Money, speech and freedom

Storage is more than bits on a disk. Storage in its broadest sense defines culture. That is what the Bitcoin debate this week has been about.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

Big storage and its corollary big data make possible a level of surveillance and recall that 30 years ago was beyond all imagination. Today, hundreds of millions of people and their online identities are subject to the whims of a few people at Facebook, not to mention the NSA and other spy agencies.

These records are assembled for purposes we don't understand by people who are not accountable. Since the Patriot Act even our financial transactions – innocent though they may be – are subject to governmental oversight. Currency is no longer private.

Freedom to forget
This week's Great Debate reflect on the role that storage plays in our culture, both as a form of memory and as a medium for cultural and personal exchange. Freedom is more than our ability to act in the moment, it is also our ability to forget the past.

Why should the rash decisions of our youth follow us undimmed for the rest of our lives? Good decisions are the product of experience, and experience is the product bad decisions. We all have decisions we later wish we had made differently.

The Storage Bits take
There is a bleak literature from once free societies under the control of the Soviet Union. An excellent novel - The Loser by Hungarian writer George Konrád - talks about and reflects upon the corrosive effect of constant surveillance. For movie buffs the German film The Lives of Others is worth watching.

Although several Supreme Court justices don't agree, a right to privacy is it implicit in the Constitution - see the 9th Amendment - and a requirement for freedom. That is why an anonymous global currency is vital to human liberty.

Ultimately money is a tool. How we choose to use it is a moral choice. Our use of money tracked by the state is an indefensible breach of personal privacy and liberty.

Comments welcome, as always. Do you think that freedom of speech and freedom of money are related? For extra credit: should a few billionaires be able to dominate the airwaves during election campaigns?

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