Perianne Boring, President of the newly formed Chamber of Digital Commerce, held a presentation at the Bitcoin Center of New York City on Thursday, July 31st. In her presentation, Ms. Boring went through a number of points describing the functions and actions that the Chamber is anticipated to take on.
Perianne had these words:
“We’re looking to build a full government affairs suite of services which will include having lobbyists on staff [and] will be a resource to public policy makers and this is very different from what the commmunity’s had in the past; we’ve had very fragmented lobbying efforts. […] but we are a trade association that will have employees specifically dedicated, doing this type of advocacy work which is extremely important because we need a resource for public policy makers to call and get third-party, non-biased information about our industry.”
However, concerns have risen over the Chamber’s ‘centralization’ of Bitcoin’s public image. If the Chamber aims to represent Bitcoin in lobbying efforts, it could become a ‘one-stop shop’ for Bitcoin’s representation in the public as well.
It’s interesting because Perianne wants the Chamber to be a non-biased ‘third-party,’ yet a federal representation of the industry. It seems rather clear that those are mutually exclusive – you either represent the Bitcoin and cryptocommunity’s political efforts or you stand to the side as a third-party organization for information. For a diverse community, especially one so decentralized as the cryptocommunity, what effects and ramifications could this have?
Perianne, representing the Chamber, suggested the community be ‘pragmatic’ in their approach.
“When it comes to public policy, we have to have coordination and organization in order to have intelligent conversations to get smart policies: so it is important that we bring coordination and organization and these types of initiatives: that way, we get policies that work for our technology.”
But what does that mean when you get involved with the government? Law makers will approach the Chamber and between them, their communication will be the sole link. What the Chamber says, the State will hear and will no longer approach other roads of information. That means, what the central group of people at the Chamber say will reflect itself in the government.
If the Chamber reaches out to only CEOs and not startups, too bad. If the Chamber brings in big Bitcoin merchants like BitcoinShop or Dell, but excludes local, small merchants, tough luck. If Bitcoin gets Robocoin’s advice on BTMs and not Lustik’s and Kumar’s, then sorry, kids. Essentially, the Chamber may become a platform for big Bitcoin players and that’s against the whole point of decentralization, both in technology and in the community. This is not uncommon with other trade associations.
I bring this up because in her presentation at the Bitcoin Center, Ms. Boring repeatedly talked about bringing Bitcoin ‘Industry Leaders’ to the table. Who those leaders are, we have yet to find out. What those leaders want, we will be at the representative mercy of. When those leaders react, we’ll have to wait for.
Another point that the Chamber of Digital Commerce is aiming to take on is being a source for the media.
“We want to be a resource to the media where they can come to get non-biased information; we can explain to them what’s going on, how the community is addressing it, and what steps need to go forward. That way, we don’t have any more reputation risks[.]”
In this, the Chamber has valid concerns. It is true that Bitcoin has been under plenty of trust issues. However, centralizing this may not be the solution. There is more cryptocurrency media now more than ever. Documentaries and films about Bitcoin that went into production over the past year are beginning to finish production and are nearing release. The films are offering very different perspectives and approaches and that’s a great thing; decentralized film making. To centralize this effort could be detrimental.
Another point made: The community expressed concerns over Brock Pierce and Bobby Lee in the Bitcoin Foundation and Charlie Schrem is still a very controversial figure. What’s to say this Chamber is going to make any smarter decisions? Who is going to be giving this so-called ‘non-biased’ information?
The Bitcoin Foundation itself raises a lot of questions. Boring talked about how the Chamber is not at all competing with the Bitcoin Foundation. Yet, it seems impossible not to.
In July, the Foundation hired the Thorsen French Advocacy group for lobbying efforts in DC, however among their clientele, Thorsen already represent Western Union. The Chamber of Digital Commerce is a being very clear that they want to be a Digital-Commerce-only lobbying group.
Worries rose over how Chamber of Digital Commerce will be structured similarly to the Bitcoin Foundation.
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Executive Committee Members: The Executive Committee will have plenary authority at instituting policies and will have operative consultative authority in formulating strategy and execution.
General Members: General membership will be open to other business and individuals who support the mission and goal of the Digital Chamber. General members will have access to the Digital Chamber’s resources and will be invited to select Digital Chamber events.
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Platinum Membership: For industry leaders. This membership is limited to 5 companies globally.
Gold Membership: For companies with significant Bitcoin operations.
Silver Membership: For companies who are establishing Bitcoin operations.
Individual Membership: Allows Foundation to advance the Bitcoin protocol, educate policy makers, and drive global Bitcoin awareness.
Whether this is a legitimate comparison of how there are levels to influence and it will most definitely be driven by these ‘industry leaders,’ we shall have to wait and see.
The loaded questions
Will the Chamber be able to represent the political ideals of adamant people like Dark Wallet developer Amir Taaki while simultaneously representing the compromising agenda of Gavin Andresen? What if one exchange wants one regulation and an other exchange wants another? Will they really take the opinions of Las Vegas or nudist camps as seriously other merchants and services? What kind of lobbying can they really do?
What kind of information can the Chamber provide Capitol Hill? Will they say Bitcoin is a ‘Payments system innovation‘ or will they say Bitcoin is a ‘decentralized currency?’ Will they support the monetary theories of Carl Menger, Eugen Bohm-Bawerk and the Austrian School, or will they provide literature that gloss over that? Essentially, I’m asking what policy will they push because they cannot serve everyone who wants to maintain anonymity while compromising with Ben Lawsky’s version of consumer surveillance, nor the same diversity on plenty other issues.
Without the Chamber, public policy makers would need to approach a many faceted community. With the Chamber, law makers will get a single understanding of the cryptocommunity, especially this early in its growth. Can the chamber truly be an advocate for this diverse industry?
In the opinion of this writer, the Bitcoin Foundation has been failing at what the new Chamber of Digital Commerce will attempt. What will they do and what is the alternative? What about Ethereum, Eris or Lighthouse?