Bitcoiners are Not Toxic — They Have Integrity.
The difference between seeing “toxicity” and “integrity” is in the eye of the beholder, and the choice of label says a lot more about the beholder than it does about the people they are labeling.
My reading and discussion of this article on the “Smart People Shit” show can be watched here or listened to here.
Bitcoiners Often Get Accused of Being “Toxic”
Over the course of several days, between May 14th to May 16, 2021, an interesting thing happened that can teach people a lot about the bitcoin community. Bitcoiners en masse turned against folk hero Elon Musk — encouraging him to leave Bitcoin and to sell his billions of dollars worth of bitcoins (including those owned by Tesla).
News coverage was quick to label this as yet another example of bitcoiners as toxic and, as usual, the headlines got it all wrong about us again. So I’m writing this to set the record straight.
Here’s a tweet from an honest bitcoin outsider, Lex Fridman, which presumes the community has a trait called ‘toxicity’ and that it is a bad feature because “it drove a lot of folks I know away from Bitcoin, including” Elon Musk. Lex’s tweet also presumes that those folks he knows would have been a net positive for bitcoin. Otherwise, why call it a bug that ‘toxicity’ drove them away?
Are Bitcoiners Insane?
Say what you will about bitcoiners and our economic theories, but there’s no doubt that every one of us knew that if Tesla sold its billions of dollars worth of bitcoin, the price of bitcoin would immediately decline and so would our wealth as measured in dollars. We all knew that even just our encouragement for this would cause other bitcoin ‘investors’ to sell their bitcoins in anticipation of the possibility of it which would also drive down our wealth. And yet, here we were, en masse, on Twitter, urging the richest man on earth to take an action we knew would damage our net worth.
If you look at this and ask “Why would a group of people be prepared to do something that would cause them to lose money?” let me propose an answer to that question that you may find unfathomable at first: To bitcoiners there are a lot of things more important than wealth; especially short term wealth; especially as measured in dollars.
I don’t merely assert this answer and expect you to believe it. I’m going to prove it to you. And in so doing, I’m going to hopefully show you that that thing that some people consider a ‘bug’ in bitcoin that they call ‘toxicity’ is in fact the virtue of integrity.
Let’s Define Our Terms and Apply Them Correctly
If we’re going to debate ‘toxicity’ let’s be clear on what everyone’s meaning of it is so that some of us are not defending one thing while others are critiquing something else. According to the dictionary, toxicity is defined as “the quality of being poisonous” and the relevant definition of poisonous is defined as “extremely unpleasant or malicious.”
I’m even willing, for the time being, to accept a modified label on our alleged ‘toxicity’ then for the purposes of this discussion. But it is important to add an adjective to this loaded term. I’m going to refer to it as ‘principle-based toxicity’. Why? Well, we weren’t toxic towards Elon until he took actions that violated our principles. Let me explain.
‘Principle-based toxicity’ is intolerance of what bitcoiners consider fatal compromises to bitcoin. Examples of what we consider fatal compromises include such ideas as:
- Let’s surrender some decentralization for having the price go up; or
- Let’s surrender some sound engineering for an increase in our user base; or
- Let’s surrender the security created by bitcoin’s energy use for being more popular among those who don’t understand it and (mistakenly) believe that energy use is harmful to the environment.
In fact, all of these, and more, boil down to a broader general case: We are not prepared, under any circumstances, to compromise the integrity of Bitcoin.
A Quick Analogy to Bridges.
Let’s move away from Bitcoin for a minute to instead imagine a bridge. You may not be terribly knowledgable about bridges, but you know they can collapse if improperly built or maintained, and that’s all we need for this comparison.
Imagine if you were in charge of a bridge that people, including yourself, relied on to get from one point to another and that the bridge had to operate without government subsidies, charging its users a price they voluntarily agreed to pay.
What would be the consequences of failing to maintain the integrity of the bridge to the fullest? Would you be prepared to sell off critical components of the bridge and replace them with inferior components for a short term profit? Would you make parts of it out of fragile components because those components were ‘popular’ with people who knew nothing about bridges? Would you adopt unproven (or even falsified) engineering practices because ‘influencers’ advocated for them and threatened to boycott your bridge if you didn’t apply those bad practices?
If you said “yes” to any of the above, the result is that your decisions would eventually lead to the collapse of that bridge and, along with it, possibly death or injury to the unfortunate users who happened to be on it at the time.
If you said “no” to all, congratulations — both you, and your bridge will have integrity.
Now, let’s say these decisions to keep your bridge safe and sound lead to people calling you ‘toxic’. Let’s say these decisions drove away those people who said it should be made out of fragile materials because those materials took less energy to produce than durable, rugged materials. Let’s say many competitors created many fragile bridges and said you were being unnecessarily ‘intolerant’.
Meanwhile, your bridge was supporting large payloads and traffic and you were working carefully to expand its scale safely, while these other bridges carried very little, but generated wild speculative values as their promoters sold shares in them.
If you happen to have integrity, at some point would you say “take your business elsewhere” to the people pushing you to make your bridge a dangerous menace?
But what if doing so made those people say “Aha! I knew you were toxic! You just drove me away! I’m going to put my money into DogeBridge” which happened to be a bridge that was an actual joke and who’s designers merely photocopied blueprints from a wonky bridge and randomly erased some things on those blueprints and wrote in jokes in those spots?
What if it further turned out that after having warmed up to you by claiming to support your bridge, it then turned out that the largest investor in DogeBridge, who also happened to be the richest man on Earth and had tens of millions of followers on Twitter actually lied about the integrity of your bridge on Twitter, threatened to sell all the shares he held in your bridge and suggested he might go “all-in on DogeBridge”? Might you, in light of all that, finally tell him to go fuck himself?
This scenario is precisely what happened with Bitcoin, the system with integrity, its cheap, defective competitors, including Elon Musk’s beloved Dogecoin, and Elon Musk himself.
From Bridges Back To Bitcoin
Like a bridge, Bitcoin is an engineered entity. It is engineered to be safe and sound money.
The bridge scenario described above is exactly the one confronted by Bitcoin and its community every single day. And the choice by bitcoiners to preserve the integrity of our ‘monetary’ bridge, Bitcoin, is precisely the choice we have made for as long as each of us has been involved in this project.
We have integrity and we make no apologies and no excuses for this. To us, Bitcoin isn’t some joke. It isn’t a get rich quick scheme. To many of us it is the most important thing happening in the world. It is a fight for freedom, justice and a return to integrity in a world so sorely lacking integrity that it would label integrity as some form of ‘poison’.
“Integrity is loyalty to one’s convictions and values” — Ayn Rand
Look at What Sacrificing Integrity Has Lead To
Let’s examine what the lack of integrity, or ‘principle-based toxicity’, in other disciplines, like politics, education, environment/climate, healthcare, etc… has lead to.
All of those disciplines, through lacking integrity, have sadly become rotten messes. We have politicians who will lie to become popular on the basis of lies; schooling that indoctrinates our children with politically loaded untruths and which doesn’t teach them how to think for themselves; climate concerns blown way out of proportion, terrifying children and adults alike, instead of proposing rational, scientific solutions; and an exaggeration of historically unprecedented proportions in the over-reaction to covid-19 as a global pandemic. Each of these unprinicpled compromises has lead to an eventual (and sometimes rapid) collapse of the integrity of the system.
Had these other disciplines ‘toxically’ thrown out the charlatans who infiltrated them rather than compromised with them, these disciplines might today stand for something other than being examples of how stupid and detached from reality fields can become when contaminated by false theories.
Aren’t these systems in fact suffering from something that actually would better wear the ‘toxic’ label of “extremely unpleasant and malicious”?
Back to Bitcoiners Again
Now, do ‘principle-based toxic’ bitcoiners have some monopoly on truth? No. Absolutely not in fact.
We have a developing theory that we have confidence in because we’ve seen much evidence for it and nothing contradicting it. We actually have multiple theories — theories about what it takes to defend Bitcoin, theories about what Bitcoin means from a human rights and freedoms perspective, theories about what the principles are that we will under no circumstances compromise even one inch on.
Bitcoin actually lets us preserve the principles essential to these theories because it’s so hard to change. So you’d better believe that we will take a principled and uncompromising stand on Bitcoin — the hill we die on — for preserving our principles.
This is our reaction to Elon Musk’s threat to dump all his Bitcoin and go all in on the idiotic project called Dogecoin:
Warning: ‘Toxic’ Content Ahead
You want unprincipled compromise? You can find plenty of it outside of Bitcoin:
- Join those who want to stop generating energy from fire and don’t want to split the atom either,
- Eat and drink the processed sludge pushed by the largest ‘food’ companies on earth,
- Vote in a ‘choice’ between Biden and Trump
- Watch helplessly as virtue signalling elites speaking of ‘eliminating privelege’ print tens of trillions of dollars out of thin air and hoard the majority of it for themselves.
That’s what you get in these compromised and allegedly ‘non-toxic’ systems. But ask yourself “which system is really toxic? Which system is poisoned to the point of no longer serving the function it claims to?”
Uncompromising Bitcoiners Upholding Integrity
Bitcoin still does everything it said it would in the white paper that was published in 2008 because bitcoiners refuse to surrender an inch of territory.
Does The U.S. government still uphold the rights entrenched in the Bill of Rights or is it in a daily battle against individuals seeking to preserve their freedom? Does the health care system prioritize the care and health of patients above all else, or has it become more about lobbying for government (FDA) approval and using lobbying to keep out competition? I won’t go into endless examples here, because I’m not after attacking other industries in this paper, just defending bitcoiners.
So for anyone who wants us to compromise, we say “Too bad. Go look elsewhere. There’s lots of communities that will compromise. Not this one though.”
If you find our approach repels the unprincipled compromise-seeking people you’d like our community to welcome, you’re out of luck. Go run some other ‘crypto-currency’ (and of course by ‘run’ I don’t mean actually run it in a decentralized manner, because every one of them except Bitcoin has been compromised to the point where you can’t actually do that).
If, on the other hand, you realize that integrity is a trade-off between principle and popularity, then take a good look at Bitcoin. If you realize integrity means not compromising with interests that will harm your goal, you can understand why bitcoiners won’t tolerate the kind of behavior we saw from Elon Musk. And maybe you’ll even come to value what it is we are creating for ourselves and forcing upon nobody. Should you conclude you value what we do, you will find our community to be extremely welcoming, supportive, friendly and even loving.
More from Tomer Strolight
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