The false dichotomy of Bitcoin maximalism

The term ‘Bitcoin maximalist’ should be replaced by the expression ‘sovereignty-maximalist’

The term ‘Bitcoin maximalist’ has become mainstream within the cryptocurrency and blockchain space recently. As more people become acquainted with the term and have developed a sense of its purport, the more it gets used loosely and deviates from it’s proper meaning.

The result is that most Bitcoin maximalists are unfairly appointed as such. In superficial dialogues they point to Bitcoin as a superior protocol while they are not given the time to point out why they refer to it. Lately this indifferent use of the term led to people using the superlative to insult others, stigmatising them as small-minded.

In many cases the accusations focus unjustly on the technology, Bitcoin. Hence the term ‘Bitcoin maximalist’. Often the blame originates from the feeling that the technology is chosen for what is does, not what it represents. The truth is more nuanced. Usually proclaimed ‘Bitcoin maximalists’ are not explicitly focused on the technology, but more so on the governance of the software and the ecosystem. The people that prefer the oldest and first blockchain around value it for other things than a certain functionality. Oftentimes the people that are mistaken for ‘Bitcoin maximalists’ value something quite different than a specific kind of technology or feature. They appreciate one core value higher than all others as they demand censorship-resistance above everything else. They don’t mind the technology has no fancy turing complete smart-contracting language or scalable proof-of-stake algorithms that provide mass adoption. They just want to be sure they’re not bothered with some kind of self-defined ‘superior’ influencer.

It seems accusations of Bitcoin maximalism are voiced with the intention to create a division between groups of people within the blockchain space. This is remarkable because the foremost reason to use blockchain technology is to disintermediate and regain certainty without the influence of middlemen. Often when the term ‘Bitcoin maximalist’ is used it reveals a misunderstanding of what blockchains essentially offer, from a – more fundamental – perspective of governance, caused by a excessive focus on more mundane or technical aspects.

The offended usually lack this disproporttionate focus on technology as they want a different single core value taken to heart; Sovereignty. They simply won’t accept any ‘more sovereign’ entity when it is about their wealth, identity, privacy, medical data or all the other things the blockchain space promises to bring us these days.

Avoid calling them ‘Bitcoin maximalists’ but refer to them as ‘sovereignty-maximalists’

The maximalists deny the usability of most of the recent innovations, that claim to bring these promised solutions, but at the same time ignore this core value of autonomy. Those accused of being a ‘maximalist’ seem to be more patient in a sense, as they demand that the innovations respect this core of their value system foremost. I think it is best to restrain from condemning these unwavering individuals by all means, but if there’s no way around, avoid calling them ‘Bitcoin maximalists’ but refer to them as ‘sovereignty-maximalists‘. In the end it is the coveted autonomy that drives them most, not the name ‘Bitcoin’.

From this governance perspective it is not surprising that, up to now, the maximalists end up preferring Bitcoin; Every. Single. Time.


Also published on Medium.

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