Post: Vitalik Buterin’s Best Work Yet: “In Defense Of Bitcoin Maximalism”

Did Buterin come to his senses? Did Ethereum developer Péter Szilágyi’s thread convince him that something was rotten at the core of his protocol? Or is this some kind of sick joke? The title of the latest post on Vitalik Buterin’s blog is “In Defense of Bitcoin Maximalism.” Is this an April Fools prank? Or is the Ethereum creator trying to tell us something?

Let’s face it, the article is most likely an alien’s version of an April Fools joke. However, it contains some pretty powerful ideas. Even if Buterin was being ironic, he was right on target for the most part. First, the author sets up the scene by describing the current situation as it appears to outsiders: 

“Bitcoin is a boomer coin, and Ethereum is soon to follow; it will be newer and more energetic assets that attract the new waves of mass users who don’t care about weird libertarian ideology or “self-sovereign verification”, are turned off by toxicity and anti-government mentality, and just want blockchain defi and games that are fast and work.”

Is the author Vitalik Buterin, though? Probably not. Let’s explore why.

Is Buterin A Hidden Bitcoin Maximalist?

A curious fact related to this story: Vitalik Buterin coined the term “Bitcoin maximalist.” At first, it was an insult. In any case, the article continues by explaining the bitcoin-for-dissidents use case: 

“Blockchains are being used every day by unbanked and underbanked people, by activists, by sex workers, by refugees, and by many other groups either who are uninteresting for profit-seeking centralized financial institutions to serve, or who have enemies that don’t want them to be served. They are used as a primary lifeline by many people to make their payments and store their savings.

And to that end, public blockchains sacrifice a lot for security.”

To defend such an endeavor, the protocol “requires two key ingredients: (i) a robust and defensible technology stack and (ii) a robust and defensible culture.” So far, so good. Then, though, the author starts trashing Vitalik for his lifestyle of the rich and famous. Using several photos of Buterin with world leaders from all over, the author sets up this poisonous description:

“Vitalik is a hippy-happy globetrotting pleasure and status-seeker, and he deeply enjoys meeting and feeling respected by people who are important. And it’s not just Vitalik; companies like Consensys are totally happy to partner with Saudi Arabia, and the ecosystem as a whole keeps trying to look to mainstream figures for validation.”

So, no. Buterin is probably not the author of this remarkable piece.

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Divide And Conquer

Sadly, the author continues by drawing clear lines in the sand: 

“We can see the two sides pretty clearly: team “blockchain”, privileged people in wealthy countries who love to virtue-signal about “moving beyond money and capitalism” and can’t help being excited about “decentralized governance experimentation” as a hobby, and team “Bitcoin”, a highly diverse group of both rich and poor people in many countries around the world including the Global South, who are actually using the capitalist tool of free self-sovereign money to provide real value to human beings today.”

Was that necessary? Probably not. And the images that the article uses to prove its point are just disrespectful. To make it worse, Buterin’s ghostwriter raises the bet by explaining why bitcoin doesn’t have or want smart contracts in its Layer 1. This is valuable alpha:

“A common misconception about why Bitcoin does not support “richly stateful” smart contracts goes as follows. Bitcoin really really values being simple, and particularly having low technical complexity, to reduce the chance that something will go wrong. As a result, it doesn’t want to add the more complicated features and opcodes that are necessary to be able to support more complicated smart contracts in Ethereum.”

The author considers it a “misconception” because bitcoin does support complex smart contracts, just not in the first layer.  It’s a well-thought-out strategy, not a bug. Near the article’s conclusion, Vitalik Buterin’s April Fools joke clearly goes out of line:

“Maximalism is not just Bitcoin-for-the-sake-of-Bitcoin; rather, it’s a very genuine realization that most other cryptoassets are scams, and a culture of intolerance is unavoidable and necessary to protect newbies and make sure at least one corner of that space continues to be a corner worth living in.”

Wow, Vitalik. Even if this was a joke, it went too far. Was it necessary to denounce “most other cryptoassets” as “scams”? This is an industry that you helped create.

Anyway, April Fools!

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