A dollar in your pocket is a dollar not in mine. That’s how capitalism works, the system we all lived with since birth. For most of my life, I believed it was the best system possible. Alter all, capitalism is the reason why so much of humanity has been raised out of abject poverty. For all it faults, capitalism is the best-worst option. At least, I felt that way until I read Walkaway by Cory Doctorow.
For those of you who haven’t experienced the novel, it details the birth pangs of a post-scarcity society. It emerges from the cracks of the capitalist system we know so well and surpasses it. I can’t remember the last time a book has caused such a transformation within myself. After I put the book down, I couldn’t help but wonder if a part-scarcity society would even be possible.
Crypto currencies are the key to the lock of post-scarcity. When it’s all said and done, the more coins you have in your wallet, the more my coins are worth. These last few months, I have been learning the intricacies of crypto trading. Why hodl when you can make the crypto work for you, right? A question popped into my head over and over again: what if the most disenfranchised had this knowledge?
How would one bring this knowledge to the disfranchised? I thought about a potential non-profit that would go out into these communities and dispense the knowledge. Africa was the first option that came to mind, Nigeria to be precise. Many Nigerians have difficulty getting a bank account and use bitcoin as a value-saving device. The Nigerian government feared its fiat would become redundant. So what did the government do? They banned the buying and selling of crypto. Not only did they show how the Nigerian state is working against the needs of its people, it showed its impotence by passing this unenforceable law. More than that, all those hodlers are potential investors.
One potential problem with starting in Africa would be exposure to potential criticism. People would question why I thought to start half a world away when there are those in my home country that need this knowledge just as much, communities left to waste, hard-hit urban ones like the Lower-Eastside of Vancouver and rural ones like the native Canadian reservations. Recast in this light of familiarity, imagining myself telling a crowd of prostitutes and addicts they should learn crypto trading sounds naive at best.
However, there might be a better way: universal basic income. UBI has always been a hard sell. While most people agree there should be social safety nets so the neediest don’t fall into dark pits of despair, nobody wants to pay more taxes. It would become another beast entirely if UBI generated its own revenue. We could do that by tying UBI to a new, specially designed crypto ecosystem.
Indulge me in a brief thought experiment.
First, we would have to create a smart contract blockchain. Suppose we call its crypto HOPE. HOPE would function in the same way as Etherium (ETH) does now. Anyone in the world would be able to own and trade HOPE coins just like every other crypto out there. International and domestic crypto miners would be invited to mine our base coin. Many of them would see the potential for profit in this opportunity and join in. The Canadian state would also have to mine a significant portion of the initial HOPE coins so they ensure the program doesn’t fall under the influence of bad-faith foreign actors. There doesn’t seem like any way to realistically limit the mining to Canadian-based organizations, and any attempt to would seem like a lost cause.
We would also need a token that the Canadian state would issue to facilitate the UBI payments. Let’s call this hypothetical Canadian token LEAF. This would be a much more regulated token that would function in a similar way as the Binance token (BNB). In its initial stages, every Canadian social insurance number would be etched into the LEAF blockchain. This will be needed for liquidated payouts in the near future. The Canadian government would provide the exchange where LEAF could be exchanged for other crypto or sent to private wallets encoded SIN numbers.
The fees from trading HOPE would both be reinvested in HOPE and into a UBI pool. Once the UBI became large enough, LEAF tokens would be issued to SIN numbers on a weekly basis. The LEAF transfer fees would also feed into the creation of LEAF tokens. The largest payments would go to those in the bottom income brackets. Higher-income earners would receive a progressively smaller payment up to a limit of $100,000, the income needed to be considered upper-middle class in Canada.
To prevent LEAF from being funneled into the black market economy, our centralized exchange would facilitate all purchases for real-world items. The base payment for those with absolutely no income would be enough for rent, food, and a small amount left over for entertainment. To encourage addicts to quit, a bonus could be issued after the successful completion of an additional program. This bonus would slightly increase over time and cease after a failed drug test. This would not bring an end to drug addiction by itself but would ensure that every citizen—addict or not—had a roof over their head and a full stomach. That being said, UBI coupled with a policy of addiction as the health issue might reduce the illicit drug market to almost nothing.
For those with a little LEAF to spare, they will have the option to store their tokens in an index fund. Automated trading bots will be provided to all Canadian citizens free of charge for those who want a more hands-on investing experience. Investing trading will be also be provided free of charge with priority given to the lower-income range. Those citizens who prove they can make a profit trading will be given access to the UBI pool, and they will receive a share of any profits they generate.
This would be a system where those who benefit from the system the most will take an active role in generating value for that system. Of course, there will be those who will take their handouts, and that will be the limit of their involvement. On the other hand, there are people who are wasting away in the current system, one with no opportunities. Once given an opportunity, they’ll take it. Desperation creates desperate acts, and once that extreme desperation is taken out of society, the damage wrought by desperation will heal and disappear.
On top of all that, this will transfer the responsibility for supporting the vulnerable from the state and the taxpayers to those who would directly benefit. That would make it an easier sell to the conservatives. Personal responsibility. Can’t get more conservative than that.
A crypto-supported UBI has the potential for abuse, of course. No system is perfect. Welfare is abused by the unscrupulous, but that abuse is everyday, common, and familiar. However, should this experiment succeed, other countries could build their own UBI systems on the HOPE blockchain. UBI could have the potential to lift all of humanity out of poverty. It would be a whole new world. Our children deserve to grow up in it.