Nationality has long been one of the defining cornerstones of human identity – the combination of national culture, civilization, traditions, habits, customs, religion, creed, and for some even race, embodied in a nationality. The series of signature traits defining an individual within the global landscape of legislation, geopolitical and international relations are prescribed on the pages of a passport, thus giving a person rights and opportunities, or oppression and limitations, based on the status of the nation in question.
With the modern era encroaching and the global web effectively erasing the borders of communication and interaction between people, the question of a national identity and its ability to withstand the growing pressure of decentralization has been acute. Values, norms, lifestyles and fads are now crossing borders in the blink of an eye, oftentimes seen as eroding the founding principles of nations and turning liberalization into a powerful instrument not only in a geopolitical, but an economic sense as well.
Money is one of the most important foundational tools of any nation, the lifeblood of its economy and a symbol of national financial stability. However, with digital currencies rapidly putting up competition to the global economy as a whole, the issue of national financial sovereignty is becoming just as acute. Like an army without a nation, cryptocurrencies are marshalling across national economies, subduing droves of users, converting them from citizens into netizens, from nationals to global residents.
Telecommunications and the cross-border nature of the banking system have made work a rather loose term. What was once a strict obligation of commuting to the workplace and hammering it out nine-to-five is now more of an occupation that foresees the completion of set tasks, regardless of where they were completed from.
The concept of digital nomads is a relatively novel one that pertains to individuals who rely on telecommunications and digital gear to earn a living, working remotely from foreign countries. A stable workplace is not a requirement for digital nomads, many of whom lead nomadic lifestyles and work from any location with internet access – coffee shops, hotel lobbies, restaurants, co-working spaces, or even mobile homes. The tasks digital nomads get paid for do not require any specific working setup, since they are largely digital in nature and encompass anything from programming and digital design to crypto project development, or online trading.
Such location independence also leads to a degree of freedom from the need for a nationality, thus turning a passport into a mere border-opening key. Such decentralization is especially relevant, considering that digital nomads are some of the most active users of decentralized currencies. Reliance on cryptocurrencies frees them from the need to keep reserves of local fiat currencies, or worry about exchange rates for their earnings. Since many digital nomads rely on gigs rather than full-time jobs, receiving cross-border payments in cryptocurrencies essentially positions them as the nationals of a digital economy.
The state is the main provider of public services in its territory – citizenship included. But with cryptocurrencies becoming a highly competitive and convenient means of payment, and increasingly accepted around the world, state authorities are being placed in an uncomfortable position that robs them of their long-held monopoly.
Users of crypto might be incentivized to see the state as an optional service provider if given the possibility to choose their nationality or place of residence for some Bitcoins, for instance. There are projects out there like Plan B Passport, which offer up to seven jurisdictions of choice for crypto-rich clients to choose and buy a corresponding passport. Tropical havens cooperate with the project to attract affluent citizens and sell passports with all the benefits included.
With nationality, passports, tax residence, or residence in itself up for sale in crypto, every state should start thinking of how it can leverage the growing power of decentralized currencies in its favor. Adoption and integration of crypto payments on the state services level for retaining citizens who are prone to convert into netizens should now become one of the main national, demographic, and economic goals of every state that wants to avoid turning into a marginal province in the digital economic landscape.
Incentive – Motivation
Bitcoin is empowering citizens and incentivizing states to do better and offer better protections so as to attract a new demographic of netizens – many of whom possess considerable sums of digital assets. Attracting investors is one of the main goals of any national economic team, and disregarding digital currency holders, whose assets are often valued in the millions and even in the billions in US Dollar equivalent, is unwise at best.
Selling passports is not about tax evasion or offering tax havens, but a question of doing business in an ever-changing and increasingly hostile global economic environment. It is vital for national survival for states to specifically cater to a growing population of digital nomads, decentralized currency users, or just netizens, with their combined leverage of monetary, net content influence, and innovative potential on their side at the dawn of the digital economic age.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are going to be globally regulated in time, so it is imperative for nations to reconsider some of the ossified concepts that define what it means to be a national. Disrupting powers like cryptocurrencies have the potential of eventually erasing the remnants of the borders the traditional financial system did not raze. It is up to nations to start catching up and redefine their roles inside as service providers, rather than overseers, or run the risk of being relegated to the periphery of human progress.