The Advantages of Constant Bitcoin Stasis


Note: This is an opinion piece.

In Ancient Greece, which we consider as the birthplace of European civilization, the concept of Stasis gripped many poleis that cluttered the Mediterranean coastline. Literally meaning 'standing', Stasis was the violent disagreement result of a destabilizing binary polarization process where society saw a distinct split between groups - rich versus poor, property owners versus those who had to rent. This somewhat black and white world view for what was really a gray continuum, caused stagnation, internal strife, vulnerability to foreign invasions and even long, brutal conflicts like the Peloponnesian War.

So how on earth can the above concept applied to Bitcoin be anything else than a bad thing? We have all seen the conflicts, the name-calling, the slow adoption of technical changes, the fractured and censored discussion foras. And to be clear, most of this is bad, I never agreed with name-calling, censorship or outright lies just to forward certain arguments. Rising tribalism (which most of the time bizarrely takes the form of Bitcoin maximalist carnivors) among Bitcoin supporters is not something to celebrate. If you have a form of Stasis in your relationship, end it. In your company? Fix it or see the market punish you. In your society? Prepare for conflict. But in a cryptocurrency? God yes.

Richard Dawkins briefly brought up the subject of money in The Selfish Gene, where he described it as "...a formal token of delayed reciprocal altruism". The key to understand why Stasis might indeed be something positive is the delay, the want to store the reciprocal favor in to the future. For this to work, the properties of that token must not drastically change between "now" and "in the future". Any large threat of change might cause the conditions for an occurring token transfer (and subsequent positive economic activity) to break down. What can cause such change in the token? Actually, not what, but who. Who controls its properties can fundamentally change it, without your consent.

By understanding this need for token stability, it should at least be a bit more obvious that cryptocurrencies where change occurs easily are not undoubtedly better money. Changing money is changing the language of delayed reciprocal altruism. Too large changes cause a breakdown in understanding, and then the money loses much of its purpose. Bitcoin has had long periods of painstaking consensus-building, and it has worked practically (SegWit) and the market prices it higher by far than any other coin. The market wants money that doesn't easily change overnight. The market wants to transact and store value on a chain where the basic rules are not easily twisted to fit the needs or wants from special interest groups or even governments. The market wants uncontrollable money.

Negative and positive effects of Stasis ought to depend on how mature the technology is. A new cryptocurrency with a small team and not yet a running mainnet might obviously want and even need more centralization, while older chains like Bitcoin where the base protocol is extremely stable and the improvement proposal process is clear, would ripe the most benefits from grinding stalemates. Ethereum is arguably slowly moving in to that territory as well these days (especially after the future migration to PoS), where it would benefit from an increasing difficulty in adopting large changes.

So by advocating this unnecessary evil instead of hoping for a more unrealistic, rosy world of money engineers that know what is best for you and that always will make great decisions, we can have sound, robust money that works. And from there we obviously should put that money to good use and leave any Stasis mentality behind.