The Tories describe crypto-assets as ‘revolutionary’ – is that an invitation?
You might have heard: the UK is going through a cost of living crisis. Heating bills, food costs, and petrol prices are surging at the fastest rate in decades, with a spike in global energy prices adding fuel to the fire (sorry, poor choice of words). As a result, more than a million people are expected to fall into poverty in Britain this year, with chancellor Rishi Sunak offering only the meagrest of protections in his spring budget.
Don’t worry though, Rishi’s got another plan up his sleeve, which is sure to restore our faith in the Great British government. It’s… an NFT lol.
More specifically, the Treasury has asked the Royal Mint to produce an NFT to be issued by summer 2022, not to be confused with its shelved “Britcoin” project. Presumably, this also involved explaining the concept of a non-fungible token to the unfortunate souls at the Royal Mint – an institution founded in 886 AD to produce British coins – and how actually it’s cool that you can pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for a JPEG of a cartoon chimpanzee wearing a bowler hat.
Currently, it’s unclear whether the NFT will be auctioned publicly, and if so, where the funds from its sale will end up (take a guess). In fact, we don’t even know what object or artwork it will confer ownership of. Does anyone know? Or is a rare coin enthusiast out there somewhere, scrolling down the OpenSea homepage, tears streaming down their face, trying to work out how they can photoshop the Crown Jewels onto a CryptoPunk?
According to the Treasury’s announcement earlier this week, the decision to mint an NFT “shows the forward-looking approach we are determined to take towards crypto-assets in the UK”. (Why we’ll need crypto-assets, cryptocurrencies, or currency of any kind after society's inevitable decline into lawless chaos is anyone’s guess.) As many have pointed out, however, the government going full degen mode also shows the complete detachment of the UK’s ruling class from the reality lived by its citizens.
Let’s be clear: families who can’t afford to put food on the table or keep a roof over their heads do not care about the government’s credibility in the crypto space, Rishi. They don’t want the UK to become a “global crypto-asset hub”, or to collect its digital doodles. Then there’s the question of how the government will power the notoriously energy-intensive process of minting the NFT, which it’s keeping suspiciously quiet (wait, is this why gas prices are going up?).
On top of all that, Sunak has been called out for embracing and promoting an emerging marketplace that is notorious for enabling widespread scams and high-profile hacks. In the last few months alone, $1.7 million in NFTs were stolen in a reported phishing attack on OpenSea users, $2.2 million worth of Bored Apes were nabbed by hackers, and NFT game Axie Infinity was hacked for a staggering $625 million. Not to mention the sketchy trading practices that disproportionately disadvantage younger, less well-off traders, while the rich – as always – keep getting richer.
What’s the difference though, really? With UK households on the cusp of dropping below the poverty line, Sunak continues to give multi-millionaires – including himself – an easy ride. Just this week, his wife Akshata Murty, who collects millions of pounds a year from a stake in her father’s IT empire, has been accused of dodging taxes based on outdated UK tax laws. The current situation only highlights something we already know: the Tories have been scamming us, more or less, for more than a decade. When you think about it, NFTs are the logical next step.