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Thumbs' Update: All Together Now

Is this... socialism?

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Hey friends 👋

I know it’s only been about a week since I last wrote to you, but believe it or not I’ve already got a whole newsletter ready. So let’s get into it!

It’s June, and you know what that means: much to the chagrin of American presidential candidates, it’s pride month! So, of course, I need to start this one off with the standard disclaimer.


Nothing in this newsletter is financial advice and if you have an issue with other humans because of whom they love, where they're from, or what they look like, you’re in the wrong place and will hate everything that follows.


You see, although the last issue featured recommendations from the Federalist Society and The Financial Times (both great pieces of content btw!) I’m not conservative on almost any subject. Furthermore, as I’ve discussed before, I’m actually pretty far to the political left and I don’t see any contradiction in this fact, taken with my numerous public stances on cryptocurrency, privacy, and anti-authoritarianism.

Hopefully, I haven’t lost you already because, in this issue of the newsletter, I actually want to go in-depth on political theory, debunk some misinformation about socialism, libertarianism, and anarchy; and most importantly, define who cryptocurrency and blockchain are really for. Hint: it’s all of us.

On Democracy

In the last issue, I told you all about Tally’s Delegation Week event, which had the goal of encouraging DAO participation among governance token holders. Sadly, much like in real-world corporate and civil governance, participation is typically quite low, reducing decentralization and helping to entrench the views of the few.

Fun fact: did you know that many elected officials don’t even show up for votes on Capitol Hill, and their colleagues, or really anyone, can simply tap a button to signal their presumed intent? These are people who are paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars specifically to read bills and vote on them. And yet, they often forgo doing either. Think about that.

I’ve proposed before the idea that all representative democracy should function the way that DAO voting delegation works. You see, for all its flaws, token voting, allows you to revoke your delegation at any time. Imagine, if you could choose the issues or bills for which you wanted a representative and those for which you wanted to actively participate, or relegate to another representative

It’s so simple, and yet, the incumbent political class would surely oppose this idea because it stands to reason that many of them would be out of a paycheque. As someone who believes the government is meant to be an organization of the people and for the people, I see voter reform, term limits, and if possible, the idea I’ve just floated which combines the two radically, as some of the most pressing issues of our time.

On Anarchism

Despite America’s founding fathers being strictly opposed to centralized power, the trend in the United States and, frankly, most countries have been a pendulum swing into and out of authoritarian regimes. Ironically, the US military hegemony has spent most of a century backing fascists and swiftly toppling anything that resembled free association. According to some, anarchy is actually closer those founding fathers' vision.

I would like to see the kind of society that classical liberals wanted, like John Stuart Mill, for example, or Abraham Lincoln, or even Adam Smith among the last of the classical liberals. They wanted to see a society with, to quote Mill, in which the natural form of organization is free association among participants.

— Noam Chomsky on the Ezra Klein Show

I’ve just finished a book by one of the preeminent voices in political science, history, and, his primary field, linguistics, Noam Chomsky. This book, simply titled On Anarchism, consolidates several excerpts from Chomsky’s books, essays, and lectures into a short and sweet capsule on one of the most misunderstood subjects.

If you’re anything like me, you grew up associating the word anarchy with chaos, disorder, and no-good-very-bad things. As it turns out, this is part of a careful indoctrination process enforced by Western thought leadership.

The real history of anarchism is perhaps one of the most interesting subjects that one can study. It’s a history of worker-led movements to take back control from their exploiters. In fact, there are a few things that feel as socialist nor as crypto, as anarchism, or as Chomsky prefers to define it, libertarian socialism.

In this book, I learned about Mikhail Bakunin, Marx’s contemporary and fellow socialist, who nevertheless argued against centralized authority. Daniel Guérin who studied the two argued that the best interpretation of these ideologies finds that "socialism can only be realized in a world enjoying the highest possible measure of individual freedom."

Just as I was finishing the book, wherein I also learned the history of the anarchist collectives of Spain, which England helped to destroy during the civil war by backing a fascist, I came across a film that I just had to watch.

Unrest is an independent film that covers the little-known story of the anarchist watchmakers' collectives of Switzerland in the late 19th century. These collectives organized to own the means of production and offered healthcare to workers, including women, who at the time could only have healthcare if they were married.

In terms of filmmaking and acting, it’s not the greatest movie, but it does manage to successfully employ satire and symbolism to explore a key principle of anarchism: the invalidity of authority.

On Authority

Above, I mentioned how many of the US’s so-called lawmakers can’t be bothered to read or even vote on the laws they supposedly make. Furthermore, we know that these laws are enforced at the sole discretion of people in blue uniforms, who bring to the job a tremendous number of biases.

Some say AI can help to overcome these biases and enforce the exact letter of the law, but what if the laws themselves have no basis, no need to exist, and no value. What if the authority fails, as Chomsky would put it, its obligation to justify itself. That, he says is kind of the core principle of anarchy.

Anarchism, the way I understand it, is pretty close to a truism. That’s it. And I think everybody, if they think about it, will accept at least this much. We begin with assuming that any structure of authority and domination has to justify itself. It’s not self-justifying. It has a burden of proof. It has to show that it’s legitimate.

— Noam Chomsky on the Ezra Klein Show

With this in mind, let's consider a scenario, which has happened to me and probably to you, many times:

I arrive at an intersection. There are lights guiding traffic and currently the right of way is not for me, but for the other direction of traffic. With that said, there is no one. No car, in either direction, for as far as the eye can see. Certainly, an adult human, or even a child, would be able to determine that it is safe to cross the street.

But people are waiting. They won’t go until the light changes. Think about that. What authority does this light have? It’s set by a timer; it has no idea it’s safe to go. And yet, we’re not so worried that we’ll be struck by an out-of-nowhere speeding semi truck. We’re afraid of being penalized.

It seems obvious to me that the best thing for society would be that these people, use adequate precaution, and not interfere with any traffic that may come, but otherwise, treat that intersection the same way one treats the yield lane of a highway onramp. To do otherwise serves no one, no purpose. It's not safer or more courteous, and it wastes valuable time. Lacking a better word, it’s stupid.

This is just one example of arbitrary authority written into law.

Now imagine, if a camera surveils citizens, AI reviews the footage and penalizes them if they cross the street at the wrong time. Being strictly logical, this automation then ignores their rationale of a sick relative that they need to rush home to care for, or that they're going to be late for work and risk losing their job. They're punished not because it's the right thing to do, but because surveillance makes it easy to meet quotas, seemingly validating its own existence.

On Privacy

Orwell wrote a lot about socialism. And while the political right likes to hone in on these works' references to the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and infer the issue is collectivism, Chomsky, and I believe Orwell, would be quick to clarify that the real theme of these books is a critique of three things:

  • the consolidation of power into the hands of the few, usually a central bureaucracy

  • the assault on learning and free thinking, to bolster the influence of propaganda

  • the elimination of privacy, the foundation of individual freedom from coercion

If these themes seem familiar, it’s because I’ve incorporated them relentlessly into my writing. I believe the consolidation of power can be harmful whether it’s in the hands of corporations, far-right dictators, or far-left bureaucracies.

I believe the reason the US political right has set records for banned books in recent years is because it wants to keep people from learning about the history and perspectives of those who typically vote on the left so that it will be easier to revoke the civil rights from these groups.

And, perhaps I’m a bit of a broken record on this subject, but I believe that all of this is made possible by the erosion of individual privacy. Politicians and law enforcement use fear-mongering to manipulate us into giving up this fundamental freedom, and even when we don’t consent, they often just go ahead anyway, illegally. That’s why you need…

The Right Tools

Big corporations, like Google, can make their brand look like a kids' birthday party, but it doesn’t change reality. They’re a shadowy multinational with one of the most convoluted corporate structures ever designed, who long since removed “don’t be evil” from their website, and whose entire business model is exploiting their users' data.

And much as Google would love for you to believe that it’s all that data harvesting that helps them build good products, it’s not: it’s money. More money equals more developers, which equals more software. So, what would happen if we gave our money to companies that don’t suck (up all our data)?

This month’s sponsor, Skiff, is answering just that. They’re building a privacy-first productivity suite, that’s open-source, end-to-end encrypted, and completely user-centric!

In the month or so I’ve been using Skiff, they’ve released tons of updates improving the speed and usability of their products, and even released a new desktop app for Windows!

I’ve been transitioning over from Google to Skiff and I have found that for most people’s needs, this is already going to be perfect. And supporting their transparent, subscription-based model means they can continue to improve without ever having to make the devil’s bargain that Google demands.

Skiff is giving the first 50 readers to use the code THUMBSUPFINANCE 50% off any yearly plan, a value of up to $72. You can learn more about their different tiers here.

That’s not all! I’ve still got three Skiff Essential plans to give away. If you’d like one, email me at thumbsup@skiff.com or send a message to me on Twitter, Farcaster, or Lens.

On Farcaster

I’ve still got a ton of invites for what has quickly become my favourite decentralized Twitter alternative. Farcaster actually just underwent a pretty big upgrade called Bison, which does a lot to increase decentralization. Something I learned while reading about this upgrade is that Farcaster is developed in a somewhat anarchistic fashion, adhering to a governance model of rough consensus and running code that’s pretty common in open-source communities.

Farcaster is a protocol, like Bluesky or Lens, which means users can choose a client that suits their specific needs and tailors their experience. Currently, the most popular client is called Warpcaster, and it offers mostly everything you’d want out of a Twitter-style client on desktop and mobile. If you’d like to create a Farcaster account and get started using Warpcaster, you’ll need to provide an email account to use as your login.

I would have loved to just whitelist every reader, but alas, there are too many of you. So, those who are interested can email me at thumbsup@skiff.com or DM me on Twitter or Lens, and I’ll be happy to help you get started on your Farcaster journey.

Q & A

For the last few issues, I’ve been sharing questions from my amazing patrons and doing my best to answer them. In case you missed it, I worked together with a talented artist named Joshua Franco to create a claymation artwork which I attached to an NFT that anyone can mint on Zora to support my work. This non-fungible patronage, as I call it, is really just my way of giving back to those who support me, but I’ve also been looking for ways to add more perks, like, for example, Q&A.

Speaking of which...

Pedro asks:

New blockchains are appearing every day. Do you think in the future they are all going to coexist and interoperate, or at some point, most of them are going to collapse and there will be only a few main ones?

This was actually quite a bit longer, but I pared it down (with permission) to get to the core of what is a really great question. Users and investors are both surely wondering where they should invest their time and money, but it’s hard to know what to focus on in such a fast-paced, competitive ecosystem.

The simplest answer is that I don’t know what the future holds. No one does. What’s exceptional about technology is that each innovation unlocks things that were previously unimaginable.

With that said, I’ll share my perspective in the hopes that it might be helpful.

I believe in the power of network effects. For this reason, because Ethereum has the most users, and is technically capable of any modification users want to program into it, I’m doubtful anything usurps that role.

Ethereum has deprioritized sharding in favour of modular execution via a so-called rollup-centric roadmap. What this means is that the “chain” people use may never be Ethereum again. It could be a zkrollup, it could be one of the many emerging OP Stack chains, it could be something higher level than that even, like a Layer 3 where something resembling an IOU is passed down to Layer 2 where those IOUs are converted to transactions which are bundled together, and batched to Ethereum mainnet for finality. I'm just spitballing.

If this vision is realized, then yes, most popular alt-L1s will likely collapse, but I’d caution assuming any one technology could ever be irreplaceable. Competition pushes technology forward and opens our eyes to new possibilities. Something could come along that’s so sticky that it does gain the network effect required to flippen Ethereum, but only time will tell.

In any case, like how alongside MacOS and Windows, there are still many Linux users, and even people using FreeBSD and other niche operating systems, I suspect there will always be smaller niche chains.

For example, right now, privacy is still best preserved with Zcash or Monero so those are likely to remain relevant for some time. Tezos is home to many great artists and collectors. Polygon offers low enough fees to be attractive to major brands. And Solana, Algorand, and Cardano do things in ways that are different enough from Ethereum to render them interesting experiments if nothing else.

I’d say keep an open mind and invest cautiously.

That’s all the advice I can give, but I do have some…

Recommendations

On the subject of L2s and alternate chains, Zora, the popular NFT protocol/platform/community, is officially launching a chain. They announced it via a sufficiently cryptic manifesto, but sure enough, the Network is coming, and you can access the testnet below.

Since this newsletter covered socialism and anarchy, how about two podcasts to elaborate on these subjects?

From Planet Money comes a short episode looking at what socialism is and what it isn’t.

And for a deeper dive into the ideas of Noam Chomsky, here’s a fantastic interview from the Ezra Klein Show. It's where I pulled the quotes I shared throughout this article.

Lastly, on privacy and the topic of the moment, AI, here’s an article from Skiff about Google’s Bard AI, which itself recently claimed to have been trained on users’ private Gmail conversations…

If you stuck around through this whole newsletter, thanks for sharing your time with me. I really hope you liked this one. If so, there are some options for how to support at the bottom of this post. I’d also really love it if you’d share it with anyone you think might like it.

And until next time,
Thumbs Up


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zs17a2mhl6xeu56cqqeqync9kddyg8gggcy6253l5evjdyw8l8j8f60eg40exr4wk27hnvfgkkgnju

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