true pluralism. The people of one canton or one municipality can have vastly divergent beliefs, sociopolitical priorities and visions for their future than those of the next one. They have different enforcement systems, different redistribution policies, different regulations and legal constraints. And whoever doesn’t like them, is simply free to move to a new community that is better suited to them. This is a very good practical embodiment of the idea to “live and to let live” but also of the free completion of ideas and of the concept of “letting the best idea win”.
We can apply these principles to so much more than the private sector, business and new financial applications. We can use them to guide us socially too, as well as politically. The idea of the majority always being right was inhumane, unfair, and plain statistically wrong to begin with, as many of us who know history have long realized, but especially after the last two years its failure has been clearly demonstrated to the average citizen too. We now have a rare and precious opportunity to rethink this, to revise our preconceived notions and to question all that we were intellectually force-fed though our public education systems and though the mainstream media.
Let us try a different tack this time. Let us all agree to disagree with our fellow citizens who might have another way of looking at life and the world. Let us all respect each other’s inalienable right to decide what’s best for themselves and for their families and if those decisions diverge enough, then let us part ways. And let’s all pursue the path that we think is right and at the end of it all, let us see who fared better and learn from them.
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