Who Gets to Decide the Rules in Bitcoin?

Jonald Fyookball
Sep 4, 2017 · 2 min read

I was just reading a transcription of developer Greg Maxwell’s recent talk about Bitcoin Core.

In particular, I found it interesting that Greg says he was “never of the opinion” that the longest proof of work chain defines Bitcoin, and that the longest chain is secondary to “following the rules”.

Yet Satoshi clearly wrote in the final section of the Bitcoin whitepaper that miners creating the longest chain IS how they vote on rules.

Who is Right: Greg, or Satoshi?

On the one hand, you can say that Satoshi was right because usually the network doesn’t split. Unless the minority feels strongly enough in their position (and feels they have economic support), they accept being outvoted, and rejoin the longest chain.

But Greg is also right in the sense that when a minority fork does turn into a split, it is valid to those that support that fork.

For example, if you’re a Bitcoin Cash supporter (and I am), we often like to say that Bitcoin Cash is the “real” Bitcoin. We say that because it follows Satoshi’s original roadmap, not the very different Core roadmap.

To me, Bitcoin Cash is valid. To Greg, Bitcoin Core is valid (even if it becomes a minority chain.)

My Challenge to Greg and the Core Supporters

So here’s the thing: If Greg and his fellow developers can decide for themselves what is “valid” and disregard hashpower, then they should admit that my friends and I can also decide for ourselves what we consider to be valid.

Unless, of course, Greg is proclaiming that he is the king and is unilaterally deciding for everyone what is valid. I assume he isn’t.

The intellectually honest thing to do is to admit that in the absence of hashrate measurement, the yardstick of “validity” becomes little more than one’s own personal preferences and opinions.

It’s All Up To You

‘Validity’ and even ‘rules’ are ultimately abstractions. In reality, its all just computers running programs, and if several machines run compatible code, they stay on the same ledger. That’s all.

The freedom of crypto is that everyone can literally run the code that they want to run. You have 1000 coins to choose from, and if you don’t like any of them, you can start your own.

Many of us seem to put a great deal of effort into persuading others that our favorite project and our favorite ledger is the one to use, and that’s fine. We all have that choice of what to support and what to evangelize.

At the end of the day, the price of a token only goes up if demand exceeds supply. And for some people, even that doesn’t matter.

The bottom line: You’re in charge.

You’re in control.

YOU’RE the decider.

Jonald Fyookball

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