The Crypto Anti-Soviets
Liraz Siri

Thank you for this great critique. A few stream-of-consciousness thoughts in response.

-Relevance to Today: the Soviet comparison is not just a historical/philosophical one. It has direct relevance to the postures, strategies & tactics of today’s crypto Cold War adversaries (think China, but also a resurgent Russia & multi-polar regional hegemons). Your excellent article is Exhibit A of the importance of revisiting these postures, and learning from them.

-Anti-Formalism v. Formalism: empirically, the underlying thrust of The Crypto Soviets is that the Soviets started out with a lot of fiery rhetoric about radically different socio-economic & legal forms, but ended up succumbing to the very formalism they supposedly despised. Instead of doing away with law & legal institutions, as they had originally promised, the Soviet regime proceeded along increasingly legalistic & formalistic lines, ones that were often indistinguishable (in essence & function) from their Western counterparts.

-Crypto Dreams; Soviet Realities: It’s not that the Soviets were naive, but rather that they operated in a world with far more powerful crypto legal regimes than even the leading Soviet defensive strategic minds could imagine. That’s crypto’s crypto. Today, there are many known but also clandestine legal orders that are developing and deploying strategies of engagement with crypto. Nobody ever knows all of them.

-Vigilance Towards Crypto’s Crypto. The best way to maintain focus on the biggest crypto and economic opportunities ahead is to assume postures of critical skepticism towards “easy” or “light” blockchain regulatory schemes.

-Legal Meta-Postures/Strategies. The seduction of massive legitimized near term gains is real; but at what cost? Regulatory crystallization now will likely lead to more bureaucratization and less innovation (both observed trends in Soviet decline). The best way to avoid Soviet-style bureaucratic realities and stay focused on the many truly compelling crypto visions out there is to expand our operational time horizons from years to decades, and longer. Pluralism is a value that should be practiced, and incessantly studied.

-Operational Takeaways: The only way to be ready for crypto legal orders (or, say, unexpected assertions of jurisdictional reach by an unexpected state power) is to study every available legal maneuver that is being deployed right now in like circumstances. That raises the likelihood that more robust strategies can be developed and deployed.