In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four the totalitarian government of Oceania employs “re-education” camps to “cure” individuals deemed “thought criminals.”
By erasing their citizens’ existing beliefs and replacing them with the party’s ideology, the party effectively brainwashes them into accepting the party’s doctrines and becoming experts at doublethink — the ability to simultaneously hold two contradictory beliefs and accept them both as true.
The notion that a dystopian society could emerge in a Western democracy may seem far-fetched, but the reality is that it’s already happening — and many remain unaware. Erich Fromm’s afterword to Nineteen Eighty-Four exposes a paradoxical shift in human perspective: at the dawn of the industrial age, when technology could not yet support a world with enough food for all, people were full of hope; yet, today, despite having the means to achieve that hope, we seem to have lost it. Doublethink is much more prevalent in the West than we realize. My hope with this article is to help people stop holding contradictory beliefs, simultaneously and subconsciously.
On one hand, we commend the technological and economic progress that has brought us closer to a world where everyone can have access to basic necessities, and we are proud of our capacity to produce more than we require. We are at a point in time where every government should be renouncing territorial conquest as a method of wealth acquisition. Globalization should be a force that unites us and paves the way for a more prosperous future for all. Instead, it is turning out to be a vehicle for the creation of a bio-security state, controlled by technology, that empowers authoritarian kleptocrats to tighten their grip on power.
If this trajectory persists, there is a real danger that we will lose hope and a sense of purpose as a society. Despite having the capacity to create a better world, we still witness widespread poverty, inequality, and injustice. Millions of people around the world go hungry, while others waste food. Wars persist despite the absence of economic benefits from them. We see billionaires using private jets to lecture the underprivileged about climate change and environmental degradation, and yet we overlook the fact that many of them seek to institute a social credit system that tracks everyone’s carbon footprint.
This doublethink is a product of a corrupt system which tells us we have free market capitalism while 12 individuals on the FOMC sit around and plan the cost of money. Meanwhile the mainstream media spews propaganda telling the masses that we can have our cake and eat it too. It is ridiculous to claim that the layman must stop consuming at unsustainable rates, while kleptocrats continue to be the number one user of CO2.
Considering that CO2 is necessary for plants to survive there is a whole debate to be had about whether or not it is really as big a pollutant as the “experts” claim. (Fossil Future by Alex Epstein does a much better job laying out these arguments than this article could.)
The point I’m making is we in the West hold two contradictory beliefs simultaneously: we celebrate the progress and prosperity that we have achieved, while also claiming we need war to defend democracy. If we are to move forward and create a better world for all, those who aren’t completely asleep at the wheel must confront this doublethink and make difficult choices about the kind of world we want to create.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Big Brother uses a combination of psychological and physical torture to break down the individual’s resistance and sense of self. In some cases, prisoners are subjected to intense electric shocks, drugs, and hypnosis. They are also forced to confront their deepest fears and traumas causing their sense of self to be systematically dismantled and replaced with the party’s propaganda. The party’s method of torture in 1984 does not involve literal killing, but instead metaphorical murder of their victims by effectively “killing” their sense of self without necessarily taking their physical life.
The process of re-education aims at creating individuals who are unwaveringly devoted to the party and its leader, Big Brother, by not only controlling their actions but also their thoughts and beliefs. The ultimate objective is to build a society of people devoid of individuality and free will, who are entirely committed to the party’s cause. This is a haunting vision of a world where the state wields absolute power, and individual liberty and freedom are completely obliterated.
Now you might be thinking that could never happen in our modern-day society. However, complacency is a silent killer. It creeps up on you, lulls you into a false sense of security, and then strikes when you least expect it. It is important to remain vigilant about the challenges that lie ahead. The expansion of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) is a topic of great concern for many individuals who value their privacy and freedom. CBDCs will likely claim to offer certain benefits, like convenience, universal basic income, and reduced transaction costs, yet the potential for these currencies to be used as tools of control is alarming. Let’s dive into these a little more.
- Convenience: Central bankers may try to promote CBDCs as a more convenient and efficient way to make transactions. For example, they could emphasize the ease of using a digital currency for online purchases or for sending money to friends and family.
- Financial Incentives: Governments could offer financial incentives to encourage people to switch to CBDCs. For example, they could offer cash back or rewards programs for those who use the digital currency for their transactions.
- Coercion: Although it’s not a desirable option, governments could potentially use coercion to force people to use CBDCs. This could involve making physical cash illegal, or imposing penalties on those who don’t use the digital currency.
- Safety and Security: Governments could emphasize the safety and security benefits of using a digital currency. For example, they could highlight how CBDCs can reduce the risk of fraud and theft, and can be used to track illicit activities.
- Public Education: Governments could invest in public education campaigns to promote CBDCs and explain how they work. This could involve working with community organizations, schools, and businesses to educate people about the benefits of using digital currencies.
With CBDCs, central banks can gain full access to every financial transaction made by individuals. Imagine how powerful an organization with the ability to monitor and control every citizens’ spending behaviors could become. Such a high level of surveillance can be used to coerce individuals into certain actions and even be exploited for political purposes. The most powerful central bank at the time of this writing, the Federal Reserve, is technically a private institution. However, it operates under close supervision from Congress and the President, which has led some to question its true independence. If a government or political party takes control of the central bank, they could manipulate CBDCs to serve their own interests, at the expense of individual liberty and privacy.
Fortunately, individuals have access to a powerful tool that can help them resist this kind of coercion: Bitcoin. Unlike CBDCs, Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency that operates outside of the traditional financial system. Transactions are recorded on a public blockchain, making them transparent and resistant to censorship. While there are privacy tradeoffs tools like Wasabi Wallet, and many others are improving these issues with things like coinjoin.
Using Bitcoin, individuals can retain control over their own financial transactions, without fear of government or central bank interference. They can enjoy the benefits of a global, borderless, and censorship-resistant currency that prioritizes individual freedom and privacy. In a world where governments and central banks are increasingly seeking to exert control over citizens, Bitcoin is the solution.
Having money with a decentralized structure and emphasis on individual freedom and privacy is virtuous. This is particularly important as central banks begin exploring the potential “benefits” of central bank digital currencies. Rather than waiting for central planners to offer their programmable money, individuals can take matters into their own hands by using Bitcoin. In doing so, they can resist coercion and protect their rights. The irony is not lost when considering that in the Bank of England’s consultation paper on the digital pound, they claim Bitcoin is not a legitimate form of money while also pointing out the double spend problem as a reason why British CBDC cannot be a bearer instrument.
For those who haven’t yet read Satoshi’s white paper I encourage you to do so. Here are the first three sentences from its Abstract,
“A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution. Digital signatures provide part of the solution, but the main benefits are lost if a trusted third party is still required to prevent double-spending.
We propose a solution to the double-spending problem using a peer-to-peer network.”
While it’s difficult to predict the exact circumstances that would lead to a government becoming as controlling as Big Brother in 1984, there are several factors that could contribute to such a scenario, including the strength of democratic institutions and the government’s overall goals and values.
The use of CBDCs could potentially be a significant step towards an authoritarian regime, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. It’s crucial for individuals and democratic institutions to remain vigilant and hold governments accountable to prevent any potential abuse of power. Those who promise safeguards will be put in place to ensure that CBDCs are used for their intended purpose of increasing financial inclusion and reducing transaction costs, rather than for the purposes of control and manipulation are practicing doublethink. I say let us just ignore them completely and opt out with Bitcoin.