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The Two Faces of Crypto Elitism

Sead Fadilpašić
Last updated: | 3 min read

Whenever a new idea, invention, or any area of human interest surfaces, elitism does as well. It is regarded as a way to discriminate based on the idea that one’s group is somehow above others. It could be argued that this competitiveness and desire to be better than others is part of human nature, due to how often it appears, regardless of its ultimate toxicity.

Venetian Carnival masks. Source: iStock/Crisfotolux

Crypto is no stranger to it, with its own two specific groups, both united in a single idea, either openly expressed or implied: that crypto should not be available to the general public. The first group is openly and loudly against cryptocurrency as a whole, but the second is, ironically, a subsection of crypto enthusiasts.

Vasant Prabhu, chief financial officer of Visa, is in the first group. In an interview with Financial Times he said, “The people asking me [about crypto] are the ones who scare the hell out of me […] You know, guys like the limo driver to the airport. They have no idea what they are doing.” The way he expresses himself sounds as if the limo driver does not deserve to talk about crypto, implying that he is not quite as smart as Mr Prabhu. He quickly clarifies that he thinks crypto is meant for criminals – another phrase all too often heard from those favoring traditional banking.

It seems redundant to point out that cash is still a criminal’s best bet: untraceable, anonymous and legally recognized, leading to no problems in spending it. But a sentence that is surprising to hear from an economist every time they utter it is, “Who is backing this currency?” It is a dead giveaway that the person does not know a single thing about blockchain (and it sounds hypocritical, given that fiat money is not backed by any physical commodity, but by trust, something that blockchain eliminates through transparency and immutability). The first conclusion that springs to mind is that transparency and immutability are not exactly prioritized by the economic system(s) right now.

But the second group may be crypto’s true enemy: the idea within the community that, when crypto becomes mainstream, it will be worthless. This is something that a Mashable article implies, since they find that the time to sell is now, because Apple has Bitcoin emojis in their sticker shop. The takeaway from this is that, if people are comfortable with something to the point of integrating it into everyday conversations through emojis, that thing’s real value is now lost. There is a certain amount of scoffing at newcomers and rolling their eyes when someone asks a “stupid” question about crypto.

Sure, speculation of crowds is a thing that, historically speaking, leads to a bubble. But absolute negativity and shutting off towards anyone looking to take part in it is hardly going to help, and defending this sort of behavior by saying that it is preventing a bubble is pointless, as the amount of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) surrounding the entire industry is more than enough to deter the majority from taking part in it.

What this does, ultimately, is hinder adoption. People become afraid to ask questions because they may be laughed at; they move away from all things crypto because of hostility towards “noobs”; the community sees no real growth because of its own toxicity towards one another – “I’m better than you because I knew about Bitcoin before you did!” is hardly something that deserves a medal.

And while hostility towards crypto is partly to be expected from conservatives and traditionalists, adoption’s true enemy is the way the community acts towards those outside of it. Nobody wants to play with the bully.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of