As the title suggests, I’ll go over what I believe makes a good Bitcoiner with the hope of persuading you that being a HODLer is actually an important job that entails certain responsibilities.
The outline roughly will be:
- The philosophical prerequisites of the HODLer’s mindset
- Impediments to adopting a personal bitcoin standard
- Practical takeaways
We have an important role as Bitcoiners to always be orange-pilling, but to do so in a way that’s constructive, and that means being sensitive to the reality that not everyone is ready to hear what we have to say.
We recognize that becoming a Bitcoiner often results from a set of philosophical underpinnings or dependencies. Someone lacking in one or more of these prerequisites will likely face obstacles along their journey that make adoption difficult. The fact that not yet everyone is onboard with bitcoin is testament to this difficulty.
There are other impediments to adoption beyond a mere conceptual understanding that can usually be traced to conflicts of interest. We believe in time these too will give way to a more free and open financial system based on voluntary cooperation. It’s our job to bring bitcoin to the world with the least number of casualties along the way and to remind people that bitcoin is available to everyone equally.
Studying bitcoin, I asked myself why some people aren’t profoundly astounded by it, or worse, feel an aversion to it at first glance. There are the usual FUD talking points that could scare you away if you don’t know any better, but this fud doesn’t seem to have a real effect on the HODLers. It soon became apparent that it is nearly impossible to have an appreciation for bitcoin if you don’t already see the shortcomings of the existing financial system.
It is the distinguishing qualities of bitcoin HODLers that prompted them to break allegiance from the old system and led them to demand a new one. Interestingly, the gold bugs warned us that the loss of sound money would eventually end in catastrophe. In a sense we owe it to them for sounding the alarm. However, the sound money narrative had to evolve beyond precious metals to reflect a digitally connected world.
The gold bugs, the Austrian economists, and other sound money advocates grew accustomed to being quietly swept into the corner of public discourse because of their tendency to be critical of mainstream economics. To regular folks the path of least resistance is to embrace the fiat system, as we’ve been so assured that the system is in good hands. However, those who seek financial autonomy, who crave logical integrity, and who value saving may find the trade-offs made in the fiat world to be intolerable.
Let’s dig a little deeper to see what sets apart a true Bitcoiner from the rest of the pack. As I alluded to, Bitcoiners not always but generally tend to lean libertarian, even anarchist in some cases. There is a tension between the concepts of personal liberty and state-granted permission. Bitcoiners tend to be skeptical of propaganda and corporate media which points to a fundamental divide in where we personally derive our human rights. Are we endowed with unalienable human rights, or are we granted rights by the state so long as we’re in good standing with the various bureaus, branches, and departments?
Skepticism when wielded properly is not just aimed at the media out of spite or for the heck of it. Rather it is a tool for reasoning that applies to all areas of life. It is simply the default m.o. when encountering new information. A rational person applies a healthy degree of skepticism whether dealing with science, business, or politics. Along the same lines is a need for logical consistency. Bitcoiners demand intellectual honesty and accountability from both our peers and our critics.
Bitcoin tends to be popular among tinkerers, early adopters, and gamers. Bitcoiners are always trying to think two steps ahead, they’re good at reading between the lines, and analyzing the second and third order consequences.
Finally, to be a good HODLer one generally has to have a propensity to save money. That may go without saying, but it just can’t be over emphasized. In a world entirely founded on credit, bitcoin challenges the conventional advice around debt and borrowing.
There’s a common denominator that ties together many of these characteristics which is what bitcoiners call low time preference. Put simply, it means they place little value on short-term gratification, opting instead to work toward long-term goals. To be fair, everyone has to put food on the table, so we can’t pretend it’s realistic to delay gratification forever, but what we can do is make decisions about what will satisfy us today and what is worth waiting for. Bitcoin takes saving to a whole new level. We suddenly realize our everyday decisions to spend and consume carry a lot of weight when judged against the opportunity cost of owning bitcoin. It’s common for Bitcoiners to undergo profound behavioral changes in the interest of saving. It might seem an excess of savings would lead to issues when it comes to stimulating the economy and the velocity of money, however the inflation/deflation debate and the mandate of perpetual growth are subjects that remain to be fully hashed out.
For these reasons bitcoin tends to resonate strongly with people who are motivated by things like math, economics, and game theory. But not everyone is wired that way; in fact, many people are not. People are motivated by all sorts of things, not the least of which are food, shelter, and love. Bitcoiners wouldn’t have the luxury to opine on monetary sovereignty if their basic needs were not met, which sadly is not the reality of large groups of people in the world.
But assuming one has the bandwidth to begin to understand bitcoin, that’s still no guarantee they will see any value in it if it doesn’t quite scratch their itch. A mere lack of education is easily fixed, but they say it’s hard for a man to learn something if his job depends precisely on him not getting it.
It’s hard to see the benefits of bitcoin if you don’t already see the problems with centrally controlled currency. Not surprisingly people tend to feel safest knowing their dollars are in the bank and insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). What is interesting is that bitcoin HODLers feel the exact opposite — they view using custodians as more risky than not, and that’s what makes this topic so fascinating. Sure there will still be trusted third parties going forward, but the choice of whether to use custodians wasn’t a choice we had before bitcoin.
The harsh truth is that the people who are most privileged by the financial system are the hardest to convert because they arguably have the most to lose from jumping ship. The persistence of the fiat machine relies heavily on the “Cantillon” class who are incentivized to bring ever more minions under their purview. And what’s a more powerful tool of persuasion than the money printer itself?
This is why we see the most pushback from wealthy bankers and money managers, the likes of Jamie Dimon and Ray Dalio. Not surprisingly, the most fearful rhetoric comes from the upper echelons of central banking. Central banks are supranational entities that have subtly extracted themselves from nearly all oversight and so must express a distaste for anything they don’t have a hand in. They then defend their position as the self-appointed arbiters of financial stability. The sentiments of central bankers toward bitcoin is rather telling of where their interest truly lies. Fortunately, bitcoin doesn’t need the approval of the immovable incumbents; their competitors in rising economies will adopt a bitcoin standard, gradually then suddenly setting off a global fomo. One by one, they come to the light, or they go the way of the dinosaurs. In bitcoin we say everyone gets the price they deserve.
I can understand the conflicts of interest in a business sense. When you have a job to do, what you say at work doesn’t necessarily reflect your personal views. Okay. But I have less sympathy for people that resort to attacking bitcoin because they believe they’re too late to invest (save) and think if they can’t be the boss of it then it shouldn’t exist. This is quite clearly an issue of human ego. Indeed one has to learn to subjugate the ego to appreciate what bitcoin has to offer — which is at the same time freedom and solidarity.
Instead we end up in a situation of fiat nihilism where everyone wants to get in on the ground level of the next bitcoin. The irony is that altcoiners seem to live in a world where bitcoin can be taken for granted. Bitcoiners, on the other hand, are under no such pretense. They’re the ones on the frontlines making sure we succeed in making that world a reality. Altcoiners are only succeeding at bringing about the rise of fiat 2.0 which is anathema to the bitcoin ethos. Be wary of anyone who claims to support bitcoin and in the same breath tries to pitch you on their new token. It’s easy to tell if a bitcoiner has pure intentions because they’re the only ones without ulterior motives.
Critics point to the unyielding optimism of bitcoiners and attribute it to arrogance. This then becomes a block in their mind and they assume if you evangelize for bitcoin that means you are just pumping your own bag. While that’s superficially true, a more accurate observation is that bitcoiners actually practice what they preach. Bitcoiners put their money where their mouth is, not the other way around.
It may sound toxic to hear Bitcoiners say things like, “there is no alternative,” but at the end of the day toxicity is in the eye of the beholder. If your opinion of bitcoin is that it’s toxic, then I would question where you choose to get your news from. We say, “bitcoin fixes everything,” not just to be cheeky but to point out that fiat in so many ways ruins everything, and bitcoin, for once, fixes the fatal flaws in money brought about by central planning. Bitcoin is information, and information seeks to be free. The internet hit a dead end under information dictators and walled gardens, and bitcoin erodes those walls allowing participation by simply plugging into the globally interoperable network.
If you genuinely go down the bitcoin rabbit hole, you find that the only logical conclusion is to go ALL the way down it. In other words you go all in — if not financially, then at least philosophically. You’re not likely to encounter someone who claims to be a bitcoin moderate. You begin to see that bitcoin may just be the only way out of the hole we’ve dug and our best chance at living in a free society.
I believe our job going forward is to live up to the dream of the original cypherpunks by making a habit of the following:
- Defend free speech especially where it has the capacity to enrich the social and intellectual landscape.
- Forge a path for privacy, routing around if necessary anything that compromises the right to privacy by imposing onerous regulation.
- Demand honesty and accountability of our peers. Don’t rest on your laurels. Heed the meritocracy. No one deserves to be on a pedestal because of their status.
- Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Think adversarial. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Throughout bitcoin’s history anyone who was firmly down the rabbit hole would have appeared radical in the eyes of no-coiners; just look at Max Keiser. However it’s clear bitcoin has passed a tipping point as its network effect takes hold and feeds on itself. What started as a small group of tinfoil-hat crypto-anarchists has grown to include people from all walks of life who share in the values of hard money, as bitcoin doesn’t discriminate among its users. It is beautiful to witness the people who have been most marginalized by fiat imperialism come to have the most conviction because they see the benefits of sound money in their own lives.
The end goal of course is a globally recognized reserve asset but also to make sure we get there with the least collateral damage. This may mean moving cautiously forward to make sure we do it right. This is difficult for the fiat world to understand where people are happy to get paid today and damned be the long term consequences. However, open-source development tends to be messy and that’s the trade off we make for the sake of decentralization.
Bitcoin wasn’t born out of a vacuum; we have to consider the context in which the seed was planted in order to navigate what lies ahead. Can bitcoin alone achieve the dream of a free and open financial system? What else may be needed, that without it, bitcoin may face substantial headwinds? I think El Salvador may have something to say about this as the birthplace of the first bitcoin bond issued by a sovereign nation. Bitcoin calls on us to rethink everything about finance and economics from securities law to energy infrastructure. El Salvador showed us that we can’t wait to get permission before innovating. At times we have to be disruptive if we want to see change. And things are just heating up.
In the future bitcoin can be said to have been a success if it becomes so entrenched in the global economy that it finally is taken for granted. In some ways that day is already here and that’s something to celebrate. The work ahead lies in improving education and user experience and making sure we don’t go backwards along the evolution of human action.
This is a guest post by Tyler Parks. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.