I’ve been talking online with a bunch of leftists lately. I didn’t know they were leftists when I met them, but it wasn’t hard to figure out. I guess the same way it isn’t hard to figure out when you’re talking to a Bitcoiner.
To be honest, I was surprised how much I liked these new leftist friends I’d made. Coming from crypto twitter I was under the impression that all Bernie supporters were either evil, or stupid, or lazy. But these folks didn’t seem to be any of those things. As far as I could tell they were smart, passionate, and thoughtful, and I got along well with them because we shared many common interests, just not our politics.
So it made me curious. Why did we see the world so differently even though we liked many of the same kinds of movies, and books, and music? I wanted to understand their perspective, what they saw that I didn’t. I wasn’t expecting to be converted or anything, but I hoped I could at least figure out why they thought the way they did.
As I peppered the discord channel with questions, they seemed to find it amusing that this random capitalist had stumbled into their little online commune. To their credit, they trusted that I was acting in good faith and answered all my questions with patience. I asked them things like what did they want? What were their goals? How did they plan to achieve those goals?
I’m not going to pretend I’ve suddenly become an expert on Marxist ideology, or that I fully understand concepts like transformative justice, or reciprocity, but I think I now have a clearer idea of how leftists view the world.
In a nutshell, my takeaway is that they want a world where everyone is provided for, where no one has to go hungry, where people help one another and live together in a society that isn’t just about making money. They want a world where workers are valued and people aren’t commoditized. They want to abolish the carceral state, they support unionizing, and organizing and protesting against the ruling class. And perhaps most importantly, they want everything to be done democratically.
To be honest, I could kind of see the appeal. After all, who doesn’t want a world where everyone is provided for and no one has to go hungry and people are kinder to one another. But when I asked how they intended to achieve these goals, no one seemed to have a good answer. Nor could they answer things like who decides what’s considered a living wage or not, or what they would do if they were suddenly handed a huge sum of money.
I admit I haven’t done a deep dive into the literature, but on a surface level, I couldn’t help but feel as though there were some big holes in my new friends’ thinking.
In many ways talking to them reminded me a lot of the split that Bitcoin Cash (BCH) underwent last year because I could see many similarities between these folks and the folks in the BCH community. And just as me and my new socialist friends both want a better world, I believe that BCH and BCHA supporters also share the common goal of wanting peer-to-peer electronic cash. Only problem is that in both cases we don’t agree on the how.
While communists believe that the means of production and property must be owned by the state in order to make the world a better place, capitalists like myself believe the exact opposite to be true. While my new friends believe in the collective, I believe in the rights of the individual and a system that rewards merit.
Perhaps comparing capitalism/communism with blockchain governance isn’t the right way of looking at things, but I’m going to try anyway. First, let’s start with the differences:
Blockchains are digital and borderless unlike nation states that have a presence in the physical world.
Blockchains are based on open source technology that can be easily copied and experimented with while nation states cannot.
I’m sure there are others, but I see these as the two main differences between the blockchain world and the real world. Basically, in the blockchain world it is easy to move from one chain to another, but good luck trying to move from one country to another especially in this post-Covid world. The second point is that due to the open-source nature of blockchain projects, it is much easier for a subset of a community to coordinate and carve out their own path if they disagree with the rules of a specific chain, which would be virtually impossible to do in a nation state.
What I’m trying to get at is that Bitcoin has given us an opportunity for something completely novel. When you are a citizen of a country, you have little to no choice but to live by the rules of that country. You have to pay your taxes, and follow their laws, and your only hope of changing those laws is by getting the majority of people to vote for your preferences. But what if you disagree with the majority? Then you’re basically shit out of luck.
Fortunately in blockchain people are free to join or leave any given network at their own discretion. The cryptosphere gives miners, investors, and developers the freedom to always act in their own self interest, whether you’re part of the majority or not.
When Bitcoin ABC announced they were implementing the New Coinbase Rule (NCR) to add a funding mechanism into the protocol, many BCH supporters cried foul. They called it a form of taxation, they said it would lead to central planning, and some even characterized Bitcoin ABC as nothing but scammers. But as I’ve already pointed out, the blockchain world is different from the real world. When miners mine the BCHA chain, they do so voluntarily because they believe in the vision of the project. The same applies to people like me who have invested their money into buying the coin. I see buying or mining BCHA much like I do buying shares in a company I think will succeed because it has a sound business strategy. Compare that to having to pay taxes to your government because you have no choice with no possibility for getting a return on your investment.
BCH supporters were afraid that the NCR would give Bitcoin ABC too much power. They thought ABC would effectively own the means of production and use that as leverage to serve only themselves. But what those people failed to realize was that since anyone can fork the code, ABC can’t force anyone to do anything. This was witnessed first hand as 95% of the ecosystem parted ways with ABC and chose to go with the chain without the NCR. As for this unfounded fear that ABC is going to use the 8% of the coinbase reward to do nothing more than line their own pockets, all one needs to realize is that acting in their own self interest means doing everything in their power to increase the value of the coins they are being paid with, which not only benefits them but miners and holders as well.
Look, just as I don’t hold anything against my leftist friends, I don’t hold anything against BCH supporters either. The difference is that with the former, I have to live in the same nation as they do, under the same set of laws, but with Bitcoin it’s different. We have the ability to go our separate ways and support and invest in the projects we individually prefer. We don’t have to take to the streets and stage rallies and protests because we can let the free market decide.
To me the bottom line is this: do you prefer a system that values democracy above all and the rights of the individual are deferred to that of the collective, or do you prefer a system that is based on merit and those who are willing to work have the opportunity to compete and earn whatever the free market is willing to pay?
For me, I choose BCHA.