There can be only one

Hello everyone!  Today's post is mostly about the psychology that might lead one to such a broken conclusion.

The concept that every object has a use value and an exchange value was described and expanded upon by various philosophers like Aristotle, later Adam Smith and Karl Marx, and so many others who seem to have differing viewpoints (from Carl Menger to Joel Kovel).  It's kind of a basic place to start with monetary or economic theory.  So we see quite clearly that every object has an exchange value, and we can also remember that the world contains different classes of objects.

The conclusion should be obvious here, yet somehow, totally in contradiction with these basic facts, one can be tempted to imagine that there's a single real bitcoin or that one currency somehow will triumph over all the others.

"The three enemies of the people are hegemony, monogamy and monotony.”

Terence McKenna

It's not just the theory but direct observations.  There were different kinds of cowrie shells.  There are different kinds of precious metals.  There are different varieties of stamped metals, and of paper currencies, and of digital currencies.  We see with our eyes that there have always been more than one, and there still are more than one.  And yet still our minds take us down a path imagining a monopoly in money.


(XKCD cartoon)

Perhaps it's because we are just annoyed that many types of standards exist; different languages, different units, different football leagues, different climbing difficulty grades, different musical temperaments, and different block chains.  We just want things to be simple, as we are not self confident enough to learn new things.  Perhaps it's because there are so many terrible currencies out there and we don't wish the trouble of wading through them all.

We'll get over this monopoly money nonsense eventually.  Sometime I think Elizabeth Magie chose the name "monopoly" for her Atlantic City board game so that the phrase "monopoly money" would come into common parlance as pretend money.  This is a lovely commentary on how Congress gave the Federal Reserve a monopoly on money printing making the US dollar officially monopoly money.

One other reason is that we like to think in a single primary unit.  Even if we are trading our labor for cannabis or for litecoin or for 人民币 or rent, we might convert in our head to BTC.  Does this mean that for us BTC is the one true coin?  No, it means we have chosen for the context at hand to use this standard as a tool in assigning quantitative value.  Maybe because it is easier for us to convert units when doing calculations, we assume the whole world needs to also simplify.

There's also the nature of having one king or one nation that we may have grown up with, propaganda pushed by the king or national agents, which might affect how we think.  In fact there have always been many kings and many nations, some even active over the same areas.

Perhaps the problem is that we are plagued by our reliance on the simplest of categorizations of the world around us: the dichotomy.  Things are either black or white.  You are with us or against us.  Are you Chinese or not?  Is that alcoholic or not?  Such questions can have important use, but they do not show us the real picture of continuity and variation which the world presents for us.

What do you think?  What reason is there for us to look into the growing tree of a million coins, the continuous forking and cloning, the variety of hash functions and public key systems, and to somehow come up with a statement like the title of this post?