Framing Bitcoin For Progressives

What Is Bitcoin?

At its core, Bitcoin is a digital store of value that enables everyone in the world to coalesce around a singular monetary system. For the first time, anyone in the world can send money to anyone else in the world, instantaneously, regardless of nationality, credit score or even access to a bank. No government owns it or sets its policies. This levels the playing field amid a global geopolitical environment prone to corruption, censorship and currency manipulation. No corporation owns it, either. Claws off, Zuckerburg (you too, Sandberg).

Bitcoin is governed by immutable code that is agnostic to human categorical markers and biases. Its network is secured by miners all over the world and verified by thousands to tens of thousands of nodes throughout the world. Nodes are servers that store all bitcoin transaction history and reinforce Bitcoin’s protocol. Nodes propagate new pending transactions throughout the network until they are received and processed by a miner.

Bitcoin mining is essentially the process of computers competing against other computers to solve complicated math problems to authenticate a time-based series of transactions called blocks. Known as Proof-of-work, miners earn bitcoin in exchange for their work securing the network. This process is what enables Bitcoin to function without central ownership, giving every person across the globe (with a smartphone) equal opportunity for financial inclusion.

Think of bitcoin as digital scarcity. There will only ever be 21 million bitcoin, guaranteed by the protocol’s issuance algorithm. Bitcoin’s supply is coded to reduce in half every four years until a final halving reduces new supply to 0. Meanwhile, people, companies, institutional investors and governments are increasing their demand for bitcoin every day.

Scarcity drives value. This is true anywhere demand exceeds supply: oil, gold, toilet paper and single family homes on the West Coast. The internet of the 1990s enabled us to exchange information digitally. Bitcoin enables us to exchange value digitally. As society increasingly shifts online, how we measure value will increasingly move online, too. A digitally connected world will need a digital store of value that is sovereign, decentralized, censorship resistant, peer-to-peer, runs 24/7, secure and resistant to attack. Bitcoin is money for the digital world.

Central banks from China to the U.S. are adapting to the digital world by promoting central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Unfortunately, merely transferring the current fiat system to the digital space replicates the same limitations we face now and exacerbates privacy concerns. For example, a limitation of the current system is that one nation, or a basket of nations, holds the world’s reserve currency. This positions one, or a few allied nations, to enforce monetary policy over the rest of the world, often leading to unsustainable debt and economic dependency. El Savador recently declared bitcoin legal tender in an attempt to circumvent this dynamic.

A new problem CBDCs would cause is the complete lack of privacy for all financial transactions. Particularly in places like Russia or Hong Kong, but increasingly in places like Texas, the risk of the government monitoring the purchasing activity of its citizens must be taken seriously. The Chinese government has already experimented with setting expiration dates for money it supplied. CBDCs also have the potential to restrict what purchases people are authorized to make. This is a form of financial coercion that could play out with catastrophic consequences throughout the world.

Bitcoin enables privacy. Individuals take full ownership of their bitcoin, known as self custody. Identified only through a public key (think of it as a digital ID) the name of a person transacting on the Bitcoin network is not known. However, every transaction on the Bitcoin network is auditable.

You’ve probably heard the term blockchain. A blockchain is a digital ledger that gets distributed to every node in the network. It’s extremely difficult to hack or change. This provides a verifiable record of every transaction ever made on the blockchain that requires no trusted third parties. While private, Bitcoin is transparent.

You’ve probably also heard a lot about bitcoin being used for illicit activity. Ironically, the rate of illicit activity on the Bitcoin network is far less than the U.S. dollar. Research puts the figure at less than 1% of all transactions.

Doesn’t Mining Harm The Environment?

A top area of concern for many progressives is bitcoin mining’s impact on the environment. Bad takes from the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian and elsewhere have done a disservice to their audience and is what prompted this article. Contrary to popular opinion, the bitcoin mining industry is already ushering in an era of renewable energy.

Here’s the thing: Bitcoin uses energy. The mining rigs that secure the Bitcoin network — enabling its decentralized, sovereign nature — require electricity to run. In fact, electricity is the primary ongoing cost for miners. This incentivizes miners to find the cheapest source of electricity, which is often energy that would otherwise be wasted and subsequently flared into the atmosphere. Gas companies are increasingly converting their excess energy into bitcoin mining operations or selling it to mining companies that are happy to pay bottom dollar to repurpose it.

Innovation in the mining space has been profound. Hydro power is being leveraged like never before by entities large and small. Alex Gladstein documents how mining bitcoin with hydroelectric energy in the Congo is funding the preservation of a national park. His corresponding take on how Bitcoin transforms international development and humanitarian aide is worth reading in full.

Closer to home, the state of Texas is (among other more rage-inducing activities), leveraging its wind energy for bitcoin mining. Wyoming actively courts bitcoin miners, noting the state’s abundant natural resources and lower energy costs. Given its enormous potential for economic development, specifically for underserved communities located outside populated city centers, there’s ample incentive for all states to pursue bitcoin mining. It is short-sighted for states with abundant natural resources to restrict bitcoin mining in the name of environmental virtue signaling.

It’s true that bitcoin has historically had a heavier climate footprint. In the geopolitical gift of the century, China (after countless empty threats) cracked down on its bitcoin miners this year. The crackdown shut off about half of bitcoin’s mining operations, many of which have already, or are in the process of, relocating to North America. Coal-heavy Chinese mining operations are increasingly replaced with renewable alternatives as more mining infrastructure gets developed.

The Bitcoin Mining Counsel estimates about half of all bitcoin mining is powered by renewable energy. For comparison, the banking industry uses only about 25% renewable energy. Over time, mining is anticipated to become increasingly powered by renewables. If anything, the more pressing concern for progressive Bitcoiners is the corporatization of the mining industry. However, that corportization also scales the use of renewable energy beyond any other industry.

Additionally, it’s important to put Bitcoin’s energy usage in context. Pundits constantly note

that Bitcoin’s annual energy use exceeds the energy use of a small country. This is true. But so does the U.S.’s use of Christmas lights and they are only used a fraction of the year.

Importantly, Bitcoin’s Lightning Network, a layer 2 technology, enables exponentially more transactions without adding to the network’s energy usage. This was not taken into account in Dutch central banker Alex de Vries and MIT researcher Christian Stoll’s widely cited calculation of Bitcoin’s energy use. Clickbait headlines using pianos as a unit of measurement for Bitcoin’s waste must be disregarded accordingly (google it, if you must).

So, like a holiday tradition for some, Bitcoin does use energy. However, energy is being harvested in increasingly sustainable ways and on larger and larger scales. The innovation coming out of the bitcoin mining industry is astonishing. Current metrics on bitcoin’s energy usage are a lagging indicator.

What Social Problems Does Bitcoin Solve?

In the U.S., we are relatively fortunate to (officially) lose “only” a few percent of our purchasing power to inflation each year. The lowest wage earners among us are hurt the most from a financial system dependent on costs increasing every year. However, the more well-off are only marginally impacted or even benefit from rising asset values.

In other parts of the world where currency is less stable or collapses, people can lose most or nearly all of their purchasing power overnight. Venezuela has the worst inflation rate in the world, at nearly 10,000%. Bitcoin provides an alternative store of value, a lifeline for anyone facing hyperinflation.

It’s also particularly useful for people living under unstable regimes, or unstable regime changes. Alex Gladstein writes eloquently about Bitcoin’s efficacy in Cuba, Palestine and Afghanistan. Bitcoin’s utility as borderless, globally-recognized money cannot be understated.

Crucially, Bitcoin could also serve as an economic empowerment tool for victims and survivors of domestic violence. It’s widely cited that 98% of domestic violence victims experience economic abuse. Most cite financial dependence as a primary barrier to escaping. Bitcoin empowers survivors to buy, sell and store value without their abuser knowing or requiring permission. It’s not an exaggeration to say that access to money that cannot be monitored or confiscated may save some survivor’s lives.

Bitcoin also enables financial inclusion. It addresses an important access issue for the hundreds of millions of people who are unbanked, including 7 million in the U.S.. It’s also a much fairer system because it’s completely divorced from credit. Bradley Rettler explains how exclusionary policies like redlining contributed to poorer credit within African American communities. Bitcoin is uniquely beneficial for anyone who faces increased barriers to wealth and housing due to a low credit score. Since the credit system disproportionately harms people of color, Bitcoin’s pivot out of a credit based system may promote more racially-just outcomes.

Closing Thought

This is not an exhaustive list of what progressives should know about Bitcoin. A comprehensive understanding of Bitcoin admittedly requires a significant time commitment. For example, this article barely touched upon Bitcoin’s layer 2 technology, or why it’s likely to revolutize online gaming. There was virtually no technical content, leaving readers to dig into other sources to learn about block sizes or hashrates.

What was hopefully made clear is that Bitcoin is not a niche “shadowy super coder” cyber world, as Senator Elizabeth Warren hopefully no longer believes. Nor is it a prominent threat to our planet. Bitcoin is humanity’s first opportunity to unify under a singular, global, peer-to-peer form of money. It cannot be debased. It is never closed for holidays. And it’s going to change the world.

This is a guest post by Nicole Dobrow. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.


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Why Progressives Should Love Bitcoin: An Open Letter To Senator Elizabeth Warren

Dear Senator Warren,

I am a fan. I think you are very smart, and you genuinely care about building a more equitable society.

But respectfully, when you talk about Bitcoin, you sound silly.

Bitcoin is not powered by a “shadowy faceless group of super coders.” It is not a “scam,” it is not “bogus digital private money,” it is not “highly opaque,” and it is not built to “assist criminals.”

Rather, Bitcoin is the most democratized form of money ever created. Nobody owns or controls Bitcoin, and everyone can take part.

Bitcoin is a monetary instrument that does not require trust in governments to not inflate away the value of money or trust in banks to stay solvent. Bitcoin was founded in 2008, amidst the global financial crisis, by a person or persons under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The creation of Bitcoin was a noble endeavor. Satoshi is among the richest people in the world, and yet, Satoshi’s bitcoin remains untouched (and unspent). We know this because Bitcoin runs on an open-source blockchain. Every transaction is recorded on a public, transparent, decentralized ledger.

Bitcoin adoption, as measured by the number of people who own bitcoin, is growing faster than internet adoption. However, the commercialization of the internet was the ultimate insider’s game. Rich white men, venture capitalists and favored institutional investors got in early. By contrast, since its birth, Bitcoin has been available to anyone with a cellphone.

Eleven years ago, the cryptocurrency market did not exist. Today, the market capitalization of the cryptocurrency market exceeds $2 trillion. This incredible wealth creation has benefited individuals, not institutions, particularly the unbanked and disenfranchised. It is a beautiful progressive story.

Your voters own bitcoin. A recent Harris Poll survey found that 30% of black and 27% of Hispanic investors in the United States own cryptocurrency, compared to 17% of white investors. The same survey found that most black and Hispanic Americans consider Bitcoin’s decentralization to be a positive attribute. Is it any surprise that people who have been most oppressed by the State find appeal in a stateless money? Your voters are rejecting the legacy financial system because it fosters economic and racial injustice and perpetuates wealth inequality.

Throughout the globe, most people have suffered through currency collapses. As an example, Argentina, Brazil, China, Mexico, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, Indonesia, South Africa and Lebanon have had one or more currency debasement cycles over the last four decades. Incompetent and corrupt monetary policies steal the fruits of people’s hard work, or “life energy.”

By contrast, Bitcoin has a fixed and predetermined monetary policy. Trusting Bitcoin means trusting math, and billions of people are embracing Bitcoin for this very reason. Bitcoin represents a monetary life raft to the world’s inhabitants.

Nigeria offers a great case study of Bitcoin’s promise and utility. Political repression, currency controls and rampant inflation have turned Nigerians into “minimum-wage slaves.” Because of hyperinflation, they must spend their paltry wages today or risk losing their purchasing power. Time preference is a luxury they do not have.

As the Nigerian naira plummets in value, Bitcoin has become a necessity. Thirty-two percent of Nigerians own bitcoin, the highest percentage in the world. Furthermore, remittances into Nigeria exceeded $17 billion in 2020, and a substantial proportion of this value is conveyed in bitcoin. Lastly, Nigeria has one of the youngest populations in the world, and, on a globe basis, this progressive cohort increasingly embraces Bitcoin.

To quote NYDIG Executive Chairman Ross Stevens, “Bitcoin is hope.” It is hope for your voters. It is hope for people all over the world. Bitcoin’s decentralized, transparent, democratic network will inevitably replace the failed, corrupt partnership between governments and large banks.

Importantly, Bitcoin’s decentralization is not — as you say — a “fantastical narrative,” with miners and corporations flaunting “false moral superiority” when they are, like banks, “the true power brokers.” Senator: Facts are a stubborn thing. Let me show you the folly of your words.

The Bitcoin fork wars of 2016 to 2017 bitterly divided the Bitcoin community into “big blockers” and “small blockers.” The former wanted to increase the block size to increase transaction throughput. The latter opposed the change as it would have made the Bitcoin network less decentralized. Corporate interests, including Coinbase, Digital Currency Group, Xapo, BitGo and the largest Bitcoin miners, joined forces to fight for larger blocks. The small blockers, a collective of “mom and pop” holders of bitcoin, resisted this top-down change and defended the existing decentralization. A virtual civil war ensued. The people won. The establishment lost. Most importantly, progressive ideas prevailed.

Digital money is here. We have two choices. First, a technology-based money like the Chinese digital yuan where the state has absolute power, and citizens have zero privacy. A system, I might add, where hard-earned savings can be zapped out of bank accounts at the government’s whim. The second option is a decentralized stateless global currency — bitcoin — with which anyone with a cellphone is sovereign over their money. This option offers rules without rulers and financial freedom for all.

Like you, I am a progressive. I believe in smart regulation regarding investor protection, anti-money laundering and tax collection. Let’s regulate Bitcoin through the prism of wanting it to succeed.

Sadly, your misguided position on Bitcoin hurts the people you tirelessly fight for. I am comforted by the fact that you cannot stop Bitcoin’s rise. However, you might be able to slow adoption. If you succeed, who benefits? I will tell you. The winners will be the biggest banks in the world. They are terrified of Bitcoin, as evidenced by Jamie Dimon’s recent annual shareholder letter. Senator Warren, do you really want to do Mr. Dimon’s bidding? Because you sounded like a JPMorgan lobbyist at the recent Senate Banking Committee hearing.

I love Bitcoin. If you truly understood Bitcoin, you would love it too. To that end, I have included below a recommended syllabus of insightful Bitcoin content.

Bitcoin offers equal access which will inevitably foster more equal outcomes. Bitcoin will make the world a better place. What’s more progressive than that?

All the best,

Samantha Messing

B.A. With Honors, Political Science, Brown University, 2021

Member, Brown Women’s Varsity Soccer

Recipient of the Alan Zuckerman Award for “Build It, And She Will Soar: Title IX And Athletics As A Road To Social Equity”


This is a guest post by Samantha Messing. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.


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Even progressives like @RashidaTlaib can be bought by the bankers. This is evidenced by her proposed STABLE Act and her unstable rationale and premise for it. This should be a wake up call for everyone and a rallying call for the crypto community. We must continue to decentralize

Even progressives like @RashidaTlaib can be bought by the bankers. This is evidenced by her proposed STABLE Act and her unstable rationale and premise for it. This should be a wake up call for everyone and a rallying call for the crypto community. We must continue to decentralize


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