This Is No Way Treat The Precious

Perhaps we all turn a little Gollum when our money is at stake.

I had been confident. Bitcoin would be adopted by everyone. It would only get better, not worse. Everyone would be better off but I, specifically, would be wealthier.

The price dropped.

I scrambled for an answer. Why are they selling Bitcoin, what don’t they like? Well, the crypto community, Bitcoin maximalists, and me.

This week Elon Musk announced Tesla’s decision to stop accepting Bitcoin as payment. He was vilified on Twitter and he responded. It was fun to watch rich men losing their composure and fighting in public. I wasn’t involved but, in my own way, I lost composure too. Crypto is a soap opera sometimes.

It’s not important, in the sense that no one really cares about these people’s feelings, but it is important in the sense that Bitcoin has the potential to become the money of the people — decentralised, incorruptible, cannot exclude anyone, and totally borderless. We don’t want the idea to be obscured by the self-appointed messengers of it.

To the less invested, there appears every so often, a covetousness among the people with Bitcoin. It’s unseemly. Edward Snowden commented on it last week: “The worst part of cryptocurrency transforming into dragon-level wealth is witnessing good people emotionally devolve into dragons themselves: so intellectually paralysed by the fear that everyone they see threatens their hoard that they lose sight of the world beyond their cave.”

It’s like Gollum and the precious. Like Silas Marner and his gold.

Snowden was recently in a tussle with the online community after being asked about the public/private aspects of Bitcoin. Regardless of whether you agree with him, he is surely welcome to bring his perspectives to the social commons. Those outside the crypto community will inevitably be dealing with the same debate when central bank digital currencies (CBDC) really mean for society. To stymie conversation by being overzealous online is counterproductive.

The people who were so vitriolic towards Elon Musk over the past week have failed even to acknowledge that Tesla’s decision to stop accepting Bitcoin as payment has proven correct. Bitcoin’s price dropped 51% in a month. Not the stuff to be buying and selling cars with. Bitcoin will become more stable with increased adoption but for now it’s not a currency.

In the United States, Jerome Powell of the Federal Reserve and Gary Gensler, the new SEC chair, both seem comfortable viewing Bitcoin as an asset rather than a currency. Digital gold is also how most of the community see it, at this stage at least. It could be that Tesla doesn’t want to upset the government it receives subsidies from. It is unwise to push the case for Bitcoin as a currency. In any case, we are not privy to the inner machinations of Musk and Tesla.

The idea of money that exists only in cyberspace and is not controlled by banks or governments but citizens and code is a philosophical jump. It is too much to assume everyone make a jump like that now — or indeed ever.

People do get scammed in crypto, people do launder money, there are potential problems with its transparency, a 51% attack is possible, mining pools are becoming increasingly large and few, energy from coal is used to mine bitcoin, central governments can ban centralised exchanges and mining operations, and not everyone does have the internet. It isn’t necessary to be tied to a Bitcoin ideology so much that potential weaknesses can’t be discussed.

We can openly have these discussions and we can also shift the focus to other areas. Satoshi Nakamoto didn’t invent bitcoin for millionaires. When you look at how citizens in countries like Venezuela, Argentina, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Turkey, Guatemala, and El Salvador are adopting Bitcoin out of necessity you begin to realise where the focus could be. Gollum is not a good advert for the ring, just as public spats between millionaires and frat boys is no advert for crypto.

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Blockchain | Cryptocurrency writer — technical, philosophical, occasional advocacy. Contact: therobertmccracken@gmail.com

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Robert McCracken

Robert McCracken

Blockchain | Cryptocurrency writer — technical, philosophical, occasional advocacy. Contact: therobertmccracken@gmail.com

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