With the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, there have been multiple efforts by various cryptocurrency and blockchain groups to provide aid to the Ukrainian people. From the Ukrainian DAO to anonymous donations made in bitcoin to a Ukrainian wallet address publicly posted on Twitter, the cryptocurrency community has once again shown its readiness to fight political oppression and tyranny.
These events encouraged me to revisit Bitcoin’s connection to politics, which is a somewhat controversial topic in broader Bitcoin circles. Regarding Bitcoin’s connection to politics, there are two prevailing opinions: the first is that Bitcoin is inherently apolitical and ultimately nothing more than an unbiased technology, while the second is that Satoshi had at least a semblance of political motivation when they bitcoin was first created in 2009.
Although there are arguments to be made for both views – in its purest form, Bitcoin is a successful implementation of distributed ledger technology, while on the other hand, much early contributors to bitcoin were very politically motivated people, like the cypherpunks group. who fought for a freer internet through the use of crypto – the reality is that whatever Bitcoin’s original motivations were, it has now become a political force to be reckoned with.
Banks, governments and other financial institutions are now all recognizing and actively preparing for a reality in which Bitcoin is the primary method of transacting value across the globe.
Perhaps the greatest measure of the impact of Satoshi’s creation lies in the differences in how those suffering from persecution and violence receive help. Prior to Bitcoin, donors often had to go through centralized portals created by financial institutions. Even though their transactions were entirely digital, they were ultimately controlled by a centralized currency or authority that had to approve all transactions.
Beneficiaries also had to rely on a centralized party to receive donations. This centralized party was often the bank with which the sender interacted or a non-profit organization that handled the distribution. Beyond a face-to-face interaction, there was often no way for individuals to exchange value without having to go through a bank or other financial intermediary. This was particularly problematic in situations of civil unrest, in which entire lives depended essentially on these institutions to properly transmit the gifts.
Although assessing the reliability of banks and other for-profit financial institutions is beyond the scope of this article, reliance on centralized authorities in times of crisis also presents other problems. In particular, banks can be closed, coerced and censored by governments and other parties in power. Businesses can be starved of funding, or worse, regulated.
It is not an outdated concept. Most recently, several Canadian banks restricted protesters’ funds on the orders of the Canadian government. Donations sent to the bank accounts of these protesters have been rendered useless, effectively reminding us that no centralized financial institution is immune to political influence.
Transactions through banks also raise the issue of anonymity. If necessary, information about transfers and donations can easily be revealed to other parties. This becomes a particular problem in times of political conflict for those living in authoritarian states or dictatorships. A Russian citizen, for example, will not be able to donate to a Ukrainian non-profit organization without putting himself and his family in danger.
This is where Bitcoin comes in. Bitcoin, whatever its initial motivations, is an apolitical and independent protocol. It cannot be censored, it cannot be shut down by any party and it cannot be threatened by any government. Bitcoin has empowered individuals around the world to support causes they believe in while remaining confident that their donations will actually reach those who need it most.
As of this writing, over 292 BTC has been donated to a public Bitcoin address published by the Ukrainian government. Anyone in the world with at least 1 sat could donate under a pseudonym, with minimized fear of their identity being revealed. While individuals within the Bitcoin community, and even those who run powerful mining pools, may have different beliefs and political ideologies, Bitcoin itself is neutral, as a decentralized global payment system should be. Even if a particular entity (such as a government) wanted to harm the Bitcoin network by performing a 51% attack, the overall cost of that action would be comparable to the very war that Russia and Ukraine are currently embroiled in.
While other cryptocurrencies have also been used to help those in need during the Ukraine crisis, Bitcoin remains in a unique position to continue to be the primary means of digital asset donations.
Unlike many other cryptocurrencies, bitcoin has never been dependent on a centralized group of backers or backers. As stated earlier, Bitcoin was entirely developed and maintained by a group of contrarian developers who are largely fed up with the current political status quo. While the concepts surrounding Bitcoin are taught in educational institutions around the world, Bitcoin itself is not dependent on any government or private organizations.
In fact, Bitcoin itself doesn’t even have a legal entity or executive representing it. There is no one to bribe or target if one hopes to shut down the Bitcoin protocol. Although the closure of one or more of the many organizations that drive Bitcoin’s economy would certainly impact its value, Bitcoin as a whole does not have a single weak point, nor a single trusted representative to maintain the protocol. Bitcoin is truly a movement, and while the general beliefs and makeup of this community may have changed over its relatively short history, it still maintains the same fight that originally inspired the developers of cypherpunk: the fight against corrupt centralized institutions that seem to care more about their own pockets than the individuals they serve.
This is a guest post by Archie Chaudhury. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.