If there’s one thing that us Bitcoiners are bad at it’s believing in Bitcoin. Yes, you read that right. You might think that the crypto-guy at your office is like a missionary for a new religion and that you can’t get him to stop talking about cryptocurrencies but what most people fail to see is that such crypto-guys are not Bitcoiners. Such guys haven’t really understood what they’re talking about. Many, if not most, people seem to have a hard time separating the scams from the real deal. This is quite a lot easier than it seems. Here’s a hint:
Bitcoin is not a scam
Every other currency is
At a first glance this might seem like an extremist view and many early adopters of Bitcoin haven’t precisely been honest or correct about the uniqueness of the protocol. Quite a few of them have created coins of their own, some have been involved in ICOs and some have built entire business models by pairing Bitcoin with these scams like crypto-to-crypto exchanges, multi-coin wallets and Bitcoin forks. None of which will matter in the long run. This is the key and the most common misconception. Bitcoin is all about the long run.
But first, let’s have a look at the history of man’s arguably greatest invention, money. Money is, simply put, the language we use in order to exchange value with each other. That’s it. It’s a means of expression. It has, in contrast to what most people think, very little to do with mathematics since what we value or not is entirely subjective. Money is in itself a saleable good and its saleability depends entirely on its supply and its demand. Whether or not people believe in it, if you will. Throughout history there has been a very fundamental problem with this. The people in charge of the money supply have never been able to resist the urge of producing more of it. This is as true today as it was in the days of the Roman Empire and it is the first and foremost reason that empires fall and civilizations collapse. Today, this dilution of wealth is done by the world’s central banks via the fractional reserve banking system that we all live in. Not very long ago, before the internet, when independent information was hard to come by and state-owned media and schools were about he only trusted sources around, it was hard to learn about money but nowadays the information is out there in many articles and explainer videos. Sadly, most of those who do understand money believe just as those less enlightened that there is little one can do about the situation. After all, this is what we have been raised to believe from the moment we first sat down in our school benches. You need us, the government, to protect and govern you.
This is why Bitcoin was invented. After the last “bust” phase of our global boom-bust-boom economy, when the Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, an anonymous programmer (and also an apparent philosopher of the Austrian economics school) invented a new internet protocol that would function as sound money. It’s promise to be peer-to-peer, uncensorable, inflation proof, borderless, permissionless, uncopyable and decentralized is still being tested 24 hours a day today, as its pre-launch white paper approaches its ten year anniversary. Last year, in a remarkable display of resistance to the whims of mere humans, the network once again delivered on its promise by denying over 90% of the most influential businesses related to Bitcoin to alter its course in the slightest towards a more centralized path via the proposed SegWit2x fork. It is in fact very unlikely that Bitcoin will ever hard fork again given the current size of the network. This unique state of the network has been reached because of its consensus rules that every participant in the network has to comply with. Satoshi’s disappearance, the failed forks and Bitcoin’s history in general play a huge part in why it stays decentralized and untamperable. This is not true for the altcoins.
Many early Bitcoiners saw an opportunity in launching “competing” projects to Bitcoin even though trying to compete with Bitcoin is counterproductive to the original idea. We have no way of knowing whether an altcoin is created purely as a tool for its creator to acquire more Bitcoin or if there’s an honest misunderstanding of the underlying economic theories behind Bitcoin at play. In either way, they can not duplicate what Bitcoin did since anti-duplication is at the very core of what Bitcoin was invented for in the first place. None of the altcoins have shown any resistance to external influences at all. They’re not Bitcoin or Bitcoin 2.0 nor will they ever be. They’re scams. All of them. This is why the current behaviour of some early Bitcoin proponents is so unfortunate.
Whether a renowned Bitcoiner promotes an altcoin, a Bitcoin fork or a book on ethereum doesn’t matter. These are all red herrings at best and they do not speed up the learning curve of the masses. Austrian economics, libertarianism and the philosophies of Mises, Hayek and Rothbard are inevitably linked to Bitcoin and trying to separate them is misleading and bad for adoption. Unfortunately, it is very likely that many of these old Bitcoiners haven’t fully realized this connection yet and that this ignorance is what drives their misguidance. A probable cause of this ignorance would be the speed of Bitcoin’s price appreciation. It is hard to get your head around the idea that something can keep on adding a zero to its price every second year or so forever. They should keep in mind that only a very small percentile of the world’s population own Bitcoin yet and that there’s nothing stopping those who do from buying more.
Bitcoin is absolute scarcity, achieved through decentralized trust. If you want banks to fail and something real to take their place, build on top of Bitcoin and nothing else. Barter and Bitcoin are the only ways we humans have to exchange value with each other transparently, without the risk of a third party taking a cut by diluting the value of the medium of exchange. Those of us who realize this need to emphasize this and call out scams for what they are. They have nothing to do with Bitcoin. Bitcoin is truly unique and that’s what makes it unique.
For more on the subject, read The Bitcoin Standard by Saifedean Ammous. I highly recommend it.
Spot the Difference was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.