Riding the waves of Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” protests, Republican Senator Ted Cruz triumphantly took the stage to embrace Bitcoin at a recent high-profile CPAC event. In a typically pro-Republican tirade, Cruz criticized his political opponents Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth Warren in the Chinese Communist Party for opposing Bitcoin out of a desire to control people’s financial freedom and civil liberties.
Of course, the story of the Canadian trucker played conveniently at Cruz’s right-wing leanings. The Freedom Convoy protests coalesced around a common opposition to the Liberal Trudeau government’s vaccination mandates. He was also strongly associated with right-wing politicians like Tamara Lich, a member of the far-right Maverick party. The political pressure proved too much for many, even leading private crowdsourcing platform GoFundMe in cancel a fundraiser after raising over $10 million for truckers.
Bitcoin is apolitical
The only problem with Cruz’s anti-leftist spin on Bitcoin is that he’s dressed in pure partisan ordeal. Bitcoin doesn’t care about your politics. It’s not against the progressive left, or the conservative right, or the political center. Bitcoin is apolitical and bipartisan. Its decentralized nature means that no entity can alter its network unless it achieves broad consensus. If Bitcoin is for anyone, it’s for the individual.
As Jonathan Bier brilliantly recounts in “block warscampaign, countless failed attempts over the years have been made by activists and organized Bitcoin groups to unilaterally modify Bitcoin’s underlying code to incorporate larger nodes. To cite just one example among many others, the proposal to spend “Classic Bitcoinin 2016 and increasing Bitcoin block sizes from 1MB to 2MB (thereby allowing for faster transaction processing) was not adopted, despite support from large institutional players at the time, such as Brian Armstrong of Coinbase, Jihan Wu of Bitmain, Roger Ver of Bitcoin.com, and prominent Bitcoin developers like Gavin Andresen.
Compare that to projects on blockchains enabled by smart contracts like Ethereum or Binance Smart Chain that are led by large foundations and visible figureheads. When the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) regulatory spotlight shone on the largest decentralized exchange Uniswap in 2021 amid the decentralized finance boom, its lead foundation Uniswap Labs quickly decided to delist dozens of synthetic derivative tokens that parallel blue-chip stocks like Apple, Alibaba and Amazon, citing reasons from a “evolving regulatory landscape(read: We don’t want to piss off Big Brother).
But Cruz’s attempt to apply a politically partisan spin to bitcoin is not only philosophically incoherent, it’s also detached from the evidence of its current use. Consider only the last few years in the history of Bitcoin.
When the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement broke out in 2013, some protesters seized on bitcoin to present it as a financial tool for freedom. BLM activists developed art blockchain projects to educate victims of racial murders and police reform. The work of various authors and annual events like the Black Blockchain Summit are just a few examples of progressive efforts to raise awareness of Bitcoin’s potential to empower black and minority communities, in ways the established financial system has excluded them.
When far-right protesters from the infamous “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally were universally blacklisted by credit card platforms and major payment platforms including Visa, Patreon, PayPal, Apple Pay and more yet, its proponents have also turned to cryptocurrencies, raising 15 bitcoins in donations (estimated at $60,000 in 2017, at the time of the gathering).
What about rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran? Cut off from the global financial system, these rogue states have both used Bitcoin to mitigate the economic impact of crippling sanctions. It is estimated that North Korea stole a total of $395 million value of cryptocurrencies, some of which have gone to finance its nuclear armament. A 2021 Elliptical Report found that Iran generates nearly $1 billion a year from bitcoin mining, allowing it some economic relief from the punitive sanctions and embargo imposed by the United States on its regime.
Like most of his peers in Washington, Cruz is adept at playing the populist game. But that is to say that his insatiable need to strike the iron of political expediency while it is hot would not allow him to pitch his political tent as far away as the white supremacists, or the BLM Movement or North Korea – all of which he publicly condemned. Yet all of these groups have used Bitcoin in one way or another for their own purposes.
Older Bitcoin veterans know that the digital asset is apolitical. That’s what largely attracted them in the first place. Born out of the global financial crisis of 2008, the same year pseudonymous Bitcoin author Satoshi Nakamoto penned his white paper, Bitcoin’s ethos is steeped in its radical neutrality because it simply cannot be controlled in any way. centralized.
Lying Bitcoin in partisan right-wing political rhetoric, as Cruz does, is as absurd as saying the First Amendment is anti-left because it allows the right to verbally beat their opponents. It is also particularly dishonest. Cruz himself is one of the leading cheerleaders in the anti-Big Tech crusade, loudly advocating for the need to bring Facebook, Twitter and Google under federal government regulatory range.
Bitcoin is not “good” because it improves the economic freedom of persecuted minorities (although it is very welcome). Nor is it “bad” because bad actors appropriate it to do harm. It is simply a neutral, permissionless financial network that everyone is welcome to use. It is voluntary money. People use it not because they were forced to, but because they chose to. Or as one writer put it: “Bitcoin is digital not-fuck-given.”
Exchange-traded funds can add politicization to Bitcoin
There may be one aspect Bitcoin can be somewhat politicized. As bitcoin gains mainstream adoption, financial institutions are creating tradable financial products such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that are pegged to the value of bitcoin. To the extent that these institutions are regulated by politically captured financial regulators (spoiler alert: they are) and consumers choose to purchase these products, Bitcoin will be caught in the venomous tide of partisan political culture.
Still, there are good reasons to be optimistic. For one thing, its basic underlying asset, unlike fiat, is always one that cannot be arbitrarily manipulated. Second, these products are relatively attractive because setting up a digital wallet to store bitcoins is still unfamiliar to the average person. As bitcoin becomes more popular, consumers will choose to buy bitcoin directly, as opposed to a bitcoin derivative. Finally, buying bitcoins directly on an exchange is neither inconvenient nor expensive, unlike buying physical gold which requires storage in a vault.
Yet Cruz is not the only politician who has tried to appropriate Bitcoin to serve his partisan ends. Washington’s most vocal anti-cryptocurrency politicians, like Elizabeth Warren, run into the same contradictions, but in reverse. By focusing only on how Bitcoin is mined by bad actors, it overlooks its potential for economic liberation for people of color who have been historically marginalized.
As Bitcoin becomes a household name, partisan actors will increasingly try to exploit it for their political ends. But students of cryptocurrency history and design will know otherwise.
This is a guest post by Donavon Choy. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.