The Bitcoin Rule: Do Unto Others and Be Done Unto By Them Only By Mutual Agreement
A Whole Moral Code in a Single Sentence: The Golden Rule
It is amazing that something so complicated as a moral code could be summed up in a single sentence. A moral code is, after all, a set of principles that are meant to govern all your actions. These includes actions you take both unto yourself and unto others.
Most people do not even realize that one needs a moral code when acting alone. But one does. This is because one owes oneself the duty to behave in principled actions so that one does not harm or even end their own life. You shouldn’t eat junk food, for example, not because of how it affects other people (because it doesn’t), but because of how it affects you!
However, it is with respect to our relationship with others that this piece is focused on. And it is remarkable that a single sentence, known as the golden rule, has served as a reasonable summary of a decent moral code for a very long time — much as gold served as a reasonable money for a very long time.
The golden rule, as nearly everyone know, states:
Do unto others as you you would have them do unto you.
This is its positive form.
It also exists in its equally useful negative form:
Don’t do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.
It is a very wise rule. In many situations it is a reasonable rule to live by. However, it has a flaw. That flaw is that you are unique, and so is everyone else. What you might want done unto you may not be what someone else wants done unto them. Or, for your own sake, it may be that what someone else wants done unto them is something you absolutely don’t want done unto you.
Note how the golden rule is failing us today. The greatest example is this: Those who want the covid vaccine — that is, those who want the injection of the vaccine done unto them — are following the golden rule perfectly when they insist others take the vaccine as well. They are trying to do unto others as they have had done unto themselves. There is no breach of this moral code in insisting someone else be vaccinated if you want to be vaccinated. The same goes for being taxed, being given government education, government health care, and anything else where people insist others be done unto as they want done unto themselves.
The Platinum Rule
This shortcoming of the golden rule is not a new discovery. There has been a re-formulation of it for many years that is called The Platinum Rule. It states
Do unto others as they would want done unto them.
It is a more thoughtful formulation of the golden rule. It requires its practioners try to understand what the desires of someone else are, and then that they seek to fulfil those desires rather than simply projecting their own unique desires unto everyone else.
As but one example of it, I want someone to prepare for me a delicious feast of my favourite food, but that particular food could in fact, due to an allergy, be lethally dangerous to someone I would like to prepare a delightful meal for. I can’t serve them the meal I want served unto me. That’s an example of its superiority to the golden rule.
These moral-codes-in-a-sentence are so simple to state and analyze that they do not require much philosophical analysis to judge them. But they do require a little.
Why isn’t the platinum code a perfect substitute for the golden one?
Well, it too has a weakness. It does not answer why or when or under what circumstances you should be doing unto others as they want done unto them. If you follow this rule unquestioningly, you will become exhausted, hungry, tired, and taken advantage of by others who themselves are not following the rule! This rule grants asymmetric benefits in favour of those who don’t follow it, at the expense of those who do.
For example, if I am following this rule by doing unto another person whatever they tell me they want done unto them, but who do not follow it themselves – a person doing nothing for me in return – I am their slave!
The Un-Named Rule
There is also an openly evil reformulation of these rules. It does not have a name because evildoers rarely like to openly identify as evil. But this rule does exist and it is wickedly stated thus as the perversion it is of moral codes intending to do good:
Do unto others before they do unto you.
The first time I heard someone state this I was completely shocked. It was in first year business school and a young student turned to me and said something like “I know what business is all about — screw the other guy before he screws you.” (This is, by the way, not what business is all about at all, but the fact that there are people who believe it, in business, in politics, and in other disciplines, simply cannot be denied.)
This un-named rule is the moral code of scammers, of fraudsters, of thieves, of attackers, and of killers. People who live by this rule view other people as both threats and as victims. They view the relationships between people as filled with mistrust.
Worst of all, the more people there are that practice this moral code, the more it makes sense to practice it. For example, if you are surrounded by people who are out to screw you, you may not see a way through other than screwing them.
The Missing Moral Ingredient — Reciprocity
All these moral codes have a missing ingredient. That ingredient, in a word, is reciprocity. Reciprocity is defined as
The practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.
It is perhaps not a coincidence that neither the golden nor the platinum rule fail to mention reciprocity. This might be because both gold and platinum can be seized from a practioner of those rules by a practitioner of the un-named rule. If you are in possession of gold or platinum, a practitioner of the un-named rule can take it from you by force, even if it means killing you first. Both those rules implicitly acknowledge that there is a desire to be treated well by others. But they command only the practioner to treat others well. And both are silent about the fact that it is possible for others to ignore these rules.
Enter the Bitcoin Rule
Formulated in this tradition of “doing unto others,” the Bitcoin rule states this:
Do unto others and be done unto by them only by mutual agreement.
The Bitcoin rule leaves no room for force, for fraud, or for unstated expectations of reciprocity where one hopes that another person will repay kindness with further kindness instead of with cruelty.
Why call this The Bitcoin Rule?
Because Bitcoin is the only instrument that makes such a moral code enforceable. Bitcoiners reading this will know that someone wanting to do harm unto them to try to get their bitcoin is largely wasting their time. Killing a bitcoiner will not release their bitcoin to the murderer. Neither will ordering them to surrender their bitcoin — they are self-sovereign. Only agreeing with a bitcoiner for an exchange which both parties find acceptable will do.
Before Bitcoin was invented, and before Capitalism became so corrupted in practice, this rule could have been called the Capitalist Rule. But we are too far gone for that now. Capitalism’s meaning is so obscured and distorted that the word is lost to us. Furthermore, in the face of the existence of Bitcoin, which flawlessly defends one’s ability to practice this rule it is now more appropriate to call this rule the Bitcoin rule even if we had pure, voluntarily capitalism.
This rule is a perfectly sound and stable rule to live by. Living by this rule does not expose you to being exploited by those who live by the un-named rule. You must of course be careful, as there are many people who practice that rule in some aspect of their lives — and they are after your bitcoin — but they cannot take your bitcoin from you by doing unto you anything that doesn’t get you to voluntarily relinquish bitcoin to them.
If I had to elaborate any further on the Bitcoin Rule, it would fail the test of being a useful moral-code-in-a-sentence. So I just leave you with it again a final time. Feel free to sharpen it as best suits you. I’ll see you out there in the real world, where we will interact by that rule, with love and kindness towards one another, or not at all:
Do unto others and be done unto by them only by mutual agreement.