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Fight for economic, civil and environmental justice. Regulate cryptocurrency, now.

It’d be incorrect to say that we don’t know much about cryptocurrency. It’d be a blatant lie to claim that what we do know about cryptocurrency is good. Realistically, our knowledge of the innovation’s impact is disheartening.

The first form of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was circulated in 2009. Initially, Bitcoin, and other digital coinage, appeared promising, intended to limit government power, eliminate middlemen and provide equal opportunity for profit.

However, it’s proven to be quite different. Over the past decade, we have watched cryptocurrency’s volatility disrupt the flow of economy, its anonymity enable criminal activity and the extortionate energy requirements of its “mining” process take a toll on the environment. It’s time to regulate cryptocurrency.

Demand for cryptocurrencies has skyrocketed, reaching a market cap of over $3 trillion. This is a striking value — roughly equal to the GDP of Britain or India. What is most striking, however, is that it was reached without having any traditional monetary backing.

Cryptocurrencies are “decentralized autonomous organizations,” or DAOs, meaning that one-on-one transactions are unrestricted and effectively anonymous. The creation and exchange of cryptocurrencies are wholly unregulated and unbacked by financial institutions or governments.

Decentralization triggers damaging economic effects. In September 2019, the Bank of Canada estimated that the overproduction and underuse of Bitcoin in 2015 produced a welfare loss about 500 times as large as a cash economy with two percent inflation. This massive loss signals a clear market inefficiency. Moreover, the nature of the cryptocurrency market is such that double-spending, or stealing cryptocurrencies, is not only possible, but present. Double-spending puts honest individuals in competition with criminals, threatening the average users’ investments and generating market volatility. The lack of centralized regulation over cryptocurrency allows for market inefficiencies and volatility that may soon have dire economic consequences.

Further, the anonymity of cryptocurrencies as DAOs enables untraceable crime. Many of the advantages provided by cryptocurrencies — efficient payment, low transaction costs, simple exchange — are commonly used to conduct illegal business. Cryptocurrency critics recognize that this creates a prime environment to purchase drugs, launder money, avoid capital controls and engage in various criminal activities. In 2019, the FBI seized over $4 million worth of Bitcoin from the first darknet market called the “Silk Road,” which sold everything from stolen credit card information to murders-for-hire. Studies of Bitcoin exchange patterns uncovered that nearly half of all transactions are associated with illegal activity… and that’s just Bitcoin.

The most damaging impact of cryptocurrencies results from its mining process and extortionate energy requirements. Cryptocurrencies were crafted so anyone with a computer could own, trade and “mine” them. “Mining” is the process of winning cryptocurrency by solving mathematical puzzles. During mining, thousands of individuals race to solve these problems. Those who solve them first are granted cryptocurrency. However, the system was designed such that, as competition grows, so does the puzzle’s complexity. 

While at first these puzzles could be solved using a traditional personal computer (PC), the evolving complexity of each puzzle now demands that competitive miners use more powerful technologies that require exorbitant energy to operate. These miners rely on specialized computers called Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (“ASICs”) that are more efficient at mining than a traditional PC but also consume much more energy. ASIC use has shattered the intended equality of cryptocurrency and created devastating environmental effects.

Considering the massive market, with thousands of people mining the same coin, the energy costs of ASIC operation have become excessive. Researchers estimate that mining and exchanging just one Bitcoin consumes 2100 kilowatt hours — the average American household consumption in 2.5 months. According to a 2021 study, a year of Bitcoin mining consumes 121.36 terawatt hours — more energy than used in the global consumption of Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft combined. Unfortunately, most of the energy used in cryptocurrency mining comes from nonrenewable resources. Thus, cryptocurrencies leave massive carbon footprints. Scientists warn that carbon emissions from Bitcoin mining alone could push global warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius, taking a hefty toll on the environment.

To protect our earth, national security, economy and ultimately the future of humanity, we must regulate cryptocurrency and its mining processes.

This regulation should not criminalize cryptocurrency. Many critics of extreme cryptocurrency regulation argue the importance of technology neutrality and the impossibility of prosecuting over 46 million American cryptocurrency users were the coinage to be made illegal. It would be imprudent to ban cryptocurrency simply because it can be abused. If that logic was applied to other financial instruments, we would have to ban cash, which can just as easily facilitate anonymous or illegal transactions. Nonetheless, it is clear that cryptocurrency requires some regulation. A middle ground — protecting innovation and promoting freedom while addressing the economic, civil and environmental implications of cryptocurrency — should be the goal.

Given modern technological advances and the importance of maintaining freedom of choice, there is no easy answer. Potential solutions lie in ASIC regulation — placing a carbon-tax on users, implementing a pollution cap or even banning the use of mining-specific technology altogether. ASIC regulation could reduce the environmental repercussions of cryptocurrency while maintaining technological neutrality. By disincentivizing the use of ASICs and returning miners to traditional PC usage, governments could more easily track criminal activity and double-spending.

Leaders have taken small steps towards regulation, as seen in the President’s recent Executive Order and bills like the Responsible Financial Innovation Act. These are merely initial steps on the path toward effective regulation. We must continue to educate ourselves on the growth and impacts of cryptocurrency. With that knowledge, we must vote for leaders willing to address the negative impacts of cryptocurrency through measured regulation. 

Ainsley Hillman, a sophomore living in Johnson Family Hall, is studying Business Analytics and Political Science. She currently serves as assistant direction of operations within BridgeND. Some of her research interests include U.S. foreign policy and the intersection of environmental and social justice.

BridgeND is a multi-partisan political club committed to bridging the partisan divide through respectful and productive discourse. It meets on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. in Duncan Student Center W246 to learn about and discuss current political issues and can be reached at bridgend@nd.edu or on Twitter @bridge_ND.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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LIV: Making golf the 54th sport to sellout

If I asked you what Phil Mickleson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia all have in common, what would you say? Well, some of you might say you have no idea who they are. Those familiar with the game of golf would likely say something along the lines of them being legends in the game of golf or all being champions of the most prestigious tournament in golf, The Masters. Those who pay close attention to the golf world, however, might identify them as three of the most prominent golfers to defect from the established PGA Tour to the new LIV Golf Tour. 

A great deal of you may be wondering why you should care. And that is totally fair. I did not expect to be writing a column about sports, let alone golf. The LIV Golf Tour is important, however, because of who runs it — The Saudi Arabia Sovereign Wealth Fund. The Saudis created the LIV Golf Tour in order to rival the American PGA Tour that has existed without a serious challenger for decades. 

Now, there are serious grievances to be had with the PGA Tour and the way it treats its players. This includes the fact that they do not disclose how much of their profits they keep and that they do not pay a significant number of players in each tournament (essentially those that play the worst). This is part of the argument those players who chose to go LIV have made. Some of the players have even gone as far as suing the PGA Tour for anti-competitive practices when they were suspended for playing on the LIV Tour.

Along with these grievances, many LIV golfers include platitudes about ‘growing’ and ‘transforming’ the game of golf as their last line of defense. Yet, when it comes down to it, we all know why the players went to LIV: money. Dustin Johnson has made $75 million over the course of his 15 year career on the PGA Tour, which is the third greatest amount of money ever made on the PGA tour. It is rumored that he will make $125 million to join LIV golf. Phil Mickleson has made the second greatest amount of money ever on the PGA Tour, $95 million, and his contract with LIV is said to be worth $200 million. The PGA’s highest ever earner, Tiger Woods, has made $125 million on the Tour. LIV is rumored to have offered Woods $800 million. Yes, $800 million. Unlike the other two, Woods declined. 

So, this is where the controversy begins. First, some critics, including fellow PGA Tour golfers like Rory McIlroy, do not like the prospect of an exorbitant amount of money being poured in to change the direction of the game. More importantly, I would argue, many people take issue with the idea that these golfers would agree to play on a tour sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government. The Saudi government is known for numerous human rights violations including the recent killing of a US based journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

I do not have a strong opinion on the former, but I can tell you that every inch of me agrees with the latter of these criticisms. The Saudi government does many bad things, and these golfers are allowing themselves to be bought off so that the Saudi government can sportswash its image and direct the attention away from these problems. Yet, there are a couple of things that give me pause before using every bad word possible to describe these golfers. 

First, these golfers are being offered life-changing, and sometimes generational, wealth. I am not just talking about Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickleson, who with their PGA Tour earnings and sponsorship deals have made plenty of money in their careers, but also the lesser known players. For example, James Piot, the 2021 US Amateur Champion, who is only 23 years old, was offered $1 million. Another key point: the cumulative prize money for only eight tournaments is $225 million. A player can make up $4 million in prize money based on their performance at each individual tournament, and each player is guaranteed to make at least $120,000. Yes, the player that gets last will make six-figures for three days of work.

Second, Saudi money is already all over the sporting world, and even other golf tournaments. Saudi Aramco is one of the biggest sponsors of the Women’s European Golf Tour. It is also extremely prominent in the sport of Formula One. Now, I am not someone in a position to decide whether or not this is a good strategy on the part of those organizations, but it does cause me to wonder what makes LIV golf all that different. It is important to note some nuances including that there isn’t a strong alternative for Formula 1 drivers and these other leagues are not exclusively bankrolled by the Saudis. Yet, these nuances do not change the fact that a significant source of revenue for many existing sports leagues is the Saudi Government or one of its entities. This is not to mention that the 2022 Men’s World Cup is being held in Qatar and the Olympics were held in China earlier this year. FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, was openly bribed to put the tournament in Qatar, another country known for its human rights violations particularly against immigrant workers. And, I probably don’t need to mention it, but China does some bad stuff too, especially to its Muslim Uyghur population. Yet, no one seems to be calling on participants to boycott these competitions. So, why should these golfers be held to a higher standard?

My point is not that these golfers should be absolved of their culpability in aiding Saudi sportswashing. I find it pretty disingenuous that Phil Mickleson called the Saudis “scary motherf******,” but is more than happy to take their $200 million and continue on his way. My point is, rather, that the criticism of LIV golfers seems like a double standard. 

Beyond the leagues themselves, by and large we expect athletes to do what is in their best financial interest. Alexander Isak, one of the most talented young soccer players in the world, just signed a contract with Newcastle United, the English Premier League club owned by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund. No one batted an eye. Kylian Mbappe, a soccer player widely considered as one of the best two or three in the world, just signed the most lucrative contract the soccer world has ever seen, to play for Paris Saint Germain, the French club owned by a subsidiary of the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund. And, while some people criticized the decision of Mbappe to stay at PSG, it was largely due to his flirting with Real Madrid before choosing to stay rather than him taking Qatari money. Why is that? Maybe because it’s a little less obvious, maybe because people don’t want to think about it: I’m not sure. All I know is that if we are to draw a line against human rights violations through sports, then we should expect that line to be drawn in all competitions, not just LIV golf. 

To make my point clear — criticize LIV golf all you want, just make sure you don’t turn a blind eye to all the other dirty money pouring into sports because it’s a little harder to see.

Patrick Condon is a Junior in Siegfried Hall. He is currently serving as the Vice President of BridgeND.

BridgeND is a multi-partisan political club committed to bridging the partisan divide through respectful and productive discourse. It meets on Tuesdays at 5pm in Duncan Student Center W246 to learn about and discuss current political issues, and can be reached at bridgend@nd.edu or on Twitter @bridge_ND.

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Ladies, bring your folding chairs. We’re getting a seat at this table.

Duncan Student Center replaced the legislative chamber of the United States Capitol for Senator Mallory McMorrow this past March. Returning to her Alma Mater, the 2008 graduate joined a panel of eight Notre Dame alumnae to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the admission of undergraduate women at the University of Notre Dame.

Part of the celebration dubbed “Golden is Thy Fame,” Career Conversations with Trailblazing Women invited Sen. McMorrow to share her experience building a career in the contentious domain of American politics. More specifically, building a successful career as a woman. The aforementioned title of the event deserves commendation for its accuracy. The female panelists boldly blazed trails in their respective fields — trails that others now have the option to follow.

Sen. McMorrow in particular is a critical figure for young women aspiring to work in politics and government. She represents what is possible for women given enough strength and passion. She proves what is possible for women when we risk, persevere and demand a seat at the table.

Sen. McMorrow currently serves Michigan’s eighth district — a significant feat considering the state of Michigan did not elect a woman to the U.S. Senate until 2000. Michigan’s first female senator, Debbie Stabenow and Sen. McMorrow both campaigned in the 2018 election cycle. 2018 continues to be a beacon of hope for proponents of equal political representation. Women candidacies reached a historical high in 2018, exposing a promising trend in American politics—the increased mobilization and political engagement of women. Female leaders benefit society as a whole; however, real, lasting change requires more than individual successes. It requires action. Now. When inadequacy translates to candidacy, things get done.

Despite the unprecedented number of women running for office, the discouraging reality is that we still have a long way to go. While 51 percent of the United States population are women, women make up just 24 percent of the Senate. The result? The underrepresentation of women in American politics.

Of the people. By the people. For the people.

The issues we face as a country are women’s issues. If social, political and structural barriers exist for women in electoral politics, we must find a way to alter the system. Our country suffers when half of its population is granted a quarter of its voice.

Trailblazers like Sen. Mallory McMorrow provide an essential perspective on Capitol Hill. Women’s issues must be at the forefront of the American agenda — not only for lawmakers, but for the general public. The U.S. lags behind other established democracies when it comes to women’s representation in politics. But we cannot win seats if we do not run. At our current rate, the U.S. will not reach complete legislative parity for another hundred years. We must accelerate this timeline. Instead of asking for a seat at the table, women must demand a seat at every table.

You can contact Ashlyn at apoppe2@nd.edu

BridgeND is a multi-partisan political club committed to bridging the partisan divide through respectful and productive discourse. It meets on Tuesdays at 5pm in Duncan Student Center W246 to learn about and discuss current political issues, and can be reached at bridgend@nd.edu or on Twitter @bridge_ND.

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Our communities are struggling. Are we to blame?

Our communities are increasingly divided and weakened. Is Notre Dame partially to blame?

During the last presidential election, nearly eight in ten registered voters believed that their disagreements with the other side were not only about politics and policies, but “core American values.” While the right and left diagnose society’s ills differently, they surprisingly identify one of the same symptoms. Scholars as disparate as Patrick Deneen and Cornel West agree that the loss of community felt by many Americans is a problem of immediate and fundamental concern. At the University of Notre Dame, community is foremost; the mission statement affirms that “[i]n all dimensions of the University, Notre Dame pursues its objectives through the formation of an authentic human community [emphasis added] graced by the Spirit of Christ.” Why, then, is Notre Dame and its student body a significant — and often unknowing — perpetrator of this loss of community?

The answer to this question is simple: Notre Dame suffers from the same destructive meritocratic hubris infecting elite institutions everywhere. In his book “The Tyranny of Merit,” Michael Sandel defines meritocratic hubris as “the tendency of winners to inhale too deeply of their success to forget the luck and good fortune that helped them on their way.” Meritocrats believe people should and do get ahead on their own ability, and that credentials are the gold standard for determining success and prestige. Thus, in a meritocracy, the most credentialed and talented rule. For all the talk about Notre Dame’s unique Catholic identity, we often forget the Catholic Church’s universal call to family, community and participation when we hyper-fixate on self-fulfilling credentials such as prestigious internships, fellowships and job offers. 

What makes meritocratic hubris so pernicious is the ease with which it develops in people who genuinely mean well. It often arises from supportive friends and family telling us that we deserve the opportunity to attend Notre Dame because of our hard work. While there is nothing wrong with kind words from others, we often internalize the notion that we’ve gotten ahead all on our own. We convince ourselves that because we worked hard, we deserve all the success that comes from it. We forget — especially at a university where 75% of students come from families in the top 20% of income — that without our family, teachers, friends, neighbors and overall community, we would not be where we are today. In “A Theory of Justice,” John Rawls reminds us that “[e]ven the willingness to make an effort, to try, and so to be deserving [emphasis added] in the ordinary sense is itself dependent upon happy family and social circumstances.” Tragically, our hubris weakens the communities most worthy of our support and gratitude.

Let me be clear: We should still celebrate our accomplishments. But having a healthy dose of meritocratic humility and understanding the sacrifice of the people around us and the inevitable luck involved in our success can go a long way in making the world a more inclusive, community-oriented place. We can’t build up our communities if we fail to realize their value. Without incredible teachers, a supportive family, a bit of luck and financial assistance from my community, I would not be attending Notre Dame. With humility, we can better understand the importance of community and work toward strengthening it, not diminishing it.

If we don’t strengthen our communities, our democracy is at stake. In “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Hannah Arendt warns that societies are more susceptible to authoritarianism when loneliness becomes an everyday experience. It is no surprise that Donald Trump has risen to power during the present time of isolation, inequality and cultural grievances. He tapped into a growing number of Americans who felt forgotten, detached from their communities and disdained by the meritocratic elite. Without a course correction and newfound emphasis on community, illiberal forces will only get stronger. 

This gets back to my first point. As more Americans feel a loss of community because of the disconnect between themselves and the credentialed elite, Notre Dame and its student body must do some introspection about the role they play in cultivating this tension. Meritocracy and credentialism are not completely morally bankrupt; I’d definitely prefer to have a surgeon remove my appendix and an electrician wire my house. If we want to thrive, we can’t completely avoid a society where technical/professional competence is valued. But if we are to get serious about addressing what’s ailing our society and the role Notre Dame plays in perpetuating it, it’s time to acknowledge their corrosive effects. As a Catholic institution, we can play a critical role in affirming the dignity of all humans — regardless of credentials or merit — while also promoting the virtue of humility. It starts by acknowledging and reflecting on the hubris we hold.

We must not forget Jesus’s teaching, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Jacob Sherer is a junior majoring in political science with a minor in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE). Originally from Wisconsin, Jacob lives in Duncan Hall on campus. He currently serves as the President of BridgeND. Feel free to contact him by email, jsherer@nd.edu, with any questions, comments or general inquiries.

BridgeND is a student-led discussion club that is committed to bridging polarization in politics and educating on how to engage in respectful and productive discourse. BridgeND welcomes students of all backgrounds, viewpoints and experiences who want to strengthen their knowledge of current issues or educate others on an issue that is important to them. The club meets weekly on Mondays at 7 p.m. in the McNeill Room of LaFortune. Want to learn more? Contact bridgend@nd.edu or @bridge_ND on Twitter and Instagram.