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Author Topic: The essence of Bitcoin and legality.  (Read 1834 times)
jojkaart
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May 17, 2012, 08:42:22 PM
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It occurred to me today that the essence of Bitcoin is that it's a certain kind of open agreement between people. An agreement that says something to the effect of "these bits have value and an owner who has the sole right to decide who to pass them on to". In addition to this, there's an agreed on procedure for establishing a consensus about who has and what bits.

This is of relevance in the context of the widespread idea of governments eventually making Bitcoin illegal. If Bitcoin is to be made illegal, that means making a Bitcoin specific aspect of this open agreement illegal.

This sort of agreement has obviously been at the core of all societal function since the dawn of civilization. Bitcoin, however, makes one very big change in the dynamic. Bitcoin makes it extraordinarily difficult for a third party to force(1) changes into the common agreement. All changes have to go through the current owners to happen. In addition to this, Bitcoin makes it challenging(1) to locate them if they don't want to be found.

So, to disable Bitcoin legislatively, this is the aspect that would need to be targeted. Actually, this is two aspects. Pseudonymity and truly exclusive ownership. I suspect that if an attempt is made, it'll target the latter one. For example, this could mean a legislation requiring this sort of agreements to have backdoor for the government.

(1) Obviously, this is still possible as a result of bad security practises, however, I expect users' security awareness and skills to increase fast enough that you can consider this point moot.
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May 17, 2012, 08:48:28 PM
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For example, this could mean a legislation requiring this sort of agreements to have backdoor for the government.

And the parties to the agreement will politely give government the finger.  Smiley
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May 17, 2012, 08:58:10 PM
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I don't see any government successfully banning Bitcoin legislatively. I can see them paying for a 51+% attack, effectively muzzling Bitcoin.

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jojkaart
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May 17, 2012, 09:00:53 PM
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I don't see any government successfully banning Bitcoin legislatively. I can see them paying for a 51+% attack, effectively muzzling Bitcoin.

Yes, true, 51+% attack would give them the veto power on any transaction they chose, effectively disabling the truly exclusive ownership aspect.
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May 17, 2012, 09:11:10 PM
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An agreement that says something to the effect of "these bits operate under these rules and an owner who has the sole right to decide who to pass them on to". In addition to this, there's an agreed on procedure for establishing a consensus about who has and what bits.

Fixed your post. There's no agreement about the value, just about the rules. Value is being continually rediscovered through supply and demand.

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jojkaart
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May 17, 2012, 09:24:07 PM
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Fixed your post. There's no agreement about the value, just about the rules. Value is being continually rediscovered through supply and demand.

There is an agreement about value. However, it's about the existence of value, not the exact count of value. It's the exact count that is being continually rediscovered.
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May 17, 2012, 10:20:56 PM
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I had a much better grasp of this topic after listening to Cypherpunkd Episode 39 - History of the Cypherpunks:

 - http://library.agoristradio.com/library/cypherpunkd/cypherpunkd-EP039.mp3
 - http://www.bitcoinmoney.com/post/6136537609

Essentially, a bitcoin transaction is data that my software running on my hardware created.   For anyone to tell me that I am not allowed to share that which I've created with anyone else is something that I would consider to be a free speech issue.

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May 17, 2012, 10:34:03 PM
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For anyone to tell me that I am not allowed to share that which I've created with anyone else is something that I would consider to be a free speech issue.

Forget free speech, what about freedom, period?
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May 17, 2012, 11:46:47 PM
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I had a much better grasp of this topic after listening to Cypherpunkd Episode 39 - History of the Cypherpunks:

 - http://library.agoristradio.com/library/cypherpunkd/cypherpunkd-EP039.mp3
 - http://www.bitcoinmoney.com/post/6136537609

Essentially, a bitcoin transaction is data that my software running on my hardware created.   For anyone to tell me that I am not allowed to share that which I've created with anyone else is something that I would consider to be a free speech issue.

I like that idea... but of course you could also "create" a house and you will not be allowed to share it with someone without following Government rules (tax, etc). I do not think the government would hesitate to make the possession of Bitcoin illegal if and when they feel genuinely threatened.

Thankfully, Bitcoin is not restricted to one country. Thus any government which bans it will sacrifice the entire industry growing up around it to the other countries which haven't banned it, and by the time government is threatened enough to ban Bitcoin, this industry will be significant. 

I'm sure Singapore, Hong Kong, or Dubai will gladly accept the industry.
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May 18, 2012, 03:37:29 AM
 #10

It occurred to me today that the essence of Bitcoin is that it's a certain kind of open agreement between people. An agreement that says something to the effect of "these bits have value and an owner who has the sole right to decide who to pass them on to". In addition to this, there's an agreed on procedure for establishing a consensus about who has and what bits.

This is of relevance in the context of the widespread idea of governments eventually making Bitcoin illegal. If Bitcoin is to be made illegal, that means making a Bitcoin specific aspect of this open agreement illegal.

This sort of agreement has obviously been at the core of all societal function since the dawn of civilization. Bitcoin, however, makes one very big change in the dynamic. Bitcoin makes it extraordinarily difficult for a third party to force(1) changes into the common agreement. All changes have to go through the current owners to happen. In addition to this, Bitcoin makes it challenging(1) to locate them if they don't want to be found.

So, to disable Bitcoin legislatively, this is the aspect that would need to be targeted. Actually, this is two aspects. Pseudonymity and truly exclusive ownership. I suspect that if an attempt is made, it'll target the latter one. For example, this could mean a legislation requiring this sort of agreements to have backdoor for the government.

(1) Obviously, this is still possible as a result of bad security practises, however, I expect users' security awareness and skills to increase fast enough that you can consider this point moot.


I like your points about the essence of Bitcoin.  The thing is, worrying about hostile governments to me is ways low on the list of priorities or interests. Bitcoin has much more serious and real problems than this - and even these problems are not that worrisome.  So far, so good.

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May 18, 2012, 08:16:45 PM
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The blockchain is free speech. In the US, anyway.

Anyone who argues otherwise is just deluding themselves into thinking it's something more than that, like a commodity, a currency, or whatever. It's none of those things, it's just a bunch of people peacefully agreeing on how to encrypt parts of a large file. When they disagree, they have the option of copying the blockchain and encrypting a different way if they so choose. Since the person who wrote the first text of the blockchain is anonymous and we've all created derived works of it, I'm pretty sure we are all relatively safe, unless the Financial Times sues us for copyright infringement.

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May 18, 2012, 08:41:35 PM
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... unless the Financial Times sues us for copyright infringement.

lol, hope they don't or they will have a hard time enforcing it

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May 18, 2012, 09:03:41 PM
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Bitcoin is definitely free speech (I've recently started describing money as "information in the context of a social protocol"), but governments have a long history abridging the right to free speech…even in countries like the US where it's a constitutionally protected right.  In the case of bitcoin however, I do think you can make some very strong arguments for bitcoin on free speech grounds.  Ordinarily, to abridge the right to free speech, it has to be shown that speech would injure or harm someone.  I think it would be very difficult to argue that Bitcoin harms anyone.

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May 19, 2012, 04:02:46 AM
 #14

Bitcoin is definitely free speech (I've recently started describing money as "information in the context of a social protocol"), but governments have a long history abridging the right to free speech…even in countries like the US where it's a constitutionally protected right.  In the case of bitcoin however, I do think you can make some very strong arguments for bitcoin on free speech grounds.  Ordinarily, to abridge the right to free speech, it has to be shown that speech would injure or harm someone.  I think it would be very difficult to argue that Bitcoin harms anyone.

This is interesting. Bitcoin network in itself does nothing more than enable broadcasting of digitally signed "statements" of the type "this address sends that many bitcoins to that address" or "this address has generated 50 (or a fraction thereof) bitcoins." These statements then become common knowledge in the form of a public ledger, and we can all verify and mutually agree on any and all such statements. Free speech indeed.

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May 19, 2012, 08:13:55 AM
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Bitcoin is definitely free speech (I've recently started describing money as "information in the context of a social protocol"), but governments have a long history abridging the right to free speech…even in countries like the US where it's a constitutionally protected right.  In the case of bitcoin however, I do think you can make some very strong arguments for bitcoin on free speech grounds.  Ordinarily, to abridge the right to free speech, it has to be shown that speech would injure or harm someone.  I think it would be very difficult to argue that Bitcoin harms anyone.

This is interesting. Bitcoin network in itself does nothing more than enable broadcasting of digitally signed "statements" of the type "this address sends that many bitcoins to that address" or "this address has generated 50 (or a fraction thereof) bitcoins." These statements then become common knowledge in the form of a public ledger, and we can all verify and mutually agree on any and all such statements. Free speech indeed.

someone on these forums insisted a while back on the same concept, that bitcoin is free speech, but it didn't know how to bring convincing arguments on the table so he kept spamming the forum with new threads every day until admins banned him. Guess he was too advanced for his time  Roll Eyes

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May 23, 2012, 08:47:17 PM
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someone on these forums insisted a while back on the same concept, that bitcoin is free speech, but it didn't know how to bring convincing arguments on the table so he kept spamming the forum with new threads every day until admins banned him. Guess he was too advanced for his time  Roll Eyes

Well, surely there's a way to do it without being annoying about it?

Anyway, this is the best explanation to me. It's like a huge torrent that we freely share with everyone. Saying it is "illegal" is challenging my right to freedom of speech as guaranteed to me under the first amendment of my government. Any question of "legality" seems absurd given this knowledge.

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May 23, 2012, 09:43:18 PM
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But citizens, Bitcoin is economic terrorism! It's no more "free speech" than sharing a stolen idea, or any number of totally valid analogies I can make up and argue incessantly. It's only a freedom if it doesn't infringe on the rights of others, and in this case it infringes on our right to your labor. Surely we can have sane limits on freedom when the only group being "oppressed" is a bunch of selfish aspy libertard jerks with low social standing.

[/sarcasm]

I really doubt that the populace, or the representatives they elect, will suddenly become logical and reasonable if cryptocurrency becomes important. They will start with the conclusion they want and work backwards. This wouldn't be the first exception to the bill of rights.
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May 23, 2012, 10:47:23 PM
 #18


All the high-minded philosophies about freedom of speech and such are well and good, but the US Govt (at least) has an ace in the hole: A rubber stamp with the word 'terrorist' written on it and rapidly expanding set of codes outlining what they can do to people so stamped.  That this is a fairly blunt tool is not a bug; it's a feature.


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