Vitalik Buterin, the 24 year old co-founder of Ethereum who has met Vladimir Putin among other world leaders, said he found libertarianism disorientating compared to how nice regulators were to him in reality:
“Growing up libertarian and then going out into the world and noticing that actual regulators were nicer to me than many “cypherpunks” was very disorienting,” Buterin said in reply to Emin Gün Sirer stating:
“The regulators have used a very soft touch, both in the US and the EU. The vitriol has really damaged the community. It seems to stem from just a small number of thought leaders though.”
The wider context is the infamous bitcoin blocksize debate which ruthlessly split the bitcoin community and turned it into a very toxic atmosphere with black op tactics used, such as showing emotionally charged dark images as twitter profile or emotionally charged and psychologically hard hitting reddit nicknames designed to shut down debate.
A “debate” that unfortunately keeps on continuing, with r/btc stuck in a loop while bitcoin maximalists keep taking aims at everyone, including this time ShapeShift whose CEO, Erik Voorhees, begun this latest discussion by stating:
“The vitriol in the Bitcoin community is causing at least as much damage to the project as regulators.”
Further elaborating on his point, Buterin said: “There are forms of libertarianism I admire, but people cheering on societal collapse are insane. Or, if their vision of societal collapse is “mu ha ha fiat will be worthless and because I am so smart I bought bitcoins I’ll be a lord of the earth” I would call them *evil*…
Creating a ‘decentralized, neutral, free-market alternative to national central banks’, fully support. Unleashing a chaotic collapse of most existing forms of money and wrecking everyone’s retirement savings, fully oppose.”
Edmund Edgar, a former bitcoin developer, now an ethereum developer, said: “This is just one faction… way back when… the whole idea was: Get lots of adoption, get legal business on bitcoin, make it politically hard to ban. Admittedly we didn’t think of pitching the CFTC director’s daughter.”
He is referring to Christopher Giancarlo who became an overnight sensation following a senate hearing for calling on regulators to take a “do no harm” approach.
“Fully onboard with that,” Buterin said before further adding: “Though it has to be specifically *usage* adoption, not *speculative* (or “store of value”) adoption; so far it has been the latter and that seems to have contributed to the extent to which the regulatory environment is less than friendly.”
One of the reasons why it has so far partially been the latter is partly due to Buterin and his team who might not be working as hard as they could be on scaling ethereum.
Without that scalability, which might start rolling out this year and then go on for the next 2-5 years, there can not be much usage because of limited capacity, so everyone spends their time speculating instead while waiting.
“I’ve found a lot of those “cypherpunks” turn out to be less than libertarian,” a twitter user says, with Buterin seemingly agreeing in replying:
“Or at least have a very narrow view of libertarian ideals, eg. ‘free speech only applies to the government, on “my” subreddit I can do whatever I want’. No it’s not just a law, you bozo, it’s a social principle.”
They’re referring to Theymos, who is probably the most hated name in crypto as he is accused of singlehandedly creating a toxically divisive environment in bitcoin by instituting a political policy of heavy censorship and banning as well as of manipulating subreddit content.
All of it was fully intentional and while seemingly aware of the end result, with Theymos telling a then bitcoiner regarding the dictatorial banning and ruthless censorship:
“You must be naive if you think it’ll have no effect. I’ve moderated forums since long before Bitcoin… The big controversy in the start caused some “Streisand Effect”, which I expected, but that was only a temporary boost.”
History, unfortunately, has so far proved him right in some aspects, but the time frame might be too short as his actions, with the support of some Bitcoin Core developers, led to a brain drain from bitcoin, which is now seen by some as stagnant technology, slow to innovate, and even slower to respond to market needs.
“From the ashes arise authoritarian governments that take away all semblance of freedom because charismatic politicians promise hungry starving people food and economic growth and safety at whatever cost. Learn from history,” Buterin says.
Twitter so being limited, his view isn’t fully nuanced, because history provides two examples. One, the glorious British revolution. Two, the French reign of terror.
The reasons for the later are complicated, but they boil down to the elite was unresponsive, leading a desperate people to the most brutal revolt.
While the land which gave birth to modern democracy had some seven centuries earlier enshrined certain freedoms in the Magna Carta, which in some ways decentralized power, and therefore gave more opportunity for feedback and responsiveness, leading to the modern birth of democracy in the 1500s in what is aptly called Glorious for little blood was shed, and the monarchy was reinstated in any event, continuing to today in a symbolism of changing continuity, and more importantly, incremental innovation.
Although whether such incremental innovation is always desirable is not a closed matter, with the Aztec’s maths showing humans can easily be entangled in far too complex systems that can easily be simplified but require so much re-think no one engages in it even though it would be greatly more beneficial.
“BitTorrent did not break the media industry. VPNs did not end govts’ ability to influence what people see and hear. Encryption did not make law enforcement impossible. I think positive change through limits on authority via technology is possible without overturning everything,” Buterin says.
Again the view, while seemingly in the right direction, is far too sparse on nuance. BitTorrent perhaps didn’t, but Netflix perhaps did. Maybe not “break” the media industry, but decentralize it a bit and make it fairer.
And the legacy of BitTorrent isn’t yet lost when it comes to monopoly like products such as Photoshop or Corel which require a thousand dollars or more from customers to be used, prices that certainly few “ordinary” individuals can afford.
In the process they act as gatekeepers for only professionals to afford, keeping out amateurs, unless such amateurs wish to risk malware infested ddl lands.
We speak little of that now, but the perception and even the actual unfairness of monopoly, like entities which necessarily abuse their power, naturally gave rise to a people’s attempt to subvert that power.
Not so that it be extinguished, necessarily, but so that it be kept in check, it be kept responsive, and above all, it be kept fair.
Of course within “people” one includes civil servants, politicians, industry titans, leaders, thinkers, and so on. Generalizing “regulators” or “cypherpunks,” therefore, is very much a dehumanization tactic well familiar to students of psychology.
There is a reason why “I have a dream” echos. Luther King was speaking directly against that dehumanization we today see once more in such generalizations as males or females, blacks or whites, muslims or others.
The media, especially on the left, is losing the ability to see character, to see person, to judge individual, especially when they fall so low as to say warehouse workers are mostly men, checkout workers are mostly female, warehouse workers get paid more, female workers get paid less, that’s unequal treatment.
Forgetting completely that plenty of men work on the checkout floor and plenty of women work in warehouses. And therefore it is simply a matter of one being harder, less desirable, etc, than the other, rather than a matter of collectivistic generalization which wants us to once more see gender, race, religion, when we have, or at least thought we have, put that behind.
“The statements “regulators are happy fluffy unicorn-and-rainbow people who just want to reduce scams” and “the world would be better if they all instead worked for private corporations that issue ratings” (to take extremes of both) do not conflict with each other,” Buterin says.
Buterin appears to miss an important point, even if we allow for twitter limiting nuance. No one doubts regulators in general have the best of intentions, what one doubts in cases up for debate is their analysis of what effects a certain decision would have.
If we take for example SEC’s discriminatory laws where you can partake in an ICO if you are rich, but not if you are poor, there is plenty to say in favor of the SEC, and the top one at a practical level is that it just limits it to some you’d think can afford it so no one cares if they lose some money.
But if you take a wider view, we wouldn’t be surprised if the number one cause of inequality in the western world is this very specific law for it denies all the opportunity to engage in value creation.
If you can not engage in value creation, you have no value. Yet for Congress to allow all to engage in value creation they have to police it. They’ll have to prove fraud, which is a higher burden then does he have a license or not. But is that higher burden worth it? Has SEC thought of it? Has it undertaken any analysis of it? Or does it just take it for granted that those who wrote this discriminatory law in a time of discrimination 100 years ago are “very smart.”
Of course the SEC wants to reduce scams, who doesn’t. But even with these burdensome regulations they do fail to prevent scams such as Enron, Madoff, the banking collapse, and more importantly they haven’t answered the question whether this guilty until “proven” innocent approach for the poor, yet innocent until proven guilty approach for the rich, is actually a cost worth the benefit.
That’s just one example to show good intention does not necessarily mean the person is right or wrong. After all, the matter has a whole saying “the path to hell is paved with good intentions.”
So it’s not about what regulators want, especially considering occupational bias, but about what is best.
Which is why in a democracy we hold public consultations. SEC hasn’t on the matter. They came down with their own interpretation of very complex laws, applied it to a new field, and in effect said this is law, a breach of the separation of powers since they are part of the executive and only the judiciary or the legislative, such as parliament or congress, can make laws.
Buterin, therefore, has quite a bit more to go in his growing up journey considering these complex matters. And while he is right, as many soon find, that ancap or libertarian approaches are not fully refined conceptually, it would be a mistake to dismiss their role in counteracting that maxim of maxims.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That’s a law of nature expressed in simple form because our society still operates in a guild system. For what that simple sentence hides is that no one wants such power to corrupt themselves, nor would anyone think they are so corrupted by it, but emotions and a conviction of righteousness due to a filtered view leads the best of men to become outright monsters, to become def to others, to not even see the “others,” in a bubble where all seems fine, until the reign of terror comes knocking.
We certainly must avoid at all costs a situation where matters descend to such animalistic vulgarity, and prefer far more incremental improvements, but charm, often actually honestly meant charm, can be a very seductive mistress.
For it is after all 2,000 years ago that man learned of an innovation in thinking, a distinction between objectivity and subjectivity, between what is and what could be or what if.
That distinction is beginning to get blurred in this millennium where charm or friendliness or a complete lack of awareness regarding how emotions work, seduce us into thinking that what is right, is about person, or group, or whatever generalization, than about truth.
And while some might say all is subjective, even our thought that all is so, we take Descartes proclamation as an end to the matter and believe there is such a thing as an actual truth, that does actually exist beyond our own views, and that subjectivity is far inferior to it.