There are many people who believe bitcoin is the perfect solution for black market trade, tax evasion, and other frowned upon activities. Cryptocurrencies seem to be working well with these types of exchanges as darknet markets, gambling sites, and sex workers are using bitcoin for their operations. The reason bitcoin is so appealing to these kinds of markets is because bitcoin is censorship resistant and allows the end user to decide how their wealth is spent.
However, there are a bunch of people who believe these types of unfavorable activities taint bitcoin’s image. People take issue with concepts like the Silk Road and complain about cryptocurrency gambling sites. Many individuals with statist-like opinions feel bitcoiners shouldn’t participate in these deeds and that vices are bad news for adoption. Furthermore, there are a handful of individuals and groups that actually believe government needs to legitimize cryptocurrencies with laws and definitions from bureaucrats.
The Libertarian Ideals of the Early Cypherpunks
In the early days, the core supporters of bitcoin definitely leaned heavily towards libertarian ideals, and many of them were cypherpunks. These types of activists were strong proponents of cryptography and privacy-centric technology. Cypherpunks used their own mailing lists to communicate using email chains like the Cryptography mailing list. Bitcoin’s creator Satoshi Nakamoto had used these mailing lists to announce the bitcoin protocol and communicated with a few cypherpunks such as Wei Dai. One particular conversation between Dai and Nakamoto showed bitcoin’s creator meant for the protocol to be completely free from third parties.
“The system is entirely decentralized, without any server or trusted parties,” details Nakamoto. “The network infrastructure can support a full range of escrow transactions and contracts, but for now the focus is on the basics of money and transactions.”
Throughout this era, there were many cypherpunks that held similar decentralized ideals much like Satoshi. At the time there were very vocal cypherpunks such as Julian Assange, Timothy May, and Eric Hughes. These activists had great conversations about technology liberating society from tyrannical governments. Many of them wrote manifestos that detailed how these decentralized protocols would disrupt the fraudulent banking system and the nation states. Satoshi certainly seemed to like libertarian fundamentals and expressed this many times in conversation. In November of 2008 Nakamoto states:
It’s very attractive to the libertarian viewpoint if we can explain it properly. I’m better with code than with words though.
What We Allow is What Will Continue
With the growing number of individuals and groups pushing for cryptocurrency regulatory framework and even some bolstering centralized blockchain concepts, it’s getting harder to see the cypherpunk fundamentals of the past. It’s difficult to forecast what side bitcoin will please as the two ideological positions are very opposite.
Bitcoin is an open source protocol with no ideology, and only people hold these types of values. So, in the end, the choice of what bitcoin will ultimately disrupt will be in the hands of the users. However understanding the ideals of bitcoin’s creator is good to know and the cypherpunk activists Nakamoto conversed with. There’s no doubt bitcoin’s original design was meant to bolster decentralization backed by strong cryptography.
Yet Satoshi had left in 2010 leaving the protocol open and public domain. There’s no anonymous figure here anymore to give us advice or lend a hand with the code. Bitcoin is an exciting experiment that is now left in the hands of society and our human elements. As bitcoin becomes more mainstream, we can’t predict what will happen to the central banks and nation states. All we can do is reference some of the things Satoshi said in the past and hope the grand experiment continues to gain volume. As Satoshi once stated, “I’m sure that in 20 years there will either be very large [Bitcoin] transaction volume or no volume.”
“Yes, we will not find a solution to political problems in cryptography, but we can win a major battle in the arms race and gain a new territory of freedom for several years,” said Satoshi Nakamoto. “Governments are good at cutting off the heads of a centrally controlled network like Napster, but pure P2P networks like Gnutella and Tor seem to be holding their own.”