Ayn Rand and Bitcoin: Exclusive Interview With Jennifer Grossman, Atlas Society CEO
Who is John Galt? And who is Jennifer Grossman?
The former is the mythical hero featured in Ayn Rand’s perennial best-selling novel Atlas Shrugged.
Then there is Grossman, CEO of the Atlas Society, a research and advocacy organization that “promotes Open Objectivism; the philosophy of reason, individualism, achievement, and freedom as championed by Ayn Rand.”
“The principles of Objectivism, the philosophy rooted in reality, reason, and individualism, has never been more needed — or more neglected,” says Grossman. “This is the perfect moment to help the public rediscover the moral vision of Ayn Rand.”
Grossman agreed to a feature interview with BTCManager, on the heels of her presentation at FreedomFest 2017, widely regarded as “the world’s largest gathering of free minds.” Here she examines how Rand’s thinking and philosophy may inform Bitcoin’s meteoric rise as a new monetary system.
Your thoughts on the emergence of Bitcoin as a global monetary system with no central authority. And what might Ayn Rand think of it?
Ayn Rand was not just a champion of money. She celebrated sound money, by which she meant money that cannot be manipulated by the violent forces of the state. In practice, in her day, this meant the gold standard. Like many free market theorists of her time, she opposed centralized control of money and banking and saw gold as the legitimate free-market money because that is what the history of money would suggest.
How might this align with Rand’s Objectivist philosophy?
Rand also adored the contribution of technology to civilization. Cryptocurrency and the entire blockchain ecosphere, then, unites two things that she loved: sound money and technology. That being said, what made a gold-backed currency sound was that it could be exchanged for something of value, gold, or some kind of valuable commodity, and as such it could serve as an objective standard. Ironically, the disruptive innovative aspect of bitcoin is also its vulnerability because there are newer, and possibly better iterations coming online all the time.
In the book Atlas Shrugged, Rand appears to support the notion around a sovereign, peer-to-peer monetary system for the mythical community Galt’s Gulch. Can you confirm and elaborate on this?
They used gold coins from Midas Mulligan’s bank. John Galt explains to his “crash visitor” (trying to avoid a spoiler here) that no one borrows anything in the valley; they pay or trade for everything.
Galt says he’ll let the visitor stay at his house, but charge her room and board, she offers to work as his housekeeper instead, and is hired. Why do they use gold, and not have a printing press for money? The answer is found in a passage where one of the main characters, Francisco d’Anconia, explains:
“Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values.”
From an Objectivist perspective, what is the purpose of money?
(Like Bitcoin), it serves as a tool of exchange — of voluntary trade, made possible by those who create value. This passage from Atlas Shrugged says it best: “When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others… Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money.”
How has Rand’s work informed your own personal views on monetary sovereignty? And your thoughts on concerns often raised by political authorities that Bitcoin is being used as a tax haven?
I assume that many innovations in our time are inspired by the idea of avoiding taxes. Taxes are too high and there is a huge demand to reduce them. Bitcoin might assist in this but not necessarily. Remember it is not an anonymous currency. As for monetary sovereignty, the phrase “monetary free market” is probably a better descriptive.”
Atlas Shrugged also highlighted the roadblocks innovators and creatives faced from the statists and “second-handers.” We are seeing similar things today with attempts to control the free advancement of bitcoin and blockchain technology through regulations. How might have Ayn Rand advised us to overcome these efforts at oppression?
The idea of government trying to regulate bitcoin is bitterly ironic. No government official, no academic, no Fed employee, invented the blockchain or cryptocurrency. They have been running their status quo system for decades. And it gets even worse for everyone. Then some private sector programmers invent a new thing that is helping to bring liberty to the world. Only then does government say; let us regulate it. They (the government) should keep their hands off!