The advent of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies has opened the world to a number of interesting possibilities and questions. The possibilities seem endless (much like the seemingly infinite list of cryptocurrencies). Yet, with these possibilities, a number of questions arise.
These questions primarily focus on the value that blockchain bribings to society, the intrinsic value of cryptocurrencies (especially, leading cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin) in contrast with fiat currencies.
The line of inquiry can progress further into deeper questions into the concept of money, economics, debt, and the intersection of these concepts with society and government.
Do these crypto assets and mechanisms help to distribute equity and provide ownership, allowing for a shift (albeit, over time) to a better economic system? Will the crypto revolution stay decentralized and will blockchain help to cure the currents ailments that plague the current iteration of capitalism?
Let’s take a look at the current state of affairs and the potential improvements that can be brought about with this emerging technology.
Capitalism: The Current State of Affairs
Capitalism, in the most basic sense, is an economic system where private owners have control of a variety of aspects of the economy. Simply said, capitalism is where people & private businesses have economic power, not the government.
Capitalism has been a boon to societies as it has boosted strong free enterprise which has caused countries to both grow economically, and improve their standards of living. Implying that if more economic power is allocated to free enterprise in hands of the people, they will effectively take actions in their best interest, and effectively move goods and services in an efficient manner.
Thus, if the people have more power to start their own businesses rather than it being controlled by a central authority, then they will be incentivized to act, producing benefits for the whole.
As more private parties start up more businesses unimpeded by regulations, it follows then that the country should prosper as a rising tide should lift all boats.
The benefits of Capitalism are also evidenced by looking at the shortfall of other economic systems that did not play out too well.
The Communist Contrast
Take communism for example, in a communist government, the government has significant power and the reach of the government is extensive, it spills over into every aspect of society.
The government heavily regulates enterprise and imposes a variety of restrictions on the number of businesses, the types of businesses people are allowed to own, and how they are able to run them. These impositions can cripple many businesses and hinder growth, and the ones that do prosper, the government takes a significant cut of the benefits.
Various iterations of social market-oriented countries like Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela and others have not fared as well, at various instances in history, largely due to the lack of effective central planning by the government.
The lack of economic freedom caused significant problems. People had minimal to choices, they couldn’t buy whatever and how much they wanted. Instead, in communist countries, resources were usually in short supply because governments ineffectively regulated the flow of resources, not the private sector. This caused mass starvation in countries such as Russia, and North Korea.
Countries such as China have transitioned (from an economic perspective) from communism to state-run capitalism, yet we still see the heavy imposition and control that the central government in China wields on free enterprise and its many consequences. The country has extreme levels of censorship, lack of expression, a lower quality of human rights and a host of other issues that plague the people residing there.
Thus, we can see that the benefits of capitalism may truly provide for a better quality of life. These benefits come about because of a mixture of incentives and benefits within the system, these are comprised of; more individuals rights over the state, the ability to earn without onerous burdens imposed by the state, being more in line with human behavior and psychology (greed, risk and effort vs. reward) in addition to other aspects.
Yet, capitalism is not necessarily perfect.
Bugs in the current capitalistic system
There are a few downsides of this economic system that is increasingly embraced across the world. These different issues range from monopolies to pollution and general disregard for the environment, to unfair distribution of wealth, imperialism and different variations of exploitation of human capital and culture.
Furthermore, there is somewhat of alignment between the state and the corporation. Companies intend to maximize profit and minimize losses, while the government wants to tax profits at a certain rate, giving them the desired amount of money to carry out projects for the welfare of the public. Yet, the alignment is off due to the fact that the corporation or the private entity has a focus on maximizing profits and minimizing taxes, as taxes, a cost, is sought to be minimized by the corporation.
Thus, retaining as many earnings for the company and the shareholders.
Capitalism is usually criticized because free enterprise has allowed for monopolies.
Monopolies are when one business controls an entire industry. This has been somewhat of a problem in the past, and in the present.
In the 1940s, a monopoly on telephones was formed, known as Bell Labs. In response, the U.S. Supreme Court filed an antitrust lawsuit in 1949. The result was that Bell Labs had to minimize the market share that it possessed. This happened again in 1985 when the U.S. Government cracked down on AT&T for it’s unfair market practices. As you can see, monopolies have popped up time & time again, but have been dealt with by the government after a period of time.
Upward Mobility: A pipe dream?
Another problem with capitalism is that people who are poor may likely stay poor, and the rich may likely stay rich. This issue can be seen in the low minimum wage and the overall increase in income inequality and wealth distribution.
Centralized Monetary Control
A certain amount of regulation is important to enforce the law and keep bad actors in check, thus, (ideally) leading to a better, safer and secure society. Yet, the question that is continuously in the minds of many a participant in the market may be, how much regulation should there be?
In this era of capitalism in developing and developed countries, governments have various organizations that participate in and make decisions on the monetary and fiscal policies of the state. These monetary and fiscal policies are important because the decisions of a few appointed parties affect the lives of many.
If the correct decisions aren’t made, many are negatively affected.
The U.S. government is integrally involved in managing the growth of the economy as it seeks to find a balance between employment and inflation. With the aim of the balance between the two, the government conducts economic cooldowns and stimulations as necessary.
This managing of the economy is done through the tools of monetary and fiscal policy.
The monetary policy in the United States is controlled by the Federal Reserve, an independent U.S. Central Bank which “manages the money supply and use of credit”. The two types of bodies who have influence over the Monetary Policy are the Board of Governors and the Federal Open Market Committee.
The fiscal policy is determined by the President and Congress through adjusting taxes and managing the federal spending budget as necessary.
Criticisms of Monetary Policy
Established issues with monetary policy range from lag to political pressures and choosing the proper targets.
Let’s run through what these established issues are and why they matter.
It might be simple to read economic charts on a screen and make decisions accordingly, yet it is harder to be able to time the proper decisions correctly. The members of the Federal Reserve have to make sure that they are pressing the right button to manage the economy.
Theoretically, if we lived in a perfect society, where all data was accounted for in real time, the right decisions could be made accordingly, resulting in a perfectly balanced economy.
But this is not the case, there might be macroeconomic changes in the economy which have delayed consequences, which are then, not accounted for in the economic control processes of the Federal Reserve, thus leading to delayed actions and reactions in the economy.
The recognition lag (recognition of the macroeconomic change), the implementation lag (what should be done about the macroeconomic change) and impact lag (being able to see the results of monetary authority adjustment to the economy) can have significant repercussions on the economy.
The Proper Targets
The next question is what is the proper targets to set? What macroeconomic factors should be paid attention to in managing the economy? Depending on the targets that they are setting and the reasoning behind these targets, different decisions would be made and these decisions would affect the economy accordingly. The different targets that the Federal Reserve could look at can range from interest rates to changes in price levels.
Interest rates play a crucial role in managing the economy. A variety of integral economic actors take different actions based on the interest rate set by the actions of Federal Reserve. If the Federal Reserve takes actions to increase the federal funds rate, the money supply is tightened, allowing for a decrease in supply. If the Federal Reserve take actions to decrease the federal funds rate, the money supply is loosened, allowing for more supply.
Banks look to the federal funds rate and lend accordingly affecting businesses and individuals.
Prime examples of how controversial these decisions can be, are found in that of one of the presiding chairs of the FOMC, Alan Greenspan. Many point to the low-interest rates implemented by Alan Greenspan and the consequences of those decisions that led to the financial crash of 2008.
The level of Interest rates can have different effects on individual behavior. Lower interest rates stimulate borrowing and spending but disincentivize savers.
The Federal Reserve is supposed to be an independent organization and it is recognized as such. Yet, members of the FOMC is chosen by the President, wield enormous power and do not live in a vacuum. Despite factors promoting independence (like 14-year terms), the chairman of the Board of Governors (appointed by the president) does have a limited tenure (4 years).
The independence of Fed is established by Congress and President, parties who interact with the committee on a regular basis to discuss matters of economic concern, who may have incentives of their own to place political pressure on these decision making bodies.
Leading to the question, how effective are monetary policy bodies?
Criticisms of Fiscal Policy
The primary criticism of the current management of Fiscal policy is the fact that the US Federal Government deficit is large and growing. This is increasing debt is concerning in an expansionary economic cycle.
Typically, the expectation is that a long-term booming economic environment should not be correlated with a continuous increase in federal debt. The expectation is, as the economy grows and the gross domestic product of the country increases, tax revenues should increase and the federal deficit should decrease.
This is not the case, the debt looks like it is increasing at a rapid pace. The U.S. federal budget deficit for the fiscal year 2019 is over 900 billion and is expected to rise to more than one trillion as the year 2020 rolls around.
As the deficit rises and the ensuing problems are continuously kicked further to the next regime, issues such as healthcare, education and other public fundamentals seem to be declining as they are defunded to maintain some sort of balance.
The Rise of Debt
Debt is an interesting piece of capitalism, it helps to fuel capitalism, but just how crucial is it?
Well, we know for a fact that it plays a significant role in how the economy is managed (interest rates, federal funds rate) but not just in the U.S. but other countries as well. This is also seen in situations where the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have to get involved to help breathe life into economies.
The mechanism of debt and interest rates is powerful and has impacts all over the world. Hence, this mechanism of debt is something that is important to pay attention to in the current capitalistic economic climate.
According to Kary Bheemaiah, the adage, “if you don’t know where you are coming from you don’t know where you are going” helps to explain the first iteration of capitalism and the debt injection (18th, 19th, 20th centuries). Capitalism serves as a fundamental economic system across the globe and has helped to “spread prosperity and ensure democracy”.
Yet, as we’ve progressed to the second era of capitalism, the growth of capitalism is not as organic and is spurred along by debt, instead of earnings backing growth, debt seems to be the leading contributor to the maintenance and growth of capitalism.
The rise in privatization, less regulation, freer lending and lower earnings capacity is leading to different and less positive outcomes.
These outcomes (inequality in the distribution of wealth, the concentration of wealth, limited earnings and more) aren’t necessarily leading toward more prosperity and overall growth. There seems to be an imbalance as debt currently seems to have a seat at every table, yet equivalent earnings are not necessarily present.
Ideals of a Capitalist: Capitalistic Fundamentals
So, what are the ideals of a capitalist? Private property, a celebration of individual rights, the freedom to choose and the minimization of government intervention.
In addition, a fundamental aspect of capitalism is that different aspects of life are considered capital (labor, goods, natural resources, intellect and more). Various forms of capital are exchanged for currency, this widely accepted currency allows the capitalist to use the currently available currency to purchase the desired form of capital (labor, goods, natural resources, intellectual capital, etc) for consumption or to produce more capital.
The currency that is exchanged for capital is issued and backed by the state, the currency is also what profits and earnings are taxed in. Additionally, the currency that is exchanged for capital is also controlled through the fiscal and monetary policies of a central authority, the state, and the federal reserve.
These ideas and process of how capital, currency, the intertwining of debt and how they intersect with society and culture are important to remember as we enter into the crypto realm. It is especially important to understand the cultural construct of capitalism as much as an economic construct.
Individuals participate in society and the economic system within specific conditions, making tacit agreements with society as they navigate through the system, interact with each other, make decisions and conduct transactions. Leaving us with a question, can we refine our interactions and conditions? 
What does a better culture and system look like? Ideally, we’ll have the answer with improvements in technology and the blockchain.
State of affairs thus far
In summary, capitalism is a system that, in theory, has less government intervention, and more personal freedoms. In the economic system of capitalism, individuals are free to choose their livelihoods, they can start their own businesses, they can choose what they want to consume and more. Yet, there a few shortfalls and these need to be refined for it to be a better system for all.
Technology is shaping the world: Bridge to a better future?
However, with recent advancements in technology and more people finding utility and embracing the era of technology, more interesting possibilities emerge.
Increased interconnectivity and globalization have created avenues of value that were not necessarily present to the average individual. Platforms such as Google, Youtube, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, have allowed individuals to tap into their capital and extract value in various ways.
Individuals are now able to broadcast and have more reach allowing them to engage in a variety of activities (buying and selling goods across the world, across states, or being able to use their cars and a phone to earn currency quickly and efficiently).
The internet and the world wide web has brought about more connectivity access to information and people.
Mediums such as Blogger, Google, Facebook, Yelp, Quora and others help us to contribute information and glean information. We can tell others our thoughts, learn more about the world around us, educate ourselves on current advancements and tap into more potential opportunity and make better choices.
These various platforms and the ability to create and reach a target community or consumer base, the ability mobilize activity, and much more provide for possibilities on a larger scale.
It is in this context, a context where technology is central to communication, transportation, health and other aspects of life, becoming more integral to society that we are seeing new technologies emerge.
It is in this increasingly interconnected domain that we see a new type of technology coming into play, an innovation that promises to unlock more value, provide trust and give more power to the hands of the individual. A technology that allows for an addition to the free flow of information, allowing individuals to send currency as simple as it would be to share a cat gif or a Trump meme.
The Emergence of the Blockchain and Bitcoin
The blockchain technology, a technology that has been around for quite a while now, actually came out a few decades prior to the appearance of Satoshi Nakamoto and Bitcoin. The first cryptographically secured chain of blocks was introduced in the early 1990’s by the researchers and cryptologists, Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta.
These researchers improved on this research with the addition of Merkle Trees, allowing for more data collection per individual block. Their focus was on time-stamping a digital document in an efficient and reliable way. The problem they were trying to solve was being able to certify when a document was created or changed.
However, the full potential of blockchain technology was realized with technological advancements and the combination of several technologies (the internet, the world wide web, blockchain, cryptography, peer to peer communications and more).
The various combined technologies came together to form what we know of today as the Bitcoin blockchain. The comprehensive blockchain came about by Satoshi Nakamoto with the release of the white-paper defining the practical utilization of the technology and an ambitious vision that could be realized.
What was this vision?
The vision of a peer to peer electronic cash system.
Why was (and is) this vision so powerful?
A world where a trusted decentralized currency (free of a central authority), with a set monetary policy, backed by math, is an interesting phenomenon.
It indicates a few things, chief of them may be the fact that, as technology improves and gets better the functions of many a central party (governments and large institutions) might become obsolete.
The next point is that a currency that can be easily sent from Dallas to Dubai without the use of a central party signifies two aspects, the growth of globalization and uniformity across the globe. The fact that two parties across the world would accept a currency not issued by any formal government is also part of the marvel that the Bitcoin system brings about. This means that both parties have trust in the system and the currency and what it is backed by, rather than having to trust the other transacting party.
The third aspect of Bitcoin is the transferability and the store of value properties that come with it. An individual can easily transfer value quickly with minimal issues. This means that if the country that they were residing in, experienced some sort hyperinflation or other social and political issues that could devalue their currency, they would be able to convert to BTC and move their value if needed. This becomes worthwhile in a situation where the value of your hard earned life savings might dramatically dwindle over a short period of time.
The fourth aspect of Bitcoin is the fact that the leading and pioneer digital currency is censorship resistant. The aspect of censorship resistance is important because it indicates one of the most powerful aspects of this movement, control. The owner of Bitcoin will have complete control over where they want to send their money and they can do so without the interference of a third party (governments, financial institutions, etc).
This powerful feature of Bitcoin provides a qualitative aspect of freedom that isn’t necessarily existent in the present fiat system (as fiat money is typically held by third parties).
Bitcoin not being deemed as a security keeps it in an area where it may not be under as much regulatory scrutiny.
The controlled supply aspect is of great importance because of the fact that a currency that has a high chance of increasing in value and retaining that value over the course of a long period of time is extremely valuable. One would not have to be concerned about losing purchasing power and can rest assured that their financial assets, fully controlled by them, will at the very least retain value. Another aspect of this controlled supply means that even though a bitcoin is divisible or “can have a fractional part of up to eight digits”, it can not be a debt based system.
Simply because there is a limited and controlled supply, with Bitcoin having an upper bound of only 21 million whole units in existence.
Bitcoin is minted at random by a central figure, it is distributed through participation in the PoW Consensus Mechanism. This distribution of Bitcoin is important in creating the Bitcoin economy, giving participants a stake in the system, a reason to participate and the rise of the value of the currency or system over time.
In case you missed it, another interesting aspect of Bitcoin is the fact that it is open sourced, it wasn’t privatized or patented, designed for everyone to participate.
The unprecedented transparency of the Bitcoin Blockchain system is also a central point, everyone is able to see different transactions happening, and see different sorts of relationships and patterns. This is in stark to contrast to the situation today, money, the inner workings and the flow of it, is incomprehensible and opaque.
These principles, combined together, create an interesting system, and a new design.
Bitcoin, a secure distributed software system which anyone (should) be able to participate in, earn from and help shape the future with. Bitcoin didn’t just serve as a currency system it also served as a catalyst for birthing a decentralized world, creating a new type of capitalist culture around different ideas, laying down the blueprints for what a decentralized future could look like.
The Decentralized World
What does this decentralized world look like?
Bitcoin has inspired further interesting utilization of the blockchain. The second iteration of Blockchains pioneered by Ethereum, allows for the customization of money through the use of smart contracts.
Ethereum allowed for people to be able to issue tokens for a respective use case within a new system, these newly created tokens would be used in various ways in buying goods and services.
This brought about the idea of programmable money, where more could be done with the concept of money. For instance, the Request Network, a project that is working on automatically accounting for peer to peer transactions, is also integrating automatic calculation and payment of taxes, automatic accounting of transactions (minimizing the workload of accountants and auditors), and automatic allocation of discounts to certain parties.
These new blockchain based systems can allow for addressing different issues within an economy in a real-time manner, incentivizing action and creating new economies as well . The blockchain and the aspect of trust are then applicable to more than just money, it applies to the fields of law, government, news, and other aspects of society as well. The elimination of a central party that controls a specific aspect of society, whether it be a media organization, a social network, or even a nation is where much more potential lies.
The idea is that is that if trust in a third party, whether it be a company, a government, or a financial institution, can be eliminated in a feasible and viable manner through the blockchain, and improvements can be made, then it should be decentralized.
A decentralized world is where the process of a redistribution of functions, people, and things have taken place through disintermediation. The decentralization process would bring about more transparency, minimize and break up “too big to fail” entities like big banks and greatly decrease the aspect of the failure of one entity having a significant impact on the large system. In addition, other key aspects of the elimination of censorship, concentration of power, more skin in the game, and ownership and autonomy would be part of the new system.
A variety of decentralized projects have risen to build out the decentralized ecosystem from decentralized exchanges to facilitate the flow of trade and provide liquidity, to projects that tackle governance models, identity, scalability and interoperability, content sharing (Steem and Brave) to many other projects tackling other use cases.
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, programmable money, decentralized applications and other innovations made possible through blockchains and smart contracts allow for interesting dynamics, highlight the rise of autonomy in the decentralized world.
What other aspects come about in the decentralized world via smart contracts?
Remember how projects can create and issue tokens via the use of smart contracts for their respective platforms? These tokens breakdown into three types (payment, utility, and security).
Security tokens allow for “programmable ownership”, meaning that assets of all types can be tokenized, these assets can range from soft assets (equities, forms of debt) to hard assets (real estate).
This creates a new vehicle in how projects are started and kicked off, (as noted earlier) Ethereum pioneered the Initial Coin Offering concept and was able to raise about 16 million in funds (from the crowd in a decentralized manner) for their platform. The funds raised, would assist in furthering research, interest, stakes and growth of the platform and the overall Ethereum ecosystem.
This new method of raising funds via the use of smart contracts and developing and furthering products gave way to an explosion in the use of Ethereum for a variety of token sales and the development of open source projects.
Yet, in addition to fund raising open source projects, tokenization allows for a variety of aspects, bringing innovation and finance together to bring about decentralized networks.
Due to this sort of innovation a variety of different projects can tackle different concrete and abstract issues from file sharing to identity verification to real estate and possibly even private company share liquidity.
Platforms like t0 and Polymath facilitate the tokenization of securities, but platforms can also facilitate the tokenization of cars, airplanes, and a variety of other consumer goods as well. This means that a technician could own a small piece of the next iconic bridge, building or other good, a concept which is not so viable today.
This aspect of tokenization allows for disintermediation, more openness and access, liquidity in the markets, fewer fees, quicker and continuous trades. The feature of access, being able to invest and participate in the profits of a cafe, a bookstore, a neighborhood, or a housing development near you, in a connected and open manner is a game changer if conducted correctly.
Facilitating the process of providing a stake in various environments where one didn’t really feel like they had one prior can open up a whole new world of value contributing toward betterment due to the correct incentives.
In addition to the aspects of autonomy, and other aspects like tokenization, let’s look at what a crypto-economy looks like and how debt comes into play in this market.
Crypto-Economics & Debt
What does a crypto-economy look like for a specific project?
We’ve already discussed the economics of Bitcoin from a monetary supply standpoint, as well as how it is created (not centrally, but in a decentralized fashion by those who participate in the consensus mechanism).
Similar characteristics (limited supply and mining process) apply to many of the projects participating in the larger crypto economy. Many coins have a limited supply (seeking to serve a store of value) and many use different consensus mechanisms (PoW, PoS, PoT). The idea being, to create systems that can grow with the right incentives to build a community, network and continued interest in the platform.
Crypto-Economics and Debt
Fundamentally, Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies do not act as a form of financial debt. As opposed to fiat currencies which are generated by and controlled through banking and as such, are lent out to businesses and individuals, integrating debt from the source of financial capital creation.
Bitcoin is an asset, generated through the proof-of-work mechanism, and distributed to miners who participate in processing transactions and securing the network. Indicating that, from the source of generation, no parties are owed Bitcoin, participation realizes generation and distribution.
Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies who follow the same monetary model will only have set amount of coins, eliminating the lending and inflationary components of traditional money. If you have one Bitcoin, you can expect to charge a percentage of interest and expect to receive more Bitcoin than you currently have, but not more than the total amount of Bitcoin that is available in existence.
The circulation of Bitcoin would be such that only the available amount would flow forever, it wouldn’t continuously extend into more than 21 million.
This is an inherent difference in regard to debt for BTC/other cryptocurrencies with similar caps on currency limit vs fiat currencies.
The right incentives, integrating aspects of skin in the game to ward away bad behavior and having the right sort of economics designs are potentially initial steps to shift away from a bloated debt based society.
So what does it mean to be a crypto-capitalist? It simply means that the individual taps into a system that provides more freedom and liberty as well as true and complete ownership of their assets.
The crypto-capitalist is able to do so through the emergence of a variety of technologies that have converged to provide for more autonomy and privacy.
The Crypto-Capitalist would ideally enjoy a less debt based world, would have much more autonomy and transparency in regard to a fundamental aspect of living, money, and assets. The world of a crypto-capitalist can head toward more equity and distribution of wealth as decentralization is core, ideally minimizing the concentration of wealth and power.
But is it all well and good in the crypto-capitalist economy at the current moment? No, there is the issue of extreme ownership and accountability, one shouldn’t rely on third parties to bail them out. Participants in the crypto-economy are still wondering how to deal with regulation and while doing so, must foster adoption, real world adoption, sending more signal over the prevalent noise.
More interested parties do have to come in and help “buidl” to foster adoption by making products that stick to the concepts of decentralization yet still designing with the simplicity and aesthetic of an Apple product.
There’s quite a journey ahead to enter into the world of the crypto-capitalist, the era is just starting, the central idea is to be able to preserve the core principles of decentralization and design a better future, hurdling different issues that held back the Internet and truly progressing.
The improvements sought is only brought about by better culture and the idea is that the convergence of technology and certain conditions set by society can create different interactions that lead to a better, more open and decentralized world.
 Kary Bheemiah – Rethinking Captialism