Speaking at Virtual Blockchain Week, Bitcoin.com chairman Roger Ver (also known as “Bitcoin Jesus”) has called for an immediate end to the enforced coronavirus lockdown on the grounds that it violates economic and personal freedom.
"I think the lockdown needs to come to an end, right now, today," he said. "If you want to lock yourself down, more power to you, feel free, have at it. But for the rest of us that want to live our lives, we should be able to do that too.”
Ver joins another high-profile tech figure, Tesla's Elon Musk, in calling for an end to lockdowns. On Wednesday, Musk called the extension of lockdowns "fascist" and an "outrage" that was "forcibly imprisoning people in their own homes against all their constitutional rights.”
Lockdowns cause more deaths
Ver spoke to Cointelegraph directly after delivering a keynote presentation that covered how digital currencies can help bring more economic freedom to the world.
Ver linked the two concepts:
"If you're locked down, you can't go to work, you can't live your life, you can't go to the store, you can't get things done that you need to get done. It's absolutely related not just to economic freedom, but to personal freedom in general.”
He added, "It's really frustrating to see just how many people are silent about this, you know, the crazy stripping of people's freedom across the planet."
A thorny question
The debate over how to balance human safety with human freedom heated up in recent weeks with a series of anti-lockdown rallies in the U.S. Lockdown proponents argue that the medical and epidemiological advice is clear that staying home saves lives by reducing community transmission of the coronavirus.
But Ver suggested that argument fails to account for unintended consequences. "The economic ramifications of this worldwide shutdown of the economy is going to cause way more people to die than the coronavirus itself," he said.
Ver added that while coronavirus deaths are obvious and reported on each day on the news, the deaths caused by a cratering economy will be hidden:
"You don't necessarily see all the other people around the world that died because they weren't able to earn as much money as they were able to before, so they didn't go to the doctor to get the checkup that detected the cancer […] They didn't have the money to pay for the high blood pressure medication and then they ended up having a stroke."
A newly released study from University College London provides some evidence for Ver’s contention. It found a 60 percent drop in attendance for chemotherapy and a 76 percent drop in urgent referrals of suspected cancers in the U.K. as people avoided doctors and hospitals during lockdown. The study’s authors forecast 20,000 additional cancer deaths as a result.
Downplaying the disease?
But Ver has come under criticism for downplaying the seriousness of the threat from Coronavirus on Twitter.
He denied he was downplaying it, he just thinks the response needs to be different. "No I think people misinterpreted my truth, I'm not dismissing the threat but let's say the threat's really really real. I think the same logic applies,” he said. "When the plague was going through Europe they didn't have everybody self isolate, they just put the sick people away from the healthy people and now they're doing the exact opposite.”
Economic freedom = a better life
Ver’s Virtual Blockchain Week presentation highlighted a clear correlation between countries with high levels of economic freedom, and higher incomes for both rich and poor, life expectancy, literacy, environmental protections, fewer violent conflicts, less corruption and higher self reported happiness.
He defined ‘economic freedom’ as "a measure of how easy it is for members of a society to participate in the economy" with factors including free trade, property rights, the ease of starting a business, labor and business regulation and currency stability. Countries ranked highly for economic freedom include Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland and Australasia, while the worst ranked included North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, the Congo and Eritrea.
“It's very very clear, which one of those two lists of countries just about everybody listening here would rather live in,” he said.