Bitcoin For Dummies
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Bitcoin offers its users many advantages, but perhaps the most important one is an unprecedented level of freedom. And that freedom comes in many different ways: financial freedom from not having to rely on existing infrastructure, for sure, but also the mental freedom of being in control of your own funds and technology.

Move toward financial freedom

Banks and financial institutions have been slowly weaving a cocoon, tying people into using their services without any alternatives. And for most consumers, that works perfectly fine, as they are more than happy to stick to what they know. After all, if the system isn't broken, why try to fix it, right? But bitcoin does offer a viable alternative. But in order to achieve true financial freedom, a critical mass of bitcoin adoption first must be achieved.

Critical mass refers to the moment when bitcoin becomes a globally used form of technology and finance. Everyday consumers are still not aware of what bitcoin does, or how it can become a part of their everyday lives. Whether this is from a technological, financial, or ideological point of view depends on the user. Suffice to say that bitcoin is a very "niche" market right now, and although the community keeps growing every month, it still only represents a small portion of the world's population.

Financial freedom through bitcoin won't be achieved simply by merchants becoming more willing to accept the digital currency as a payment, but also by consumers willing to use bitcoin. Plenty of places — both online and offline — allow you to use bitcoin to pay for goods and services, but true financial freedom would require more customers and consumers willing to use bitcoin over traditional payment methods.

Most of that stems from force of habit: The current financial infrastructure has created this for the consumer. Over the past 50 years, consumers went from being conditioned to use cash to pay for goods and services to using bank and credit cards. The next evolutionary step will be mobile payments, which are still linked to your bank account but in the future will no longer require you to carry either cash or a card on you.

Your current lack of financial freedom

Another problem that bitcoin faces in terms of granting people financial freedom is that most consumers do not see the problem that is staring them right in the face: The current financial infrastructure is failing.

If the U.S. Federal Reserve — or the European Central Bank for that matter — suddenly decides that more money needs to printed "to boost the economy," no one can stop them from doing so. If this were to happen — again — it would not solve the existing problem of fiat currencies dropping in value, but would instead increase the amount of debt. And the everyday consumer will pick up the bill for that debt, because they're the ones empowering these centralized bodies to make the situation even worse.

Printing additional money means more money is in circulation, which is true. But only so much value may be linked to the existing money supply, and that additional money only further devalues the existing supply. It's a vicious circle, and one that bitcoin sits outside of.

The difference between bitcoin and currency freedom

The fiat currency you have in your wallet or in your bank account represents a certain value. For example, a 20 euro bill is "worth" 20 EUR. Or that is what the financial institutions tell you anyway, as there is no way for the everyday consumer to verify how much their piece of paper is actually worth.

With bitcoin, the free market determines the price of a bitcoin, or even smallest divisible unit, called a satoshi. If the free market — which is made up by all of the bitcoin users around the world — decides that the new bitcoin price should not be U.S. $250, but U.S. $10,000, no central authority can say this cannot happen. Bitcoin is one of the very few transportable and borderless digital currencies that can both lose value — like fiat currency — but also gain value, like precious metals.

Granted, the bitcoin price is currently denominated in various local currencies, which is also a positive thing. Even though bitcoin itself is a borderless payment method to send and receive money, it still has to be converted to fiat currency in most countries before it becomes usable. This level of financial freedom allows anyone in the world to send value to anyone else on this planet, and they can convert it to fiat currency or store it in BTC, depending on their preferences.

Bitcoin removes the need for remittance services such as MoneyGram and Western Union, which not only charge high fees, but also require personal information and verification every time you send or receive a payment. Bitcoin requires no verification of identity, giving users a level of privacy protection they are not accustomed to, either through the use of cash or banking services.

Free your mind with bitcoin

On a mental level, being free from all of the obstacles put along our way by traditional financial infrastructures is a moment of sweet liberty. In fact, you have to experience it for yourself before you can even believe it. And there are many options at your disposal to experience that freedom, ranging from paying everyday bills in bitcoin, to receiving (part of) your wages in bitcoin. All the necessary tools to cut out the middleman — banks and like-minded institutions — are at your disposal and undergoing continuous development to improve the service they offer.

The same can be said for the ideological freedom associated with bitcoin. Even by using bitcoin as an everyday consumer, you are actively helping build and strengthen the bitcoin network. And with more people using digital currency, there's more interest from merchants, institutions, governments, and companies, which in turn leads to further improvements to the way in which bitcoin operates and functions — collectively known as the bitcoin protocol. And that future development will help create a better world for everyone. Call it a butterfly effect if you will, but the best way to support bitcoin is by being an active member of the network and the ever-growing community.

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