Bitcoin Ivan Illich Vision Future

The work of Ivan Illich — ronin of the Catholic Church, “errant pilgrim,” and subtle, surprising and far-ranging social theorist — is experiencing a renaissance among many who worry that technology poses corrosive threats to human culture and well-being. A trenchant and unique critic of the Catholic Church in which he came up, Illich went on to critique many modern institutions, whose failures he saw as reflective of the failures of the Church.

Illich’s unique critiques of “industrial institutions” throw new light on our modern monetary system, and Bitcoin’s place within it. In this essay, I’d like to introduce how Illich thought about institutions and tools, apply that lens to our present-day monetary system, and finally, consider Bitcoin as an alternative.

Across a body of thematically linked work, Illich argued that our modern societies increasingly confuse large-scale and bureaucratic “institutions,” like those of “schooling” and “medicine,” with the goals they nominally arose to combat. In so doing, we commodify core aspects of our once-social being, and we cede individual and communal capacity to vast institutions with increasingly “radical monopolies” over the services they render and goals they claim to serve.

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