Erik Weijers, a year ago

Ethereum founder: Bitcoin maximalism is ok!

Was it an April Fools’ joke? For a moment, readers of the article Vitalik Buterin wrote about Bitcoin maximalism were in doubt. But the article appears to be dead serious: the founder of Ethereum makes a well-thought-out plea in defense of the fiercest fighters for the big daddy among cryptos: Bitcoin.

Bitcoin maximalism is an attitude of Bitcoin's hardcore supporters. They are not the most sociable guests at birthday parties and on Twitter. In fact, they are highly skeptical, not to mention downright hostile, about other crypto projects. Anything that is not Bitcoin, they consider a scam. That's why it's striking that the mild-mannered Vitalik Buterin is making a case for the hordes who see him as a charlatan and traitor (Buterin began his career in crypto as a writer for Bitcoin Magazine).

Perhaps Buterin's plea can be understood from his idealistic nature. In his interview in Time, he wasn't too keen on the NFT mania of punks and apes, made possible by his life's work. He founded Ethereum in the hope that all sorts of projects would be built on it that would benefit humanity, such as fair systems for voting and ways to spread a basic income. Perhaps he recognizes in Bitcoin maximalists the same drive to fight for one’s ideals.

When intolerance makes sense

The thread of Buterin's argument is as follows.

  1. There are real dangers lurking in our world in terms of security and privacy. If we leave the increased possibilities of data collection to governments and large corporations, a totalitarian nightmare looms.
  2. Blockchain technology is essentially a security technology, protecting the individual from authoritarian forces. This is no fad.
  3. Costs must be incurred in some shape or form to make this protection possible. In the case of Bitcoin, for example, in the form of energy consumption. The network is not optimized for energy efficiency but for security.
  4. Bitcoin has claimed the role of blockchain money and does that one thing very well.
  5. Bitcoin survives not only because of its elegant technical design but also because of its culture of evangelists and defenders: maximalists, in other words.
  6. The Bitcoin maximalists make sure that no one messes with the design and that copy cat coins are attacked. Conservatism is a strength here, and so is intolerance. With a liberal community, Bitcoin would have ceased to exist already.

As we have come to expect from him, Buterin takes himself to task. He includes photos of himself shaking hands with government leaders, including Putin.

“Now ask yourself the question: when the time comes, actually important things are happening on the blockchain - actually important things that offend people who are powerful - which ecosystem would be more willing to put its foot down and refuse to censor them no matter how much pressure is applied on them to do so? The ecosystem with globe-trotting nomads who really really care about being everyone's friend, or the ecosystem with people who take pictures of themslves with an AR15 and an axe as a side hobby?”

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