Imagine a country where you could live free without a central government telling you who to be, what to do and how to act. Roger Ver does, and he is inviting people to join him on a ground level in plans for creating a libertarian utopia.
The early Bitcoin investor and voluntaryist (someone who advocates nonviolent strategies to achieve a free society) took the stage last week at Nexus Conference, a three-day event in Aspen hosted by the cryptocurrency platform Nexus Earth, to announce Free Society, a project aimed at raising money to organize the venture.
Ver, who is founding the project along with Olivier Janssens, another early Bitcoin investor, stated he has already raised $100 million, but hopes to raise plenty more.
As Ver explained to a surprised audience, who settled into their seats expecting a talk about Bitcoin Cash, he is currently negotiating with different countries to purchase sovereign land with the hope that fellow libertarians will begin populating the area in one to two years.
eBits.Co caught up with Ver in Aspen to learn more about his ambitious plans for a free country.
Inspiration for the libertarian country or “non country,” as Ver called it, comes from David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom, a book that explores the idea of a society organized by private property, individual rights and voluntary cooperation.
Ver’s dream is to create a free society where people voluntarily abide by a set of rules they sign off on when purchasing a land title. “It will be a new experiment where it is the first time it’s been tried in the world,” he said.
The Bitcoin enthusiast hopes to raise more money for more land. “I think very realistically, we can raise half a billion dollars and maybe a billion dollars. If we have a billion dollars, we will have a lot more capital to play with for a bigger piece of land,” he said.
Right now, the seed funding comes from early Bitcoin and Ethereum adopters. “I’m one of them,” he said. He would not disclose who the others are, saying if they wanted to come forward, that was up to them.
But the general idea was to open the door to the public. “We were planning to have an ICO, but the regulators have kind of gotten in the way of that at the moment. But basically, we are working out the details as to how people can participate directly,” he said.
Ver added that this type of project is only possible due to cryptocurrency. “Thanks to cryptocurrencies, now there is a way to fundraise for people all over the world who are interested in this. Myself and my other friends all have a fair amount of capital now because of cryptocurrency. Dying with a pile of money isn’t any fun, so let’s make the world a better place,” he said.
Search for Land
But before he can build out his libertarian paradise, Ver and his team need to find some land to buy. He doesn’t see that as being an issue though.
“We have approached a number of different governments already, and we have actually been really surprised at how eager they are. Governments love money, and so, we will have to negotiate the final details.”
Of course, they have criteria. “We want to have a seaport, we want to be geographically close to other economic powerhouses so we have trading partners. We don’t want to be out in the middle of nowhere,” he said, adding that something close to Europe or South America or parts of Asia would be best.
Once they buy the land, the next step is putting the infrastructure in place. “When we auction off the land, we suspect a lot of the people who would be most interested in buying land will be development companies that will want to develop the land into big buildings,” he said.
The concept of libertarianism revolves around the idea that order evolves spontaneously, rather than through some central authority pushing out arbitrary laws.
Still, for many, it can be hard to imagine how that might work exactly. How will the country resolve disputes? What if someone gets out of line?
Right now, decisions are easy because so far only a handful of people are involved, said Ver. Otherwise, instead of laws, there will be guidelines similar to what someone might agree to before joining a condominium homeowner’s association.
“Everybody can do whatever they want within the guidelines, and they will be agreeing to the guidelines by the time they purchase in. There will not be a government. It will all be private institutions and private organizations,” he said.
The idea is to purchase land from a government that will allow sovereign behavior. “We are guessing that the governments will still try saying things like, you can’t export drugs, you can’t have nuclear weapons and that sort of thing,” he said, adding, “I think the main answer is there isn’t going to be some centralized institution imposing these rules. That is what we are trying to escape.”
He also emphasized that there would be no taxes. People would need to raise money for roads and other projects on their own.
Who Will Live There?
What will people do for work in the country? “We suspect it will be a lot of people working on the internet,” said Ver, adding that he thinks 90 percent of the population will come from the blockchain and cryptocurrency space.
And will citizens be forced to use cryptocurrency? “People will be free to use whatever form of money they want,” said Ver. But whatever the case, he made it clear, the time to act was now. “Life is short,” he said. “We want to move quickly.”
Sora Foundation Wants to Build a Better Blockchain Community in Asia
Ask most, and you’ll hear the opinion that Asia is a minefield when it comes to cryptocurrency. The mere mention of regulatory action on the already-volatile markets sends the price of bitcoin (and consequently altcoins) into a eBits. One need only look at the recent South Korean dilemma or China’s ongoing aversion to cryptocurrency to confirm this. Clearly, the continent’s role in this emerging digital realm should not be underestimated.
The attempts by certain governments to ban the exchange of cryptocurrencies have not worked quite as intended, instead pushing the scene into the underground, where crackdowns have occurred (while more tolerant countries, such as Japan or Hong Kong, watch them flourish legally).
Jason Fang is Managing Partner at Sora Ventures, Asia’s first crypto-backed venture capital firm dedicated to blockchain and digital currency investments, and CEO of the new Sora Foundation. In conversation with eBits.Co, Fang explained some of the intricacies of Asian-based blockchain initiatives and how this new Foundation, in cooperation with Sora Ventures, hopes to unite them to promote cooperation and development of the Asian blockchain community.
The Sora Platform is comprised of three entities: the Sora Terminal, where community members can get unbiased, free and reliable information on the latest blockchain deals from credible investors; the Exchange Alliance, which helps members access tokens and investment opportunities; and the Sora Network, which acts as a bridge for resources between blockchain communities, as well as a gateway for non-crypto resources entering the space.
Fang pointed out that Asia’s highly political environment presents a particular challenge to blockchain projects, especially regarding regulation.
“In Asia, most of the communities in the blockchain space cluster into ‘clan-like’ structures,” said Fang. “That is to say, they are hostile toward others: if one VC invests in a given project, others won’t. They’ll openly attempt to discredit each other on social media, and refuse to share resources.”
He also noted that in China there has been a significant increase in “ICO clubs” and third-party investors who charge steep membership fees (upward of 600 ETH) for access to information on the latest blockchain deals. “This leads to most Chinese tokens being highly centralized, with only 15–20 percent being made available to the community.”
Connecting disparate communities and providing access to information across the continent is a key goal of the Sora Network.
“The Sora Network acts as a bridge for blockchain communities and a gateway for non-crypto resources entering the space,” said Fang. “Since our members’ backgrounds are all in institutional funding and exchanges, we find ourselves to be more neutral, and less jaded by ideologies.”
Sora plans to build a data terminal (comparable to a simplified version of the Bloomberg Terminal) in order to compile all of the knowledge gleaned by various projects. It will provide ratings on blockchain companies, carry out analyses and provide explanations regarding the strengths and weaknesses of these companies, with input provided by the partners in the organization.
Fang hopes that the community will thus be able to access unbiased, free and reliable information, without the existing high barriers to entry.
Unlike the ICO clubs, Fang said that the Sora Foundation plans to target not just Chinese investors but those across Asia. “We’re working with Japanese and Korean teams, and will make the terminal available in Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean.”
Building on the Qtum Platform
eBits is a project that sparked a great deal of interest in 2017. Billed as “China’s Ethereum,” the Qtum blockchain is best eBits as a hybrid of both Bitcoin and Ethereum, possessing the former’s secure structure with the latter’s smart contract scripting functionality.
“Qtum has a very impressive community in Asia. We partnered with them so we can leverage their resources to help our portfolio companies,” said Fang. “They also have an impressive tech stack that is achievable and solves a lot of the real issues in Bitcoin and Ethereum. Hence, we would evaluate if there are ways for existing blockchain projects to work with Qtum in order to achieve higher performance.”
Overall, Fang painted a picture of a highly divided community in Asia where cryptocurrency is concerned. Government crackdowns have only served to further separate those operating in the space and erecting high barriers to entry when it comes to access to information.
The concept of the Sora Foundation could be a positive step for the region. By promoting unity amongst protocols and communities that were, until now, maximalist in their visions, the organization harkens back to the vital tenets that brought to life some of the most successful blockchain technologies: transparency, cooperation and community.
The Sora Foundation website can be found here.
Mexico’s Vicente Fox Invites the Blockchain Community to Join His “Yellow Revolution”
Former President of Mexico Vicente Fox was part of a panel discussion at the Blockchain Economic Forum in Singapore on February 5, 2018, and had a number of insights on blockchain technology generally and how Mexico might make use of it to help curtail corruption and rein in the drug trade.
While President Fox openly admitted that he doesn’t understand blockchain technology that well at this point (learning more about it was a big reason he went to the conference), he does see the incredible potential for the use of a platform that democratizes data for the good of all.
In one example, he talked about how Mexico has to import $40 billion worth of corn from the United States because they aren’t growing enough, but it is a staple of the diet in Mexico. He knows there are older farmers that don’t necessarily understand technology, but they have wisdom and know how to get higher yields. What he envisions is a way for all those data points and metrics — from soil to irrigation to time of year, and what that generated in yields — and get it into an easily accessible, public format so that the “three and a half million farmers in Mexico can access that wisdom and increase their own yields for the benefit of everyone.” President Fox refers to this as the “Yellow Revolution.”
Drugs, energy and corruption are a large problem in Mexico. Something President Fox would like to see is the legalization and regulation of cannabis in the U.S., just as they did with alcohol, tobacco, abortion and same-sex marriage. By legalizing and regulating it and keeping the information about its cultivation, distribution and sale available for easy auditing, he feels that the power of the drug cartels can be minimized, which in turn can start to minimize the corruption problem.
Corruption in governments worldwide costs citizens trillions of dollars. President Fox knows there is technology that can help to hold these politicians accountable, from elections to votes on legislation, and wants to see it deployed.
When it comes to bribery, he noted, “You cannot corrupt a machine or a computer.”
Mexico is rich in natural oil reserves, but President Fox explained, “Part of our corruption that needs to be addressed is milking the pipelines. Thieves drill into our oil and gas pipelines and steal vast quantities of oil and gas directly from the pipeline.” He encouraged the blockchain community to continue to come up with innovative supply chain solutions.
President Fox wants to bring good ideas to Mexico, to inspire the proud and hardworking people there. He wants to accelerate the development of this technology to match the pace in today’s world. He knows what the problems are, and he wants to see the community excited and inspired to create the solutions that can contribute to a better world for everyone.
Toronto Councillor: City Should “Be Ahead of the Wave” of Blockchain Tech
Toronto City Council voted today to invite the public to make “deputations” to the City Executive on March 19, 2018, about why and how blockchain technology and new cryptocurrencies can be integrated into the way the city does business.
The motion was introduced by Councillor Norm Kelly, who believes that Toronto is already well on the way to being an international innovation hub, and that the use of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies could fast-forward this process.
In an interview with eBits.Co, Councillor Kelly said:
“Toronto is a world class city and well placed to be one of the premier innovation centres in the world. We have startups and talented innovators right here that are working on the frontier of the new digital revolution.”
Kelly noted that the city has fallen behind other Canadian jurisdictions in exploring the possibilities opened up by the world of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.
“The Ontario and federal governments and some of our banks are already running pilot projects to see what practical applications can come from using blockchain technology,” Kelly said.
Both the provincial and federal governments are exploring putting digital IDs on the blockchain so that each citizen would have only one ID.
The Canadian government’s National Research Council is using the Catena Blockchain Suite, built on the Ethereum blockchain, to make government research grants and funding information more transparent to the public.
“I’d rather be ahead of the wave than behind it,” Kelly said. Among other use cases, Kelly wants the city to consider whether Toronto residents should be able to use cryptocurrencies to pay property taxes, parking tickets, utility bills and land transfer taxes.
“A number of communities like Zug, Switzerland, are already taking cryptocurrencies for payments. Venezuela has its own cryptocurrency and many international charities accept bitcoin,” Kelly noted.
Toronto’s Burgeoning Blockchain Scene
Toronto is already a hotbed of crypto activity with businesses including Decentral and Coinsquare. TrueBit COO Robbie Bent estimates that the Toronto crypto community numbers about 3,000 and is growing rapidly. And the city has literally hundreds of blockchain and cryptocurrency Meetups including a Meetup for Crypto Kids.
Toronto is also home to MaRS, a world-class innovation center that is incubating a number of Bitcoin and blockchain startups.
“Toronto’s Innovation Centre MaRS is a symbol and an example of what can be done when governments partner with business to promote the future growth potential of an innovation economy,” Kelly said.
The Toronto-based Blockchain Research Institute (BRI) is only one of two in the world; the other is in Beijing, China. The BRI, which has been working on possible use cases for Toronto, has already said it will be presenting to the City Executive on March 19.
Toronto Mayor John Tory was instrumental in getting Toronto to join the BRI and agrees with Kelly that Toronto must keep up with a changing world or risk falling behind.
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