Where Are You in the Political Spectrum of Crypto?
- Cryptocurrencies could make society more open, less hierarchic, and more democratic.
- Crypto is currently "experiencing a slight shift towards the centre of the overall political spectrum."
This summer, it emerged that Tommy Robinson – the former leader of the far-right English Defence League (EDL) – had received GBP 20,000 (USD 26,300) in Bitcoin donations following his imprisonment for contempt of court.
The episode appeared to confirm the mainstream view that BTC, and crypto more generally, is more the preserve of the hard right than it is of anyone on the left or the centre ground, not least because everyone from Richard B. Spencer to the Daily Stormer website has received donations in cryptocurrency.
However, as the following interviews and reporting will show, the reality is that cryptocurrencies appeal to a broad political constituency. They have the potential to reshape society in a way that makes it more open, less hierarchic, and more democratic, and to this extent they find support across the full political spectrum.
"Just looking from the outside in, almost everyone would say that a lot of the bitcoin community is libertarian," Bitcoin core developer Bryan Bishop tells Cryptonews.com. "This is partly because the libertarian community was somewhat early to adopt bitcoin and get interested. In addition, when Bitcoin whitepaper was originally published by Satoshi Nakamoto, he posted political messages against banking and in favor of privacy, anonymity, and cryptography."
Jason Rosenstein, the CEO of blockchain-based art platform Portion, agrees that crypto appeals to libertarian believers in minimal state intervention. He tells Cryptonews.com, "Cryptocurrency enthusiasts seem to have a libertarian political view and mindset."
However, Rosenstein's comments point to the complication that, even within libertarianism alone, people stand along a spectrum, and may not necessarily be right-wing in any simplistic, uniform sense. "Generally speaking, crypto traders may be financially conservative but socially liberal."
Indeed, this complex view of Bitcoin's political makeup is furthered by other commentators, who note that crypto is malleable enough to serve a variety of political convictions.
"Users of cryptocurrencies tend to reflect the attitudes of the culture in which they reside," says Will Roman, co-founder and CEO of the LXDX crypto-exchange. "Countries which are more technology forward, have a high gaming culture, and have been using virtual currencies for decades are predisposed for cryptocurrency adoption by even the most conservative members."
Conversely, Roman explains that, even in areas and countries that lack advanced technological infrastructures and that may be more left-leaning, Bitcoin still holds plenty of attraction. "The adopters of cryptocurrencies from locales that hold a skeptical view and have no mass familiarity with the exchange of digital assets tend to hold more contrarian outlooks."
Left and Centre
While "contrarian" is vague enough to potentially cover a wide range of ideologies, there's evidence to show that more leftist (and centrist) groups are also taking to crypto.
"I believe that cryptocurrency holders and traders could be not channelled in the traditional scheme or right and left," says Francesco De Santis, the CMO of crowdfunding platform Bloomio. "However, I believe there is a strong correlation with new political movements fostering 'the change' vs. the traditional system."
As an example, De Santis highlights the championing of blockchain by Italy's 5-Star Movement, while another example comes from England, where the Labour-led Hull City Council funded the launch of the HullCoin cryptocurrency in 2014 (for use with/by charities).
But more generally, most observers affirm that crypto has been broadening its political outlook recently, since we’re realising that it has implications for us all.
"You're just as likely to see a headline about how the Chinese government intends to use blockchain technology as you are about the Libertarian angle,” says Mich Hagen, the CEO of dapp platform Mainframe. “Anybody interested in the use of broad power, or resistance to it, will have an interest at this point."
A Better World?
On the one hand, the idea that crypto is 'right-wing' is undermined by how it's currently "experiencing a slight shift towards the centre of the overall political spectrum," as explained by Lisk’s (a blockchain application platform) Thomas Schouten. On the other, it's also undermined by how, if cryptocurrencies and blockchains were to gain universal adoption, the resulting world wouldn't necessarily fit with the aspirations of the (extreme) right.
"Used as intended, cryptocurrencies will unquestionably foster a more egalitarian world," says Hagen. "Cryptocurrencies have the potential to bring economic participation to the unbanked and the underrepresented across the globe. This is also apparent in regions such as Catalan, where protestors are actually utilizing Mainframe’s decentralized technology to circumvent government censorship."
"A primary benefit of blockchain technology for various use cases is to disintermediate the middlemen in the value chains and to promote peer-to-peer behaviours," says Michael Smolenski, the CEO and founder of Lightstreams, a blockchain for dapps. “We could then see the unbundling of many centres of power, especially with the dot-com entities that dominate today. One could see this as a more liberal world."
Others, however, are somewhat less optimistic, and even if they certainly don't think crypto will make the world veer strongly to the right, they think it will most likely reinforce existing power structures and inequalities.
"In the end, I doubt that there will be much change," predicts Angel Versetti, the CEO and co-founder of decentralised IoT platform Ambrosus. "Even if the technology is objective and trustless, the people behind it are not.”
Somewhat depressingly, Versetti argues that the majority of new crypto startups are established by people from big finance and business, implying that the values of the latter will be increasingly transplanted to crypto.
“Would those people want change in the world? No. They only want to make money from it, and they will, and this will create the same [political] barriers."