Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong recently provoked a flurry of emotions by announcing that his company will now be "apolitical."
In a note posted on Medium, Armstrong argued that political divisions undermine productivity and Coinbase must remain focused on its mission. The company then offered severance pay by letting employees submit a form proving their interest by Wednesday, October 7. “Being at Coinbase will mean that you agree with the new direction of the company,” Armstrong wrote.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey withdrew the memo, pointing out that Armstrong's stance is incompatible with Bitcoin, which is direct activity towards an isolated financial system. In response, Armstrong said: “We are committed to one thing: our mission. (This includes bitcoin, cryptocurrency, economic freedom, etc.) "
Armstrong would like to have both. He wants to be apolitical about disruptions that make him uncomfortable, but political about Bitcoin's mission to destroy the world. This position is not only somewhat inconsistent, but also undermines the core principles of Bitcoin. Here are some reasons why.
Bitcoin is value neutral.
It is not controlled by any government or political party. It is protected from censorship and cannot be disabled. He can be accepted by freedom fighters and money launderers, human rights activists and crooks, liberals and conservatives.
Yes, as Dorsey points out, Bitcoin is designed to disrupt the status quo, that is, the power of banks and the traditional financial system. At the same time, Bitcoin seeks to change the world without swearing allegiance to any political camp. So in this sense, Bitcoin is apolitical.
Armstrong's position is not like this. Rather, he insists on the status quo, which many Americans, including his own employees, actively reject. You may disagree with these employees or dislike their tactics, but it is illogical to say that their position is political and that of Armstrong's is not.
Ranjan Roy and Kang Duruk's post summarizes Armstrong's position: “Political apathy is not a neutral position, but highly conservative, almost by definition. When there are competing forces, one tries to pull you in [one] direction and the other forces you to stay put saying that you prefer not to move is choosing a side rather than removing yourself from the equation. "
Unlike Bitcoin, Armstrong's mission is not value neutral. This is propaganda disguised as neutrality.
Bitcoin is censorship resistant
The beauty of decentralized Bitcoin technology is that it cannot be disabled by any individual or legal entity. Bitcoin is making governments nervous, and for good reason. This gives people power over their money, which can weaken the power of the state. In countries like Russia, where political dissidents are the target of a bank freeze, opponents of Vladimir Putin are using bitcoins to raise funds. The Kremlin doesn't like this, but it has no way of shutting down the Bitcoin network. China has taken tough measures against cryptocurrency exchanges and public sales, but has failed to stop people from buying and selling bitcoins.
Resistance to censorship is not the spirit of the Armstrong memo, which is a top-down directive that says, "We will not discuss reasons or political candidates within the company that are irrelevant to the job." Obviously, not all employees agree with this direction, and some seem to have different ideas about which reasons are "work-related."
According to a Wired post, the note left Coinbase employees confused about which topics are banned. Rather than being clear about what you can and cannot say, Coinbase has issued a vague executive order that will force people to curb their own speech. They often make the mistake of being overly cautious. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, creating an atmosphere of self-censorship is a classic authoritarian tactic.
Armstrong's argument is that a company cannot focus on everything, and he is simply trying to remove the noise that distracts the company from its broader mission. Someone may treat this position with understanding, but it can hardly be called censorship-resistant.
Bitcoin excludes the middleman
Bitcoin was created as a decentralized form of money that excludes intermediaries.
Just look at the Bitcoin white paper. Satoshi Nakomoto wrote, “Online commerce is almost entirely dependent on financial institutions acting as trusted third parties to process electronic payments. Although the system works well enough for most transactions, it still suffers from the inherent flaws of the trust-based model. ”
Armstrong's memo highlights the embarrassing truth about Coinbase: Rather than interfering with a third party, Coinbase is that third party. Coinbase is not just a punk rock "destroyer", but a centralized financial institution. While Bitcoin is supposed to be a relatively private form of money, creating a Coinbase account is a lot like opening a bank account, and the company knows a lot about you.