From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 3 Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the security of person.
Article 17 No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Fighting imperialist specters
A specter is haunting Europe—the specter of imperialism. Western Democracies have entered into a holy alliance to exorcize this specter.
Russia wages a war of aggression, territorial expansion, and annihilation against Ukraine. Countless atrocities have already been committed by the Russian Military, and millions of Ukrainians are losing their lives and livelihood. In an attempt to curb Russia’s aggression, severe economic sanctions have been applied. The legitimate goal of these sanctions is to cripple Russia’s ability to continue the war.
The ends justifying the means
Sanctions are a formidable weapon of mass economic destruction. They might even be the greatest conflict-resolution tool, without the use of force. But as with any weapon, both the targeting and deployment have to be precise. This is not what we are witnessing today.
Frankly, it’s never justified to target civilians; neither with guns, nor with sanctions. Regular Russian citizens are being directly attacked by economic sanctions. And they are feeling the brunt of secondary effects, with western businesses pulling out. This is all in pursuit of a noble goal, to limit the suffering of the Ukrainian people - as fast as possible. Regardless of whether these sanctions can pull it off, stripping regular citizens of their property cannot be justified.
When yours is not really yours
The most egregious violation is the seizure of property. Not the yachts taken from oligarchs, but the access lost by everyday people. Take smartphones, the portal to the modern world. For Russians they have turned into expensive paperweights without apps, payments, or operating system support. Sanctions have revealed that modern ownership is a facade.
Moreover, the European Union has decided to strip Russians of access to basic financial services. This includes a complete ban on buying securities, as well as making deposits into a crypto wallet. Foreign assets, one of the few financial lifelines during market turmoil, have been purposefully rendered useless.
Meanwhile, Russian markets have become uninvestable in the West. Some exchanges suspended trading indefinitely. While indices have dropped the Russian stocks, making them illiquid along with the bans on selling and shorting. Even where the markets still trade, they cannot be cashed out in Rubles (Western sanctions) nor in Dollars (Russian sanctions). What used to be real property, has become a hypothetical number inside a brokerage account, that cannot be redeemed.
In the West’s haste to squash the imperialist specter, it seems new phantoms were conjured. We’ve learned that your property is not real, it’s ethereal. Any wealth or property you accrue is at the whims of a select few. When you can’t preserve your property, when you can’t invest and benefit from growth, you are left behind.
Democratizing finance with Morpher
We believe access to financial services should be for everyone, not just for the privileged. Whether that privilege is based on location, wealth, or class. Morpher was founded to solve this, it’s our raison d’etre. We know that financial markets are fragmented with piecemeal access. The markets you can trade depends on where you live. The bigger your bank account, the easier it is to access “exotic” international assets. If you’re based in the West, a bigger bank account allows you to short-sell. And brokerages are willing to offer you riskier products like leverage and derivatives. Then of course there’s the rest of the world, the majority that has no stock market access whatsoever.
The Morpher Protocol lets anyone trade what they want, how they want, when they want. Morpher promotes economic freedom by creating equal access to the markets. Thanks to Web3, we can create perfect virtual markets. Relying on just a datafeed, our protocol augments & overcomes the limitations of the underlying market. Virtual markets let us provide access to millions without touching the underlying assets. Our vision is a world in which everyone is free to participate in the economy, regardless of their country of residence, wealth, or status.
Web3 is a force for economic equality
Cryptocurrencies have flourished as a new asset class, thanks to being both natively global and accessible. The only requirement to participate used to be a web-enabled computer. The EU crackdown on crypto (via sanctions) is a misstep. Russian Oligarchs are unlikely to find refuge in crypto, where blockchains are transparent and moving large sums in/out of the system requires gatekeepers. Meanwhile, accepting crypto as a payment method has unlocked $100 million in donations for Ukraine.
The global and permissionless nature of Web3 serves as a lifeline for those under unfair regimes. DeFi supports an incredible array of financial services, enabling new economic opportunities. Anyone who can remember a password can take their crypto with them wherever they go. Self-banking on Web3 is one of the few avenues for storing property without the threat of seizures. The only way to promote global freedom and prosperity, is to empower everyone to own property that cannot be taken away.
Russian markets are Web3’s Arab Spring
There are unique moments in time, during global turmoil, where new technology plays a revolutionary role. The Arab Spring was one of these moments. It became a turning point for Web2. Oppression and social unrest were the proving ground for the openness and democratization of the internet. Web2 social platforms provided a technical edge, giving a voice to the powerless, and putting agency back in the hands of individuals. It was the first time we witnessed the true power of Web2 platforms.
The confluence of events around Russian markets is turning into another proving ground, this time for Web3. Economic sanctions have infringed on property rights and killed market access. Web3 is uniquely poised to revolutionize financial access, just as Web2 revolutionized information.
Virtual markets are the (only) solution
It’s not possible to get Western exchanges to open up Russian trading; this would support kleptocratic shareholders. It’s also not possible to get the Russian regime to allow shorting for the benefit of its citizens. These immovable forces make Russian markets the perfect showcase of our Web3 technology.
The Morpher Protocol doesn’t need direct market access, hence no benefits to shareholders of the underlying assets. Moreover, virtual markets can be shorted and they are perfectly liquid, without needing to match buyers and sellers. Since Arena runs permissionless on Polygon, anyone that self-banks can participate. Arena puts the power back in the hands of individuals, giving them autonomy over their finances. Starting with the forbidden Russian stocks.
While we have strong opinions on the state of sanctions and their implications, we cannot overstate the struggles of the Ukrainian people. Their rights are being flagrantly violated by a deluded regime. There is no neutral position during such atrocities, we must support the Ukrainian people; we must protect their unalienable rights.
As much as Arena is a force for democratizing finance, it can hopefully become a substantial aid for Ukraine. One hundred percent of Arena proceeds will be donated directly to humanitarian organizations providing relief to Ukraine. Please join us in donating to Save the Children or another amazing nonprofit.