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Author Topic: Marketing bitcoin: morals  (Read 1638 times)
Gavin Andresen
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April 23, 2011, 11:52:55 PM
 #1

I thought I'd explain a little more why I think most conservatives might have a negative reaction to bitcoin, why libertarians love it, and why I think liberals might be convinced to love it.

I'm starting from Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundation Theory, which says that we all have five basic universal moral foundations:
  • Harm/care
  • Fairness/reciprocity
  • Ingroup/loyalty
  • Authority/respect
  • Purity/sanctity
Different cultures and people of different political or religious viewpoints feel more strongly about some of these than others.  Conservatives score pretty highly on all five; liberals score very high on the first two.  Libertarians... are complicated.  More like conservatives when it comes to money, more like liberals when it comes to social issues.

So: how do I think people will react to bitcoin for each of the five moral foundations?

Harm/care:  if Bitcoin gets a reputation for 'that online currency that the criminals and drug dealers use' then that's bad.

Fairness/reciprocity:  if Bitcoin is seen as 'that online currency that made a bunch of early adopter geeks obscenely wealthy' then that's bad.

Ingroup/loyalty:  I think conservatives might feel like bitcoin is an affront to Their National Currency (whatever currency that happens to be).

Authority/respect:  Conservatives probably won't like a rag-tag band of open source rebels trying to overthrow The Authorities.  I'm not happy about the tone of the recent Forbes article, for example.

Purity/sanctity:  Assuming we can get past the Harm/care problems, I actually think bitcoin could be positioned as the purest form of online money.

Moral Foundations Theory strikes me as probably right (and it's backed by pretty solid research, it is not just philosophical musings).  I've been thinking about how to "frame" bitcoin to appeal to people on a moral/emotional level.  Random thoughts:

Fairness/reciprocity: if you're an early adopter geek, start circulating your coins-- send them to MyBitcoin or MtGox and then back to yourself if you want to keep them, but make it hard to tell if there ARE any early adopter geeks holding lots of coins.  And if you're talking about bitcoin, compare it to the fairness of the current system, where bankers are allowed to create (and profit from) creation of money.

What do y'all think?

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April 24, 2011, 12:04:05 AM
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I think it is a bit simplistic to say 'conservatives' will be more of a hard sell than liberals, especially in the USA.  Traditionally the term 'conservative' is often equated with 'status quo' or 'establishment'.  But as the TEA party is demonstrating, the conservatives are the rebels and the liberals are the establishment, including Wall Street and a good chunk of the kleptocracy/corporate establishment.

To the extent that bitcoin is seen as sticking it to the Fed, you should get a lot of grassroots conservatives on board - though not the country club set.

Liberals might be happy to buy their pot with bitcoin, but the realization that they will lose the ability to control our lives from D.C. will drive them bonkers.  Hopefully we can sneak it past them before they catch on.  Do it in August when they're at the beach house.

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April 24, 2011, 12:07:39 AM
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The Forbes article was not all that great. The TIME article was pretty good imo.
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April 24, 2011, 12:31:45 AM
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For Harm/care see http://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=4403.0.

It's hard to get it out of peoples heads that people use our system to do things they don't like. When Ron Paul advocates getting out of a country, they stain him hating Jews. When he supports legalizing drugs, they make it seem like he wants babies on heroin (although he claims he has never even seen someone smoking pot, and he's a doctor who has delivered over 4000 babies). Finally even though he's been with his wife over fifty years, people call him crazy, immoral, and out of touch, while pushing the "mainstream" candidates like Giuliani, Edwards, and Romney.

I read that article, and one of the comments makes a good point. It asks what Ron Paul types might score as opposed to other libertarians. I see this possibly being an issue in the '12 election with Gary Johnson. I'd rather support Ron Paul because I believe he is much more moral (or at least in line with what I believe to be moral), although they both essentially seem to support the same end to government.

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April 24, 2011, 03:32:48 AM
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i've reviewed all the news articles and watched the youtube videos and listened to all the podcasts.  the ones that annoy me most are the ones where ppl keep talking about the potential for the drug dealers and money launderers to exploit btc.   there is a ridiculous youtube by Hive 45 where the 2 hosts laugh and joke about offering anonymous bitcoin assasination contracts on ppl like Bill O'Reilly.  now everyone might hate O'Reilly and not care about him but the extrapolation for the paranoid elite of this country would be to themselves.  the way i see it, there is so much good about btc that needs to be more emphasized by the hacker community.  you should emphasize the morality of btc and how it can become the currency of the ppl b/c of its inherent fairness, stability, and privacy.  the negative and unfairness of fiat money expansion need to be pointed out time and time again.  fiat is for the elites; gold and btc is for the average American.  when u send those messages the only ones who will not resonate with this is the financial oligarchs.  i would tell anyone who cares about btc to avoid any and all talk about nefarious activities and emphasize just the positives.
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April 24, 2011, 07:55:36 AM
 #6

Just say that Bitcoin is the equivalent of gold for digital currencies.  Conservatives like gold because it's an exclusive, expensive status symbol.  Liberals like digital cash because it's trendy and high-tech and backed by nothing.  And the message contains just enough double-speak to keep both of them amazed and interested in learning more.

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April 24, 2011, 08:23:37 AM
 #7

Fairness/reciprocity:  if Bitcoin is seen as 'that online currency that made a bunch of early adopter geeks obscenely wealthy' then that's bad.

If Bitcoin is seen as "that online currency that lets you make payments without making PayPal obscenely wealthy", it can only be a good thing.
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April 24, 2011, 04:14:39 PM
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Fairness/reciprocity: if you're an early adopter geek, start circulating your coins-- send them to MyBitcoin or MtGox and then back to yourself if you want to keep them, but make it hard to tell if there ARE any early adopter geeks holding lots of coins.  

It is kind of odd to see a post discussing morals include a recommendation to hide evidence. Tongue

That recommendation is good for another reason as well: Having those coins mixed back in increases our ability to remain anonymous when transacting with Bitcoin.
  - http://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Anonymity#Help_other_people_stay_anonymous

As far as how many individuals you're talking about ... its difficult to know.  For reference here's the most recent "Bitcoin top 100 'Rich List' 20th March 2011":
 - http://bitcoinreport.blogspot.com/2011/03/bitcoin-top-100-rich-list-20th-march_20.html

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