By Michel Bauwens
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
First, one word about the structure of the P2P Foundation. The
Foundation is first of all a virtual and physical community of
contributors, people who volunteer content for our wiki, blog and other
resources. This is entirely a non-remunerated activity and creates our
knowledge commons, which people in the world can access for free.
Our wiki has about 17,000 articles which have been viewed more than
18 million times, with an average daily readership of 23,000 for our p2pfoundation.net domain, which includes the blog.
The Foundation is also a nonprofit association legally situated in
the Netherlands, and the Foundation ‘enables and empowers’ the
collaboration infrastructure of the community. The legal structure
allows us to pay and receive income for activities that are related for
The Foundation also has a cooperative, with a separate legal status,
which will allow us to undertake activities for third parties. The
cooperative is conceived as being a global phyle,
a community-oriented enterprise that aims to generate income for the
contributors to the commons and the Foundation, so that we become
financially sustainable. As a phyle, we operate globally with
cooperators located in different parts of the globe. The coop is
dedicated to the common good of humanity and the p2p knowledge commons
in particular, and is aimed to sustain it, and those who work for it. It
is not a profit-maximising entity, but a product-maximising entity. It
operaties in the market, but ‘for’ the commons.
However, because of administrative delay issues in the registration
process, our first external contract is undertaken under the aegis of
the P2P Foundation as an association.
In the context of our first contract with external parties, we
believe Bitcoin to be a major development, pregnant with symbolic
meaning about the future structures of the world-system.
First of all, Bitcoin is the first operational, socially-sovereign,
digital currency. While there have been many other local complementary
currencies, they always have issues of scaling them to a global plane.
Bitcoin exists, not through the creation of money by private banks and
national states, but because a digitally literate global community
decided to trust a particular instantiation of a protocol for the
distributed creation of money. It is part of the general trend of the
social design of p2p systems, to enable trust with strangers on a global
scale, and to align, instead of to oppose, individual and collective
The Bitcoin protocol started running, and generating Bitcoins, in
January 4 2009. It has been over three years now, and yet these are
still the very early days. Bitcoin already has developed and impressive,
if experimental, ecology of operational support infrastructures and
services. These initiatives are autonomous, driven by no authority other
than that which emanates from the needs of the community of users and
the nature of the Bitcoin protocol. At this point, it is already working
as a small-scale global reserve currency, arguably a better storage of
value than the dangerously burdened Euros and Dollars. Indeed while the
value of national currencies is expected to decline in times of
geopolitical dislocation, including catastrophically at times, the value
of Bitcoin is expected to rise because of its inherent ‘deflationary’
Value storage through Bitcoin has profound political implications, as
it is the first currency that decentralises the creation of new units
(or, ‘mining’ in Bitcoin terminology), rather than the current system
where new money is created as a byproduct of new debt. The whole world’s
‘formal’ economy is backed by debt, and debt is backed by violence.
This can be verified by defaulting, and subsequently resisting eviction:
state force will be used sooner rather than later. Bitcoin value
storage is revolutionary as it deflates the dark power of debt, and
allows to envision a world where this power of debt is no longer at the
origin of economic activity. Bitcoin draws its value from peer-to-peer
network dynamics, and mints new currency not through debt but through
raw computational activity. Moreover, this essential difference from the
current system, we argue, is actually in itself the most powerful claim
to value of the Bitcoin monetary system.
You can buy many different goods and services with Bitcoin, exchange
it with other currencies, etc… It works on a global scale. Hence, it is
symbolic of the shift of our world system to a ‘post-Westphalian’ phase,
a phase that goes not only beyond the dominance of the nation-states,
but also beyond the private global powers that have hijacked global
governance, such as the financial system of the 1% . Indeed, this new
currency can be created, under conditions set by the protocol, by any
participating computer. It is a true p2p monetary system. A socially
sovereign currency that can scale globally will be, and is, a vital part
of the emerging distributed infrastructure of value creation that the
P2P Foundation calls for. This does not mean that Bitcoin is necessarily
the final and perfect answer to our needs, but it is an important step
in demonstrating that it CAN be done. We envisage the development of
future ‘forks’ and currencies that have other qualities embedded in
them, and call for monetary bio-diversity.
It is to demonstrate our commitment to such developments, that we
will now pay our collaborators in a mix of currencies, and part of it
will be in Bitcoin. The first of the members of the P2P Foundation to be
paid Bitcoin honoraries is our in-house researcher Nicolás Mendoza.
This first income was payed 50% in Bitcoin, and we are committed to
offer all of our cooperators the possibility to receive Bitcoin payments
at their convenience.
Starting today, the P2P Foundations will accept Bitcoin donations to the following address:
Thank you for your support!
Reprinted with permission.