“I’d say not all crypto people are into libertarianism, but most libertarians are into crypto,” says Preston Byrne, a conventional-looking lawyer in his thirties.
A partner at the Anderson Kill law firm as of March 1, his specialty, as it has been for years, is “understanding the nuances” of blockchain technology. He’d only just moved from Connecticut to Washington, D.C. to start at the firm on March 14 when work-from-home orders came through, so he high-tailed it back to Connecticut, where he’d already had a bunch of food stored in his mom’s freezer in case of this exact scenario.
“Those of us who were paying close attention began getting ready for this,” he says, citing a “conspiratorial” article he discovered back in February. Later banned by Twitter, the article suggested the coronavirus came from a Chinese bioweapons lab. “Is that true? I don’t know…but that was an alternative media outlet focused very, very early [on the] outbreak in China,” Byrne says.
Anti-censorship is one of the main reasons Byrne is drawn to blockchain and cryptocurrency. “Bitcoin doesn’t care what we’re using it for,” he says, pointing out that it’s been a reliable alternative for those banned from establishment payment systems for political reasons, like Alex Jones and Laura Loomer. At work, he’s dealt with such cases where bitcoin has come to the aid of those “booted” from online platforms (but as an attorney, he can’t discuss them — nor can he hold cryptocurrency himself, due to potential conflicts of interest).
This really makes the libertarian case, because our world fell apart all around us, and the only thing that really mattered was whether you yourself were ready.
Since he holds no cryptocurrency, Byrne hasn’t gotten too deeply involved in any individual crypto community, but he goes to various bitcoin and Ethereum meetups. His real “tribe,” however, is the libertarian activist members of the New Hampshire Free State Project. “They were among the earliest adopters of bitcoin at various events they held,” Byrne says. The group’s aim, as he puts it, is to overwhelm New Hampshire’s population with enough libertarians to influence the state’s politics.
Byrne’s libertarian views have only been “validated” by both the government and human response to COVID-19 in the U.S. Since the government didn’t prepare people for the pandemic in time, those who didn’t make the decision to prep for themselves were the ones standing in long lines at the grocery store and panic-buying all the toilet paper. “This really makes the libertarian case,” he says, “because our world fell apart all around us, and the only thing that really mattered was whether you yourself were ready.”
Because of the government’s poor handling of the crisis, Byrne believes more people will want to “exit the system,” he says. “I think bitcoin is one of those exit pathways.”
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