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    I don’t have any strong interest in Bitcoin (and know very little about it) and I’m not involved in the community in any way (nor do I know much about that either), but there are some claims made in this article that I want to respond to. I hesitate slightly because they may be off topic, but the author is clearly indicting bitcoin for its politics.

    Let’s assume for a moment that the world would work like this; wouldn’t Bitcoin be the worst economic base in such a world? Without Internet there is no Bitcoin. This might not seem like a big problem, but when we go by recent examples of where people were faced with governments that clearly had bad intents, the availability of internet was very quickly “spotty” or gone entirely. When the Arab Spring took place the people in the countries most affected by violent revolutions either lost their internet access quickly through government control or because the infrastructure ended up destroyed. In either case using Bitcoin for everyday transactions would have been impossible.

    I’ve never understood this criticism. I get why it’s tempting to make because there are a lot of rabid and unreasonable libertarians out there, but it’s criticizing a claim that seems ridiculous to me. Namely, it’s countering the claim that no government is always preferred to any government. Who can actually claim that Somalia is a better place to live than the United States? I don’t know anyone with any credibility that claims this, therefore, even the anarchists among us admit that there are conditions under which some government is better than no government.

    The key phrase missing here is ceteris paribus. When someone says, “I’d rather no/less government,” what they’re really saying is, “All else being equal, I’d prefer no/less government.” The existence of government is not the be-all and end-all of society. Society and standard of living is impacted by a lot more than just governments. This is eminently obvious by taking a simple survey of world: there are plenty of places to live that are good and bad with varying degrees of government size.

    Now, there is another argument to be made here that’s related. That no/less government necessarily leads to worse living conditions. But that is a very different argument to make. Frankly, it’s a deep, deep rabbit hole. (Similarly for the reverse argument.)

    The reason for this is that your Bitcoin is really only yours if the health of the network is guaranteed. If (for whatever reason) the world conspired against you the network can just take away your wealth or decide to no longer accept it.

    While that might not sound very likely to right now, things along this could very well happen.

    I don’t understand this criticism either. I mean, it’s totally true! But why is it relevant? Any currency, including gold, can dramatically lose value. It’s happened throughout history time and again.

    Maybe the argument should be, “Bitcoin is less stable/trusted/secure than [insert preferred currency here].” And that may well be true. Either way, I’m not qualified to make it, and neither is the author. (“It’s not that I have a great understanding of assets (or economics in general)”.)

    Bitcoin will always be valuable for criminals because Bitcoin is written with the idea in mind that oversight would be automatic and controlled by Bitcoin users, and not financial institutions or governments. As such it fundamentally lacks the necessary tools to deal with theft and money laundering. I’m pretty sure if Bitcoin wants to take off as a accepted financial product, it will eventually have to gain support for for binding payments to individuals.

    Isn’t this just the age-old “technology is a double edged sword” argument? It seems rather uninteresting. Maybe the author is trying to make a utilitarian argument that bitcoin’s positives don’t balance its negatives. But of course, not all criminal activity is created equal…

    Bitcoin does not consider death. When you die and nobody but you knows your private key, your assets are gone.

    So you need to protect against this somehow by … what exactly? Maybe you are supposed to share your private key, maybe put it in a bank? Under your mattress? But hey, when you die and lose your coins, everybody else gets a bit richer anyways.

    All my photos are encrypted on my computer and I don’t have my key written down anywhere. If I die, nobody will be able to access them. Certainly, they have value.

    So what? Where does this line of reasoning get us? I don’t know.

    Bitcoin? What would my parents get from that? Credit card transaction fees are lower than the cost (and risk) of conversion of currency from and to bitcoin and are factored into the price. All the other points of bitcoin are working against the consumer: they are harder to handle or secure, there is no bank provided escrow or insurance system, there is no well documented flow of how to do transactions, refunds etc.

    I’ve never used Bitcoin and don’t have any plans to, but these all strike me as things that could be fixed over time. When the Internet was first invented, was it accessible to your average joe? I don’t think so. Imagine if we let that stop us…


    The funny thing is, I’d probably agree with the claim made in the title of the article: “Bitcoin is not a good consumer product.” But the article is constructed from a lot of lazy or unclear arguments, and that’s what I’ve taken issue with here.

    And yeah, anarcho-libertarians can be wicked annoying. Especially when they’re conspiracy theorists. I guess some see Bitcoin as guilty by association? I’m not sure.

    Disclaimer: my philosophical views most closely align with voluntaryism. Despite that, I really don’t care too much about Bitcoin. I think it’s a cool experiment. That’s pretty much it.

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      Bitcoin does not consider death. When you die and nobody but you knows your private key, your assets are gone.

      So you need to protect against this somehow by … what exactly? Maybe you are supposed to share your private key, maybe put it in a bank? Under your mattress? But hey, when you die and lose your coins, everybody else gets a bit richer anyways.

      Correct, like some sort of gold/silver/greenback thing that you collect lots of and bury in the ground. A person could die and these would never be found again!

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        I think the author is asking how Bitcoin could be incorporated into a will.

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        it’s countering the claim that no government is always preferred to any government. Who can actually claim that Somalia is a better place to live than the United States? I don’t know anyone with any credibility that claims this, therefore, even the anarchists among us admit that there are conditions under which some government is better than no government.

        I don’t know about “credibility”, but yes, some bitcoin advocates do literally claim this. I can’t cite an IRC conversation, but I have seen it happen.

        I don’t understand this criticism either. I mean, it’s totally true! But why is it relevant? Any currency, including gold, can dramatically lose value. It’s happened throughout history time and again.

        Have you ever heard a phrase like “My money’s as good as anyone else’s.”? Traditional cash money - gold, used notes, bearer bonds - has anonymity through fungibility. If you’re a medieval Jew (say), as long as you can find one willing/desperate Christian accomplice, you can meet with them in the dead of night and exchange your gold for the goods you want to buy.

        Contrast that with bitcoin. If the network decides it hates AOLers and won’t touch their money, then your transactions won’t go through even as everyone else’s do. And if you did find one person who was willing to buy your filthy AOLer bitcoins, they’d be stuffed themselves, because if they ever tried to spend them everyone would see which coins they were and figure out where they got them from.

        So what? Where does this line of reasoning get us? I don’t know.

        Most people would (I think) consider it extremely antisocial for a dying rich person to e.g. burn their money rather than passing it on to some heirs.

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          I don’t know about “credibility”, but yes, some bitcoin advocates do literally claim this. I can’t cite an IRC conversation, but I have seen it happen.

          Sure. I guess if you want to spend your time trying to argue against every crank on IRC, then that’s your prerogative. But it would be courteous of the author to tell us that instead of leaving us to assume that the author is countering a strongly held claim that has been articulated well by a community.

          I don’t really understand why you put “credibility” in quotes. Credibility is a critical component of discourse. It’s hard to nail down precisely, but it’s important. It saves us from wasting a lot of time. (Of course, it’s certainly abused too! It’s a guiding principle forged in pragmatism, not a hard rule.)

          Have you ever heard a phrase like “My money’s as good as anyone else’s.”? Traditional cash money - gold, used notes, bearer bonds - has anonymity through fungibility. If you’re a medieval Jew (say), as long as you can find one willing/desperate Christian accomplice, you can meet with them in the dead of night and exchange your gold for the goods you want to buy.

          Contrast that with bitcoin. If the network decides it hates AOLers and won’t touch their money, then your transactions won’t go through even as everyone else’s do. And if you did find one person who was willing to buy your filthy AOLer bitcoins, they’d be stuffed themselves, because if they ever tried to spend them everyone would see which coins they were and figure out where they got them from.

          Again, this is a case of “technology is a double edged sword.” The criticism in the OP is “well what if people conspired against you.” Bitcoin might give aggressors more tools, but it might also give them fewer tools! A well balanced critique is going to consider those trade offs.

          (I’m purposefully avoiding the technical specifics because I am out of my depth. I’m not saying you don’t have a valid concern—I’m saying that OP has presented lazy or unclear arguments because it’s clear things have been omitted.)

          Most people would (I think) consider it extremely antisocial for a dying rich person to e.g. burn their money rather than passing it on to some heirs.

          I would too! But so what? I just don’t understand what conclusion we’re supposed to draw from this. That encryption is bad because it isn’t reversible if all knowledge of the key is lost? /shrug

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            Sure. I guess if you want to spend your time trying to argue against every crank on IRC, then that’s your prerogative. But it would be courteous of the author to tell us that instead of leaving us to assume that the author is countering a strongly held claim that has been articulated well by a community.

            Arguably anyone advocating bitcoin is a “crank” in mainstream terms. My impression is that a large proportion of bitcoin advocates are this kind of anti-government extremist. Maybe it’s just a vocal minority, but if the community wants to be taken seriously there needs to be a public position that the bitcoin “system” is willing to expend at least some effort towards complying with the law some of the time. At the moment much of the bitcoin advocacy - even at the less cranky end - is about using it to break the law (e.g. sending money to/from Argentina).

            (I’m purposefully avoiding the technical specifics because I am out of my depth. I’m not saying you don’t have a valid concern—I’m saying that OP has presented lazy or unclear arguments because it’s clear things have been omitted.)

            Shrug. It seemed like a clear, specific technical concern to me. Bitcoin allows the network to conspire against you in a way that’s fundamentally different from a traditional currency, which two people can transact in without involving anyone else.

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              Arguably anyone advocating bitcoin is a “crank” in mainstream terms. My impression is that a large proportion of bitcoin advocates are this kind of anti-government extremist. Maybe it’s just a vocal minority, but if the community wants to be taken seriously there needs to be a public position that the bitcoin “system” is willing to expend at least some effort towards complying with the law some of the time. At the moment much of the bitcoin advocacy - even at the less cranky end - is about using it to break the law (e.g. sending money to/from Argentina).

              I didn’t use “crank” to mean “anyone with tastes too extreme for my sensibilities.” Otherwise, this business of picking apart specific words I’m using (and missing my greater point) is just annoying. Whatever.

              Shrug. It seemed like a clear, specific technical concern to me. Bitcoin allows the network to conspire against you in a way that’s fundamentally different from a traditional currency, which two people can transact in without involving anyone else.

              As I said:

              I’m not saying you don’t have a valid concern

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        As the author points out, one big advantage Bitcoin has over other systems is value it provides to criminals. I think this is one reason people like Bitcoin. One should remember that WikiLeaks is a criminal organization.

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          How exactly is Wikileaks a criminal organisation? What law did it break? As far as I know, publishing the documents is not a crime. Giving them to journalists might be. So Snowden and Manning are perhaps technically the criminals, according to laws I probably don’t agree with, but Wikileaks or the New York Times are not criminals for publishing the documents.

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            More accurately, WikiLeaks was once treated as a criminal organization by payment industry (not any more), so WikiLeaks turned to Bitcoin and enjoyed same values enjoyed by criminals using Bitcoin. I donated Bitcoin to WikiLeaks, and that event made my attitude towards Bitcoin more positive, and I think my experience is shared by many.

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          Is this sentence supposed to read this way?

          There is not a day where a Bitcoin exchange gets hacked, or someone uses Bitcoin as a way to extort money out of people.

          Or should it be

          There is not a day where a Bitcoin exchange does not get hacked, or someone where someone does not use Bitcoin as a way to extort money out of people.

          Otherwise, good article :)