Satoshi Nakamoto had a dream. A dream that one day, a few elites wouldn’t have a stranglehold on the monetary system used by billions. A dream that one day, people would rely on a trustless system that the elites couldn’t manipulate. And to bring his dream to reality, he (or she, or they) gave us bitcoin.
A decade later, more than 2,000 cryptocurrencies have sprouted, all offering different solutions. Satoshi’s invention, bitcoin, still towers over all of them. And while the world is yet to fully embrace cryptos as the preferred payment method, we’ve still made great progress.
However, as we move into a decentralized world of freedom, elitism and centralized controls are yet to be stamped out. In fact, if anything, we may just be redefining the elites.
The first thing that springs to mind is the recent Bitcoin SV debacle. The crypto has been delisted from a number of exchanges in the past month. A number of payment processors have also ceased support of the crypto. This is well within their prerogative.
However, it’s the genesis of this wave of BSV delisting that’s interesting. Binance was the first exchange to take the stand, and again, this was well within its right. It announced a fortnight ago that it would cease support for BSV on its platform.
It’s the involvement of Binance’s CEO and founder that brings out the elitism that exists in the crypto space. Changpeng Zhao, fondly known as CZ, has always been vocal about his dislike for Craig Wright, the self-declared Satoshi Nakamoto. Wright, who is central to the BSV community has been one to attract love or hate in great proportion. Just before Binance delisted BSV, CZ tweeted:
Master piece! You have my full support, Peter.
To be clear, I don’t choose sides on technology. We let market do that. I am against fraud, such as lying to be someone. As such, it is my strong opinion that:
Craig Wright is fraud. https://t.co/f9ihSD6Pr3
— CZ Binance (@cz_binance) April 15, 2019
Again, CZ as an individual is entitled to have an opinion. After all, we can’t, as the crypto and blockchain community, preach freedom if we can’t let people voice their opinions. However, just days later, CZ’s Binance delisted BSV.
BSV is much more than Craig Wright. There’s a community behind it that can no longer trade on the largest platform globally just because CZ believes Wright is a fraud. And then, the saga continued. A number of other exchanges, Kraken included, delisted BSV to follow in the footsteps of the crypto world’s Mark Zuckerberg. Kraken was the most interesting, having conducted a Twitter poll as the basis of its decision. Again, an entire community was affected by events that had nothing to do with them.
And not to be misconstrued, I’m in no way taking sides. However, we can’t criticize JPMorgan Chase for closing the account of a crypto startup for no apparent reason and then turn a blind eye to what’s happening within the industry.
The BSV case isn’t unique. Centralized exchanges have become the very enemies we created cryptos to fight. Many a time, crypto projects have had their chances of mass adoption depend solely on whether they can afford the listing fee on major exchanges.
Vitalik Buterin, the celebrated Ethereum founder once stated:
“We can really take away this stupid king-making power that these centralized exchanges have where they have this ability to just decide which tokens become big by deciding to list them and then charging these crazy $10 million to $15 million listing fees. The more we can get away from that world and into something which actually satisfies the blockchain values of openness and transparency the better.”
Alex Wang, a founder of Ember Fund, a crypto hedge fund that seeks to make investing available for the masses, wrote:
“99% of exchanges and products in the cryptocurrency space are custodial. They are bigger, more well funded and although well-intentioned(?), we’re heading right back to the paradigm of pre-2008 centralized banking. In fact, some would argue we’re already there.”
And he may be right. We could be replacing what we abhorred about the big banks, and the big techs as well, with a savvier and ‘cooler’ version. The CZs and Brian Armstrongs of the crypto world have replaced the Jamie Dimons and Timothy Sloans of the banking world.
Alex Mashinsky, the founder of the Celsius Network crypto startup sees the new crypto wave as just a rebirth of the same bad ideas that brought turmoil in the past. In an interview with Forbes, he stated:
“A lot of what the crypto community is seeing in traditional crypto markets is just a rebirth of bad ideas from the 1800s, all being used to take advantage of the fact that regulations don’t cover loopholes. […]We are seeing a lot of conflict of interest concentrated most with exchanges where people don’t understand that these entities don’t act in their best interest.”
So, what can we do? For one, we must stand up against the subtle wielding of power by a few elites who have made themselves the kingpins of the crypto community. Allowing one person to condemn a whole community for the transgressions of an individual goes against everything Nakamoto envisioned.