In 2017, the economist Paul Krugman described bitcoin as "some fancy technological thing that nobody really understands. There's been no demonstration yet that it actually is helpful in conducting economic transactions. There's no anchor for its value."

Krugman lives in a sheltered environment in a liberal democracy with constitutional protections. His native currency is globally dominant and relatively stable. It's easy for him to open a bank account, to use a mobile app to pay bills, or to grow his wealth by investing in real estate or stocks.

But not everyone has that level of privilege. Around 4.2 billion people live under authoritarian regimes that use money as a tool for surveillance and state control. Their currency is often debased, and they are, for the most part, cut off from the international system that Krugman enjoys. For them, saving and transacting outside the government's purview isn't shady business. It's a way to preserve their freedoms.