The news that the Net is about to go from being mostly unencrypted, to mostly encrypted, reminded me of this:
«Alex was used to lawyers. He'd grown up in the company of his father's numerous hired attorneys. Brasseur was a bent attorney--that odd and highly exceptional kind of lawyer who wasn't personally well-to-do. Alex strongly suspected that Brasseur had been on the wrong side of politics during the State of Emergency.[...]
Most people went through life without ever using a private currency. Most people were, of course, poor. They didn't have enough wealth to buy into the private-money system, or enough contacts or market smarts to use private currencies effectively. Except, of course, during the State of Emergency, when every American, rich and poor alike, had been forced to use a private currency because the Regime had privatized the U.S. dollar.
Alex wasn't exactly sure how "currency privatization" had been accomplished, back at the time. He was similarly vague about the Regime's massive "data nationalizations."[...]
Alex was well-to-do, and he had some unlikely friends, so he had the basics down pretty well. It all had to do with unbreakable encryption, digital authentication, anonymous remailing, and network untraceability. These were all computer networking techniques that had once been considered very odd and naughty. They were also so elementary to do, that once they were in place, they couldn't be stopped without tearing the whole Net down.
Of course, once these techniques were in place, they conclusively destroyed the ability of governments to control the flow of electronic funds, anywhere, anytime, for any purpose. As it happened, this process had pretty much destroyed any human control at all over the modern electronic economy. By the time people figured out that raging nonlinear anarchy was not exactly to the advantage of anyone concerned, the process was simply too far gone to stop. All workable standards of wealth had vaporized, digitized, and vanished into a nonstop hurricane of electronic thin air. Even physically tearing up the fiber optics couldn't stop it; governments that tried to just found that the whole encryption mess oozed swiftly into voice mail and even fax machines.
One major upshot of the Regime's privatization of the currency was that large amounts of black-market wealth bad suddenly surfaced. This had been part of the plan, apparently-that even though the government was sabotaging its own ability to successfully impose any income tax, the government would catch up on the other end, by imposing punitive taxes on previously hidden black-market transactions.
They'd swiftly discovered, however, that the scale of black money was titanic. The black-market wealth in tax evasion, kickbacks, official corruption, theft, embezzlement, arms, drugs, prostitution, barter, and off-the-books moonlighting was far huger than any conventional economist had ever imagined. The global ocean of black money was so vast in scope that it was instantly, crushingly obvious that the standard doctrines of conventional finance had no workable contact with reality. Economists who'd thought they understood the basic nature of modern finance had been living in a dogmatic dreamland as irrelevant as Marxism. After that terrible revelation, there'd been savage runs on most national currencies and the stock markets had collapsed.
As the Emergency had deepened, the panicking Regime had rammed its data nationalizations through Congress, and with that convulsive effort, the very nature of money and information had both mutated beyond any repair.
The resultant swirling chaos had become the bedrock of Alex's everyday notions of modern normality.»