I talked to Europes most prominent pro-Bitcoin politician - here is what he had to say
Leftists in the EU Parliament wanted to ban Bitcoin. I talked to the man who managed to stop them: Stefan Berger.
“My grandma has witnessed the hyperinflation of the 1920ies and has told me many times how our family lost everything back then.” - Stefan Berger (CDU)
Stefan Berger rose to Bitcoin-fame a few months ago when he opposed the idea of a proof-of-work-ban within the European Union. The German politician is a member of the conservative CDU party and the rapporteur within the EU parliament for “Mica”, the comprehensive crypto-regulation that European lawmakers have been cooking up for a while now.
For my German language Podcast “Was Bitcoin bringt” i sat down with Mr. Berger (virtually) to talk Bitcoin, proof of work and “unhosted” wallets. I prefer the term “selfhosted” obviously. You can watch the video here (in German).
Here is what he had to say.
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First, the proof-of-work-ban. It’s off the table for now. Conservatives and liberals within the European parliament blocked it.
The story of how the ban ended up in the bill in the first place is interesting though.
You see, Bitcoin isn’t even covered in Mica at all. Because Mica is mostly aimed at future cryptoassets, not those that already exist. Berger tells me of his surprise…
“When the topic of environment came up, the leftists suddenly appeared. I was surprised as Bitcoin wasn’t even really the topic of the bill. Because of this the socialists, left wingers and greens wanted to introduce a rule that would ban the trade of certain coins (ie. Bitcoin) within Europe on the basis of environmental concerns. And at that point I said: Stop. What’s the point of banning the trade with Bitcoin. People can just as easy use an American or Asian platform. This would only lead to Europe losing know how and companies that build on Bitcoin. That’s why I thought a proof-of-work-ban would be dangerous.” - Stefan Berger (CDU)
The pow-passage was brought to a vote and was narrowly rejected by the European Parliament as a whole. Berger himself became somewhat famous within the world of Bitcoin. He’s been on a couple of podcasts before mine and seems to be in the process of going down the rabbit hole.
Interestingly, Berger ended up being the “crpyto-guy” in the parliament after vehemently opposing Facebooks plans for “Libra” and later “Diem”.
He is not as opposed to Bitcoin though.
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Bitcoin and the confused “liberals” of France
“Bitcoin can no longer be regulated, it is in the world now. It's decentralized and it's not issued by a company. And that's why the left, red, and green parties wanted to introduce environmental regulation - against proof of work - and we narrowly won the vote on that part.” - Stefan Berger (CDU)
To me it is truly fascinating how Bitcoin is now a factor on the big stage. Suddenly this magic internet money ties in with a whole lot of political narratives and conflicts. We can see this very clearly within Europe where the struggle between centralization and decentralized decisionmaking has been going on for decades.
Here is an example: The french liberals are very, well, liberal (in the european sense, Americans might even call them libertarian, because “liberal” in the US for some reason means “leftist”.) But being french also means that they like centralization a lot. So they aren’t that libertarian.
In France, everything is run out of Paris - while the German countries are historically very decentralized with a couple of regional centers of power and commerce. Think Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Berlin and Vienna (the worlds second largest german-speaking city).
Berger and his friends managed to convince the French liberals to vote against the proof-of-work-ban - but had no such luck with the “unhosted” wallets thing that was voted on favorably by the Parliement - but is now opposed by the German government at least.
These laws are not passed by the parliament alone, thankfully. European politics are a bit of a mess. And honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find a single European who knows (or cares about) what’s going on inside the EU parliament.
“Bitcoin has its own internal logic”
But at least, Bitcoin forces us to learn. And Berger does see more opposition coming from the left.
“Greens, leftists, and far leftists don't like Bitcoin because they are centralists; all communist and socialist forms of government are always centralized. People who think liberal and maybe conservative, Bitcoin is more likely to suit them. And the accumulation of their wealth is generally a problem for the left.” - Stefan Berger (CDU)
It’s also clear to me that Berger, who hails from Germanys largest state of North Rhine-Westphalia (almost 18 million people live there) and is an economist, has thought long and hard about this. And that he sees the political possibilities of Bitcoin.
This is important because the US has been far ahead when it comes to politicians embracing Bitcoin. They do this because their voters support it. And Berger has seen the strong support for his stance - just as the socialists were faced with stiff resistance from the Europeans. A resistance that they absolutely didn’t expect.
Like I said: Under normal circumstances, noone gives a damn about what’s going on in the Parliament. But Bitcoin is different. And the politicians are starting to figure this out.
Bitcoin has its own internal logic. It is decentralized, it is anti-systematic. It is an intellectual conception of money, which is directed against the idea of a centralized currency. - Stefan Berger (CDU)
Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I know better than to just trust a politician. But given that Bitcoin is a global phenomenon, it’s in my interest that my home continent of Europe doesn’t do anything stupid. There are many exciting projects being built right now in Austria, Germany and the rest of Europe. It would be a shame if the EU ends up crushing them with stupid laws and bureaucracy.
Until next time,