Celebrating The History And Spirit Of Bitcoin Independence Day

This article originally appeared in our Weekly Bits newsletter. If you want our news and analysis before anyone else, make sure you subscribe now!

In my view, Bitcoin Independence Day is a holiday that says a lot about the BTC community. Its origins are highly technical and difficult to understand, the “independence” it celebrates refers to the developer community overcoming interests from industrialized miners and, ultimately, it’s a chance for Bitcoiners to reflect on the young history of the technology and engage in debate.

To celebrate, Bitcoin Magazine hosted a day of educational, evangelical and argumentative programming. I think it spoke well to what this holiday should ultimately mean for Bitcoin.

Why Is Bitcoin Independence Day Worth Celebrating?

Bitcoin Magazine’s Aaron van Wirdum has covered the technical debate that this holiday commemorates, which culminated in the successful activation of the SegWit protocol upgrade in 2017, better than I ever could. For this year’s celebration, our team made a helpful animated video to cover the history as well. 

But the history alone doesn’t quite explain why Bitcoin Independence Day is important enough to celebrate three years later. I think we celebrate it because we see this as an existential moment in Bitcoin when the good of the many won out over the aims of the powerful few — proof that this universal, permissionless value system was resilient in the ways it needs to be. Evidence of our independence.

“It’s not possible to deploy whatever you want on a consensus network,” Eric Lombrozo, a key developer behind SegWit and participant in our live stream this year, told Bitcoin Magazine as he reflected on the history in 2019. “I could want to deploy a million features, but if other people don’t want to accept it, it’s not up to me. I can’t negotiate this on behalf of the network. It’s not up to me or anyone else.”

Bitcoin Independence Day might stem from an esoteric developer debate, but its resolution was ultimately a recognition of the larger independence that this technology promises from bad actors, gatekeepers, powerful third parties, etc. And I think that will always be worth celebrating.

Bitcoin Independence Day As A Chance To Celebrate True Independence

Expanding the spotlight of the holiday to the larger independence that Bitcoin affords was definitely on the docket for our celebration this year. With some help from the team behind The Little Bitcoin Book, our live stream included stories from around the world about how Bitcoin is growing in ways that ingrained institutions cannot stop.

The international team of authors behind the book connected via video chat to discuss its translation into various foreign languages on its one-year anniversary. They also discussed the independence that Bitcoin is granting in places outside of the U.S.

As Jimmy Song and Alex Gladstein checked in with fellow Little Bitcoin Book co-author Timilehin Ajiboye, for instance, they discussed how Ajiboye sees BTC being used in Nigeria, where he operates the BuyCoins exchange.

“I would say 50/50 between moving money in and out of the country and speculation,” Ajiboye said of how he sees Nigerians utilizing bitcoin. “It’s kind of like intertwined, where you receive bitcoin and you’re meant to send it somewhere else but you can also try and make some money on the fluctuations in the meantime. At the end of the day, wherever the money ends up, it’s still someone needing it outside or in Nigeria.”

Emphasizing Productive Debate On Bitcoin Independence Day

Though Bitcoin’s 2017 block size debate was contentious and politically wrought, Bitcoin Independence Day seems like a good time to emphasize something else that’s truly unique about this technology: it really is by the people, for the people and of the people. 

The SegWit odyssey proved that consensus is required to fundamentally change the Bitcoin network and that ultimately, the strongest and most technically-sound arguments will win out. Anyone who has spent five seconds on Bitcoin Twitter knows that Bitcoiners don’t all get along, but Bitcoin the protocol can and should be a place where productive debate is encouraged and sound reasoning wins out.

See Also

As Taproot, the latest consensus protocol change, approaches activation, Bitcoin developers are asking how exactly the network should be upgraded.

Emphasizing this aspect of Bitcoin Independence Day, Bitcoin Magazine’s celebration hosted some high-level discourse on contentious topics, with well-versed proponents making their own cases and leaving it up for the wider world to decide.

Debates included “How To Activate A New Soft Fork?,” “Can KYC Stop Bitcoin?” and “How To Build A Sound Economy.”

“I think it’s very naive if Professor Wray tries to make this merely about the technical economics and to say, ‘Oh no, we can trust the government to get it right with fiat money as long as they did X, Y and Z with it,’” said Bob Murphy, an Austrian Economist, in his opening statement during the Sound Economy debate. “That still doesn’t establish the truth of the proposition we are debating today.”

“MMT explains how the monetary system actually works and this should be useful, even for Austrians,” Wray, a noted Modern Monetary Theorist, retorted in his own opening statement. “If you want to reform the monetary system and you can get the political support for the reforms that you want, you should at least understand how the monetary system works so that you can use it in your interests. Now, I hope you don’t succeed … but I think everyone ought to understand how the economy actually works.”  

Unsurprisingly, the Bitcoin community at large appeared to overwhelmingly support the Austrian viewpoint in the debate, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth having on a day that is meant to celebrate our independence from corporate interests, central authorities and the dangers of restrictive thinking.

To see all of our content from Bitcoin Independence Day, make sure you visit our YouTube page and subscribe.