Some places are closer to the bleeding edge than others. Most of the United States, where I live, is quite tame. After all, something called “the bleeding edge” can’t be safe or stable. (Relatively speaking, folks, relatively speaking. Yes, the US could still use some work.)
So anyway, Jim Epstein wrote a great story about renegade bitcoin miners in Venezuela:
Faced with growing threats of violent crime and government extortion, members [of Venezuela’s rapidly growing digital currency mining community] interface through secret online groups and take extreme precautions to hide their activities.
In a country where cash has lost much of its value, and food and other necessities are dangerously scarce, bitcoins are providing many Venezuelans with a lifeline. The same socialist economics that caused the country’s meltdown has made the energy-intensive process of bitcoin mining wildly profitable — but also dangerous.
Did you know that electricity is free in Venezuela? That makes mining bitcoin pretty cheap. On the other hand, power is only intermittently available. Venezuela’s government is incompetent, except that the word “incompetent” is much too kind.
Naturally that same government, which tanked the national currency and wrecked the economy, wants to shut down the bitcoin miners. They also have to contend with kidnappings and other extralegal threats.
This is why libertarians are a necessary part of the political ecosystem, however horrified I would be by a full-on libertarian regime. (Is “libertarian regime” an oxymoron?) We need them to supply tools of resistance. Like, y’know, bitcoin. God bless ancap programmers!
Related: Nathaniel Popper profiled an Argentinian bitcoin broker, and the cryptocurrency’s general popularity in that country, last spring.
Header photo by Gabriela Camaton.