About a year ago I wrote an article entitled “Why the Bitcoin Community has Failed Bitcoin.” My analysis at the time was that Bitcoiners failed Bitcoin because they are terrible at welcoming new people into their ranks. What I failed to realize was that, while true, the reason for that is far more fundamental than just being rude. The reasoning has to do with what binds everything together: politics.
Why is that? It turns out the stereotype isn’t actually the average Bitcoin user. The average Bitcoin user is not white and they are not a Libertarian. They are more likely to be Hispanic and voted for Biden. The problem is the Bitcoin Community (by this I mean the loudest members of the community, especially in r/Bitcoin) believes the stereotype too. And they lean into it. This is what is hampering Bitcoin’s mission to the people. I won’t go into that mission, I’m assuming anyone reading this knows the benefits Bitcoin can bring. If not, read the second to last paragraph of this article.
Before I get started, I will 100% say upfront (in addition to a disclaimer that my views do necessarily represent Blockonomics), that yes I’m a Social Democrat/Democratic Socialist (depending on what country you hail from). Yes I voted for Biden. Yes I think Libertarianism is a failed ideology. But I’m not making this article on some partisan crusade. I have tolerated the libertarian idealists that love Bitcoin, even thought some of their ideas could make sense. Instead this article is about what I believe Bitcoin needs. If bitcoin is going to go mainstream, the Bitcoin community needs to take a hard look at itself. This is me trying to start this conversation. I hope you’ll read on.
First lets start with the stereotype of a Bitcoin user. They are white and libertarian. Leaning towards the upper range of Millennials and into Gen Xers. Take a look at Reddit and it seems to confirm it. In r/Bitcoin, after price, the number two thing talked about is Libertarian talking points. Specifically, how can Bitcoin create less government. And that’s fair, there’s a lot about Bitcoin that seems inherently libertarian. It was built to replace state currency. Of course many are not talking about the socialist aspects of Bitcoin but that’s a story for another day.
The problem is the general public is not Libertarian. The US Libertarian party gets very few votes, and libertarianism is really an American phenomena. That being said, there is obviously are Libertarian talking points in the Republican party (though very little actual libertarianism). And in fact there have been a number of sleazy GOP politicians, like Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov Ron DeSantis (R-FL) who have been suddenly taken with how cool Bitcoin is after a bipartisan group of politicians including Mayors Eric Adams (D-NYC) and Francis Suarez (R-Miami) and Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Cruz and DeSantis believe the stereotype too, and think they can convince Bitcoiners to support them by throwing them bones. The reaction on Reddit was certainly favorable.
The truth though, is that the average Bitcoin user is not white nor libertarian. A recent survey commissioned by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and conducted by Morning Consult paints a very different picture.
According to the survey, a Bitcoin user is more likely to be Hispanic or Black with 27% and 20% of Bitcoin users respectively. This compares to just 17% being white. And more importantly? 61% of crypto users voted for Biden. A similar percentage voted for Democrats in the 2018 midterms, and continues to hold a favorable view of Biden today. That is not the snapshot of a Libertarian. This shatters the stereotypical view of the average crypto holder. But if the average Bitcoin user is a liberal person of color, what does this mean for the Bitcoin community? It means that Bitcoin actually has a very wide avenue for mainstream adoption.
The problem is people are scared off. I mistakenly thought this had to do with a lack of friendliness and openness in the community. But I now truly think it is because of politics and the stereotype. People look at the Bitcoin community and find a community that seems extremist. On the one had, that’s truthful; a majority of Americans do not support Libertarian views, and especially those that vote Democrat. One the other hand, the extremism also leads to media overreaction. Take the headline that white supremacists profited from Bitcoin that ran a few days ago in several outlets. While that’s true, so did a lot of other people, plenty of Black and Hispanics obviously.
Now I don’t believe most Bitcoin community members are white supremacists. I think most are very faithful to their Libertarian values. But they have a tendency to have a one track mind. Take Ron DeSantis’s recent Bitcoin announcement. On r/Bitcoin on Reddit, the thread was filled with people praising him. And when people pointed out that he is about as close to a fascist as you can get currently in the states (while at the same time praising the move), those people were shouted down and called various names.
I was one of those people. I called him a fascist and was banned from posting in r/Bitcoin. I subsequently had a conversation with one of the moderators, about the ban. In our conversation, which was very useful and I think we both benefited from it, my ban was reduced to 7 days. Fair enough, I used foul language against DeSantis. But the mod told me, going forward, I should just lie if I have to when a politician supports Bitcoin. Lie and say he’s a great guy. That scares me.
What that tells me is the Bitcoin community only cares about short term gain. They only care about who is supporting them at the time. It doesn’t matter who it is, if they like Bitcoin they are a good person. Period. If that person can raise the short term price of Bitcoin, they’re happy. And that scares people off. Are Hispanics and Blacks really going to want to participate in the Bitcoin Community if that community is support racist politicians just because they like Bitcoin? Are we going to convince more mainstream usage of Bitcoin if the community is going to support fascists if they just say the magic words?
I don’t have a simple solution. I think the important thing is to keep in mind both how many people who aren’t libertarian that use Bitcoin and might want to use Bitcoin. If you truly believe in the mission of Bitcoin you might have to accept that overt Libertarianism is not the way to make them feel included. If people feel they can be welcomed into a community, and if the community can convince the media and mainstream that they aren’t radicals, more people will feel comfortable in accepting that. That’s hard to swallow, but its a pill that has to be swallowed.
Basically, us Bitcoiners have to think twice about how we present ourselves. We are ambassadors. And that means we have to be diplomatic. We can’t support pseudo-fascists just because they say they like Bitcoin. We can’t demand a Libertarian world-view from Bitcoin users. And we have to present ourselves in a way that makes use seem friendly. I’m not saying lie, unlike the r/Bitcoin moderators, you can believe 100% in Libertarianism and express that, that’s okay. Just don’t be a dick about it.