Op Ed: Why We Can All Feel Thankful for Bitcoin

Thanksgiving Day is the perfect opportunity to turn our attention to the people, events and things that make our lives better and offer us reasons to feel grateful. While meeting family members around the dinner table is an excellent way of expressing appreciation, those of us who irreversibly fell down the Bitcoin rabbit hole may have a few extra reasons to show gratitude. 

Why should one feel thankful for Bitcoin? Whether we like it or not, it has changed our views on finance, politics, law and economics. The simple act of learning how and why this decentralized, nongovernmental currency came to be certainly has transformative effects. Bitcoin is much more than economic theory: It indiscriminately empowers millions of people around the world to store value and transact. This is a reality to which even the mightiest of governments and transnational corporations are trying to adapt.

Without further ado, here are five reasons to feel thankful for Bitcoin.

1. Bitcoin Is Conservative, Robust and Predictable

In most countries around the world, changing the rules overnight is only a matter of majorities. Even in the United States, where checks and balances are supposed to bring about slow changes, the situation can become unpredictable in a matter of days. A member of Congress submits the draft for a bill, and then proceeds to convince elected officials from both the House of Representatives and the Senate to vote for it. If the required majority is attained, then the voted bill gets sent to the President to either sign or veto.

In the case of Bitcoin, changing the rules is a lot more difficult. It requires the consensus of a majority of user nodes and support by the miners. There is always a threat that the chain is going to split due to conflicting attempts to change rules, and, therefore, everyone is incentivized to play by the existing rules. And even in the absence of conflict, too much consensus about change may lead to faulty decisions that irreversibly destroy the value proposition of Bitcoin. It’s called the Nakamoto Consensus and it’s one of the finest uses of game theory we’ve ever seen in finance, politics and computer science. 

Under this system of checks and balances, the general incentive is to be cautious and conservative. There is no reason to change something that works, and nobody is pressured to update their node client to support every BIP, feature or fix (for instance, SegWit adoption is still slow, there are plenty of Bitcoiners who have never used the Lightning Network or a sidechain, and there are plenty of nodes running old versions of Bitcoin Core without validation issues).

Furthermore, BIPs and Core version updates are not law: If someone doesn’t want to use them or acknowledge their existence, then Bitcoin offers freedom to keep on running older clients and avoid some features. In the real world, you can’t opt in and out of respecting laws, and you can’t have a type of relationship with your government where you can opt to use (and pay taxes for) certain services. Being able to choose whatever suits your needs is powerful, and Bitcoin offers an important lesson about maintaining harmony while incentivizing self-interest. 

Bitcoin reminds us why stability matters and why our money must not be changed. This is especially evident whenever somebody comes up with a proposal that fixes short-term problems. We should be grateful for Bitcoin because, in an era of global uncertainty and reckless political decisions, it offers robustness, transparency and predictability. 

2. Bitcoin Teaches Us to Verify

In a world where formal education teaches us to defer to hierarchical authorities and have blind trust in their competence, Bitcoin perpetually reminds us to ask questions and check for ourselves. “Don’t trust, verify” might be a community meme, but it refers to a mindset which precedes individual sovereignty.

Bitcoiners are encouraged to only use software whose code is transparent and tested, to read the terms of service before onboarding exchanges, and to maintain a degree of skepticism in regards to people, companies and software. Also, running a full Bitcoin node is one of the most important aspects of the entire experience: Not only does it check the validity of your transactions and keep you on the right chain, but it also protects your privacy by storing all records on your own hard drives.

As means of verification, full nodes are the most efficient and affordable devices in the entire history of money. If gold and banknotes required human experts, special tools and formal ways of guaranteeing validity, Bitcoin nodes handle the operation faster and keep the rules in check. Thanks to them, we are certain at all times that no fake Bitcoins get validated, and we keep inflation in check.

We should be grateful for this whole mechanism of quick verification, as it provides a strong foundation for the underlying economic system and also encourages us to become critical thinkers….

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