Members of academia are inherently biased against Bitcoin, but there are intelligent and curious members who could change that.
This is an opinion editorial by Hannah Wolfman-Jones, author of “System Override: How Bitcoin, Blockchain, Free Speech, & Free Tech Can Change Everything” and founder of We The Web.
Can academia fairly consider Bitcoin?
No. Or at least, not yet.
Academia has a huge and inherent bias against Bitcoin that it has yet to acknowledge. Academics — particularly academic economists — are the central planners who advise and run fiat monetary institutions. As such, they are often blind to the drawbacks of decentralization. Bitcoin not only threatens academic economists’ revolving door with fiat monetary institutions, but their egos and research too. As Ashley Hodgson, associate professor of economics at St. Olaf College and moderator of the HxEconomics Community at Heterodox Academy, explains in a draft chapter of an upcoming book:
“To consider Bitcoin, one must change the question from, ‘What would I do if I controlled the money supply?’ to ‘Should anyone (including economists like me) be able to control the money supply?’ In this way, Bitcoin is potentially disempowering to the economist thinker… Even for the thought experiment to limit the power and status of one’s profession (academic economists) and one’s peers is something that may have a negative taste for people who spent so many years and gave up so many other life opportunities to enter this profession.
“Academics work hard in their early careers to publish and bring new ideas to bear… The newest, freshest ideas can sometimes knock the old ideas aside, which is against the interests of the senior academics, whose own sense of identity rests on the importance and correctness of their ideas. As such, cunning new ideas and brilliant young academics pose a threat to more senior academics in their roles as thought leaders, particularly if the new ideas displace the prestige of the old… Egos play a big role in the academic setting, particularly because we are essentially paid in prestige instead of money. Most economists could make more money by moving to industry. They stay in academia for the glory and influence… (Junior economists) know that they are most likely to rise within their profession if their ideas and research topics support the existing paradigm, therefore not posing too big of a threat to the senior colleagues deciding on their tenure case. By the time anyone is up for tenure, they have built a body of thought that they now identify with. While they have the freedom, potentially, to stray from that, the ideas may have solidified in their worldview.”
Unsurprisingly, academia’s study of Bitcoin thus far has been sorely lacking and what research has taken place has — with few exceptions — been cursory, unreliable and decidedly anti-Bitcoin. Flawed research based on misunderstandings about how Bitcoin works are being used as the basis of peer-reviewed, academic and government research papers and ossified within academia as these error-ridden papers are cited in subsequent academic research.
Actual experts in Bitcoin, who overwhelmingly are not in academia or government, are not considered “peers” by the credential-focused, hierarchical academic system and thus cannot contribute to academia’s peer review. There have been egregious examples of academia publishing research into reputable journals that are, as Reason had noted, “outlandish and provably false.” This “logically flawed” research (conducted and reviewed by academics who do not adequately understand the basic workings of Bitcoin) gets published and propagated widely within academia and the media. Reason surmises that “apocalyptic” and “fundamentally wrong” Bitcoin research is given a veneer of credibility by academia “as a strategy by economic, media, and political elites to undermine a powerful new form of money that they can’t control.”
Is Academia A Lost Cause For Understanding The Future Of Economics?
In some ways, yes. Academics are mostly ignorant of the paradigm shift brought on by Bitcoin and how it provides an alternative to (and thus is a threat to) authoritarian global monetary forces, including the petrodollar, subjugation of the developing world via IMF and World Bank loans (see the book “Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man” for more), the Cantillon effect and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) advancing social credit systems and “The Great Reset.”
Academics often summarily dismiss such authoritarian fiat forces as “conspiracy theories” — a realm they don’t consider worthy of inquiry. Since academics are nearly universally from the developed world and in good standing with powerful governments (having high social credit) they are never confronted with the oppressive nature of fiat control in their own lives. Thus, academics are largely blind to the pitfalls of fiat and the benefits of Bitcoin as an uncontrollable monetary system.
In other ways, though, no, it’s not a lost cause. The professoriate is far from a monolith and most of them are highly intelligent and curious people dedicated to pursuing truth who sincerely want to better the world. Most economic professors have no intention of working for the IMF, Federal Reserve or similar fiat institutions, so they are not particularly conflicted themselves.
Bitcoin has made some inroads into universities already, as there are many independent thinkers within academic ranks. For example, Texas A&M does astute and extensive technological and economic research into Bitcoin, even having a “Bitcoin class” dedicated to it. Academics from many different universities have banded together in the Bitcoin Policy Institute resulting in high-quality and in-depth Bitcoin research.
There are also some academics who do not understand/appreciate Bitcoin, but find value in increasing viewpoint diversity in order to improve the quality of research produced and may be receptive to more inclusion of Bitcoin as a topic. Notably, there are thousands of professors with Heterodox Academy, a nonprofit dedicated to open inquiry, whom I hope will soon recognize academia’s yet-unacknowledged strong bias against Bitcoin.
While these newer research pursuits will not be incorporated into formal economic curricula anytime soon, they are discussed extensively in academic spheres. Bitcoiners have much they can learn from academia about the fiat system, which will continue to dominate for a long time. Professors are actual experts in the fiat system and often influential advisors to it. Notably, they will advise government officials and the unelected global elite on CBDCs and policies dealing with cryptocurrency and managing the fiat system through upcoming challenges. Bitcoiners can also cognitively benefit from listening to informed opinions that run contrary to their own.
This is a guest post by Hannah Wolfman-Jones. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.