The Myth of Bitcoin as a Voting System

There lies an error in many people’s fundamental understanding of Bitcoin, and any blockchain system, that has been propagated by those who seek to hide the power grab they are making—behind a false patina of democracy. Some of the people associated with Bitcoin Core and Blockstream have been arguing that the worst decision was voting in Gavin to run the system after myself. Gavin Andresen. There are multiple flaws in their argument. Firstly, I wasn’t ever voted into the system; I created Bitcoin, and I didn’t give over the control of the protocol. Next, Gavin was not appointed by vote or by the community. I selected Gavin to manage the software distribution. His job was to steward the software, to ensure that it had no problems. It was not a role where he was designated to change the protocol.

What Adam Back and others forget is, they didn’t vote Gavin in.

I appointed him.

The problem wasn’t that Gavin did not understand Bitcoin; the problem is, Gavin wasn’t strong enough to stand up against the constant barrage from selected groups of people who did not want Bitcoin, people who wanted an anonymous system enabling the viability of nefarious and illegitimate activity. Bitcoin isn’t anonymous; it leaves behind an audit trail, which is what people, communities wanted to remove. I didn’t go so that a community of ‘Bitcoiners’ could vote; there is no voting on the protocol of Bitcoin. I was very clear about it.

Section 4 of the white paper mentions voting. Unfortunately, it would appear that very few people have read the white paper. If they do, they come with a biased understanding and do not read the words that are written. The section talks about the problems of allowing everybody to vote based on an IP address or even a machine itself. And it goes further, if you think about it: humans can be ‘sybil’d’. Allowing random anonymous individuals is how click farms work. People can be paid off and can take money to act for others. They can do so nefariously. Nodes need to be determinable. They can be pseudonymous, but as soon as they have a vote that matters, as soon as they are one of the larger players, who determine the fate of the blockchain, they cannot be anonymous any longer. Removing the anonymity of nodes, while allowing them to compete against a unilateral contract for a reward, is how Bitcoin works.

We shall start by analysing the text associated with what ‘proof-of-workers’ used to achieve. In other words, I begin by exploring the use of a proof-of-work algorithm to replace newspapers on Usenet:

To implement a distributed timestamp server on a peer-to-peer basis, we will need to use a proof-of-work system similar to Adam Back’s Hashcash [6], rather than newspaper or Usenet posts.

Proof-of-work and the distribution method replace the publication of block hashes in newspapers. If you read the references included in the white paper, you will see that the methodology used in creating a timestamp server involved sending around hashes, or what I called block hashes in Bitcoin, to a newspaper or other widely read publication. The process deanonymises nodes. It doesn’t create a system that allows nodes to vote on the protocol. The related function is explained later in the section, and it is described in detail at the end of the white paper. I shall leave it for last.

I note in the white paper that proof-of-work allows the nodes to determine the majority decision-making. Yet, proof-of-work presents not the majority democratically, as some will have you think. It is the majority of the investment. More importantly, the vote that is being taken is a decision on what is and what is not an honest block. If a node follows the base protocol, they are acting honestly. If they are acting honestly, they are voting for the honest distribution of transactions and ordering of blocks. If they are working honestly, they are operating legally and fairly. The majority decision is not based on the majority of users.

The reason many who oppose me seek to misrepresent what a node is defined as derives from the misrepresentation of a fact. If you start to see that there is only a limited number of nodes, which are all commercial entities, and that they are defined, in section 5 of the white paper, as entities that create blocks, you start to see that most individuals using Bitcoin or downloading the software are not nodes and serve no purpose outside of being a user of the system. Bitcoin isn’t the system that James Donald and others have sought, that would allow every individual using Bitcoin to be a part of the consensus mechanism; the consensus mechanism in Bitcoin is limited to the creation of blocks. Very few systems have created blocks in the history of Bitcoin.

I explained the scenario clearly when I made the comment in the white paper:

If a majority of CPU power is controlled by honest nodes, the honest chain will grow the fastest and outpace any competing chains.

CPU power, as mentioned, is not the CPU power of all users of Bitcoin; instead, it is the CPU power or economic investment of the primary nodes, defining the system. They are the entities that create blocks. The users of the system, who don’t create unions, don’t engage in consensus. They are not nodes.

Gavin wasn’t supposed to set up systems to listen to the community. He was supposed to manage a project and steward it forward. A steward is carefully selected. Gavin was not ruling Bitcoin; he was to take my idea and build upon it.

Nodes Enforce Rules

Nodes don’t vote interactively. No operator of a node will sit there watching transactions and deciding whether one should be included or not. Machines don’t have agencies. Machines aren’t intelligent. Machines are not getting intelligent. The best computer systems and machines that we have are no more intelligent than the first mechanical puppet was. In effect, nodes only have one vote: they vote to be honest, or they vote to be criminals. If they vote to be criminals, they do so in a system that records their crime and their deceptions in an evidentiary manner. The security of Bitcoin is not cryptographic; it is a combination of game theory and law and publicised auditable information. Nodes do not vote on changing the protocol. It is straightforward: nodes vote to enforce the rules. They don’t vote to create the rules; Bitcoin nodes enforce the rules.

The heart of the battle over the protocol and Bitcoin and other systems, in the continuous endeavour of a few nefarious individuals who attempt to undermine my credibility, comes down to a relatively straightforward point: some people don’t want other people to understand Bitcoin. They are of afraid what will happen if individuals representing the government and regulators understand what Bitcoin is.

Bitcoin isn’t a voting system. You have been informed wrongly here. Bitcoin as a voting system is a system that allows a few dominant players to decide for the rest of society, in a secret manner, if so it was allowed to change. If you add anonymity, if you don’t deanonymise miners, you will simply end up with a system of ‘might makes right’. There are people who want such a system. But the secret is, you tell the truth. You let people know that the answer here lies in not allowing them to vote on anything other than honesty. You don’t allow them to vote on protocol changes. There are no democratic changes that come from miners, or, as they are really called, nodes. The only changes in Bitcoin are cosmetic or selectively created, within the protocol. I set the protocol in stone so that there wouldn’t be any voting on anything other than on honesty. It is how Bitcoin really works.

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