Instant settlement profoundly transforms our behavior as it reconnects us with the elemental laws of nature. The existing paradigm mirrors the primal imperative of reaping benefits in exchange for labor–working to survive, but the pay-per-time system in the labor market is creating the incentive to get something for nothing. In the whole “fiat stack,” everyone optimizes their efforts to achieve this on different levels, as I explain below. How can I get money for nothing? As we explore the effects of instant settlement across diverse industries, a fundamental divide between workers and clockwatchers emerges, as I have argued throughout this series. Fiat payments work without instant settlement; instead, a virtual credit arrives immediately with the actual settlement usually coming much later. The Lightning Network enables instant settlement. That is a key advantage, and it’s why Bitcoin is the only financial network that has the potential to achieve the vision that I am describing in this series.

The fiat monetary system is training us to play the game of rent-seeking without realizing it, and it is no wonder that the best players become the richest. From our first jobs, we learn how to extract maximum payment for minimum effort, and the incentives reward creative ways of doing just that. The first trick everyone learns is how to “milk the clock” by doing as little as possible without getting fired. A slightly more advanced technique is learning how to take credit for others’ work. Skilled players seek promotions in order to gain access to others’ labor for their own benefit. This is the fiat game.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the rent-seeking game also corrodes skills. Just as my results in the gym are correlated with the effort I invest into my workout, employees’ mastery comes from effort. But time-based compensation rewards passing time rather than performance, allowing skills to atrophy. In technologically primitive societies, skill development was imperative for survival. The problem was friction: assessing the value for each miniscule action and compensating each one individually. So the obvious way to reduce friction was to collapse all the tasks into a single variable — time. But after decades of time-based compensation and diminishing initiative, we are becoming lethargic, weak, skill-deficient, and reliant on free money. The result is a culture of dependency, where the quest for easy money overshadows the pursuit of self-improvement. How many steps are we from enslaving our own children to avoid working?

Perhaps the key to overcoming this fate is deciding not to chase the fucking money, but to pursue other goals instead and just using the money to achieve them. Make a list of what you want in life and start working towards it. Instead of working for wages, saving money, and buying a house, you can build your own house. Yes, it will take years, but that is the point. Do the work! If you object that you can’t…

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