Bitcoin without the politics?

published Dec 14, 2013, last modified Apr 07, 2022

Not happening.

Every once in a while, a statist Bitcoin noob echoes a common meme us Bitcoiners have heard before, which I will now lampoon for comedic effect:

Statist: Thanks but no thanks for making bitcoin a thing, libertarians, now please GTFO and stop talking about libertarianism. We'll take it from here. Next item on our agenda: bitcoin regulations! Yay!

Libertarian: Bitcoin is against government control and regulation by design.

Statist: There you go with that fag talk we talked about.

Today, it was bitko's turn to "educate" us on his opinions about Bitcoin's libertarian nexus:

It's fine for libertarians to be interested in/support/love bitcoin, but libertarians should cease pretending that bitcoin is a vehicle for political dogma.

It's getting tiresome, and it's hurting the development of bitcoin.

It's obvious that he despises libertarian ideas, that's for sure.  So we won't talk about that.  Let's look at the content of what he's saying.

Truly, what he says here makes about the same amount of sense as saying "I think we should remove politics from voting", or "we should decouple abolitionism from the underground railroad".

That is, his statement makes no sense at all.  Bitcoin and libertarianism are inextricably linked, forever, in perpetuity, just like underground railroads of yore are linked with liberating black slaves.

Bitcoin is a currency that is first and foremost a political experiment that hardcodes some radical political opinions in the computer code. Those opinions are more libertarian than the Libertarian Party itself:

  1. Fixed supply, as opposed to permanent inflation.
  2. Stateless issuance, as opposed to central banks and analogous institutions.
  3. No centralized control, as opposed to central control by governments.
  4. Strictly voluntary adoption and use, as opposed to edicts forcing people to use it.

It is not up for debate that these properties of Bitcoin are, in fact, libertarian preferences. This is a fact as much as "water is wet" is a statement of fact. The preferences embedded in the code are widely-documented to be political positions of libertarians.  All of these preferences undermine the power that organized criminals (operating as "government") have over money. That the code embeds these preferences is exactly what you would expect, when the people who write and review the code are, for the most part, libertarians.

What's more -- these libertarian properties of the currency cannot be changed after the fact. The way Satoshi Nakamoto decided to solve the Byzantine Generals' Problem (specifically, the use of Merkle trees) makes it impossible to change these properties, at least not without risking a division of Bitcoiners between genuine/standard and new/fake... which would instantly destroy any value of the new/fake currency and its ill-advised proponents.

That choice of algorithm was no accident -- it was very much a deliberate choice to leverage people's natural selfishness and willingness to protect what's theirs.  And, you know what?  That choice was magnificent -- it cryptographically locked, locks, and will lock every Bitcoiner into the choice of playing by the libertarian rules, or losing everything they own.  This insight Satoshi had is probably the single most underappreciated yet most important genius of his invention.

Now, nobody is forcing him to buy Bitcoin (see, again that "pesky" libertarian idea?). If he dislikes those opinions, he's free to start his own coin or join another coin that embodies the non-libertarian ideals. Freicoin, for example, is a coin that will tax his wealth every year. It's perfectly compatible with pro-government beliefs. He should buy them.

Wait, he doesn't want to buy Freicoin because he prefers Bitcoin's properties? Then, I'm sorry to inform everyone, he's quite literally endorsing those "evil" libertarian opinions he so despises, with his money.  His behavior is no different from the "vegan" who eats meat hamburgers at Burger King.

You can't have your cake and eat it too.  You can't separate the yolk from the white in this omelette.  You can't have Bitcoin without the political opinions embedded in Bitcoin that made it so successful. A Bitcoin without these political opinions would be a watered-down Governmentcoin, incompatible with Bitcoin, going its own way, tracking a different blockchain, and that means it would not be Bitcoin at all. As the Freicoin experiment has shown, people prefer the currency whose computer code literally executes libertarian values.

I acknowledge that this may not persuade anyone, but (here's the part where I laugh) we don't care -- we're still looking forward to statists' hypocritical but eminently practical endorsement of the first stateless digital currency. For the first time in the world, we libertarians don't have to give two shits about people's political opinions -- as long as they're buying Bitcoin and not stealing them, they're simply playing along with the rules of the libertarian game.

So give us your paper rectangles, we will give you real money. Thanks. And you're welcome.