Mining Bitcoin is freedom.
Mining Bitcoin is freedom.
The Vital Act of Bitcoin Mining: Empowering Freedom in the Blockchain Industry
By Burak Tamaç, CryptoQuant Researcher, Adjunct Professor at Brookdale Community College, and Adviser to Crypto Projects.
Since its inception, Bitcoin mining has evolved to become more than just a means of passively validating blocks and earning rewards. Drawing inspiration from political philosopher Hannah Arendt’s concept of the “vita activa” or active life, mining is viewed as an act of freedom that empowers individuals and contributes to the blockchain ecosystem’s development and future.
Freedom and Positive Action in Bitcoin Mining
To truly understand the significance of mining in relation to freedom, it is essential to explore the various interpretations of freedom. Political theorist Isaiah Berlin famously distinguished between negative and positive liberty. Negative liberty emphasizes freedom from intervention or external constraints, allowing individuals to chart their own paths independently. On the other hand, positive liberty requires active participation and the realization of one’s potential.
However, there exists a third form of freedom often overlooked, known as republican or neo-Roman liberty. This philosophy emphasizes the idea of non-domination and the ability to live free from subjection to the arbitrary will of others. In this context, freedom is achieved when individuals have a voice in decisions that affect them, even if interventions are authorized and consented to.
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The Active Role of Miners in Bitcoin’s Positive Freedom
When applied to the Bitcoin network, mining exemplifies this positive freedom. Miners transcend the role of mere participants and become active validators, contributing to the decentralized system’s integrity. By validating transactions and maintaining the network’s balance of power, miners ensure the genuine nature of transactions and preserve the ethos of decentralization.
Similar to engaged citizens who participate in political processes to hold leaders accountable, miners play a crucial role in upholding the fairness and security of the Bitcoin network. Notably, Bitcoin mining is permissionless, allowing anyone with the appropriate tools to contribute. This democratic aspect of mining ensures that individual contributions matter and collective participation strengthens the system as a whole.
Dispelling Concentration Concerns and Embracing Responsibility
Critics often raise concerns about the concentration of mining power in the Bitcoin network. While an ideal scenario would involve small-scale individual miners, the decentralized monetary nature of Bitcoin necessitates robust resources and defense against corporate and nation-state attacks. In this regard, publicly-traded bitcoin miners and community-owned mining pools offer the next-best solution.
By distributing ownership and decision-making into boards, these forms of mining arrangements disperse power and reinforce the network’s decentralized ethos. Furthermore, such arrangements highlight the responsibility miners undertake and their active engagement in the political processes shaping the blockchain industry.
Bitcoin mining, in essence, embodies a profound exercise of positive freedom within the blockchain industry. It extends beyond mere participation to the active act of contribution. Each miner becomes a political actor, actively shaping and preserving the network’s ethos of decentralization and Bitcoin freedom. It represents a vita activa.
This understanding of mining’s significance highlights its role as a catalyst for freedom and empowerment within the blockchain industry. As the industry continues to evolve, recognizing the political, social, and economic dimensions of mining is essential in ensuring the continued growth and success of blockchain technology.
This article is part of CoinDesk’s 2023 Mining Week, sponsored by Foundry.