It turns out, the ‘Prince of Crypto’ sees many of the same problems with it as we do. Vitalik Buterin (Ethereum co-founder, and ETH miner, as pictured above) recently gave an extensive interview with TIME espousing his philosophy on crypto, authority, and the future of the Internet. And, well… if you wish cultr_h0r was slightly less laconic and slightly more coherent, go check it out.
Otherwise, here’s the TL;DR — Buterin loves the potential of the technology’s impact on financial accessibility, voting systems, and distribution of public goods. But he hates its adoption and execution by centralized for-profit industries, right wing anarcho capitalists, and anyone else who’s only in it to turn their million dollar furry fetish art into a fast food pop-up shop. Notably, he speaks with both mouth and money, eschewing any sort of formal power over the blockchains on which he exerts an outsized influence, even at the cost of his own financial interest.
Instead, he exercises a sort of ‘soft power’, articulating his egalitarian viewpoints and vision for the future of web3 in blogposts and conference appearances, while all actionable decisions are voted on by the community. And, look, we believe in changing the world through strongly-worded Twitter rants, too. So we appreciate the high profile proponent of our preferred form of power. (Wordcels don’t get enough respect.) But we’re less bullish on the assertion that this all somehow makes a 28-year-old billionaire ‘the first example of a guy who is pomo – post money‘.
It’s unclear exactly what the afore-linked tweet is referring to. Possibly, it refers to PMMT, or Post Modern Monetary Theory, described in this thread as ‘a system designed so that numbers mostly just go up and up and up, as they mean less and less and less. Thus, BTC. And oil, and nickel, and […] pretty much everything marked to market.’ Which would be an accurate description of a guy whose fortune arose from making arbitrary numbers go up and up, although he’d hardly be the first example. Probably, then, @novogratz‘s definition of post money is synonymous with an idea the TIME profile also implicitly endorses: Buterin’s bare minimum effort to practice what he preaches is somehow paradigm-shifting.
To be fair, the reason web3 has so quickly devolved from a utopian pipe dream into a dystopian clusterfuck is because there are fewer guys like Buterin in positions of influence. Large portions of many major token supplies are held by their founders, and, even if access is permissionless and public, private corporations dictate the direction these blockchains take. It’s easy to talk up transparent networks when you’re on your knees in front of Marc Andreessen with his pants around his ankles. But if equitable access to resources and decentralization of power were more than just marketing jargon, there wouldn’t be crypto billionaires tweeting about them. There wouldn’t be crypto billionaires at all. And the fact that Buterin is one, in my opinion, makes him aggressively not post money.
In web3 circles, the idea of somehow being ‘above’ money is very much in vogue. Sahil Bloom, Twitter’s premiere finance bro, recently tweeted, ‘Money ≠ Wealth. Time is the only true form of wealth. Too many people have a lot of money, but very little time.’ Which is indicative of shifting attitudes toward wealth among the incredibly wealthy. Status / clout / perceived personal freedom is now preferred over a simple screen grab of ten digits in a bank account. But, as my writing partner El Prof pointed out, Time = Money, as everyone knows. So, by Bloom’s own equation, Time ≠ Wealth.
However, Time + Money = Choice. And Choice = Wealth. Meaning, if you had the time to make money, or have enough money to buy yourself indefinite amounts of time, you have choices — like, say, the choice to burn your billions of dollars worth of SHIB just because you don’t want the responsibility. Doing so doesn’t make you post money, though, because you needed wealth to have the option in the first place. Buterin surely wouldn’t have thrown away $6B if he didn’t have another big B to fall back on. And valuing your values above having more money in your MetaMask than any one human being could dream of spending doesn’t make you a hero. It makes you a moderately unproblematic mediocre white man.
Honestly, I like Buterin. He wears pajama pants in public and he’s lankier than I am. I’m only ranting because I drank too much caffeine this morning, and because we need to stop elevating people to idol status for doing one decent thing. Post money paragons aren’t going to be 1%ers who write Georgist blogposts and don’t buy mega yachts. They’re going to be average people like us, willing to make real financial and lifestyle sacrifices, so others can access the same basic choices we were born with. Whether web3 is the platform where that change happens or not, every technological innovation runs the risk of becoming a handful of peoples’ meaningless numbers, going up and up, until we all become post money, whether wealthy or not.