Why Bitcoin Matters to Millennials
man's hand holding bitcoin

Why Bitcoin Matters to Millennials

By MarkHelfman | Big Crypto | 31 Oct 2020


 

I had conceived of this article as a Ted talk. Maybe one day, if I’m lucky. 

For now, I’m publishing it here. You can also listen to it on my podcast:

It’s an article about why bitcoin means so much to the Millennial generation. Please share it widely.

In one sense, it’s a defense of bitcoin from people who can’t understand why it has any value or why we would spend our time and money on it.

In another sense, it’s a reflection on Millennials — our history and values.

As the first generation that came of age in the 21st Century, we have a unique perspective that’s worth exploring.

It’s not about the money

When I talk about cryptocurrency, I get the same questions again and again:

“What’s bitcoin backed by? Should I buy it? Do you think its price will go up?”

Instead of opening up conversations about the nature of wealth, finance, privacy, and government, it always comes back to money.

Yes, bitcoin is money, but it’s also more than money.

Bitcoin allows free, public access to financial networks on-demand, without restriction, anywhere, any time.

As you read this article, developers and businesses have already started using this open, permissionless payment protocol to build real products and services that lower the costs of doing business, get rid of barriers that keep entrepreneurs from getting loans and taking payments, and make money cheap, easy, and convenient for people who don’t have banks or trustworthy governments.

This is a luxury we take for granted, but for many people, it’s a privilege normally reserved for a select few.

And this matters because . . .

. . . because it’s all happening organically, without any government involvement or subsidy. It’s happening despite the opposition of powerful elites.

To understand why that’s so important, you need to understand the story of the Millennial generation. You need to understand why so many of us have lost trust and faith in our leaders.

The Millennial generation entered adulthood during a recession followed by a war, followed by another war, followed by a financial collapse, followed by a massive bailout of wealthy people and large banks, followed by a massive tax cut for the rich and powerful, followed by pandemic disease and another recession.

We have grown up in the midst of the greatest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich, while the poor remain poor — and all of it financed with debt and subsidized by workers.

Everybody told us that the stock market always goes up, a house is the key to wealth, and education is the key to a great job.

Then the stock market crashed, houses got too expensive to buy, entry-level requirements shot up, and entry-level pay went down.

When we skimp on savings to pay our landlords and pay back our student loans, it’s not because we’re irresponsible. We’re trying to dig out of the hole we’ve been put in.

Other generations mock our lifestyle choices. They build their political power and financial fortunes from our time, talent, and ingenuity, then blame us for their problems.

How many things have millennials killed so far?

Google it.

That’s the story of the Millennial generation.

The system has failed

In the U.S., our generation has seen our government pass a budget on time ONCE. Twice, it didn’t pass a budget at all. And never have any of those budgets been balanced.

We have gone from a war against terror to a war against trade to a war against ballots. From a president who cheated on his wife to a president who cheated on his country.

We have seated three presidents, but only one got into office by winning the majority of the votes.

Our electoral experience starts with dangling chads and ends with Russian interference. Our votes are gerrymandered, cherry-picked, and where there are too many people affiliated with one party or another, ignored.

Our politicians rig the system in favor of their own interests or against their opponents’ interests while the voters lavish votes and money on whichever party seems to say the right things at the right time. Each party conspires to undermine the Constitution in one way or another, the only question being how, how much, and how openly.

We’re being pummeled by political parties while we argue about which fist we prefer, the left or the right.

Some say we should be more politically active, but the moment we run for office, they call us young, inexperienced, naive, stupid, reckless, and ignorant.

That’s the story of the Millennial generation.

Leaders, where are ye?

Instead of bringing us together, our leaders insist on pitting us against each other.

Main Street against Wall Street. Wall Street against farmers. Farmers against coal miners. Coal miners against high school students. High school students against gunmakers. Gunmakers against black people. Black people against the police.

Our police do everything right almost every moment of every day. They save us from fear, terror, and death, preserve safety and order for millions, and improve our communities in countless ways — but one horrible mistake, one incident out of millions, and they’re despised.

A knee taken on a sideline destroys a man’s livelihood. A knee taken on a neck destroys another man’s life.

And still, everybody misses the point.

When we advocate for what matters, we aren’t advocating for the oppressed. We’re advocating for our friends and colleagues. Our neighbors and family. Our coaches and teachers.

When we say we want a country where we can run for public office without fear our president will bribe a foreign country to frame our children for fake crimes simply because we campaign against him, it’s not because we’re mad about the last election. It’s because we care about the integrity of our government and the rule of law.

One day, principles will matter more than votes, money, and “earned media.” Until then, it’s “feed the beast,” “wag the dog,” “bread and circus.”

That’s the story of the Millennial generation.

Fakes, frauds, and failures

Our leaders have the power to stop all of this, but they don’t. Instead, they use their power to incite more hatred and violence.

They claim to serve those cherished institutions that have bound us together for generations, but they use those same institutions to rip us apart.

Social media platforms claim to offer a voice to the voiceless, but their algorithms spread only the most salacious and aggressive messages while hiding anything they consider mundane.

Outrage is bought and sold. Controversy is mass produced — better yet when it’s perfectly tailored for a fundraising letter or a campaign speech.

We live in a world of fake news spread by fake profiles where the only thing that’s real is the artificial intelligence that created them. Fact is fiction and Facebook is reality.

Anybody can ignite a culture war with 280 characters typed into a cellphone and posted on an electronic bulletin board, all the while, solving nothing. All that anger and nothing changes.

That’s the story of the Millennial generation.

Bitcoin fixes this

So what’s that got to do bitcoin? Why does bitcoin matter to us?

Because bitcoin doesn’t care about any of that.

It doesn’t care where you live, how much you make, or who you marry.

Interest rates too high or too low? Doesn’t affect bitcoin.

Data breaches? Bitcoin doesn’t use your personal data.

Banking collapse? Bitcoin doesn’t need banks.

Corporate bailouts? Welfare state? Immigration? Tariffs? Trade wars? COVID-19?

None of that matters to bitcoin. It’s just an algorithm. A computer program. It doesn’t get strong or weak based on what political party is in power or who sits on the Federal Reserve Board.

You don’t lose your bitcoin when you get fired or when your company goes out of business, like you lose your healthcare or your pension.

You can’t bribe bitcoin.

Bitcoin doesn’t care how old you are, how young you are, how rich you are, how poor you are, whether you have a job, or whether you don’t have a job.

It doesn’t treat you differently if you’re wearing a suit instead of t-shirt, or because you share the same skin color as the person you’re doing business with.

It doesn’t lavish money on big businesses while throwing crumbs of fortune at the small ones.

It will never sell your personal information to a company or government that will use it against you.

Bitcoin will never do any of those things — it’s programmed not to.

Finally, a choice

For all the things I’ve said, I don’t think by and large this generation dislikes banks and governments and powerful institutions. Most of us aren’t rallying or lobbying about that.

It’s not something we really think about much. We’re doing what every other generation does — buying, saving, borrowing, working, and living.

We use all the conventional “things” you use in a developed economy. 90% of us have a checking account. If we need a loan, we get a loan. If we need a credit card, we get a credit card. If we want to buy something, we buy something.

There’s no “anti” here. We use whatever’s convenient. Whatever works often enough that we’re OK with.

The difference is, we have bitcoin. With bitcoin, we have a choice. The choice is:

  1. Trust a steady, mathematically proven, immutable process that no person can control or manipulate, that always gives you the result you expect.
  2. Trust a government and financial system that have always failed us.

Get your head out of the bubbles

I realize previous generations don’t see this as a choice. They just think it’s silly.

They would never put their fate in the hands of a formula, a network of strangers, an asset that only exists in pixels and lines of computer code.

I get it, and it’s a valid point.

My problem is, the conversation keeps us from getting into that.

The conversation begins and ends with “that’s YOUR thing” and in between, you get a whole bunch of people who can’t get over the idea that bitcoins are not backed by anything.

“It’s ridiculous! It’s a bubble! I don’t get it. It doesn’t solve any problems. You can’t make money from it. Nobody uses it. It always crashes. It’s slow and expensive. Rat poison squared. Stupid internet money. I’m buying gold.”

Every blockchain project that fails is met with “I told you so.” Every time the price of bitcoin goes down, “I told you so.”

That’s the story of the Millennial generation. “I told you so.”

It started with the dot-com bust, a tragedy we had nothing to do with.

In 2000, after the bubble burst, all we heard was “the internet was a stupid, terrible idea, a big bubble, it doesn’t solve any problems, you can’t make any money from it, nobody uses it. Stupid. Told you so.”

Meanwhile, our hopes of a great paying job disappeared when the market collapsed.

A few years later, we climbed out of that hole and started putting money into the one asset that everybody said was the BEST investment you could make, the key to financial freedom, the bedrock of the American Dream — a house.

And what happened?

The housing market collapsed. In some places, it hasn’t recovered.

Which one was the bubble?

Today, we may not own houses as much as older generations, but we use the internet. It’s everywhere. It’s everything. It’s what kept the world moving when the pandemic hit. It saved millions of people’s lives.

It’s the first big innovation we ever had and it’s the innovation that molded us.

And everybody said it was a stupid, terrible idea. Go buy a house.

So when they say bitcoin is a stupid, terrible idea, yet you’re reading this article because of the internet, from a guy who wrote two books that would have been impossible to research without the internet, distributed through a network that would not have existed without the internet, publishing an article that you can view for free everywhere in the world because of the internet, to an audience that would have never known about it without the internet, with as much authenticity and credibility as the most famous expert in this field . . . do you think we’re going to believe those people who say “I told you so” about bitcoin?

No. That’s not the story of the Millennial generation. We have a choice. Our choice is:

  1. Trust a steady, mathematically proven, immutable process that no person can control or manipulate, that always gives you the result you expect.
  2. Trust a government and financial system that have always failed us.

Which would you choose?

 

Mark Helfman publishes the Crypto is Easy newsletterHis books, Consensusland and Bitcoin or Bust: Wall Street’s Entry Into Cryptocurrency, explore the social, cultural, and business challenges of cryptocurrency. Learn more about him in his bio.

 


MarkHelfman
MarkHelfman

I publish the Crypto is Easy newsletter. I also wrote "Consensusland: A Cryptocurrency Utopia" and "Bitcoin or Bust: Wall Street's Entry into Cryptocurrency." Find me on Quora, Medium, Hacker Noon, Blockchain News, Hive. Learn more at MarkHelfman.com/bio


Big Crypto
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