The Bitcoin-Related Works of Jim Harper

Today I’m announcing the collection of my Bitcoin writings here on Medium. I’ve published and posted writings on Bitcoin a lot of places, and at least one outlet was at risk of disappearing for a time. Thus, this vanity project, collecting all my writings in one reliable place.

I mined my first (fractional) Bitcoin on a desktop computer in mid-2011 and bought some on an exchange later that year. That exchange was soon hacked and my bitcoins stolen off of it, long before many others had the same experience, suffering far greater losses.

It took another year-and-a-half to wrap my head far enough around this fascinating technological, economic, and political system to where I felt I could write something intelligent about it. My first, imperfect piece in April 2013 riffed on the huge jump in Bitcoin’s dollar-price, to as high as $200! But “What is the Value of Bitcoin?” was really about the virtues of Bitcoin and the good things it could do for the people of the world.

Over the next year, I began conversations, then collaboration, then employment with the Bitcoin Foundation. As its Global Policy Counsel for most of 2014, I worked to provide a Bitcoin education to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and Brussels. I began a fight against New York’s ill-thought-out “BitLicense” that continues to this day. I watched the foundation falter due to management challenges that preceded my tenure as an employee; and I failed to get those challenges addressed as a member of the board.

The risk management study I conducted for the foundation still today forms the basis for much of my thinking on the topic of Bitcoin and crypto. A wide variety of human institutions are needed to make the technology thrive, going well beyond protocol design and programming. The study identified many dimensions of Bitcoin’s “social capital” that are today growing very slowly in the absence of concerted efforts to curate and foster them. There are welcome pockets of effort, of course.

I’ve been fascinated by the scaling debate, which implicates the question of how a global public good like Bitcoin can be governed — and I say “governed” in no way implying a role for government. Governance is any way that humans operate their systems together; there can’t not be governance; there must be some form of politics. It’s less bad than governmental politics, in my opinion, because nobody is claiming the authority to coerce.

The field continues to grow and unfold in fascinating and chaotic ways, to the point where it’s not certain that “Bitcoin” will be the leading cryptocurrency for all time. So be it. I’m in favor of Bitcoin/crypto/digital currency/blockchain/etc. because of the good ends the whole field serves. I think some version of Bitcoin will ultimately predominate because network effects are so important, but I’ll be happy to discover that I was wrong.

I’ll try to continue to document my perspectives and activities here. If you have a masochistic streak, please thumb through my past articles below, and follow for what I post in the future.

Credit goes to “Bitcoin Sign Guy” for the grunt work of collecting and polishing up my past writings for publication here. He and his fifteen minutes of fame are a symbol of many things to many people — to me, of crypto’s incredibly bright future. The cryptocurrency supernova will result from the energies, talents, and ideas of the many smart, good young people who are dedicating themselves to Bitcoin and crypto.

That fulfilling future is coming, whether there are concerted efforts to build social capital around digital currency, Bitcoin, and blockchains or not. Bitcoin doesn’t care. The question is how long it will take. On that, I care. Given the opportunities lost for people across the globe each day there is delay, I very much hope for and, when I can, help with delivering on the vast promise of Bitcoin.