Gilded Age Greed and Golden Bitcoin
Dr. Riste Simnjanovski is a tenured professor of public administration at California Baptist University. Most recently, his published research explores digital assets in the public and private sectors.
In 1873, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner copublished the novel, “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.” While the text doesn’t receive the recognition it should, possibly as a result of the direct attack on American politics, it’s a brilliant piece of literature that Bitcoiners may find amusing. In any event, I strongly encourage readers to take a peek at it. The correlations to what Americans face in 21st-century politics seems to overwhelmingly mirror history. In my opinion, the correlations to Bitcoin are easy to spot.
One of my favorite Twain quotes states, “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress, but I repeat myself …”
Twain, and the lesser-known Warner, had a knack for satire in a way that was a bit offensive and vulgar at the time, if not compelling and true, to a fault. If Twain had a Twitter account, he’d have millions of followers and perhaps an equal amount of vocal objectors.
The deeply-rooted corruption of American politics at every level is pervasive and systemic. All perspectives agree that corruption exists, government officials pick winners and losers in business and business returns the favor by financing their next “elected” official. The irony is that the actual era, i.e., post-Civil War America, is now literally defined as “The Gilded Age” taken directly from Twain and Warner’s satirical book.
The process of gilding is pretty straightforward: you take something of little or no value and apply color to it in order to create the illusion of wealth. One might imagine a tin coin, painted with a golden hue to resemble a gold coin.
At the time, what on the surface appeared to be a booming economic and industrial era for all of America was, well, gilded. There were massive disparities between the wealthy and the poor as well as a heavy focus on materialism in some circles.
The wealthy financed their empires on the backs of the poor, as did local and national politicians; one might argue that not much has changed today. In that way of financing, wealth gaps grew and lavish lifestyles that were thrust in the face of a starving working class bubbled over. What appeared golden on the surface was worthless underneath. How often have we witnessed politicians pass laws that eventually turn tax dollars into dividend payments for their personal portfolios?
Do not allow your business professors to preach that this era was the economic boom of a lifetime in America — these moments defined greed, slavery and corruption. Regular Americans had little to no recourse. If Bitcoin were around during the Gilded Age, the government itself may have been considered a shitcoin. Most recently, the collapse of Luna is a reminder of this corruption and greed. As always, Bitcoin is different and the significance of this will only be more brightly illuminated when more centralized scam projects collapse in a cascade of carnage. Regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on, if you’re targeting the opposing side, you’re not paying attention; greed is apolitical.
Between the years of 1870 to 1900, the world took notice that America was booming (for some). As a result, a massive migration west took place. Native Brits, Scots and others braved horrific sea and land journeys in an attempt of securing an opportunity of new prosperity. Unfortunately, many of these talents were wasted as immigrants mostly worked for massive corporations such as John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s railroads and Andrew Carnegie’s Carnegie Steel Company. (In case you were unaware, Carnegie Steel Company eventually became J.P. Morgan’s U.S. Steel monopoly … and oil tycoons also have deep roots in Big Pharma. There is a reason many medical field products have a petroleum base. Just saying … but let’s get back to Bitcoin.)
Perhaps Twain and Warner were on to something in their acknowledgment of the inequalities during this period in time. The Gilded Age was, in many respects, political corruption masquerading as freedom and opportunity. Has anything changed or have the veils and tactics simply been updated?
There is a popular phrase in the Bitcoin community that states, “Fix the money, fix the world.” What if Bitcoin existed at that time and any excess currency earned by laborers could have been stored, immune to political corruption, confiscation, inflation or political party? Technologically, all that existed at the time was gold and silver, yet many of the poorest people of the nation could not even buy fractions of coins; in Bitcoin, buying fractions of coins is possible.
I would propose that fiat is a gilded currency, that centralized protocols are gilded projects and that society is witnessing, in real time, the proverbial paint chipping away. The unhappiness society is facing isn’t with one another as the media forces us to believe; the unhappiness is with the realization that what we’ve been sold and the currency we need to purchase it, is all gilded. Many politicians themselves are gilded. If fiat personalities were a thing, they’d have followers on Twitter lusting over their golden hue.
Yes, fiat currencies are important as a medium of exchange, but they are (and will continue to forever be) a terrible store of value. The deflationary aspects of Bitcoin, specifically, the fact that there will only ever be 21 million bitcoin and that every four years the reward for mining the coins is cut in half, only make the asset more pristine to people who do not own any bitcoin as they reflect on history and become exposed to Bitcoin. The economic crash that has been occurring throughout 2022 will only mint more Bitcoiners.
Bitcoin fixes money with no gilding required. However, can Bitcoin also address an unfulfilled soul by providing humanity an opportunity to seek their true purpose? My recent assumption is a society untrusting of a gilded reality, may have also questioned their own existence.
In previous articles and a book, I’ve addressed an unfulfilled soul, but how can fixing money help the soul or address this issue of a gilded world? I would propose that these concepts are not interdependent, but they may be interconnected. Yes, corrupt people with more resources will spread corruption; but what of good people?
What if good people, with good intentions, strong values and a solid moral compass had access to the same resources the robber barons did during the Gilded Age?
What would the world look like? What about politics? Business? Industry? Your family?
I suggest that the quiet bitcoin community (QBCs are the ones not trending on Twitter) is going to forge a new route for the next generation as they turn their backs on centralized projects and adopt Bitcoin.
These newly-minted Bitcoiners are not gilded, they’re real, and they’re genuinely disheartened with scam projects and centralized greed. Many in the “crypto community” are becoming Bitcoiners as they watch the paint chip away.
This is a guest post by Dr. Riste Simnjanovski. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.