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Advisors to ‘The Squad’: Economic justice doesn’t need the blockchain

American progressives, specially the top-level group of Congresswomen known as “the Squad,” have been highly vocal on questions of economic equity, the corrosive social impact of Big Tech and the need to reimagine fiscal and monetary policy in the post-2008 and post-COVID-19 political moment.

According to cointelegraph, in a recent interview for Forbes, the economic policy advisors to some members of the Squad, Alexia Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), completely described their position as against that of many in the blockchain space.

Chastity Murphy, Rep. Tlaib’s economic policy advisor stated:

“There is a lot of hype around blockchain technology, mostly from people who are thinking about its private sector uses. When it comes to publicly administered digital payments, the more important question is not how to create a distributed ledger managed by multiple actors, but how to create digital cash, which you can hold in your pocket, that doesn’t require a ledger at all. That’s the bigger priority, in our opinion.”

Murphy and other advisors to the Squad have emphasized the importance of enabling recurring payments to citizens throughout the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis.

Murphy mentioned the systemic, damaging impact of automation and algorithmic governance on marginalized communities and people of color. To illustrate this point, she highlighted facial recognition technology and its potential to reinforce racial discrimination in areas including law enforcement and surveillance. This technology is, for her, “an example of what happens when you separate questions of efficiency and design from questions of exclusion, access, and privacy.”

Aya Ibrahim, an economic policy advisor for Rep. Pressley, told Forbes:

“Facebook Libra’s selling point initially was that this was going to be a way to bank the unbanked and better serve the underbanked, but that wouldn’t necessarily exist had we provided the services we should had provided.”

Progressives have been influenced by heterodox economic thinkers like Stephanie Kelton and other advocates of Modern Monetary Policy, as well as economists that advocate the possibilities of an “entrepreneurial state,” like Mariana Mazzucato.

Such thinkers share a critical stance with many crypto advocates when it comes to policies such as quantitative easing and loose monetary policy; however, their criticism is motivated by the regressive impact that these policies have on economic distribution owing to the excessive inflation of asset prices.

Accordingly, progressives’ advocacy of deficit spending and the macroeconomic flexibility that many states as monetary sovereigns enjoy, is a world away from the proponents of “hard money” and capped currency supply in the crypto sphere.

There is no doubt that critics of Big Tech across the political spectrum will remember Ocasio-Cortez’s stark characterization of Facebook’s proposals for Libra back in 2019:

“In the history of this country, there is a term for being paid in a corporate-controlled currency. […] It’s called ‘scrip.’”

“The idea that your pay could be controlled by a corporation instead of a sovereign government,” Ocasio-Cortez continued, risks destabilizing what should be a public good.

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