In 2021, Alex Gladstein Helped Us Explore Bitcoin’s Moral Imperative
Perhaps no contributor to Bitcoin Magazine has explored the moral and ethical imperative of Bitcoin more extensively than Alex Gladstein.
Gladstein is the chief strategy officer at the Human Rights Foundation and he has also served as vice president of strategy for the Oslo Freedom Forum since its inception in 2009. His unique ability to paint a detailed picture of economic hardships that individuals face throughout the world has further opened the eyes of so many people this year. The mission of Bitcoin, as a tool for hope and furthering human freedom, is becoming more apparent to a wider audience, thanks to his contributions. It would be a missed opportunity not to review his seminal works that have illustrated the need for Bitcoin as an open and neutral global money for humanity.
Works In Review
In April, Gladstein published “Bitcoin Is A Trojan Horse For Freedom,” which discussed how Bitcoin recruits individuals and nations to become promoters of freedom against tyranny and authoritarianism by triggering innate human emotions of self-preservation and greed — even if one has zero altruism. This is an important introduction to the game theory behind Bitcoin. It’s unwavering mathematics are designed to change each and every one of us for the better. And in this way, we can further human rights across the globe.
His next contribution, “Uncovering The Hidden Costs Of The Petrodollar,” was a deep dive into the tarnished history behind the American dollar’s ascent to global reserve currency status and its toll on foreign policy, energy and the environment. He described how the United States was able to retain unparalleled and outsized economic dominance using an exclusive military pact with Saudi Arabia that led the world into pricing oil in dollars and stockpiling U.S. debt. While Bitcoin’s open transparency makes it an easy target for critics to bemoan its energy consumption, the adverse effects of the dollar are less visible. Gladstein’s essay was a significant step forward in our understanding of why a dollar-based reserve currency is unsustainable and undesirable for nations across the globe.
In May, Gladstein’s essay “Check Your Financial Privilege” recalled anecdotes from emerging markets to illustrate how Bitcoin offers important and valid use cases to those who lack the financial security that many of us take for granted in the Western world. Those who deride Bitcoin are often blinded to the fact that 87% of the planet lives under autocracy or is forced into untrustworthy currencies. 4.3 billion people live under authoritarianism, and 1.2 billion people live under double- or triple-digit inflation. Examining how Bitcoin is used in countries such as Nigeria, Sudan and Ethiopia, gave readers a new perspective on why it’s an important tool of liberation to so many people throughout the world.
“The Humanitarian And Environmental Case For Bitcoin” looked at the issues of foreign aid corruption and dependency, as well as how Bitcoin can foster renewable energy in the developing world. Indeed, much of the aid sent to emerging markets flows into the coffers of the elite. Gladstein argues that much of this corruption could be avoided with Bitcoin as a corruption-resistant payment rail. Furthermore, developing nations can liberate themselves from oppressive and corrupt sources of foreign aid by extracting value out of stranded power, through Bitcoin mining.
A few weeks later, Gladstein took the opportunity to ask El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, if his government had considered mining Bitcoin. Bukele replied that he hadn’t considered it, but the question immediately led him to realize that his country had untapped geothermal resources that could be used for mining. By November, El Salvador had announced a $1 billion volcano bond.
In June, Gladstein interviewed Jack Dorsey at Bitcoin 2021 in Miami, and discussed what it was about Bitcoin that drove Dorsey to focus on it. The conversation covered a number of topics, including Bitcoin’s crucial role in banking the unbanked, furthering financial rights in emerging markets, censorship resistance, discrimination resistance, self custody and human rights. The interview gained international media attention and helped further the narrative of Bitcoin’s humanitarian mission. By December, Dorsey would step down from Twitter and turn his full attention to his newly rebranded company, Spiral, and Bitcoin.
Gladstein’s next essay, “Fighting Monetary Colonialism With Open-Source Code” exposed France’s monetary colonialism which continues to exploit 15 African nations. It retold how families in Senegal lost 50% of their purchasing power overnight and went into great detail about the insidious, unfair monetary and trade policies imposed through the CFA franc, as part of a hidden colonialism that persists years after decolonization. Rising out of this oppression emerges a hopeful story, as Fodé Diop’s mission to bring Bitcoin to Senegal is told.
On Independence Day, “Bitcoin And The American Idea” gave us readers the opportunity to reflect on America’s founding and the pressures that lead us astray from its cherished values. Recalling President Eisenhower’s farewell address, we now have the benefit of hindsight to see Eisenhower’s fears realized by the rise of the military-industrial complex and Bitcoin emerging in response to those dark forces. Gladstein reminds us about Isaiah Jackson’s work communicating how Bitcoin can help lift up black Americans in spite of a discriminatory banking system that continues to fail the community. And we learned of Al Mutar, who believes Bitcoin can help liberate people around the world and spread American values more effectively than U.S. military campaigns ever can. We are left inspired by Bitcoin as a new declaration of optimistic values for the future of our civilization.
In late July, Gladstein explored the potential for Bitcoin to give Palestinians an opportunity for peaceful protest and sovereignty in response to oppressive economic policies outlined in his essay, “Can Bitcoin Be Palestine’s Currency Of Freedom?” While many people may be aware of the challenges of living in the occupied Palestinian territories, few are aware of the economic hardships that compound already intolerable living conditions. Bitcoin, again, is shown as a solution that can assist with remittances from abroad, provide banking, help prevent confiscation and avoid debasement of household wealth.
August ushered in “Inside Cuba’s Bitcoin Revolution,” which investigated the country’s human rights crisis and the growing revolution of using Bitcoin as a peaceful protest in response to oppressive economic policies. Gladstein summarizes the history and circumstances that led to the dire economic situation and inequitable role of the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) in daily life. Bitcoin adoption is allowing Cuba’s citizens a way around these hardships and a chance at economic sovereignty.
Next, he published “Finding Financial Freedom In Afghanistan,” which tells the story of Roya Mahboob — the first female Afghan tech CEO and one of the first entrepreneurs to introduce Bitcoin to Afghanistan. Once again, we learn of extreme economic collapse and hardships for the people of Afghanistan and the crucial role that Bitcoin can play in providing a lifeline.
In September, Gladstein reported his travel experiences in “The Village And The Strongman: The Unlikely Story Of Bitcoin And El Salvador” after visiting El Salvador to experience its pioneering adoption of bitcoin as legal tender. We learned of the proliferation of QR codes and Bitcoin ATMs coming to life in the largely-unbanked country. He covered the rapid emergence of the Lightning Network within the country’s borders and the national skepticism and opposition to the Bitcoin law and the concerns with the country’s opportunist president.
In October, “The Quest For Digital Cash” gave us the detailed history of the cypherpunk movement and the evolution of Bitcoin realized by Satoshi Nakamoto. So much of the digital privacy and encryption we take for granted today can be traced back to this movement for individual sovereignty and human rights. By retelling this history, readers are given a new appreciation for the sacrifices and efforts of this generation of cryptography advocates. It demonstrates to readers that Bitcoin is the culmination of a long journey that dates back to the early days of the digital revolution.
“The End Of Super Imperialism” is the latest installment from Gladstein, published this November. In it, we learn about Michael Hudson’s book “Super Imperialism,” which documents the events that led to the dollar-dominated world economy and its far-reaching impact. Much like the harsh monetary colonialism of the CFA franc, the U.S. dollar affords Americans the exorbitant privilege at the expense of other nations. Gladstein’s retelling of Hudson’s work exposes the largely unseen effects of a dollar-based monetary system.
It can be difficult to keep up with Gladstein’s prolific writing. Thankfully, Guy Swann has recorded every one of Gladstein’s essays on Bitcoin Audible.
His essays are practically required reading for those who want to understand the moral argument for adopting a Bitcoin standard. They give readers a look into the regions, peoples and economic hardships that many of us are privileged enough to be unaware of. The more we learn the more we can begin to appreciate and understand that Bitcoin is far more important than any of us can imagine. These essays cement the crucial mission of bringing economic sovereignty to the world when it’s needed most. We look forward to continuing that journey with Gladstein into 2022 and beyond. We can’t thank him enough for teaching us about how Bitcoin means so much to those outside of our lives and for envisioning a brighter future for humanity and individual human rights.