“I’m heading out to the Pablo Escobar tour this morning,” I said to my hostel host Faisal. I could see his struggle to continue smiling. I thought he’d be happy I’d be interested in his country’s history, but I forget that for many, until recently, this was not “history,” this was their reality.
Kidnappings, shootings, car bombings – once 82 bombings in a single month – he terrorized the city. How they were able to recover from this awful period is an amazing reminder of the resilience of the human spirit, as well as the power of public works to transform a city.
…but the memory is still strong.
Our guide said that for many proud Paisans (the name for the residents of Medellin), many would prefer that you forget Pablo, focus on the good that their city has done, and how far they have advanced from those dark times.
At one point, Pablo was so awash in drug money, he offered to pay off the national debt of Columbia – he was that fantastically rich.
This offer was refused. Columbia could not be known for having paid off their debts with drug money.
And, I thought, Pablo would have loved crypto currencies.
Putting the “Crypto” in Cryptocoins
Bitcoin’s blockchain, a kind of open ledger, is secured by miners solving cryptographic puzzles. Solving them validates and transmits the transactions, securing the chain.
Something like that.
But, even though Crypto coins like Bitcoin use cryptography, bitcoin itself is an open ledger, allowing anyone to check on any transaction, even if they were not the ones to initiate it.
Now we have Monero, Verge, ZEN, and ZCash, among others, that anonymize the transactions. It’s known that Monero is the cryptocoin of choice on the darkweb, contributing to its rise.
And Pablo would have exploited the hell out of Monero.
One of the problems for a Cartel was what to do with all the money it generated. The US, at one point, was reportedly running out of $100 bills, because they were all being used for the drug trade in various Central and South American countries.
Bitcoin, and the other altcoins don’t have that problem. A billion dollars and a single dollar use up a not dissimilar amount of bits on the blockchain.
And the new privacy coins mask transactions, both on initiation, and in the transmission.
But who, the critics ask, would need such privacy? Criminals?
My response is that drugs are not the problem. Criminalization of drugs is the problem. And that we should decriminalize all drugs, just like Portugal, and use the money saved on education and rehabilitation, not more guns, and not housing drug users who would benefit more from treatment.
Also, money laundering drug money is not the core issue, it’s the drug appetite of the purchasing users that’s at issue. Massive amounts of money needing to be laundered is a huge symptom of a disease caused by consumption, and the demand created by making it illegal.
Bring this round circle – just because criminals use Monero, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have legitimate uses for you and I.
The Right of Privacy
We all have the human right of privacy.
Take companies such as Equifax, a company we neither gave permission, nor bestowed the right to reveal our credit score and history. A company who’s major job was to keep our information secure, got hacked recently. And then they tried to charge us if we wanted to freeze our accounts.
And Facebook has trained us to accept that radical transparency is a fact, when it’s actually a choice.
The privacy cryptos solve for this problem – we control what we reveal.
WeLcOmE TO THE DaRkSiDe
Every new technology brings the dark side. They are even the innovators of a new space, being singularly focussed on exploiting its uses.
Take the internet – some of the first movers on pictures, and fast-streaming video on the web was for porn. One of the first renderings of pictures when all we had were characters were pictures of naked women rendered using different shading and sizes of text characters
And now we have criminals hacking home computers, demanding Cryptocoins to return your data, hiding their gains behind the untraceable Monero coin.
But what is the innovation in that?
Here it is: Absolute privacy, once solely within the purview of the rich and the Trumps is now available to all.
Driven by darkweb criminals, strange bedfellows accidentally championing the basic human right to keep our affairs private.
The Skeptics of Crypto
Looking back on any of the many periods of a huge percentage rise in crypto price brings out the naysayers, the skeptical, the FUD.
Talk of bubble this and tulip that get batted about on reddit et al. But look back a couple years, and see how folks said the same things when bitcoin was $13.30.
At the height of its popularity, Bitcoin was trumpeted as a viable alternative currency for the internet age, a monetary system engineered to prevent theft, gaming, and criminalization. Then came the malware, the black market, the legal ambiguities and The Man. Today, you can’t even use it to buy Facebook stock.
You either slag Bitcoin, or suffer from irrational exuberance, no in-between allowed. And talk of the ‘only good use for cryptocoins is money-laundering’ is yet another round of FUD.
1st/3rd World Problems
Pablo’s problem wasn’t money, it was too much power. There’s a saying that when one gets power, evil follows soon after.
People during Pablo’s time would attest to that.
He was so powerful that when he needed shelter from his enemies, he built his own “prison” complete with pool tables, wide screen TVs, and whores.
He had tunnels when he needed to visit the outside world, and when he was surrounded by the Columbian army, to escape he simply walked out the front gates.
And the government, the most evil powerful entity would like to know who else is powerful/rich/evil in order to get their part.
It’s confounding to me that the US, a country founded on the rejection of taxation has such high rates. Okay, maybe not for the big corporations, but last I had a paycheck I always saw >30% gone to taxes, fees, et al.
And I am no Republican. Trump disavowed me of that.
Possibly Libertarian/Capitalist in bent, with Socialist leanings.
(What galls me is that, once Trump is out of office, we will likely have to assign a team of secret service agents to protect the sexual harasser in chief. But I digress.)
And, it’s not really the taxation, because I believe we need a safety net for the poor, and dollars for public works that benefit everyone. What I don’t agree with is the amount spent on defense and indefensible wars, enriching the military industrial complex at the expense of the people the defense purportedly serves.
And that’s where I think crypto shines.
If money is power, and cryptocoins through privacy restore the power back to the individual, then true democracy can exist.
And when everyone is a crypto-millionaire, then true change can exist.
‘Cause we will vote with our cryptocoins, and only consensus will rule.
Because wealth has been distributed, and the Geeks shall inherit the earth.
Escobar – hero?
Escobar, our guide told us, was idolized by the poor. He was able to single-handedly get public projects done that benefitted the lower classes when the government had only excuses and delays.
These included 50 football pitches, housing for low income families, hospitals and schools.
He was loved by the poor, and hated by the middle class and the rich. But if we only invest Central Authorities, and Central Individuals with power, can we trust that evil will not follow?
Or, is it possible we get things done via combined individual efforts, and consensus defined mathematically on the blockchain? Is representative democracy the only way to get things done, or can true consensus governance exist.
Pablo, as an individual, chose to improve conditions for the downtrodden, and sliced through red tape as if it didn’t exist, because for him it didn’t. He took it to heart: he who has the money wields the power. And cryptocurrency puts the privacy, and the power, back in the hands of the individual.
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