This is an opinion editorial by Dennis Porter, CEO of Satoshi Action Fund and political strategist who focuses on defending the Bitcoin infrastructure and industry in the United States through public policy, activism and advocacy.
The printer of unlimited money and where that unlimited money is spent is the ultimate power of our times. The broad power of the federal government – including unlimited money in Washington – attracts many interest groups to our nation’s capital, but that’s also exactly why Bitcoiners should choose a different strategy. Historically, many political movements have taken place at the state and local levels, but currently, Bitcoiners are leaning heavily to influence politics at the federal level. I admit it, I have fallen for the luster of the federal government in the past. For bitcoin to succeed in the US, I think we need to focus more of our efforts on local politics. Not only is this a better political strategy, but it is also in line with Bitcoin’s bottom-up design ethos. There’s nothing more bottom-up than meeting with your local and state officials to impact public policy. The rest of this article will be used to explain the value of this approach. By the time you’ve finished reading, I hope you’ll be convinced to take action to positively impact your local community.
It’s been nearly a year since the infrastructure bill passed and since then we as an industry have been extremely focused on Washington. For good reason; the infrastructure bill forced us to be careful as the most powerful government in the world began to target the bitcoin industry. Soon after, we collectively saw many Bitcoiners become politically active, with even some of the most anti-government Bitcoin influencers launching their own political organizations and efforts to combat government excesses.
I started working overtime to build relationships with members of Congress. In a single year, I befriended more senators and congressmen than in the first 30 years of my adult life, despite having a background in politics. Since the announcement of the infrastructure bill, many relationships have been made, but not much has happened to move Bitcoin policy forward. Gradual gains have taken place, but they have been overwhelmed by moves in the wrong direction.
The positive results have been extremely muted compared to the efforts in Washington and there is a reason for that. As I mentioned above, there are simply too many interest groups in the district. Bitcoin may be popular in the news and on Twitter, but our ability to lobby properly pales in comparison to the military-industrial complex or the medical industry, for example. We’re just not big enough. For reference, the entire cryptocurrency universe (including Coinbase) spent nearly $9 million in 2021 on political lobbying efforts, while the healthcare industry spent over $625 million. dollars the same year. In total, more $3.7 billion was spent in all major industries. At $9 million, that puts the entire cryptocurrency space at 0.2% of all lobbying spend; we are a rounding error. I’m not saying this to disappoint, but we need a reality check. I woke up to the realization that we’re just not big enough to be truly effective at the federal level despite the attention we get in the news or on Twitter.
That being said, the efforts must not stop and I encourage those who have successfully built relationships in Washington DC to keep fighting for Bitcoin. Do not lose hope. There is a cavalry that comes to help support your efforts, and that cavalry is national and local policy. We are fortunate to live in a republic where states have sovereign power; this gives American Bitcoiners a unique ability to let grassroots efforts rise from the bottom, regardless of what happens at the federal level. Much has been done to weaken the ability of states to impact the political process over the decades, but I believe there will be a revival of activity at the state level and Bitcoiners have an opportunity to take the lead.
As many of you know, this country is riddled with successful movements that have happened and are happening at state and local levels. The simplest example of a state-level movement is marijuana. In 2012, two states (Washington and Colorado) became the first to legalize marijuana. Just 10 years later, there are now 39 states that have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana on their borders, with five of the remaining 11 states voting on legalization in 2022.
This example is essential to remember for Bitcoiners. It is possible that in nearly a decade, nearly 90% of the United States will have pro-marijuana legislation on their books at the state level; an incredible feat for any major political issue to accomplish, especially since possession of marijuana is still a federal crime. This shows the power of the bottom-up approach which is only possible because of the design of the governance structure in the United States.
This is the same approach that I think Bitcoiners need to take for us to be truly successful in our political endeavours. Another reason why local government is an attractive approach is that much less attention is paid to local politics. Many elected state officials work part-time and some are volunteers, which means they don’t get much help either. Often, local officials care deeply about their state and really want to make a difference. A local manager’s desire to make a difference, combined with a Bitcoiner’s enthusiasm to help out, is a good mix. Many state houses also have less attention from those wishing to slow down Bitcoin.
Fewer enemies means fewer roadblocks, which means we can move much faster.
Many states are also much more willing to experiment with a new policy and once one state adopts a policy, it sets off a game-theoretical chain reaction where other states might start adopting the same or similar policy. Many states are content to copy/paste the policy of others in an effort to avoid being overwhelmed, but this is also easier than coming up with new concepts.
As New York State Senator James Sanders said, “We don’t have to spend all our time creating the wheel, I prefer to perfect it.” In the case of marijuana legislation, not legalizing meant losing taxpayers’ money and jobs. In the case of bitcoin mining, this means missing out on potential jobs, innovation and investment, and not being able to improve network infrastructure. Once one state is moving in the right direction, lawmakers in other states will see the results and start looking for ways to improve them in their own state. Fortunately, we already have a state to look to for a roadmap to Bitcoin policy success: Texas.
I believe the next five years will be filled with dramatic changes at the state level. We should care about these efforts at the state level for three reasons and we should seize the opportunity to move them forward as quickly as possible while being mindful of an effort to form an effective and sustainable policy.
- We have the opportunity to advance bitcoin and bitcoin mining through states that are ready and willing to move in the right direction. We can do it quickly and efficiently.
- If we do nothing, more states will be attracted to New York. This will hurt our efforts to become active later rather than sooner.
- If we can get a wave of states to adopt pro-Bitcoin policy (copy/paste), especially mining policy, we can blunt or halt efforts at the federal level to impede Bitcoin adoption in the US and in North America.
Call to action
I have told many of you to become much more active in politics and many of you have taken action. I see you. I ask you once again to be more active, but this time: think local. Find your local state representative and ask them how you can help them. Build relationships and talk to them about the opportunity for them to embrace bitcoin mining as a way to strengthen your local economy. If you need help educating them, contact Satoshi Equity Fund Where Email me. Satoshi Action is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating policymakers and regulators about the benefits of bitcoin and bitcoin mining.
In conclusion, I think the next decade will be critical for bitcoin adoption and the most effective way to improve that adoption from a nation-state perspective is to start at the local level. Remember, there was Bitcoin Beach (local level) long before bitcoin was legal tender in El Salvador (national level).
This is a guest post by Dennis Porter. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.