On Trump, Clinton, Bitcoin, and the Nature of Political Debate

I’ve been watching the presidential campaign over the last couple of years, and some pretty obvious things have become even more obvious to me:

Invective and rancor have completely swamped any real discussion of the problems the country faces and obliterated any chance for us to actually try to fix them. Moreover, the same belligerent, unabashedly biased, and frequently aggressively fact free style of debate that’s taken over most of American politics can also be seen at work in the Bitcoin improvement debate.

When watching the presidential debates or tracking the Bitcoin scalability issues, here are some things to keep in mind:

Both Sides are Not Equal

As with a parent of fighting children, when you have to parties throwing invective at each other, there’s a strong tendency say ‘they’re both wrong.’ Well, they are both wrong for insulting, but it’s always the case that one side is lying (more) and being (more) belligerent.

Taking the High Road is Not Always the Better Way

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Well, it is, in principle. But principle has a well-known problem with reality. The party that’s getting lied about and attacked (more) may want to take the high road and stick to their facts, but unfortunately that also means that their answer will probably go unheard under the unbridled roar of the other side.

Unfortunately, if you find yourself in a fistfight, you have to use your fists – and that means using some of the same tactics as your opponent, even you are unwilling to sink to their level. And, unfortunately, if you get hit below the belt, the tendency is to go there too. It gets very confusing every quickly.

Whichever Side is the Aggressor is Probably the One with the Worse Arguments

I mean, it stands to reason. If you have facts on your side, unless you like slinging mud cause you like mud, then you’re probably going to want your argument to win on its merits. And the worse your argument, the more you’re likely going to sling mud out of frustration that your arguments don’t hold up to scrutiny.

So, if you’re confused about which side is the aggressor, look for the one trying to hit lower. That’s probably the one (though not always!).

Your Side May Not Be the One with the Best Argument

Confirmation bias and the fact that many of us now actively seek to reside in echo chambers means that there is a substantial amount of bald-faced lies that go uncontradicted. If you aren’t willing to step back and examine your own facts, and if you’re not willing to acknowledge the weakness and flaws in your own side, then you’re likely on the wrong side of the debate.

For example: I lean progressive, which means I lean Democratic in electoral politics. That being said, Hillary Clinton is a lawyerish liar. She is ambitious, but as far as I can tell her ambition is to be president, but not the broad, society changing initiatives that would truly bring our country back from the brink. I can’t trust her on the TPP, or on civil forfeiture, or on NSA surveillance, or on whistleblower laws, or on … However, when she gets to be president, as I think she will, I know she will be very concerned with her legacy and I can expect 1) that she will be convincible by strong public support or opposition to things, 2) that she will want to generally help the working families of America, and 3) that she is intelligent, experienced, and skilled.

Donald Trump is someone who has time and again instigated divisive fear and hatred by making fact-free statements (and then denying he made them) in his drive to … And I’m not even sure where to go there. I don’t know what he’s driving at.

There are Those Who Like for Things to Be Exactly This Way

A number of months ago, an ex-military poster on Reddit pointed out all the ways that he could undermine Bitcoin with a social attack cheaply and easily by pitting the community against itself. Paid trolls, personal invective, questioning people’s motives, etc, …

In electoral politics its very clear that this happens all the time, and to great effect. The country has been polarized to the point where there is almost no middle ground, no communication between the two sides, and no compromise. This is a great place for the oligarchic class to be in – it’s nearly impossible to get anything done that would materially hurt their interests – to the detriment of us all. To the detriment, finally, of even the oligarchs because a world ruled by fear and anger is not finally a world that’s good to live in.

Wither Bitcoin?

Over the last year, I have read volumes on scaling, segwit, lightning, etc. I have read a huge number of posts attacking the Core developers, Blockstream, Roger Ver, and really anyone involved on both sides of the debate.

The debate is toxic and it’s toxic, I think, beyond the point where it should ever have gotten. I am in general a big-blocker, but I have never really chosen a side in this debate because, really, I think an honest debate needs to be had. There are risks and rewards to both big and small blocks, to segwit, to lightning, and to having a significant number of developers employed by a single company. I don’t know the truth and I’m finding that I can’t really figure it out through the noise.

With both electoral politics and the Bitcoin debate, I think the solution is pretty much the same. We don’t need the name calling, the calling of others motives into question, etc. We do need an honest discussion of what the problems are and of what the potential solutions to the problems might be That is the way forward.

Let’s rise above and have those conversations – and let’s not let those who benefit from sinking us into the mud to succeed.