In October, I published “Why Bitcoin Matters to Millennials.”
On the Voice platform, Thomas Wolf responded with his post, “Bitcoin & Millennials — Why It May or May Not Matter.” In that post, he said bitcoin is weak and governments will crush it.
People have said that about bitcoin for years. They’re missing the whole point.
Code is code. WE make it mean something
Bitcoin is a computer program. It is neither weak nor strong. No government can do anything about it. It simply exists.
We decide what it should mean.
Bitcoin maximalists and evangelists see it as a symbol of financial freedom and self-sovereignty. Wall Street sees it as a way to make money from people who want to make money from the changes in its price. Investors see it as a way to grow and secure their wealth.
Such is the nature of an open, permissionless, electronic peer-to-peer cash system. Everybody uses it for whatever they want and everybody views it for whatever they want.
Some focus on the money. As Thomas says, “all profits in this racket come from having your money in the right places at the right times.”
I get it. That’s why I started the Crypto is Easy newsletter. People want to know how to make money with crypto. I’m happy to share my thoughts about that. People deserve good advice, especially in a market where even the most ardent bitcoiners will swap it for “fiat” whenever the price is right.
Where’s the revolution?
When you only think about the money, you will never see the revolution.
The true revolution — a shift in paradigm and mindset. A reevaluation of our modern notions of wealth, money, and commerce.
When an idea exists as computer code, no government can legislate it away. No entity can destroy it, nor the idea and the values it represents. A cryptocurrency can never truly die.
Can governments drive it underground?
Or, more likely, use it for their own benefit. For example, legalizing and taxing its use or revenues from mining it. Or maybe building payment, settlement, and record-keeping platforms on its blockchain.
They might even use it to get around international sanctions.
Does that seem sacrilegious? The authorities using an anti-authority money system?
It shouldn’t. Everybody can use bitcoin however they want.
We control the outcome
And if it’s not bitcoin, it will be some other cryptocurrency.
When anybody can create a monetary system from their laptop and release it on a global scale, the sky’s the limit for what you can create.
If governments try to take over bitcoin, somebody will create another version. When elites conspire to take over one blockchain, somebody will create a different one.
Code exists forever, everywhere.
Bitcoin simply provides a platform for free, private financial transactions. With bitcoin, you never need to ask permission. You only need to act.
If bitcoin sucks? Build a new version, give it a different name and consensus algorithm, and try to make money with it. Eventually, you will find something that sticks.
The question is, can you do that before Drivechain, sidechains, Lightning Network, Taproot, and dozens of other innovations beat you to it? Can you deliver a blockchain that has the same security without governance flaws? Can you compete with hundreds of other altcoins trying to do the same thing?
Perhaps somebody will out-bitcoin bitcoin. Until then, let everybody else get bogged down in technicalities and distracted by greed.
The revolution will continue on whatever blockchain suits it best.
The FOMO years
At some point, people will care about the social, cultural, and economic impact of global, public, cryptographically-secure, time-stamped distributed ledgers.
One day, normal people will discuss good legal frameworks and regulations for cryptocurrency, as well as ways to use it for the public’s welfare. Frankly, I’ll be ok with an informed discussion about decentralized governance. It’s a start.
Eventually, civic leaders will use bitcoin’s blockchain to create fairer, more efficient ways to deliver public goods and services. Workers will create massive wealth-building opportunities and poor people will have unprecedented access to global financial networks.
One day, maybe. Everybody has to make their money first.
Perhaps greed and wealth are moral loss-leaders for bitcoin. Come for the riches, stay for the ideals.
After all, it’s the ideals that matter.
Before you get lost in all-time highs and shorting the bankers, remember the whole point of all of this.
Bitcoin represents shared ideals. It represents an alternative to a system that always lets us down.
As Hanna Hajjar said, bitcoin reveals the truth. If you value financial privacy, security, self-sovereignty, fairness, and integrity, you will find it in bitcoin.
If you want to
Unless we present this vision of bitcoin, we will end up victims of the same selfish, self-serving results we always get with everything else: rules written by lobbyists for the benefit of the wealthy, laws crafted for political gain instead of the public’s welfare.
And we will let this happen because institutional investors will pay us to let them write these rules.
Every higher high and Grayscale purchase brings us a little closer to the day that Wall Street takes over bitcoin, as it’s taken over every other financial asset.
And we will happily let it do so, in exchange for more of our governments’ money.
Only then does bitcoin get weak. Only then can governments crush it.
This revolution started as a rejection of the status quo, not as a way to replicate that system as a set of computer protocols. It can’t end with market cycle peaks and lambos.
Governments can kill technology. They can’t kill ideals.
Those ideals must endure. They must stay strong in the face of government actions and long after some developer creates “a better bitcoin.”
Those ideals matter far more than FOMO and blue-sky breakouts. They speak to our subconscious need for freedom and opportunity. They serve a public benefit greater than any of our politicians can provide.
As long as we want them to.
Mark Helfman publishes the Crypto is Easy newsletter. He is also a top bitcoin writer on Medium and Hacker Noon. His books, Consensusland and Bitcoin or Bust: Wall Street’s Entry Into Cryptocurrency, explore the social, cultural, and business challenges of cryptocurrency.
Learn more about him in his bio.
Previously published on Voice.com.