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Power, Property, and Freedom: Bitcoin Discourse Research Paper


In the modern world, all people have the right to freedom and property, but not all have the power to decide who may have this freedom and property. Moreover, the notions of power and freedom are mutually exclusive because when someone has power, the freedom of another person or people is reduced. Therefore, since ancient times, people have been fighting for power with an ultimate goal: to possess freedom and property.

Some individuals manage to become political leaders and authoritative rulers, while others begin to invent something special to obtain power, freedom, and property without harming other people. An example of such an individual is the creator of the cryptocurrency, Satoshi Nakamoto, who made Bitcoins out of nothing and granted financial freedom and virtual property to thousands of people (, 2014). Nowadays, Bitcoin is a physical implementation of power, property, and freedom, uniting thousands of people across time and space, despite some shortcomings and security risks.

The documentary The Bitcoin Phenomenon (2014) focuses on the history of Bitcoin creation and its success. Nakamoto wanted to create money that would not involve any government, and he wrote the code that made his idea work (, 2014). The main benefits of this cryptocurrency are its democratization, decentralization, anonymity, and zero transaction costs (, 2014). Bitcoin is now the world’s most valuable currency, although it had no intrinsic value initially. People like it because they can use their money, and no one sees it. The narrators claim that Bitcoin owners may not necessarily do illegal things, such as selling drugs or illegal guns, and it is not a reason to reject or condemn it (, 2014). As bad people can use cell phones to harm people, the same way they can use bitcoins, it is inevitable.

However, bitcoins allow many individuals to do microtransactions without processing any fees because there is no minimum, and one may even send a penny to their recipient (, 2014). From a political perspective, some people believe that Bitcoin should be legalized, while others think that it should remain close to its fundamentals (, 2014).

The Power of Bitcoin

The subject of bitcoins can be analyzed through the lens of Lukes’ three dimensions of power. Thus, decision-making power is the most diverse and public one, and it involves politics and political decisions. Although it may seem that Bitcoin has nothing to do with politics because it does not depend on any governmental authority, it has invisible politics. Lukes (2005) writes, “Individuals and elites may act separately in making acceptable decisions […] to keep unacceptable issues out of politics, thereby preventing the system from becoming any more diverse than it is” (p. 39). In the case of Bitcoin, the development of the Bitcoin code depends on its highly skilled developers, whose decisions will influence its infrastructure and maintenance.

The developers make everything possible to preserve the network as a self-governing and autonomous system, but their choices are market-driven. The network will exist until it is accepted by all stakeholders, including political leaders and governments, even though their influence is indirect and invisible. However, the decision-making power of Bitcoin is not as evident as its ideological power.

Ideological power is a power that has a great impact on human wishes and desires and can even make them change their views. According to Lukes (2005), “the remarkable capacity of ideological power [is] to transform and subvert commonsense and practical experience” (p. 145). When Nakamoto created Bitcoin, it had no value, but he managed to make people believe that they needed this cryptocurrency. The Bitcoin developer created an ideology of counterculture that attracted those who wanted to hide their transactions and save on transactional fees. In such a way, they could protest against the governmental control over their financial activities, protecting the rights to freedom, privacy, and property.

Freedom and Bitcoin

In democratic societies, freedom of expression and privacy is guaranteed to all citizens, but this freedom is often regulated and limited. For example, although people have the right to speak freely, they usually have to silence their opposing views, especially when their speech is about politics (Mitchell, 2013, p. 47). Thus, individuals must keep their opinions “from being heard” if they do not want to be punished, harassed, or judged (Mitchell, 2013, p. 47). In the documentary, freedom of expression and privacy is revealed from the perspective of Bitcoin. Thus, Bitcoin users are free to make any financial operations without a fear of being noticed, judged, or imposed with taxes for microtransactions. The Bitcoin network serves as a “free speech zone” for its users (Mitchell, 2013, p. 60). The only difference is that it is a zone free from warders and watchdogs, and people feel safe and secure there.

Bitcoin and Property

One more important subject revealed in the documentary is property. In the United States and other countries, “the laws regulate the right of property, and the possession of land is determined by positive constitutions” (Locke, 2016, sect. 50). Thus, when a person wants to invest money in some physical property or real estate, they may face such issues as censorship, confiscation, inflation, or counterfeiting. Legal permission from the government is needed to purchase land or other material property of high value. If an individual purchases something on credit and fails to pay, legal authorities may confiscate that person’s property. The cases of inflation and counterfeiting are also frequent in the real estate sphere. Bitcoin is free of all these social constraints: people do not require any permission to use this network; they can spend money only if they have it, and there is no central party that can print money and causes inflation. In such a way, Bitcoin is a physical implementation of property rights.

Having analyzed the documentary, one can conclude that Bitcoin is a solution for those who want to possess power, freedom, and property and do not harm or depend on others. The Bitcoin network is a great example of ideological power because it was created out of nothing, but its developer convinced others of its value. Moreover, Bitcoin offers freedom to its users because they can spend their money as they want, and no one will judge them. Finally, Bitcoin is the implementation of the natural right to the property every person has. This network allows people to possess monetary property and evade such issues as legal regulations, corruption, counterfeit, inflation, and censorship. Even though this system is not perfect and does not protect its users from hacking, it provides them with a feeling of security and safety and makes them feel powerful and free from regulations and supervision.

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