Policymakers’ response to fraud allegations at centralized crypto exchange FTX has included amusing crackdowns on Americans’ voluntary use of the software. Following last week’s FTX hearing, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (DOH) proposed “possibly banning” cryptocurrency.
Earlier this month, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Rostin Behnam discussed how the federal government could assist offshore cryptocurrency exchanges that block US users in “protecting those firewalls.”
Banning open-source software and shutting down the global Internet is not the way to lead the free world. It undermines new ways of organizing civil society and commerce by prohibiting the use of technology that could be critical to the development of robusthe t cultural institutions over digital networks. Furthermore, it contradicts American values by rejecting tools used to counter authoritarian overreach around the world. Americans’ freedom to write code, access information, and digitally organize must be embraced, not eliminated, by US crypto policy.
One of the most compelling analyses of the role that open source and cryptographically secure networks will play in the future of civic life and geopolitics comes from tech entrepreneur and investor Balaji Srinivasan’s The Network State.
Srinivasan describes how social movements can use digital networks to organize online communities devoted to a shared belief, build new institutions, and, most provocatively, find new polities in a book that combines technological forecasting, cultural criticism, and political theory.
The Network State makes bold claims and predictions, and Srinivasan is frank about the limits of projections and potential failures of both theories and technologies. Nonetheless, dramatic policy proposals—like banning crypto—require exploring broad implications.
While some might view the prospect of new network states competing with America as another reason to ban crypto, attempting such a ban could provide the ultimate justification for bringing such network states to fruition.