Bitcoin was first popular among libertarian circles due to its usefulness in decentralizing the money system. It was and continues to be a good way to escape the control of both governments and central banks. With its popularity increasing in the recent months, it has seen a considerable spike in its usage among the general population; many of these newer users do not share the anti-state views of the earlier libertarian bitcoin adopters. Because of this, many libertarian bitcoin users and advocates may feel tempted to downplay the political nature of bitcoin. This is a mistake. The decentralizing aspect of bitcoin is one of its essential characteristics and it cannot function as it was intended without it. As such, bitcoin is political.
The political aspect of bitcoin was noted by Satoshi Nakamoto in his early email discussing his plans for bitcoin. You can see this from his November 7, 2008 email:
>[Lengthy exposition of vulnerability of a systm [sic] to use-of-force monopolies ellided [sic].]
>You will not find a solution to political problems in cryptography.
Yes, but we can win a major battle in the arms race and gain a new territory of freedom for several years.
Governments are good at cutting off the heads of a centrally controlled networks like Napster, but pure P2P networks like Gnutella and Tor seem to be holding their own.
The push for decentralization is especially important today considering the movements by some in the bitcoin community (like the cancelled SegWit2x fork) that would have the effect of centralizing the network. While many of these hard fork advocates claim their goals are to increase the usability of bitcoin through lowering fees and increasing network speed, there are unintended consequences. If running a node requires more computing power, then fewer individuals will be able to run nodes. One of the problems with this is that the individuals are more likely to be operated by the “good guys” (as Satoshi referred to them). The aggregate of the “good guy” computing power is expected to outweigh any single large server farm with nefarious intentions. But if you shake many of the individual nodes out of the network, it means that nefarious large server farms would assume more power.
More power means more control. It means that there’s a greater chance that the network can be attacked and the use of bitcoin exploited. This of course does not mean that every sizeable server farm is working towards malevolent goals, but it certainly makes it easier.
The political ramifications of this are huge. If the bitcoin network becomes centralized to the point that it can be controlled by a decreasing number of nodes, then it can be shut down or otherwise made useless. This is the exact goal of the state. Don’t unwittingly do the state’s work because you are worried about possibly scaring someone about one of the aspects of bitcoin. Don’t lose sight of the fact that bitcoin is political.
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