Monetary System Enshittification

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  • Summary: Is the US monetary system experience enshittification? And how do we solve it?

Bitcoin honeybadger stomping on the US monetary system.

Is the US monetary system experiencing enshittification? And how do we solve it? If we think about monetary systems as platforms which facilitate value transfer, I think some of Cory Doctorow’s ideas on preventing platform decay can apply.

“First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.” - Cory Doctorow

Ultimately, enshittification is a rent-seeking problem: the platform is no longer incentivized to maximize value for the users since they’re locked into the network. Rent-seeking continues to drain value from debtors to creditors and leads to heavy stratification of society.

Currently, the dollar is king. With the world locked into the US monetary system, the US governmental apparatus (policymakers, interest groups, etc.) is not incentivized to improve the system of tariffs, subsidies, and regulations for the net benefit of society.

The Jubilee, as described in Leviticus, attempted to solve societal stratification as value accreted to creditors over time. Every 50 years, debts were forgiven and property was returned to its original owner, “resetting” the scale between creditors and debtors.

There are two principles Doctorow believes can solve platform decay:

The end-to-end principle, when applied to monetary systems, is about the reliable delivery of information about value. Distorting the value information about a good or service through monetary policy, regulation, and laws violates this principle.

With the invention of Bitcoin, there is now a way to easily move off the US monetary system and satisfy the Right of Exit principle, by limiting exposure to trusted third-parties, and self-custodying personal wealth.

While Bitcoin is just part of the solution to the US monetary system’s enshittification problem, it is necessary to maintain its value for the people, and not the rent-seekers.