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Mike Hearn: Bitcoin’s “Young, Unripened Democracy” Suffers Under Authoritarian Developers

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:48 PM
Justin OConnell
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:48 PM

Long one of the most important developers in Bitcoin, Mike Hearn rewrote much of Satoshi Nakamoto’s code. Hearn also openly theorized about what the technology’s potential and future uses could be.

In a much-publicized decision, Hearn divorced Bitcoin last fall, causing high drama in the Bitcoin community. He had been pondering how the cryptocurrency could lend itself to more users, and grew discontent with the Bitcoin community’s inability to adapt.

Hearn Divorces Bitcoin

A Medium  post he wrote, highlighting his thoughts and his intentions to separate from the first digital currency and work with R3 CEV, was viewed by the Community as a shot across the bow. In a recent interview with a Swiss publication, Handelszeitung , he revealed why he held no regrets about stepping away from the cryptocurrency, ultimately concluding, “there is no trust in the Bitcoin Community.”

Hearn describes in the interview how people in the developer scene do not truly want the cryptocurrency to be decentralized.

They say they want so, but that’s not what they want. Bitcoin is a young, unripened Democracy, in which a group of developers hold the power. And this group is desperately trying to prevent a real vote on the future of Bitcoin.

Hearn also laments how much of the Bitcoin mining infrastructure lies in a communist country, “where the people are explicitly told that Democracy is dangerous and leads to chaos.” This fact in-and-of itself undermines the Democracy of Bitcoin, he claims.

“The miners could go against the will of the rest of the Community, which is to push through an increase in the maximum transaction capacity,” he said. “They could prevent this, and this is exactly what’s happening.”  

He makes a historical parallel: “Early in the history of man there were kings and the masses. Then things evolved further. Like in Switzerland, where people can vote on fighter jets  or the building of a tunnel. In this model, one can see that the majority the people are educated and trustworthy. When that is not the case, then people prefer the King-Model.”

Referencing the block size debate, in which the iteration of the Bitcoin software is debated, Hearn notes how Chinese miners have said they would not run a software other than Bitcoin Core; in other words, they won’t listen to the will of the Community.

“[They] won’t vote against Core, because [they’ve] been told voting is dangerous,” Hearn elucidates. “The miners are not per se against proposals to increase the capacity, such as something like Bitcoin Classic wants. The miners refuse to vote. At this point, some developers, including myself, lost interest, because we realized it no longer was a debate about the block size. Suddenly it was trying to convince Chinese people democracy is a good thing.”  These miners have hurt Bitcoin, Hearn suggests.

“And they continue with it because they are afraid to not be perceived as an authority group.”  Hearn insists the current developers are incompetent.

Segwit, Bitcoin Core’s proposed capacity increase of the Bitcoin code, is a “bizarre accounting trick that doesn’t solve Bitcoin’s problem,” Hearn said.

He doesn’t believe a 2MB increase, allegedly laid out on the Bitcoin Core roadmap and preferred by a large swathe of the Bitcoin community, will transpire, for there won’t be a consensus among the Core developer group.

“It won’t happen,” Hearn insists. “Never.”

According to Hearn, the Bitcoin Community has big problems separating competent developers not those who are not competent.

“A part of the Community had realized this, but it’s far too late,” he concludes.

Hearn’s comments have, in the past, caused controversy. Some doubt the honesty of his most recent claims, citing that bitter taste in his mouth as the reason for the comments. Regardless, his take could shed a light on the true state of the Bitcoin project.

Featured image from Shutterstock.