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The Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga has assumed chase position three in the race for bitcoin adoption as legal tender. In response to Arizona Senator Wendy Rogers’ proposed bitcoin bill, Lord Fusitu’a, Tongan royalty and former member of Tongan parliament, has hinted at his intention to implement similar legislation in his country. But are these pro-bitcoin peacock feathers largely for display purposes only? Or are there other fundamental reasons for the adoption of bitcoin on a nation-state level? I’m looking at you, El Salvador.
Bitcoin is a no-brainer for Tonga, whose residents rely heavily on remittances from overseas workers. Traditional remittance services like Western Union charge exorbitant fees which rob citizens of their hard-earned money. An open, free, instant cash settlement network(Bitcoin on Lightning) is a layup for any country that relies heavily on remittances from its diaspora.
However, it may take some time for Tonga to implement this legislation due to the structure of their parliament(they convene every eight months to debate new bills).
In addition, on January 14th and 15th, Tonga was devastated by two historic volcanic eruptions.
The Ha’api volcano is located 40 miles north of the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa. The eruption on January 15th sent ash 19 miles into the air, blanketing the entire island and sending 50-foot tsunamis to landfall. The 105,000 Tongans residing in Nuku’alofa have been cut off from domestic and international communications due to a damaged 31,000-mile fiber optic cable that runs underneath the ocean. Officials said it could take weeks to repair the line, so what is Tonga doing in the meantime?
While internet communications are severed, Tonga is accepting aid in the form of Bitcoin. Traditional Tongan banks use the internet-reliant SWIFT payment rail to do financial transactions. However, in times of crisis, especially when fiber-optic communications have been severed, Bitcoin can provide a better aid rail. As long as there is electricity, countries without internet can plug into Bitcoin with a simple and cheap Blockstream satellite base station. Blockstream’s geosynchronous satellites broadcast the Bitcoin blockchain from space 24/7, allowing P2P transactions to continue uninterrupted. Good luck beating that, JP Morgan.
According to Fusitu’a, the Blockstream satellites were the only communications on the island that survived both the eruption(s) and the tsunami.
While many people in first-world countries fail to see the value of Bitcoin, for the rest of the world, Bitcoin is their literal economic life jacket. The censorship resistance of a decentralized value protocol that can operate independently of other networks like SWIFT is not only useful for dissent against authoritarian regimes; it is also helpful during natural disasters and other crises.
Bitcoin is a live-round mixed amongst the blanks. When catastrophe hits, and all goes to shit, which technologies can be relied upon? I don’t know about you- but I’m betting on the heavily incentivized Bitcoin-space-satellite-cowboycrowd to keep the world in sync.
Tick tock, next block.