In his latest on-stage appearance, long-time blockchain advocate Andreas Antonopoulos took aim at the global banking sector, describing it as a “golden cage” akin to a cartel that would ultimately be destroyed by Bitcoin.
Speaking in front of a crowd in Munich, Germany, this June (the video was only released this weekend) the author of both “Mastering Bitcoin” and “Mastering Ethereum” argued that Bitcoin is the perfect tool to counteract what he called “the surveillance-banking cartel”. He also said that no matter what bankers try to do, they can’t shut it down; and that fundamentally, bitcoin is akin to financial freedom. Here are some of the highlights.
The speech begins in the Nixon era, when the “Bank Secrecy Act” was passed. Antonopoulos said that this required all banks (first in the US than internationally) to operate as a “surveillance mechanism” for the government’s police force.
He said the legislation is often referred to under the acronym AML—standing for “Anti-Money Laundering”—which requires every financial transaction to identify the sender and receiver of every transaction. Something that the Financial Action Task Force thinks should apply to crypto.
But this, Antonopoulos argued, turned, “all banks into surveillance organizations.”
“Gradually banks became cops—the problem is that banks can't be banks and cops at the same time—but they no longer had a choice,” he said.
Since this regulation passed, Antonopoulos told the audience, banks in every developed society have eventually succumbed to these rules, checking that money isn’t being used illegally. But he claimed that governments let banks get away with criminal activity in return for providing this service.
“The banks started with this gilded cage; the cage they built around them has bars of gold because it was the deal, a quid pro quo. In return for fulfilling these regulations the banks get an ability to get away with criminal activities for which they are never punished.”
Experience Web 3.0.
Be the first to get Decrypt Members. A new type of account built on blockchain.Early access
And while banks do get caught—the ten biggest bank fines total more than $8 billion—he said these are just a slap on the wrist. And in many cases, they add up to just a fraction of the profits taken in throughout such illegal endeavors.
Going further, he added that, “terrorists get funded by States and intelligence agencies through banks in dollars...because the ultimate goal is not to eliminate crime, the ultimate goal is control.”
And he described this cozy relationship as a, “golden cage” built up around banks, keeping them in power while ensuring that they do as asked.
Antonopolous said, “it's funny that we use the term cartel to talk about drugs and oil, etc. but here we have a 114 trillion-dollar industry that is dominated by six regionally controlling players and we don't call them a cartel.”
“In fact, they don't even dare to fine them—in fact they don't even dare to put them in jail when they take away the homes of millions of people with straight-up fraud that's been caught on tape where they are saying we know these mortgages are fraudulent but they're so so profitable,” he said.
“And nobody goes to jail. That's a cartel. That's the behavior of a cartel!” he exclaimed.
But not for much longer. Bitcoin is here.
“A cartel buster just came in the door on January 3rd, 2009, with the invention of an open public blockchain called Bitcoin and that cartel is now over,” he declared.
At this point, Antonopolous acts out a fictional conversation between two bankers where one struggles to explain why Bitcoin can’t be shut down, and the movement stopped. It revolves around the fact that bankers buying up all the Bitcoin doesn’t damage it—it just makes it more expensive. That bankers can’t just control the on-ramps to cryptocurrency because goods can be purchased directly in crypto. That even if they want to shut the whole thing down, they can’t.
With Bitcoin’s increasing success as an alternative monetary system, bankers, he said, are feeling that, “the golden cage keeps getting smaller and smaller.”
However, he said, “I have news for you—it's really nice out here you should try it outside the golden cage”.
“We have the freedom, we have sovereignty, we have monetary independence, we have control of our own money and we have monetary policies that we can choose,” he proclaimed.
He concluded his speech, saying, “We're outside—and we are free.” But freedom does have its downsides.