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Does the struggle between the conservative Bitcoiner camp and the aggressive Ethereum camp also mirror our divided political culture? How can we join a lively anti-traditional Burner party?
Recently, hacktivist and Bitcoin developer Amir Taaki bombarded Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin on Twitter because the latter basically degraded Nick Szabo, the father of smart contracts, into a right-wing weirdo.
Taaki wrote that this attitude is typical of “Ethereum culture, which includes Burning Man carnival parties, preferential digital herders, micro-dose LSD, and’social justice’/empty benevolence slogans, etc.”
It can be said that almost everyone has the same initial thought: “Why can’t I join these people?”
But Taaki’s comments also highlight the political differences between Ethereum and Bitcoin. Bitcoin is right and Ethereum is left. Is it really that simple?
Savior to be felt
To be fair, Ethereum is not exactly like this, but there must be some factors that might lead you to this conclusion.
For example, the person sometimes referred to as the “Chief Economic Thinker on Ethereum” is Glen Weyl, who calls himself a “social liberal radical”, who founded RadicalxChange. This is a progressive, non-profit organization. It believes that the top priority that should be the first to inform new visitors to its website is not its actual work—the result of some kind of think tank? —But it stands with the social justice movements Black Lives Matters and Global Pride.
Buterin is a big fan of Weyl and a board member of RadicalxChange. The two had a long e-mail exchange on his social engineering ideas, including taxing to punish people who “use standard white English” or taxing “male chauvinism as an allowance for feminism.” As a supporter of the universal basic income and second-order voting model, Weyl gave a speech at Ethereum’s DevCon, which he described as a “rallying number” against “extreme individualism and capitalism.” At the end of it, he clearly asked women and minorities to ask questions first. Of course, the Ethereum conference, like other encryption technologies, is full of dull white people, but at least the first person to ask the question will appropriately apologize for this fact.
However, try this kind of leftist slogan at a meeting of hardcore Bitcoin players, and you may cause a storm, as Andreas M. Antonopolous, author of “Mastering Bitcoin: Unlocking Digital Encryption Currency,” discovered His audience asked for some advice on podcasting because he wanted to “reach a wider audience group” and not just the “white male financial practitioners” under the stereotype.
This seemingly harmless request angered his fan base (may have some intersection with Gamergate’s opposition to bad media) and caused a storm on Twitter. Users complained that “Bitcoin has nothing to do with identity politics.” He also sneered at his absurd behavior of trying to chat with some different people and rejecting the elite system. Even Hodlonaut, a Bitcoin representative, questioned his concern about “race and gender.”
Antonopolous has no regrets about it. He wrote: “I will not apologize for being a’SJW’ (Social Justice Warrior).” He described the reactions of these people in this way, “Because I did not let this invisible prejudice take over me. 90% of podcast interviews, and only 75%-80%, provoked so many complaints. It’s horrible.”
Bitcoin players and Ethereum players are clearly at odds, which is why Crypto Twitter is beset by meaningless debates about “supply gates” and “pre-mining coin scams.” When Peter McCormack, the host of What Bitcoin Did, asked his audience “What the hell is the dispute between BTC and ETH?”, well-known blogger American Hodl summed it up like this: “Liberals choose Ethereum and conservatives stand for Bitcoin. “
Things are of course not that simple: many leftists also like Bitcoin, and many rightists also like Ethereum. Even Weyl cannot be easily defined as a leftist or a rightist because he somehow managed to combine his love for socialism with his love for the right-wing liberal hero Ayn Rand. As Bitcoin.com founder Roger Ver said to Cointelegraph magazine, “Both camps are big now, and now every political faction has people involved.”
Of course, when there is money to be made, politics can be ranked second. Just like Degen Spartan, a well-known DeFi blogger, said when he explained that he is not a Bitcoin supremacist or an Ethereum supremacist: “I am a profit supremacist.”
However, the general view remains that those who tend to be conservative or right-wingers prefer Bitcoin, while those who are more progressive are more likely to support the Ethereum team. A survey of 1,200 crypto users conducted by CoinDesk in 2018 provided support for this view. The survey found that 55% of Ethereans tend to be leftists, while 55% of Bitcoiners tend to be rightists. Another 3% of Bitcoiners claim to be nihilists, which may explain the behavior of the crypto geeks (edgelord) trading Pepe Frog on the 4chan website.
Bitcoin network as right-wing software
Professor David Golumbia is the author of “The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-wing Extremism.” In his work, he pointed out that Bitcoin was not only born from the right-wing liberal culture of cyberpunk, but its technology itself is also right-wing.
There is no doubt that the key figures in the early stages of Bitcoin such as Eric Hughes, Timothy C. May and John Gilmore are staunch liberals. They oppose big government and taxation, worry about privacy, monitoring the rise of the country, and freedom of speech.
Golumbia believes that the ideas of right-wing Austrian economist Murray Rothbard also had a great impact on the early days of Bitcoin. He created the political philosophy of “anarcho-capitalism”. The extremely liberal political form that advocates the elimination of centralized states, supports self-ownership, private property, and laissez-faire free markets, is obviously familiar to anyone in the Bitcoin circle.
“It was born out of anarchic capitalism,” Golumbia said of Bitcoin. “Rothbard has the idea that there is something called a’state’ whose only meaning is to enslave people. The only free individuals are those who are not restricted by the government. And these people believe-they still believe-can use Encryption technology hides itself from the country’s sight.”
In Golumbia’s view, Bitcoin is designed as a currency in this new field, that is, a currency not controlled by the state.
Everyone was an anarchist capitalist
Roger Ver, the founder of Bitcoin.com, said that when he entered the industry in 2011, early Bitcoin users were all liberals, and they had a firm belief in the free market. He does not think this view is rightist. “Just read the thoughts of early Bitcoiners like me, Ross Ulbricht, Gavin Andresen, etc.,” he said. “We are all liberals, but not conservatives or right-wingers.”
Voluntaryism—a branch of anarchic capitalism—”is the motivation for me and others to participate in and promote Bitcoin early.”
“Bitcoin was originally formed and promoted by a group of anarchist capitalists. Later, its development community was taken over by a group of blue-haired San Francisco leftists. Most of the anarchist capitalists (AnCaps) moved to BCH, or ETH Wait for the currency.”
Kain Warwick, founder of Synthetix, the Ethereum-based DeFi protocol, said that it is incorrect to say that anyone involved in the early days of Bitcoin is conservative.
“In the sense of trying to maintain the status quo of the traditional financial system, they cannot be considered conservative. In order for Bitcoin to make sense, you have to see some problems that need to be solved,” he said.
Although the two forces can be reconciled, it is more difficult for the Ethereum people to pursue rapid technological progress and evolving code bases to coexist with Bitcoiners who invest in protecting the basic characteristics of Bitcoin. As Bitcoin’s ideology around hard currency, fixed supply, decentralization, and security has become stronger and clearer, the Bitcoin community has become more resistant to changes in its basic attributes. In the disruptive block capacity debate, Ver discovered something that led to the birth of Bitcoin Cash.
When Buterin, the co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine, believed that Bitcoin needed a scripting language for application development in 2013, he also encountered a situation where the community was unwilling to experiment. After failing to seek community support, he launched Ethereum in January 2014.
From this point of view, the struggle between Bitcoin and Ethereum is not so much a “battle between the left and the right” as it is a “battle for progress and stability.”
The world treats you as you treat the world
Finally, there is no doubt that what is more important is what unites people in the blockchain world, rather than their differences. Almost everyone interviewed in this article agrees on one thing, and that is that there is still widespread liberalism in crypto culture.
Although the so-called “liberalism” has the closest relationship with right-wing guns and freedom lovers in the United States, there have been many left-wing liberal movements over the years, from peaceful and loving hippies to anti-authoritarian punk rock musicians. Liberalism is probably best described as a preference that is at the opposite ends of the balance with despotism.
“I think many people who are working in this field sincerely believe that there are fundamental flaws in our current world and hope to fix them. I think most of the time, or in other words, this does come from a certain sense of opposition. Authoritarianism, or resistance to the status quo,” Warwick said.
On a deeper level, anti-authoritarianism seems to have been integrated into the design of the blockchain itself. The extreme left and right authoritarians may want to impose their crazy ideology by force, but this is impossible in a truly decentralized blockchain project-because there is no central authority that can exert power.
Greenspan said, “Decentralization is essentially a liberal concept. There is no doubt about this.”