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April 1, 2022

Vitalik Buterin Thoughts on Bitcoin Maximalism

Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s creator and co-founder, released a blog post on Friday defending “Bitcoin maximalism” with strong argument and detail. The post appears to be mostly genuine, yet its publishing on April Fools’ Day raises a number of suspicions regarding his true motives.

The maximalist ethos often opposes any changes to Bitcoin itself, while simultaneously believing that more complicated blockchain systems have fundamental and necessarily fatal faults. Buterin’s admiration for maximalists is surprising given that Ethereum is the most constant and high-profile target of maximalist criticism, owing in large part to the fragility brought by the complexity of its smart contract features.

Buterin appears to regularly echo similar objections of the system he designed in his post, including jabs at Ethereum proposals to produce money for developers. He even criticizes his own practice of engaging with morally dubious commercial and political figures.

While it may be interpreted as a sarcastic troll, Buterin appears to be utilizing the inherent ambiguity of an April Fools’ publishing date to emphasize the intricacy and complexity of the discussion over maximalism.

Even when he dials up the language for April Fools’ Day trolling, his seeming “attacks” on Ethereum are better viewed as making the argument that the crypto ecosystem contains many diverse methods. 

He characterizes ‘team blockchain,’ which includes many Ethereum developers, as affluent individuals in wealthy nations who want to virtue-signal about getting beyond money and capitalism, and those who can’t help but be enthused about decentralized government experiments as a hobby. 

In contrast, he portrays Team Bitcoin as a varied mix of affluent and poor individuals… who are truly using the capitalist instrument of free self-sovereign money to bring real value to humans today.

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That appears to be a bit of a joke, given that Buterin has embraced decentralized governance as a valuable innovation. But it’s worth recalling that the developer of Ethereum was enamored by Bitcoin for years before coming up with a viable solution.

And he appears to be fully earnest about the crux of his argument. Among the vast array of blockchain concepts, he says, the Bitcoin community’s prudence and determination to defend Bitcoin with true zeal are particularly noteworthy. 

As he demonstrates with instances such as Ethereum miners outpacing consumers and development-funding tax ideas, the feature-richness of systems such as Ethereum carries intrinsic dangers to predictability and durability. Finally, the major danger is that some complicated feature may jeopardize or weaken a system’s decentralization, making it subject to hostile assault.

As more money enters the field, he believes that maximalism is a valuable defensive, driving short-term rewards based on innovations that might undermine cryptocurrency’s primary premise.