The Great Paradox of Cryptocurrency: Is It Freer or Not?

In a prepublication review of Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency, Wired’s top editor Gideon Lichfield comments on the big crypto paradox:

Its transactions are anonymous, but since every single one is public, stored on a blockchain that (by design) anyone can look at, they are like the broken stalks left by a thief fleeing through a wheat field—a bounty of data for experts in digital forensics, who can piece together identifying patterns. As Andy has previously written, this supposedly untraceable and secure form of money is in fact notoriously hard to launder and easy to steal, and the digital paper trails created by inexperienced criminals using it carelessly for more than a decade have launched a “golden age” of crime detection.

Gilad Edelman, “The Future of Digital Cash Is Not on the Blockchain” at Wired (March 28, 2022)

Indeed. The Canadian government had no trouble cracking down on dissidents against its harsh (and probably useless) COVID-19 rules when the dissidents chose to use crypto as a method of banking. These people were not criminals, just dissidents against masking and so forth — and they had wide popular support, quite apart from the official media which is funded by government:

But the dissidents quickly found themselves without funds to live on.

Wired is — we are glad to say — ramping up its coverage of crypto:

We’ve gradually been ramping up our crypto and Web3 coverage, because whatever you think of it, this is a huge phenomenon, and its intersection with the rest of the world is becoming increasingly interesting. Witness how cryptocurrency has been used to raise donations for Ukraine as well as by Russians seeking to protect their fast-dwindling wealth, creating political headaches for crypto exchanges that have been pressured to block Russian users. Keep an eye on the first court cases involving NFTs, which will decide just how many legal rights these digital tokens of ownership actually confer

Gilad Edelman, “The Future of Digital Cash Is Not on the Blockchain” at Wired (March 28, 2022)

Any system that can be used by dissidents can also be used by organized authority. So we are back to the cat and mouse game with good people on both sides.

You may also wish to read: Trudeau’s truckers reveal problems with banking infrastructure And crypto isn’t the solution you might think it is. Even when not coerced by government actors, banks have been getting politically active in choosing whom to do business with (Jonathan Bartlett)


Government control of what you buy grows more popular. With governments, that is. You’d be surprised at how far along they are with digital currency and how detailed the control could be. To start, the government could know if you bought a sweet cereal product (and charge you more tax) or broccoli (and give you a credit).

Is an AI-driven social control system emerging in America? The gradual merger of Big Tech and Big Government is worthy of close analysis. The beginnings of such a system can be seen in the behavior of Canadian banks during the trucker’s Convoy — and of American credit card giants at home.

Government mulls money that can only be spent on approved items. Programmable digital currency restricts citizens’ freedoms for “socially beneficial outcomes.” Recent rapid-fire events in Canada leave no doubt that major banks would comply with such directives, leaving citizens stranded without cash.


No-buy lists are the next big thing after debanking. When a big online financial service like PayPal works closely with government to monitor citizens, it is violating its founding ideals. Former PayPal COO David Sacks talks about the vice grip that big fintechs like PayPal can exert against the freedom of users to dissent from state policy.