It blows my mind that the youngsters are supporting the political agenda that is committed to taking control of all institutions that provide for independent life. I cannot tell if the kids are just so brainwashed from their campus experience and media feeds that they are sleepwalking to their own misery... or if more layers of oppressive rules and control feel good to them.

The hope of the digital world was to eliminate the man from the middle of everything. Today they man is firmly in control of the digital world and working to completely dominate it. Why are the kids not resisting THIS!?

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Mar 11, 2022·edited Mar 11, 2022

I think your question answers itself: ie, smartphones, constant internet access, and social media are the greatest tools of social conditioning and mass-opinion control and formation ever invented, they have created a digital panopticon of docile anxious conformists constantly monitoring each other for social miscues or deviations from orthodoxy, all happy to report each other to the authorities for social credit and virtual virtue points.

What we are living through is the internet swallowing all of humanity (all human systems and cultures and relationships etc), and obliterating every possible barrier between public/private and virtual/real.

This is naturally more painful and confusing for those of us who lived during the glorious Olden Times; but for the "digital natives" this is the only world they've ever known so it feels only natural to live a life entirely inside the Machine.

Think of those of us over, say, 30ish as the last wild free-range humans (at least till the inevitable cataclysm), and then once we're gone, we'll be replaced by zoo animals.

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Under this system what would the black market look like? Should we start buying stuff we can barter? I am just wondering out loud and not sure if I am serious. The future you suggest is terrifying.

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My thoughts exactly!

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The real problem is always converting "black" into "gray" or "white" area afterwards

By Russian example very likely black market would function well, maybe even on paper bucks or euros

But then you put $10k in bank and it gets frozen and bank asks you to explain the source of money

Same if you withdraw perfectly white $10k into cash - bank would freeze it and ask why do you even need that cash

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Mar 11, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

Great read and review of a digital dollar. Scary. Best, Pat

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Grimly hilarious; you should sell this to Charlie Brooker, as it contains enough material for about 25 episodes of Black Mirror.

I'm mostly with the nothingburger crowd on Biden's EO. Cryptotard investors seemed way more worried about details ("guardrails") concerning market regulation, and were pumped to find nothing too specific. But I think you're right to highlight the stated urgency of developing a U.S. CBDC. This is a brilliant deep dive into the dystopian cesspool of where this could all be headed.

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Mar 11, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

Great essay.

On the one hand, I like it that the US government can use CBDC’s in the name of national security, but it scars the crap out of me to think it also could be used to force an ideological conformity on the population.

Software designers are doing this as we speak.

Building a blockchain network to transaction business in the Metaverse that will allow NFT’s to be purchased and sold by disparate individuals using crypto, safely and securely. See Boson Protocol as an example.

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The “National Security” spiel is a hoax, the Patriot Act is just one of the payoffs. No one on this planet hates the US without a pretty good reason.

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Yes, Glenn Greenwald has written a ton on government overreach steaming from the Patriot Act.

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"You are wracked by foreboding"

My feeling after reading just the first two paragraphs.

This is going to happen, by the way. Sorry to sound like a pessimist, but I interact with Zoomers. They have no affinity for cash (I did a mildly illicit favor for one and he wanted to repay via Venmo) and will welcome whatever digitized currency, centralized or not, which makes their lives easier. It will almost certainly be centralized though, because they accept it as given that every dollar they accrue/spend is, and indeed should be, transparent to the state (another, smarter one complained about the software he used to do his tax return; it was still clumsy vis-a-vis his reported crypto gains).

Don't know if you're aware of him, but Maajid Nawaz is a like-minded critic. Towards the end of his Feb 19 appearance on JRE he talked about 'programmable' currencies. I didn't grok the true horror of the implications then, probably because of his soothing British accent. But good God...

We are slouching towards digitized slavery.

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Ironically, and not without a sense of humor I’m sure, my bank in Australia has blocked my debit card because signing up to this sub-stack was deemed suspicious activity.

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In many ways I pine for the ANALOG era, to be back in the pre-digital world. Mechanical things worked well with experience, necessity and time. You could, with patience and deft hands, absorb the learned tricks of maintenance that had been passed on - like fixing your car in your driveway on a Saturday morning. It would draw a crowd of experts and an extra set of hands to hold something or other while you turned the wrench. I draw the line however with banking which, in that era, was a PITA (Pain in the Ass). Branches were open from 10 'til 3, from Monday to Friday. Usually the branch was downtown where parking was awkward if not impossible. You carried and managed passbooks, checks, money transfers and walked around with a sizable wad of cash in your wallet. Payday was a check in an envelope at the job site or at your desk and saw you bolting from work early on a Friday afternoon to frantically line up and cash it and then over to the next establishment to buy grocs and booze. It was cumbersome but it was discrete - holding scrip, as it were. I'm good and satisfied that I was able to manage my particular needs and wants in that era with a certain amount of "anonymity".

There's a chill now. Especially when the anonymity is now switched to the other side of the ledger. You don't like call centres now, wait until you're wrestling with your CBDC ledger that's not right while trying to complete a simple transaction. Anonymity is now a bored bureaucrat on the line spouting bloody chapter and policy verse after you've been penalized/cancelled by the Machine for an unknown financial indiscretion and you're looking for corrective action or mercy. Or god help me you're spending your time educating a chat bot that's dumber than a sack of hammers. Maybe when we can no longer turn wrenches we'll have to figure out into which gearbox we can toss them.

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Well I think this is pretty overblown.

Of course a CBDC *could* be used as a means of government control, but so could a zillion other things; local police, say.

So when you say "no use of emergency powers to compel cooperation by intermediary financial institutions required!", this still assumes that the law has been written to give the Fed these powers in the first place.

And what happens to other DCs like bitcoin? Are those somehow brought under government control? I'm no expert, but the claim is that they can't be. And then why isn't there just a black market / underground economy using these uncontrolled DCs?

As for lifestyle enforcement, why is there not today a high tax on sugary foods, if we're so concerned about lifestyle? Why are gas taxes not much higher if we want to discourage fossil fuel use?

So if the current level of representative democracy (such as it is) is maintained in the US, I'm just not seeing the unique danger here.

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Good questions. I am operating under the running assumption that government or any institution like the Fed will naturally move to seize as much operating power as it is allowed. The law would have to be written specifically to disallow such powers, rather than to grant them. Which may well happen, we will see. But then even if protections are written into the law, I do not expect equal treatment under the law either anymore - in my cynicism, I just no longer have any trust in that regard.

On lifestyle enforcement, I would say first that, depending where one lives, these are already enforced to some degree. More significantly, whatever lack of enforcement there now exists is more a reflection of the current difficulty of doing so, not lack of desire to do so; the easier it becomes, the more common it will become, and in turn a new norm will be established.

There would certainly be a black market. But how effective and widespread would it be? I think it depends primarily on how convenient the dominant CBDC system is - the larger the majority that is satisfied and comfortable within the system despite any lack of liberty, the fewer that will be willing to take alternative forms of payment, and the smaller and less convenient the available black market. Then there are questions like: can you pay taxes in bitcoin, or only in CBDC? Can you convert bitcoin to CBDC? If you don't pay taxes, how fast does the system come after you?

I suppose one's pessimism is correlated with one's assessment of the evolving state of representative democratic governance.

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Equal parts brilliant and terrifying. I've heard it said that Orwell wrote 1984 as a cautionary tale but that governments read it as a how-to Manual. I fear the same fate for this article if people don't wake up to what's going on around them.

Lionel Shriver wrote a masterpiece in 2017 on this same scenario - The Mandibles - which may be the only dystopian comedy in literature, and should be read by all as this generation's 1984.

Keep the good stuff coming Mr Lyons!

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Tom Luongo in this talk session has a few clarifying takes on this:



"Do you really think that Jaime Dimon who controls the policies of the NY Fed Reserve is going to go along with turning our global financial candy store over to a German eugenicist ( Schwab)? I just don't see it".

Do you think commercial banks will go along with collapsing them into central banks?

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That's a fascinating question I kept thinking about while writing this. I guess we will soon find out who is more powerful: the bureaucrats or the bankers!

Though if history is any guide they will find a compromise that benefits both...

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The people in charge right now are crazy or evil. There is 3 outcomes

- They stay crazy/evil, and they stay in charge. And the good old free days become just a distant memory as we move closer and closer to the disaster that would be worldwide communism.

- They get voted out, it turns out that despite being crazy or evil, they're not really competent enough to really rig elections enough to overcome the people being pissed. South Korea for example just voted for a based guy.

- Somehow, they snap out of being woke one day. The cult effect wears off and brains start working again. Mediocre politicians who are corrupt but realize free capitalist Western world is better for them and their corporate interests. And then we slowly rebuild after having survived one the most unique psychological events in history.

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Brilliant as usual.

Please decode Tucker Carlson for us.

Generally, Fox and CNN, infotainment for physicals and virtuals respectively or is there more to it?

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I think that is close to right, but any true virtual would scoff at watching TV and read the NYT or Financial Times instead.

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I agree wih everyhing you say but I want to highligh a somewhat defeatist position. What if having the Fed (or ECB or whatever) issuing a CBDC is the less of two evils. What if the only alternative scenario is having China dominating with a digital Yuan? Which master would you prefer? A somewhat rhetorical question I guess.

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I guess that would mean some sort of downgrading of the American economy and lifestyle (and waistline?), even with some cool food riots and bonus armies and bum camps a la Steinbeck, but also with some surviving idea of "freedom" "rights" "consent of the governed" and all those other delicious abstractions we spend our lives fighting over; VS.

the really super creepy dystopian future that Lyons describes, where we all live inside some mashup of Nietzsche's Last Man stuck in Brave New World crossed with Idiocracy with a twist of Minority Report/Bladerunner/Terminator.

So I guess it really comes down to personal preference. As for me, I already lived through the 1970s, so Option 1 will feel much more familiar.

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(I knew there was another reason for this war against Russia, other than making sure there would be no accountability about Covid Policy! Which jabs you and I will be lining up for every 3 months, whether or not we are required to go to war in order to eat.)

All books will have to be burned, as they could be used for trade, and it will be better to start over so no books contain any misinformation. This is why you will like owning nothing, so that you never have to see, read or hear any misinformation.

Nor can there be any more gardening. Yes, the food is healthy, but the food could be traded for illicit things that are not good for you or America, and some of it could be saved for months while others go hungry.

Nor can you make anything from whatever you find around you, for the same reason books must be burned and there can be no gardening.

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oh, yeah, this one is definitely a legitimate slippery slope. Slippery slopes can often be fallacies- there are quite a few slippery slope fallacies bidding for sky-is-falling status, in my opinion. But not this one.

Considered in the realm of general purpose money, Central Bank Digital Currency isn't just a slippery slope hazard, it's a particularly steep one. (Special purpose money- which can take such forms as transportation fares, SNAP benefits cards for food purchases, or digital accounts for other types of specifically defined transactions- don't present the same risk.)

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