Lessons in Democracy from Bitcoin

I’m not going to look into the technical details, and instead I will look at the organisation issues raised by this post, and the manner in which Bitcoin has progressed from being the harbinger of weaponised non-centralised money to being centralised money. Again, the technical issues do not interest me as I don’t think it is possible to build a functioning system which eliminates human judgement. The vision around Bitcoin and blockchain stinks of hyper-tech democracy/ republicanism, which is to say it is clearly delusional as someone will capture it and will either formally or informally control it.

The author of the piece makes some very interesting observations, and is obviously pro-democracy along with all the logical failure baggage that that entails. His highlighting of the dismissal of democratic decisions making by an admin who declared ““One of the great things about Bitcoin is its lack of democracy””  is instructive, as is his analysis that the problem is a “people problem.” Obviously the system is pure and perfect and destined to succeed (like democracy) and the only problem is the stupid monkey messing it up; this is liberalism 101.

The section titled ‘Why is Bitcoin Core keeping the limit?’ is really interesting, as the previous calls to democracy against a decision the author does not agree with are then replaced with basically authoritarianism and dictatorship of a kind. The author begins by decrying the lack of organisation within the centre of the Bitcoin Core project, and then complains about the people chosen by Gavin Andresen. By the time he gets to the sub section with the title ‘The death spiral begins’ all calls to democracy are ejected and he declares:

“In a company, someone who did not share the goals of the organisation would be dealt with in a simple way: by firing him…Gavin had decided he did not want to be the leader, there was no procedure in place to ever remove one. And there was no interview or screening process to ensure they actually agreed with the project’s goals.”

With a further broadside at consensus governance in the form of:

“Like many small groups, people prefer to avoid conflict. The can was kicked down the road.”

This can be compared to his complaint that:

“any post that mentioned the words “Bitcoin XT” was erased from the discussion forums he controlled, XT could not be mentioned or linked to from anywhere on the official bitcoin.org website and, of course, anyone attempting to point users to other uncensored forums was also banned.”

We go from people should be fired , to no one should be banned? Am I missing something here? Clearly, democracy when the decision is not liked, central dictatorship for when it is, and then to top it off, criticise the very same people he earlier cited as being undemocratic for wanting consensus.

The position of when consensus and democracy are applicable and good, and when lack of consensus is bad takes more twists and turns then a snake, with the next one being the bemoaning of

“anyone who supported bigger blocks, or even allowed other people to vote for them, would be assaulted [by DDOS].”

Followed by a complaint about the fact that 3 out of 5 developers refused to change the limit, which is then described as a “deadlock”, but why? That sounds like a democratic decision that is decisive, the only way that is a deadlock is in the sense that the decision hasn’t gone in a direction he wished…is this all sounding familiar?

The complete nonsense and windingly selective advocacy of consensus reaches its apogee in the conclusion with:

“More fundamentally, it is a crisis that reflects deep philosophical differences in how people view the world: either as one that should be ruled by a “consensus of experts”, or through ordinary people picking whatever policies make sense to them.”

Well, Mr Hearn, which are you? Because it seems consensus is called on when it favours your opinion, then decried as an abuse of the people when it doesn’t, just as democratic decision is termed deadlock or failure to reach a (your) decision, but a shining beacon of goodness when it aligns with your opinion. So, when Mr Hearn says:

“Bitcoin has no future whilst it’s controlled by fewer than 10 people. And there’s no solution in sight for this problem: nobody even has any suggestions. For a community that has always worried about the block chain being taken over by an oppressive government, it is a rich irony.”

What he is really saying is “Bitcoin has no future whilst it’s controlled by fewer than 10 people who don’t share my opinon, which is clearly enlightened, democractic and not oppressive.”

But, this is to be expected, this is how political relationships and power plays work. In fact, reading Hearn I could not help but be reminded of Burnham’s analysis of the formal meaning of ‘De Monarchia.’