If you’ve been to any Bitcoin event in Berlin, then you’ve probably met into Aaron Koenig – or have at least seen him wander through sporting his trademark bowler.
Aaron Koenig is a modern Renaissance Man. In addition to running the Bitcoin Exchange Berlin, Aaron also owns the Bitcoin-friendly production studio Bitflim and runs the associated Bitcoin festival BitFilmFest. Aaron released his first book, Bitcoin: Geld ohne Staat [Bitcoin: Money Without State], just this last year. Find out more about Aaron and why he’s interested in Bitcoin in our interview below.
1. Aaron Koenig – You’re a Bitcoin enthusiast, political activist, former board member of the German Piratenpartei [Pirate Party], entrepreneur and film producer. What else can you tell us about yourself?
Since you mentioned my political activities, I should add that I am a libertarian, so individual liberty is important to me. In my opinion, the government should be limited to protecting the freedom and property rights of the citizens that fund it, and should by no means tamper with the economy, let alone tell the citizens how to live, what to think or what to consume. When I joined the Pirate Party in 2009, it was mainly because I’m a fan of their founder, Rick Falkvinge. Our main objective was to roll back the surveillance state. So for me it would have been a logical progression to develop into a libertarian party. But unfortunately in Germany the Pirate Party was taken over by socialists, and I left in 2010.
I am a bit disillusioned by party politics now, and I think by promoting Bitcoin one can change the world in a much more efficient way. The current debt-based monetary system is such a pain and urgently needs to be revolutionised. And beyond that, Blockchain technology can provide many services that are now in the state’s dominion, such as land deeds or company registries. Bitcoin and Blockchain technology can take away power from the state and bring more freedom to the people.
2. You recently published the book “Bitcoin. Geld ohne Staat. Die digitale Währung aus Sicht der Wiener Schule der Volkswirtschaft”. [Bitcoin: Money Without state. Digital Currency from the View of the Austrian School of Economics.] What differentiates your book from others about Bitcoin?
As far as I know, it is the only book that focusses on the relation of Bitcoin and the Austrian School of Economics. It is a beginners’ guide that explains the basic insights of Austrian Economics and why they are important to understand Bitcoin. My goal was to write it in a way that’s understandable and entertaining, for readers with no knowledge of economics or computer science. I published a German version first, and am glad to say an English version will be available soon.
3. Your book begins with an extensive discussion of Bitcoin’s life-altering potential for Argentinians struggling to cope with inflation and capital controls. Do you think the situation Argentinians found themselves in has any parallels to what people living in Greece, another country in the midst of radical financial restructuring, are experiencing?
Absolutely. The Argentinians have experienced hyperinflation, capital controls and a massive devaluation of their savings in the last years – all the things that we are likely to experience in Europe soon. That’s why Argentinians are very open to Bitcoin. You don’t have to explain them that they should not trust banks or governments, they know that already. So we Europeans can learn a lot from them. Our advantage is that with Bitcoin we now have a tool to defend ourselves against financial tyranny. During the Argentinian corralito in 2001 all bank accounts were frozen for nearly a year. This caused a lot of damage and frustration, but today a corralito can be circumvented by using Bitcoin.
4. Do you believe that the financial situations in countries like Argentina or Greece will push Bitcoin into the mainstream?
Yes, this is already happening. The Bitcoin ecosystem is still in its infancy, but it is growing at an amazing pace. Many companies are working on Bitcoin-based products and services that are practical and easy to use. I hope that the inevitable crash of the financial system will not come too fast, so Bitcoin has some more time to mature and will be ready to take over when the crash comes.
My company Bitfilm, which has been operating under the name since 1999, specialises in producing short commercial films that explain and promote the products or services of a company in an easily understandable and entertaining way. Since I’m quite active in the Bitcoin world, many of our clients are Bitcoin start-ups. They know we have a deep understanding of Bitcoin and that they don’t have to explain the concept to us, so we can immediately begin working. We’ve also been organising a festival for digital animation since 2000. Because I want to focus all my activities on Bitcoin, and since there are many films about Bitcoin now, we reinvented the concept last yearand are only showing films about Bitcoin and the Blockchain now. We didn’t even have to change the name for that, it was already a good fit.
Our biggest film project at the moment is a full-length science fiction thriller called “Satoshi’s Last Will.” It’s set in a near-future ruled by Bitcoin and the Blockchain. We want to reach normal movie fans who have no clue about Bitcoin. The film will be full of action and suspense, and the viewers will learn a lot about Bitcoin and its potential to change the world in a really playful manner. We’re starting a crowdfunding campaign to fund our efforts on Max Keiser’s Startjoin.com platform soon. I believe that this film will be a breakthrough for Bitcoin’s mass adoption, so every Bitcoin enthusiast and Bitcoin owner should chip in some coins to make it happen.
6. How do you envision Bitcoin’s European future?
I think Bitcoin’s first successes will be in developing countries, where most people don’t have bank accounts, let alone credit cards. They pay enormous fees for money transfers, so the benefits of Bitcoin are very clear. For people in the developing world Bitcoin is a huge leap forward. By using a mobile phone they can now participate in the global economy. In Europe, the benefits of Bitcoin are not so obvious, unless you do many international transactions. But this can change rapidly if the Euro collapses. Just look at the Greeks trying to withdraw money from banks and you know what can happen to people in other European countries if you’re not prepared. So it makes sense to buy some Bitcoins now, as long as they are cheap. I expect the near future in Europe to be tough, as our political class has made many stupid mistakes. They are moving towards a centralised EU superstate and they completely ignore the rise of political Islam, which is a severe threat to human rights and the values of enlightenment. It’s necessary to fight for our freedom, and Bitcoin is a valuable tool we can utilise.
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