Mohammad Rafigh helps Iranians fight sanctions with BitcoinDecember 5th, 2012
Last week we reported that Turkey was circumventing sanctions by trading Iranian crude oil for Turkish gold instead of dollars. Good for them, I thought. It’s a powerful proof of concept for the efficacy of alternative currency.
Then I remembered another recent story. In October hundreds of currency protesters gathered in Tehran as riot police stormed the market arresting “illegal money changers.” The head of the national police said that people holding stashes of gold were, “perturbing the currency market.”
So, the State can use gold to protect itself from economic sanctions, but the lowly civilians can’t. What are the Iranian people to do? Mohammad Rafigh found the answer.
Mohammad Rafigh is a Musician, singer and music producer living in Tehran and also a computer engineering student. After discovering Bitcoin he became fascinated by it, and made his most recent album Beyond Matter available for purchase with the digital currency. The individual tracks are just .039BTC (about 50¢) and the entire album lets you pay what you want. Or course buying the songs could be construed as violating US sanctions.
The people who argue in favor of sanctions against Iran usually strike me as economic buffoons. The same person who tells me the US needs to prevent Iran from engaging in international trade to weaken their economy will usually also tell me the US needs to stop engaging in international trade to strengthen its own economy.
Rafigh wrote “Bitcoin is so interesting for me, I wish the culture of using digital money spreads all over the world, because it does not have any dependency on anything like politics.” Rafigh has begun translating Bitcoin software into Farsi saying, “If bitcoin is good for me, it can be good for more Iranians like me.”
Using Bitcoin Iranians living abroad can send money to their families, or exchange them for rials or dollars. It allows them to store their wealth digitally where the currency police can’t seize it, and most importantly it allows the people of Iran, at the individual level, to skirt US sanctions and maintain an economic connection to the outside world. When US sanction against Iraq killed an estimated 1 million innocent civilians in the 90s it’s easy to see how important that is.
Bitcoin offers what no other currency can. Access to everyone, everywhere. What this means is that right now it is possible for civilians living in Iran to donate to the anti-war movement in the US, and it is possible for civilians in the US to donate to the relief efforts in the countries the US harms. People can now cooperate across national boundaries, and there is virtually nothing that States can do to prevent it. Given that wars must be funded by taxes, national debt or currency debasement, all of which can be protected against with Bitcoin, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for imperial powers to fund their military budgets.
French economist Frederic Bastiat once said, “If goods don t cross borders, armies will.” I suggest that when States can no longer prevent goods from crossing borders, armies won’t.
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