A group of convicted Bitcoin enthusiasts discuss what makes bitcoin fundamentally different from other cryptocurrencies.
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[00:00:07] CK: Before we like really get into it, maybe just give the background on why addressing this topic is important.
[00:00:15] Rizzo: Yeah, sure. Hey, everybody. So yeah, my background, I’ve been a cryptocurrency journalist, Bitcoin and cryptocurrency journalist since about 2013. So yeah, I’ve had a lot of time to look over some of these questions. I was Editor-in-Chief at Coindesk for five or six years, now editor at Bitcoin magazine and Editor-at-Large over at kraken. And yeah, I feel like this article was really kind of came out of the process of being troubled by some things, right? I think one of the main troubles I’ve had for a while is that it seems like there's this popular opinion that it's okay to be neutral or agnostic to cryptocurrencies so that you can just sort of have a neutral view or that all cryptocurrencies are the same.
I think you particularly kind of see this with the mainstream journalism approach to Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies where they sort of just treat them like a market, right? They're sort of all the same, and there's not really like a specific consideration given for the designs of these systems or even acknowledgement that they are financial systems or that the users in these systems might be engaging with these systems in ways that they don't really quite understand. So I think that was the first point.
And then I think you know the second point really would be that there's also like different attitudes to the market itself, right? So I think as you spend more time with people who are Bitcoin maximalists and then if you spend any time with people who are more kind of agnostic to cryptocurrencies, you can kind of see that they have different attitudes for the cryptocurrency market. They think it's doing different things, right? So in some cases Bitcoin maximalists might not check coin mark cap at all. Like you might go a whole month without looking at this website, and then other people in the kind of the crypto agnostic group, they’re checking Missouri or coin marker cap like every day, right? And they think that this like means something or that this information is telling them something.
And yeah, so I think it was really boring out of those two things, right? This idea that there's some neutrality and the idea that this market is like an effective mediator of things. And then also I would just say that over the years I’ve just been pushed more and more I feel like into the camp of feeling like Bitcoin has a pretty foundational value proposition that it's actually delivering against and that I haven't really seen similar things in the cryptocurrency space. And yeah, I guess that was the inspiration of that, if that helps.
[00:02:18] CK: Anything. No. I think that that's a great backdrop and you gave Pierre just enough time to join us on stage.
[00:02:25] Rizzo: [inaudible 00:02:25].
[00:02:27] CK: Really quick. Before we dive fully into this conversation, I just want to tell you guys about the Bitcoin Conference, Bitcoin 2022 next year, in Miami, April 6th through the 9th. Come meet all of your favorite Bitcoiners including my man Pete Rizzo and many, many others. It's going to be the biggest Bitcoin event in history by a long shot breaking the record that we currently hold for Bitcoin 2021. And, yeah, I can't recommend it enough. So use promo code satoshi. Save yourself 10% off. Go get your tickets. Tickets will be going up pretty much once a month between now and April. So get them while they're cheap. See you in Miami.
But let's get back into this conversation. Again, you can see pinned to the top here is Rizzo's tweet with his article embedded in it kind of going over this at length. Highly recommend that you go over it. But we have Pierre as well as Rizzo here. So I will shut my mouth and hand it back to them.
[00:03:27] Rizzo: Yeah, appreciate it. Pierre, can you hear me?
[00:03:29] Pierre: Yes, I can. Yes, I can. And actually, I want to respond to the topic that you were talking about when I joined, which was about checking CoinMarketCap. And it extends further to not only do a lot of Bitcoin maximalist not check CoinMarketCap in a relative sense to the other cryptos, but also just with regards to Bitcoin's exchange rate with the dollar or with fiat currencies. And I hear it rather frequently both from let's call them Bitcoin community members, but also from Bitcoin protocol developers and researchers that they have zero concern about Bitcoin's exchange rate. And their development work their protocol engineering and how they think about Bitcoin is not to pump your bags essentially. And that I find to be jarring to folks who come in the space as fiat maximalist.
[00:04:28] Rizzo: Yeah, I definitely would echo that and say like just introduce this conversation. So Pierre has kind of helped me I guess edit this article a bit or at least I feel like you've seen so many versions of this article, Pierre, that I thought it'd be fun to have a conversation. And I appreciate CK and then Bitcoin Magazine for accommodating us on short notice. But yeah, Pierre, I think it was more just like I thought you've seen different stages of this. I feel like you've heard what I’ve been trying to get across and some of the frustrations and thought it might be fun to pick your brain about what I was able to get across.
And it sounds like you agree that maybe something in the article does well is at least kind of setting up that, again, like starting to parse like what is it that actually differentiates Bitcoin maximalists. And I guess like what I ended up labeling as other cryptocurrency people, I kind of want them in a bucket called crypto agnostics, right? So I guess we can debate that definition as well. But trying to figure out, okay, there're definitely some different attitudes here. And these attitudes, they really extend beyond like any specific coin, right? Like these are attitudes towards rights and values or just like general proclivities to like human institutions that again like have nothing really to do with like whether you think Tron is good or anything like that or that smart contracts are a thing or what have you or [inaudible 00:05:35], right? So I guess I was trying to pull out those strings and come up with an interesting way to sort of partition those groups.
[00:05:42] Pierre: So one of the challenges that I saw as this piece developed is the intersection between technical engineering concepts like hard fork versus soft fork and their political governance implications and how the philosophy of it. There's just a lot of debate there. How did you see navigating that intersection, which is rather complex?
[00:06:06] Rizzo: Yeah, I think this is one of the reasons why this issue doesn't get talked about more, right? So I think part of it was just trying to find a better explanation for it since I think that there's been this disconnect for a while where I feel like there's really some fundamental divides in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency space, but they just haven't really resonated for whatever reason, which is why I think you still sort of have this thing where – And again, I think this is really where we have to kind of start thinking about this argument, because I do think the popular press and like investors, it's like they still treat these things as like all the same, right? And they have this tendency to like dismiss the pretty significant distinctions between how these systems are created. So I think it's like sort of a failure of argument to like they've been sort of allowed to slip this argument by where it's like look at how Bloomberg covers the cryptocurrency market, right? They are doing the same thing that everybody else is doing. They're logging on to Messari or CoinMarketCap and they're sort of looking at the prices of these various coins and they're deriving some like meaning or value from those, right?
So I think it started with that, which is at least trying to identify that. But I guess peel it back a little bit, you realize that the reason that they don't understand these distinctions is just that, yes, they are quite technical, but are they really, right? So I think I spent a lot of time trying to figure out like how to frame hard forks for it and soft works and whether to even use that terminology, because I feel like ultimately you sort of end up with this idea of like, okay, you can frame them technically or you can frame them in terms of how they affect the user, right? And in terms of technical definition, the hard work of cryptocurrency, you're essentially introducing a new rule to the system that everybody hasn't agreed to. You're saying that in order to upgrade to this new system you have to agree to that rule. And then if enough people kind of switch over, you'll essentially end up in a situation where anyone who's on that minority fork, they have to either choose to bear the cost of creating a new cryptocurrency or they have to do what the majority says, right?
So I think you ultimately have to kind of frame that situation as one of user rights and like rights tolerance. And I think this is really one of the actual fundamental divides between Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies. And I ultimately sort of framed it as this, is like in Bitcoin you have the right to dissent, right? You have the right to do something that the majority does not want. And I actually think this is like a really, really stark dividing line between Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and other cryptocurrencies. Like you very rarely, if never, see that there's some community or sub-community within these coins that is running anything other than like the latest software that like everybody else has sort of deemed like they want to run, right? Like if you're running the original Ethereum software, well, you're on Ethereum classifier. You're on some wholly different chain.
And again I think all this stuff can get really quite technical if you look at it from a technical perspective, which is why I think I really kind of struggled with it for so long. And I think I ended up with this framework that I actually really liked, which is that I think what other cryptocurrencies have done really well is that they have successfully won this argument where it's like you have the right to use money however you want. So like all these cryptocurrencies and the market are providing that. And that's good. You should feel like that's good, right?
So the cryptocurrency market is like this big arcade. You've got all these kind of shiny games and there's this sort of narrative that all these things are your choice, your rights to use any of these systems, right? And then there's no sort of equal argument of like what you're giving up, right? So I do think that it is true that the cryptocurrency market and the optionality they're in, it like does give the right to use your money in a lot of different ways.
But in the Bitcoin system, by being more restrictive, I think you have a couple second order rights that don't get enough dialogue. One, it's like you have the right to a known supply an issue and schedule, right? So you know how much money there is and how much everyone else has, right? We often frame that as like Bitcoin economics or superior or make some sort of esoteric argument like that. When really it's like you have the right to know how much money there is in the supply, right? It is fixed and it is finite and that's also important too, but you know you have a right to that information. And Bitcoin provides you that, right? The ability to kind of check that and audit that. And I think you've banged the drum on that a lot, right?
And the other one is you have this right to dissent. Like you can choose not to run Taproot if you want and you still hold Bitcoin, right? And I think that you know when you kind of strip it down, it's like you have these other kind of rights or that Bitcoin protects. I think a lot of it was trying to say, “Okay, can we elevate, discuss these things? Like do they actually exist?” And I think the answer is yes. I think Bitcoin protects user rights to a higher level. And I think you have rights within the Bitcoin system that you don't have elsewhere. And I don't really know what that means, right? Like I can't tell you what to make of that information. I think right now all I’ve figured out is that it's just the more that I think about it, it seems true, if that makes sense.
[00:10:37] Pierre: Yes. So there's part of it that is challenging, because we're saying that this system is decentralized. And so if we take that seriously, then that means that nobody controls it, and yet it's a human system. So somebody has to be controlling it, right? How do you see that?
[00:10:56] Rizzo: You mean the idea that somebody has to be controlling it or there has to be some mechanism?
[00:10:59] Pierre: Well, let's take the absurd argument that I sometimes hear from some coroners that Adam Beck controls Bitcoin, right? And so they want to find somebody who controls it.
[00:11:11] Rizzo: Yeah, I think that's interesting, right? And I think this has actually come up in a lot of the criticism from people within the Bitcoin crowd who like feel like this piece didn't go far enough, right? So I think one of the criticisms I heard from people is that they like sort of the positioning of being pro Bitcoin maximalism, but they felt like – And I did end up consolidating on this phrase, which is I think you can charitably say – And I use the word charitably. I think you could charitably say a lot of other cryptocurrencies use sort of a rule by majority type decision making apparatus. And I think in a lot of DeFi coins or like decentralized applications, I think that's like pretty explicit, right? They're not even really shy about that. That's just like how they function, right? And some of them you can just straight up vote for things. And if you're in the majority, that's great. And if not, you sort of get pushed aside, right?
So I think that some people wanted, I think, to call out more that, really, if they are ruled by majority systems, well, in a lot of cases there isn't that much of a majority, right? Like as we saw, I was actually just thinking before this call, there was that funny situation in like 2019 where I think it was Steemit or something, Justin Sun bought that decentralized articles content platform and then he took over all the votes behind the scenes and then ended up sort of ringing the election in his favor in order to like return the votes to Tron. So there are these like situations in the past of cryptocurrencies through where it's like even if you consider them rule by majority type structures, that ends up being like a pretty terrible definition, because, look, at the end of the day like cryptocurrencies are all networks, right? Somebody has to be running a software. And I think we've figured out in Bitcoin, the definition of user is someone who's running on software.
So I guess all that said, the management of it becomes sort of like, well, there is that need to feel like who's in control. And Bitcoin, the answer is quite clearly nobody, right? Like nobody's running it. And I think sort of what we figured out is like the alternative to like no one being in control of a thing is that you have to sort of rely on starting to build these like new types of – Or not even new. You just have to start relying on old types of governance structures where there has to be some thing making the decision, right?
And in a lot of cases I think how the sort of crypto agnostic people sort of rationalize this is they let the market be the judge, right? I think like this is the probably most famous in the Ethereum and Ethereum Classic split where you had a choice where essentially the market was asked to decide whether someone who behaved a certain way still had access to their money, and the market chose that they did not, right? They chose to rescind that right to that individual.
So I think in some cases like you end up with an even weirder situation where maybe there's no one control and maybe there's some nodes running the software. But in the end of the day they're just sort of deviating to the market, right? Like you're actually just in the place of there being someone making a decision to run software. There is a market that is like cumulatively making that decision and that market is choosing to rescind the rights of the individual. And I think what's weird about that is that the people who seem to think that that is okay also don't seem to think that there's anything wrong with that, right? Like they seem to sort of think that it is okay to take away someone's rights to something if enough people agree, right? And I think that's sort of a strange viewpoint. I don't know how to feel about it exactly. I haven't spent enough time to really sit with it. But I think that – I don't know. It's definitely a new sort of moral choice, right? If you have this idea where fiat currencies are sort of ruled by government, there's at least this facade that we're electing officials and these officials are making decisions, and that their decisions represent our interests. And the cryptocurrency system, it seems like what has happened is there’s this offloading of that responsibility like not to the actual individual and the individual's choice but to the market itself, right? But the market should be what makes these decisions and the arbiter of everything up to and including making or justifying choices that you in other contexts maybe think immoral.
[00:14:59] Pierre: Right. And I’ve certainly heard conversations where abstract arguments over whether something is decentralized or not then get cut by somebody saying look the price of this has doubled in sats terms and so who are you to argue with the market, right? That this kind of relativism, nihilism maybe, driven by the market.
[00:15:26] Rizzo: I think that's why what you're saying is interesting, because like Bitcoin didn't grow up with the market, right? Like you do have this period of about a year in Bitcoin's development history where the market does not exist, right? Like Satoshi never priced Bitcoin and he never sold Bitcoin. There was really no concept that the market was an actor within the world of Bitcoin, right? So Bitcoin is invented. It exists.
And this is where I really I think spent a lot of time thinking about it where I think you have to start viewing the cryptocurrency market as like it's almost like an invention that's so omnipresent to us that like we don't think about it at all, right? It's something that it's like a frame on the industry that we've all accepted like very unconsciously and it is something that like especially from the people who are coming from the outside world, I would argue that like most of them still continue to look at the industry through that frame, right? They are looking at CoinMarketCap every day. They are looking at Missari every day. They are sort of looking at this market, like this random prices of random numbers and they're trying to derive the meaning from that. But in the early days of Bitcoin, like that was completely absent. That machine hadn't been created. There was no utility for such a thing. So you have to kind of start asking like, “Well, why is it that that machine was created? How did it emerge and like what function did it serve?” right? It's like on one hand it's like, yes, it is true that people did begin trading Bitcoin and then people created a market for Bitcoin. But over time this changed greatly, right? Originally, you had alternative cryptocurrencies. So versions of Bitcoin software that claim to do new things.
But I would argue that sort of in the mid-2010s you sort of have this phenomenon where the market sort of started to become like more of an arbiter of decisions, right? And I evoke one of the arguments from Vitalik that essentially says this in the article where one of the reasons I think he was able to sort of walk away from the Ethereum fork like sort of thinking that he did or acted in a way that like was right, was that he essentially let the market make a choice, right? And this is like what he advocated for, is that cryptocurrencies should be market-driven and how they make choices, right? And I think that's like a really interesting thing if you sit with that long enough, because you're sort of arguing that like at the end of the day whatever the market decides to do is okay.
And, I think, in the instance of, again, going back to the DAO hacker, but again, this is sort of like kind of ancient history at this point, but it's a relevant example, where you had a case where someone's right to money was rescinded, right? The majority as determined by the market made some choice to rescind someone's access to money, right? This man had money and then the Ethereum blockchain or this person, and then this group of people as represented by the market made that money no longer exist.
Anyway, I think that's like an interesting frame not for the minutia, but if you just really focus on the user relationship to the financial system itself and like what guarantees you have. And I think if you look at it from that like binary lens and just really kind of cut a line, it's that I think you can say that the cryptocurrency ecosystem broadly beyond Bitcoin, they're a group of financial systems in which there are weaker guarantees, and in a lot of respects, like decision making, I would say up to and including how decisions are made over people's rights are left to the determination of the market. And I just think that that makes them different, right? Like that is a different characteristic and I don't think that that is true in Bitcoin anymore, right? We've made the decision to continue to, I guess, as far as we can technically pursue software changes that people can opt into, we're going to continue to have this environment where people have the option to dissent, right? You don't have to run SegWit, you don't have to run Taproot, and you still hold Bitcoin, right? And I think that, again, speaking of like from a rights perspective, it's very clear that that right does not exist elsewhere. So I think maybe to back it like way up, I think there's a lot of arguments that have been put forth for Bitcoin maximalism. I think you have your economic arguments that Bitcoin is the best money and it satisfies the properties of money and a lot of people here, who I see listening, have just written really great stuff about that. And I’m not trying to dismiss those arguments.
I think you know there's also the network argument Bitcoin is the most decentralized. It does lowest cost of entry. You can run a node in a cheaper way than you can on other networks. And then you have the launch argument, which is that Bitcoin had this immaculate conception and they'll never be another group of currency that's able to spontaneously monetize from nothing. And I think those are all interesting arguments. But I think we may have like kind of reached the limitation of those being things that are broadly useful, because, again, I really question whether they actually get to the heart of things, right? I mean the economic argument, obviously, that's a huge differentiator, right? Bitcoin, you have the finite limit on the economy and then the cryptocurrency system you have the professional inflation of more cryptocurrencies. Obviously, red line difference there. But does that argument relate to a lot of people? I don't know. I feel like you know this is something that's come up a lot lately is how relatable are the Bitcoin maximalist arguments. And I think, certainly, again, that doesn't invalidate them. That doesn't make them bad. But I think as evangelist for things, you should be trying to kind of figure out new ways to relate to people. And I guess all I’m trying to introduce here – And I actually really question whether I really do a lot new here. It’s just that if you look at cryptocurrencies as financial systems and you use the grading system of, “Okay, well, how well do they ensure the rights of those participants?” I think it's pretty clear that you end up defining Bitcoin as a system in which you have more different types of rights to your money than you do in other cryptocurrencies or the entire market for those cryptocurrencies at large, if that makes sense.
[00:20:56] Pierre: Yes. So we've heard you bring up a lot of historical examples as ways of verifying the substance of these guarantees. Do they actually exist? Is it just marketing? Are these rights real or are they ephemeral and do they collapse under pressure? And so it seems like a lot of the way that you can prove your argument is through historical examples, which I think is great, but it also carries with it a lot of danger. And you see people bring up like, “Oh!” Well, there was the what about-ism, right? Well, what about when this happened with Bitcoin, et cetera.
But also from kind of a first principles perspective, why is looking at the history more legitimate than looking at the market? And maybe Vitalik's view would be that looking at the market is more socially scalable than people studying the history in order to derive some political philosophy and verify it.
[00:21:53] Rizzo: Yeah, I guess that's interesting. I think like the history – Well, I mean, if you accept that Bitcoin is an invention, that's sort of the frame that I’ve come to over the years to look at Bitcoin, then you sort of accept that Bitcoin is a system that we still don't know much about, right? And that's why probably more than most people, I do take a bit more of a lenient view towards like the cryptocurrency builders, because I honestly don't know if – There's a lot of naivete when it comes to something new, right? And there are a lot of ideas that we're pursuing in the cryptocurrency space and like certainly we know they don't work now, and maybe that's worth something for something, right?
So I would say to the history question, one, it's understanding that this is something new and it's understanding that the participants in the system might not always be aware of like what they're doing to the highest degree, right? Like that is the lesson of history, right? Why do we go back and like study history, right? You'll go back and you'll find that just in certain time periods there were just like hugely different attitudes toward things, right? And in some cases those attitudes are much different now. But I do think with cryptocurrencies is worth keeping that in mind, because I think if you take that lens, you can sort of come up with new ways to look at it. So when we were talking about the market, like when does the market become something that is relevant in the Bitcoin story? I do think that you actually have this interesting phenomenon where the people who are in Bitcoin early, they sort of fall into different groups, right? They're sort of open source advocates. There're developers, and there's these sort of libertarian government type people, right? A lot of the early people were sort of Ron Paul type supporters, right? So you do have this influx of libertarianism where there is more of an attitude towards absolute freedom towards the market should decide.
And I think it's interesting considering like, “Okay, well how did that actually affect cryptocurrency?” Well, it seems like one of the side effects of that is that the influx of the people who felt that way, they redirected the industry in some way like over to that viewpoint. Prior to them entering the way they did, you actually didn't see people making decisions and deference to a market at all or that concept. And then when you have an influx of people who are more U.S. style libertarian type thinkers, and that's not to say everybody who fell into that camp immediately embraced this, but you do see those people start to defer to the market. And I think that obviously sort of impacted things, right?
So I think to your question, like why doesn't the market matter? Well, I don't know. I think that at some point the crypto market – I don't know if this is controversial, but like you have to sort of wonder how rational it is, right? And I think Bitcoin maximalists, like I think we certainly have a weird relationship to that, right? Like it feels good to like log in every day. And I guess if you look at CoinMarketCap, to like see Bitcoin as number one. But does that mean anything? Like are we deriving value from that? Like it seems so, because it feels good and it's something we use in arguments against other coins, right? We sort of say like, “Oh, well, other cryptocurrencies, they'll never overtake Bitcoin. They haven't overtaken Bitcoin. Therefore, Bitcoin's the best.”
I don't know. I know we've had private conversations about this as well, right? I would like kind of push back on that, right? I think you either sort of view the cryptocurrency market as a bad indicator and don't think it's capable of producing information, which is that the market participants don't know enough to make rational choices and for that market to be valid, or you think it's valid, right? In which case, I don't know how you really begin to explain the activity there, right? And I do think Bitcoin maximalists by and large like do have different attitudes to the market, right? I wouldn't say that all of them discard it. I mean, I think that, certainly, most would agree that it's problematic, right? But I don't know, right? I mean, look at something like Dogecoin, right? How many people are running the Dogecoin software? So, there, and you have like an interesting question about how functional the crypto market is. And I’m sure you know that already and are trying to just parse some argument out of me.
So I guess to sum up that question about the history of things. One, I think history is a powerful teacher. We can learn things. And I think that, likely, when all is said and done in the Bitcoin history, we'll go back to earlier periods and the find we just had huge biases that we didn't quite understand. And you probably don't tell that so much later. And then with the cryptocurrency market itself, I think everybody has to decide how rational you think it is. If you don't think it's rational, how relevant is it that Bitcoin is the largest there. And is that a valid argument for Bitcoin maximalism, right?
I would say that the argument that Bitcoin is the number one cryptocurrency like by economic demand within the cryptocurrency market is probably a pretty weak reason to be a Bitcoin maximalist, because I personally don't derive much from that.
[00:26:29] Pierre: Fair. So I feel like you've straw manned my view. So I’m going to defend myself even though I know you haven't. So I think the market is effective at reflecting what people think. So I don't think that Bitcoin is number one despite everyone hating it. I think that it sits about where people as a whole think. And then we could argue about whether those people are rational or not. They certainly are not in my book, but that's fine.
The history part, I loved your piece about the P2SH governance debate, because history repeated itself. And so we can think that, well, it certainly repeated itself with SegWit. And then I think that people learned the Bitcoin protocol. Researchers learned enough from SegWit activation to have history not repeat itself with Taproot activation. And so there's history repeating itself, but people also learning. So perhaps in terms of pressure testing these rights, pressure testing these guarantees of these systems and finding the flaws that that will continue to happen over and over and the people will learn from that. But on the other hand, there are new people washing up on the shores of our crypto land every day and the process starts over. Is there any hope that the median crypto investor is going to have his views evolve, or are we just going to keep repeating history?
[00:27:57] Rizzo: Well, I guess I would say, like, I mean, I think we can do more, which is one of the reasons why I tried to workshop this argument and then present it. Which is I think that if you view Bitcoin as a system, a financial system, and a financial system that ensures some rights, and we can get into like why that's a reasonable position. One, I would say that the entire basis for Bitcoin, and you can go back to Satoshi, is we wanted to create a money system that did not rely on central banking, right? Immediately, you have that context in which it was established as an alternative, right? So you have some historical basis for Bitcoin being an alternative to the fiat system. That's why we're here, right? It wasn't that there was no digital money, right? Like money was moving digitally through computers. Their entire financial markets that were running on numbers like moving over tubes and wires, right? Really, you sort of have Bitcoin sort of emerge from that, right?
So I think that you have to then sort of define, “Okay, well, then Bitcoin is an alternative to the current fiat money system,” right? And I think if you look at the sort of rights argument, it sort of gets interjected there, right? So like why was it needed for Bitcoin to exist? Well, Satoshi believed that he could create a system, I think, that better insured the users rights to money, right? One, that they were able to kind of cryptographically prove that they held money. And then two, that they were able to have the right to audit that financial system via running a node. And then three, that there was a known issuance in supply, right? Like he wanted, I think, on some level to give that ability to people, right? And I guess this is where you get the really fuzzy gray area of like what's a feature versus what is it right. And like those two words actually even have any difference?
I think that if you define them as rights, you start to really get at what I think has been a really great argument for Bitcoin, which is the moral argument for Bitcoin, right? I sort of reference this to the top of the piece that I think some of the most powerful arguments that have been put forward recently are Alex Gladstein's talking about Bitcoin in developing countries, and Jimmy Song’s moral case for Bitcoin, which is actually kind of where I ended up down this whole rabbit hole was, “Okay. Well, what's interesting about those arguments that make moral cases for Bitcoin, the Bitcoin is a right or just financial system, is they often don't make the counter argument that other cryptocurrencies are somehow unjust or weaker than that,” right?
So a lot of the arguments that Alex Gladstein makes I think are great, but there are arguments for Bitcoin within the context of fiat money, and they don't actually really go much into like discussing that Alex do this in his tweets why other cryptocurrencies don't ensure those rights that well. So therefore, you sort of have this idea where on some level we have to believe that, because I think we've all sort of gravitated to those narratives where we find them appealing. There's some inherent pull two thinking that Bitcoin is inherently moral, or that is a better system, or that it ensures rights, right? So that it seems like we have some relationships with that. Yet, there wasn't really anyone who was kind of like extrapolating it, right? So I think we know now why Bitcoin is a better system than fiat, right? I think there's been enough intellectual work that has been done to like answer that argument, right?
So then the next level argument is, “Okay. Well, then how is Bitcoin somehow more moral or how does it guarantee the financial rights of users more than other cryptocurrencies?” I think that's the question where I don't honestly think we've been as good at like finding an answer there. I don't even know if this article is in itself like a great answer to that. I think it's starting to try to define that right by saying, “Okay, if we really all do believe that Bitcoin is a system that ensures financial rights and that ensures financial rights greater than the fiat system, does it also ensure rights to a greater degree than the cryptocurrency system?”
And I think the answer to that is yes, because I think that you can see, by using historical examples as you noted, that Bitcoin does seem to offer rights that other systems don't have. And you can look at instances where the decision making within the cryptocurrency market, in many cases, they're letting the market decide the rights of the user. And that is just a fundamentally different relationship, right? An Bitcoin, Satoshi allowed you to choose to run software, giving you the right to money, giving the right to audit them financial supply, and then the right to a known supply and issuance. And then in cryptocurrencies in the cryptocurrency market, it's like, yes, you have the right to now use your money however you want, right? You can turn your value into any number of things, but that comes with a tradeoff, right? And the tradeoff is, in the cryptocurrency system, it's you no longer have that right to a known supply issuance. You no longer have that right to a known schedule or total money supply, right? So, yes, I think we've identified that argument.
And I think another one on top of that, again, is this right to dissent, because I think that is something that I’ve tried to express for a while that I really haven't been able to get down, which is just that in most other cryptocurrency systems it appears that you just do not have the right to dissent from the majority, right? If the majority declares that something should happen, in most cases on most cryptocurrencies, it occurs. And there's very few of no instances where there's some case where that didn't happen, right? So again, like I think this is where you start getting these differences and these differences start to feel important, and they start to feel like something where, “Okay, if Bitcoin is a financial system and it's a financial system that secures rights, then why can we not apply that same ones cryptocurrencies, right? Like why are they not held to the same standard?
And if it is true that they ensure rights differently, how are they not then different? And I think that's kind of the real question that I would lay down here as like sort of something I think we have to think about next, is that, again, like if cryptocurrencies ensure rights differently than Bitcoin, how is it that they are not a different class of thing. Like what is it that they are then? Because they're clearly not Bitcoin at that point, because Bitcoin has properties that they don't have, right? So you got to start a stronger argument for a delineation, which again is itself an argument that the traditional lens of agnosticism is wrong, right? So I don't know. I don't know how that argument elevates, but I think that it's possible. I don't know. I hope so. I hope that answers your questions in some way.
[00:34:06] Pierre: And if it didn't, I’ll let the audience complain. You mentioned features. And you'll hear people say, “Well, look, this blockchain offers, for example, the right to issue your own asset, you're on token. You have the right to trade it in a decentralized manner. You have the right to get leveraged up or down with it. And you have the right to have a Tamagotchi artwork on here. And so, clearly, this has more rights than Bitcoin does.”
[00:34:36] Rizzo: Well, I think that's all the same right. Like it is true that the cryptocurrency world like allows you to use your crypto money, for lack of a better term, in more ways than you want, which again is why I think it was so immediately like appealing to people and why if you look back on the past with some empathy, like you can start to understand like, “Well, why would people have wanted a system like that?” If it is the case that cryptocurrency ecosystem large exists to kind of satisfy this veneer of like ultimate freedom, well, then who would have introduced that and who would it have appealed to?
And I think the answer to that is that you do have the split in early Bitcoin between the FOSS open source developers like who felt very strongly, I think, that they were creating something that was open source like for the good of the world, right? And then these sort of early libertarian types who came into the industry and I think in a lot of respects like wanted a system where the market was in charge. Like that was something that was innately appealing to them. In many cases they had already sort of like personally decided that like that was their problem with society, is that society didn't allow free markets and didn't allow this thing where that you could just have this infinite exchange, right?
So like it was also a prior idea, like it also exists, but it also starts to seem like when you parse it out like that like very different from Bitcoin, right? Yeah. I don't know if that – Did that answer your question?
[00:35:59] Pierre: Sort of. I mean, I think that it's something that people keep coming back to, is that the freedom you have on these other blockchains is greater.
[00:36:09] Rizzo: Yeah. Well, I think it's – Again, like it's greater within the definition, right? The ability to use something in different ways I think. I think it comes down to it being like one type of freedom, right? I haven't thought about this enough. I do think you can sort of distill it down to the ability to use value in however you want and however the market will allow starts to feel like one specific type of freedom, whereas the other types of freedoms that Bitcoin provides where it's like, yes, you have the right to your money and, yes, you have this right to this auditing and this like known supply and this right to dissent, where you have the right to your money and then to disagree with the majority. Those feel like different classes of rights. I haven't really like gone down this path far enough yet.
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[00:38:47] Pierre: I don't think that the semantic issue of rights is particular to cryptocurrencies when we know people are saying you have a right to health care and you have a right to education and all this that you get into political philosophy of negative versus positive rights. So to what extent do you think that the market is just reflective of different political ideologies rather than economics per se?
[00:39:09] Rizzo: Yeah, I think a good amount, but I think I’ve really just tried to in this piece like carve out a description of the crypto market like itself as a system, right? Because if you start to think that like within other cryptocurrencies that there's this idea of the market as a mediator, it sort of starts to feel like less like there are distinct cryptocurrencies. Really there's like sort of an overall uniting philosophy behind it, right? You start to get these things that like unite these things like more generally. So I guess like, always, when you try to classify things, you look for the similarities and differences, right? And I think the attitude to the market on the sort of crypto agnostic side is much more that that is a valid rational market. It's much more that the market is giving some data about what's going on. But I think that's really interesting, right? Because I think you see each of those subgroups also push back against that, right? Like you see the Ethereum supporters push back against Solana, right? Like they'll argue that Solana actually isn't that competitive against Ethereum. So even on one hand where they're very differential to the market even on matters of like adjudicating user rights, they also like will appear dismissive of that market, right? Which is it, I guess, is like sort of becomes like kind of the end question, right?
Do you think the cryptocurrency market has some broader value? If you don't then, I would argue that you know you probably shouldn't leave someone's right to money or their right to use some system up to that market, right? I mean, again, I can't really answer that question. And I don't even know if I can answer the question they originally asked other than just saying I think they start to feel like different things, right?
And I think within Bitcoin, it's like, yes, there have been instances where we've looked to the market for guidance. There have been futures markets that have tried to tell us like which different features to add. But so far at least like there's never been a case where somebody who didn't want to upgrade to what the majority wanted has been disenfranchised. Again, that just starts to feel like a lot more fundamental. And I think you can sort of broadly refer to the other cryptocurrencies as are they systems where people are okay with the market disenfranchising people? And if they are, well, that's fine. I mean, I guess you could argue that that outlook might be good. And I sort of end this piece really by just stating it as well. It's like maybe there is an argument that this idea that the authority of the market should dictate people's rights to money. Like maybe that is something new, right?
Like in Bitcoin, like you running the software gave you rights to money and that was new. And cryptocurrency at large, it seems like there's this attitude of, “Well, it is the market's recognition of you doing that that gives you the rights.” And I would just say that that's like a very big difference actually. And why it's a big difference is because if you're relying on someone to recognize your rights or some group, I don't know, it feels very different, right?
In Bitcoin, we have this assurance that we're going to have absolutely always have the right to that money. So the assurance that I have the right to my money only so long as the market will tolerate me having access to that money starts to feel like a weaker assurance. So I kind of feel like you have to sort of start splitting the blocks or just like splitting the peas and carrots on the plate there, because that starts to feel like a very – You're starting to like articulate two very different types of things.
[00:42:33] Pierre: All right. So I’m going to be a little bit devil's advocate here, and I’m ready for Mr. Hoddle to accuse me of being a shitcoiner. But you brought up Ethereum and Solana. And couldn't an argument be made that the rights the assurances, the guarantees, they are the result of time, of ossification and that Ethereum is trending towards having the same level of assurances that Bitcoin does. It's just a matter of time and that you're judging younger systems by the standards of a mature system, let's say.
[00:43:09] Rizzo: Yeah. I think I don't know if I can really answer that question, other than I just feel like the market will eventually. Eventually, we'll see some data about that, I think, right? So yeah, and I think you're right, right? I think the argument of the Ethereum system certainly to be respectful to how they've positioned, it was always that it was a beta project. The roadmap which they laid out in the beginning was quite expensive and that they've been moving along and they've sort of made the argument that they should be treated more as a beta product and until they get to their end vision. I mean, certainly I think you could be deferential to that in some degree. I think the problem sort of becomes like, “Well, there's not a guarantee of that, right?” So equally it remains possible. Let's just like play out a hypothetical situation. There's some period where Ethereum sort of reaches like peak maturity and then they move to a platform of like allowing people to doing most of their changes by softworks, and therefore allowing people to write to dissent within that system. Like it's theoretically possible I suppose. I just think you end up sort of in – One of the original divides here was is there a moral hazard like in managing these choices? So Ethereum will likely always continue to be a system in which a choice was made to invalidate someone's right to money. And maybe in the future that is not the case or stops being the case. But I don't know. You certainly have past precedent there, right? And I don't know. These systems can be running for quite some time.
And I think one of the things that you start to think about is – Look, I’m certainly not one of those people who thinks Ethereum is going to blow up in the short term or anything like that. I think that what's more likely to happen is that there're just things that we don't understand about these systems that accrue over time and they become very big before we really understand them. And there's some sort of fundamental issue. And I see Hudson down there. So I’ll just cage this by saying like I’ve also felt that in the Ethereum community over the years of interacting at the conferences and things like that. You saw a lot of like early reluctance within that project for the price to increase like very rapidly like before they were far along the road map, right? There are just things that you can't really guard against, right? So you start to maybe arrive at arguments where, I think, to your question, like nobody can answer that other than time will eventually answer that.
[00:45:22] Pierre: Well, I can answer it. I can answer it, right? And if I look at the immediate future and what they are doing with the Ethereum II project, I see them as becoming less ossified, right? That this is the biggest, most dramatic departure from Ethereum's original protocol rules in its entire history. And so in my mind, the trend towards ossifying like Bitcoin has not begun yet. Maybe it'll begin after they ship Ethereum 2. Or Ethereum 3 is next and it will once again completely change the underlying engineering of this system.
[00:46:02] Rizzo: Yeah. I mean, I think that's totally like a valid concern, right? Again, I think that's where these systems seem to attract people with similar mentality sort of things. And once you've done something a certain way, I mean, that's sort of the argument of just the moral slipping, right? Like you excuse one thing one time, becomes easier to excuse another thing another time. And maybe eventually there are parties that exploit that for whatever reason who are not part of that initial group but then choose to knowing the past trajectory of the thing, like they just exploit that for their own gain, right? And I think that's what makes it sort of a security hole.
But again, I think a lot of these arguments are sort of well-worn. I just think that they haven't really resonated to your original point, right? It is still viewed as like a technical argument. And that's why I was sort of key to like hone in on, “Okay, well –” Again, like there's only so many different ways to compare different cryptocurrency systems, right? Like you can make economic arguments, you can make arguments about the decentralization of their networks, you can make arguments about their launch and that. I think the rights argument perhaps like could be one that is stronger because we have such scene, such an uptick to it, right? Like I think everybody here would probably agree that that has been one of the most powerful narratives for Bitcoin, right? I just don't think we've maybe thought about enough or extrapolated enough to make the argument of why the other cryptocurrencies also don't fit that distinction, right? Because I think for a lot of people, like it's just not immediately clear, right? You could almost – Again, this is not being dismissive of the work, but like you could take an Alex Gladstein article. You could replace the word Bitcoin with Ethereum. And I think in a lot of cases like the article would read pretty similarly, right? So I think it gets to this idea that I think people at least at this point like sort of understand that cryptocurrencies achieve something broadly, right? I just don't think that they've maybe even kind of crossed the chasm of like, “Okay, well what is it that –” I don't know, it's just such a tough argument, right? That they're not all the same, right? Because that feels very much like where we're at, and I feel this the most in the groups like I’m part of some journalism groups like in the space, in the cryptocurrency space, right? Again, it is always the cryptocurrency space. It is always there covering the cryptocurrency market. You just see that this is like kind of inherent lens has like cast over the industry.
And look, I don't know if we can break that lens, but I mean that lens is like very much the default view. So if you can make an argument of like why – And again, this is sort of what I set out to do, which is like why is there no neutrality? And I don't think there is neutrality in cryptocurrencies. Ultimately, these systems like have some tradeoffs. They just inherently do. So if you start to view these things as competing financial systems, then it's sort of the question I think this is like the right question to emphasize is what is your attitude towards those rights? Like are you completely indifferent to them or do you care about them? And I think that's perhaps something that could maybe be effective. Because, again, like if the current state is neutrality, if it's just all these things are the same, well then likely like we have to sort of do something to like chip away that or challenge that. And again, maybe we have done all that already in different ways, but maybe in a way that like kind of feels more immediate to people, because I do think that like – I don't know. There definitely is this idea of neutrality that cryptocurrencies are all the same, but this is a market, these are all stocks and bonds. One of these numbers, like the Dogecoin is not different than the Bitcoin or whatever. That to me just it feels like we should be beyond that at this point, right? That argument feels like I don't even know how we have ended up there other than through just that people continue to still be confused about this.
[00:49:35] Pierre: Well, it seems to me that that one of the ways that folks have tried to break out of that neutrality to date is digital gold versus world computer and using metaphorical narratives in order to disabuse people of the neutrality. And I see a lot of overlap with your approach. It's just very different words and concepts. But really –
[00:50:00] Rizzo: Well, I mean like the digital gold argument, I mean, I think is an interesting one, because I don't like to consider Bitcoin as digital gold. I understand politically why that is an attractive framing for Bitcoin both as a sort of Trojan horse narrative and also as just something that conceptually does actually describe the technology in some ways. But I don't know. I think you know it is also a financial system, right? Like that is I think a true characterization of what Bitcoin is. Otherwise, why are we building Lightning? Why does Taproot exist, right? We are sort of coming to the point where I think the financial system and the larger Bitcoin economy is hopefully the work of everyone here going to become more obvious hopefully. So then I don't know how useful that becomes, right?
And I think it is useful today, right? I think, certainly, conceiving a Bitcoin as a digital gold has been helpful, but I think it's also aided this idea that like, “Okay, well, Bitcoin is digital gold. So all these other things, like they must be different things. They have to be different because Bitcoin is gold. Like it's a gold, and all these other things are different things.”
Again, I don't know how true that is, right? Certainly a lot of the stuff that has been built on Ethereum today like was originally built on Bitcoin. Top layer protocols that sit on top of the blockchain where first appeared on Bitcoin. Not fungible tokens first appeared on Bitcoin. A lot of this stuff has precedent. And it feels like we're still working on those things and that they're not going away and that we want to in some ways accommodate them again. So I guess not entirely sure what people's feelings are on that, but that sort of feels like the way that it's going.
Well, in that case, like if Bitcoin is a financial system, it sort of becomes I think – You sort of have to start describing, “Okay, well, what separates the Bitcoin financial system from the crypto financial system?” And again, I think you sort of arrive at these like fundamental things, which is that both groups have pretty radically different attitudes towards user rights and they seem to both have different attitudes towards the crypto market. And then I don't know how much more about those differences we're going find out, but it certainly seems like they're starting to appear.
[00:52:10] Pierre: All right. Well, we could try to take some questions from the audience.
[00:52:13] Rizzo: Yeah, I think we've had some people that had requests for a bit. So I think that's cool with me if anybody wants to raise their hand and chat about anything. Just going to add some people.
[00:52:24] Pierre: I do have one more question for you as well.
[00:52:27] Rizzo: Yeah, sure.
[00:52:28] Pierre: How does the toxicity fit into this, right? That you've driven away all the innovation with these very disagreeable Bitcoin maximalists and that's why people are not building on top of Bitcoin. It's just a hostile – A developer unfriendly environment.
[00:52:47] Rizzo: Yeah. Well, I mean, how do you explain the Lightning network then I guess is sort of becomes the equal argument, right? It certainly seems that in a lot of ways the Bitcoin developer ecosystems much