President’s Day & Three Lessons from History for Bitcoin’s Blocksize Discussion

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Bruce Fenton

Today in the US is President’s Day. There are a few thoughts that are relevant to the current Bitcoin blocksize debate.

1). We should recognize that politics is everywhere. Some, particularly in the technical development world, have expressed dismay that politics have entered into this discussion. Sadly or not, politics are and always will be a part of any discussion that has any significant stakes.

One’s choice is to recognize this reality and participate or to wish or pretend that decisions were based solely on logic and scientific method. Denying the existence of politics will cause them to end up like the proverbial poker player who doesn’t know who the sucker is at the table. Until the day that an AI can be designed to make such complex decisions, politics are here to stay.

2). A little diplomacy can go a long way. The second point is well illustrated in the the book/ HBO mini series John Adams. Everyone should go out and watch the episode in which the Declaration is signed. In this program, Ben Franklin gives some great advice to future president John Adams. “Don’t insult someone in public, they might think you are serious.” Adams replies “Is it okay to insult them in private?” Franklin: “Perfectly acceptable, they might even thank you for it.”

One challenge with the current debate in Bitcoin is that much of the interaction has been in a public manner that hasn’t been helpful in improving relations. Adams, like so many in this discussion today, let his passion for ideas tarnish relationships at times. His desire to win arguments sometimes lost site of the end game. Franklin counseled Adams on taking the more diplomatic approach and that it is not always beneficial to fight each battle if your goal is to win the war.

In one of the best scenes of the series Adams, who had been at odds with Virginia from the outset confounds and befriends them with his nomination of George Washington as commander.

3) We are in this together, our main enemy is not within. The third lesson comes from Ronald Reagan. Reagan many times gave a speech in which he commented how easily all the nations of the world would forget our differences and ban together if we were faced with a threat from alien invaders.

Bitcoin is still early and fragile technology. We’d all do well to remember that our enemies are not those in our industry but those outside it who would seek our destruction.

Over the last couple weeks ago I’ve thought about the nightmare “James Bond villain” style scenarios and what forms a major attack on Bitcoin could take. There are external threats which could harm our industry. Hopefully it would not take such a threat to have people a bit more aligned and cooperative than what we see in some cases today.

-Bruce Fenton, Atlantic Financial / Bitcoin Foundation/ Satoshi Roundtable