The silent revolution of internet money

Time to pivot from the sophistries of the weekend to technology and venture capital.

The phenomenon we're witnessing in real time is the internet taking on the greatest monopoly: the state.

My thesis (loosely held) is that the internet moved through the economy from weaker to relatively stronger value chains. Pure information economies were disrupted first (media, messaging) then industries with information asymmetry and distribution economies that have fragmented and competitive value chains (retail, travel). From there to services where sending information at a higher level of protocol could improve efficiency (mobility, delivery). And finally to markets which were tightly regulated oligopolies, but which still offer some attack surface (health care, education).

By no means do I think that the internet has "won" any of these more oligopolistic industries. The incumbents are putting up a good fight and the pure plays may just be too late and too cocky (see what has happened to the insuretech IPOs). But my point is that we started with what was relatively easy and are now getting to what is relatively hard: the implication of what the internet means for government.

For the last 5-6 years the internet has been gnawing at the greatest monopoly, state power. It is most visibly doing so through media. Every time you read "misinformation", there may well be erroneous facts but it isn't so clear which side is pushing what will turn out to be a false narrative. Our established authorities are based and relying on an information asymmetry which no longer exists. The ability to create and rally populist movements in a short space of time will be with us for the foreseeable future. Legislative agendas are likely to be increasingly meme-driven and we may well get social media influencers in positions of power.

A more silent but potentially much more powerful revolution, however, is what is happening in crypto. The base of state power may be a monopoly on violence, but that's likely unsustainable without a simultaneous monopoly on money. What is rapidly growing under our authorities' noses is a highly innovative alternative financial system which promises (some, more) independence from the traditional gatekeepers and the vagaries of their political decision-making.

The very real question of preserving state power in the next decade then is how a country deals with regulating cryptocurrencies. Get it right and you will run the world over the next decades. Get it wrong and many of your most highly skilled and motivated young people will leave for greener shores. I'm not sure that folks at the SEC, in Congress, or for that matter the White House have fully grasped this reality yet.