Paul Krugman once said to Bernard Lietaer, a monetary theorist and one of the architects of the euro, that he should ‘never touch the money system’ because he would kill himself academically. This statement is akin to ‘never question God’ in the academic environment of the middle ages.
Indeed, Bitcoin is relevant to academia because it changes the truth about money, and academics, like the priests of the past, are an authority over truth. It was academic research funded with ‘money’, for instance, that declared the truth of a pandemic. It is academics who decide if something is to be called ‘money’ or a ‘deadly virus’.
The original Academy was founded by Plato in an olive grove that was a sanctuary of Athena. Its purpose was to train the philosopher kings that would govern his ideal society. Plato didn’t want plain politicians or kings who were only interested in the truth for political ends. However, Plato’s Academy gave us Aristotle, who was a tutor and advisor to Alexander the Great, and the rest is history.
Still, academics try to remain distant from politics. It was not academics who locked us up in our homes, forced us to wear masks and tried to vaccinate our children. They simply published some research papers saying that there was a dangerous virus in the air, and then politicians implemented the respective policy in their respective polis.
In principle, academics do not tell others what to do. They simply tell you what’s true from their ivory tower, and then you can do what you like. However, if they tell you that you may die from X, then they are effectively telling you that you should avoid X. Truth and morality are interrelated like that. Indeed, in the days of Plato and Aristotle, people saw little difference between being wrong in terms of knowledge and being a bad person. Similarly, if you do not believe in the existence of the dangerous virus, then you are probably both contagious and a contemptible person who does not care about others.
Bitcoin is sometimes called apolitical money. I think this is true in the same way gold is ‘apolitical money’. Neither Bitcoin nor gold care whether we die or live. They simply exist in physical reality or in the Platonic reality of numbers. However, bitcoiners can get so excited that we develop the same ambivalence Plato had about politics and morality.
For example, some bitcoiners say that Bitcoin serves the ‘Goddess of Wisdom’ (presumably Athena), that Bitcoin has a superior ‘digital energy’ and, therefore, that you morally and physically ought to buy it. You could make the same argument about gold in relation to fiat ‘money’. However, these arguments are pseudoscientific and moralistic, unless you can demonstrate the existence of monetary energy and the Goddess of Wisdom.
Sometimes bitcoiners dream of building a citadel that separates them from the city in a way that reminds me of the Academy. However, I think that we need to learn from the cities of the past to avoid repeating their mistakes. This is where the ideal of a pure and unbiased science comes in. This is the ideal I am aiming for with my work and this website.