This is written in typical bombastic Jacobin style, and I’ve yet to read Vitalik Buterin’s book, but I have to say I can’t disagree with the conclusion: there is no leftist case for crypto.
Perhaps there was in the beginning? But now it’s easy to see where it’s headed. And it’s not in any way a socialist enterprise.
Their intentions aside, let’s try asking with seriousness: Is there a leftist case for crypto? Helpfully, Ethereum cofounder Buterin has published a book, ‘Proof of Stake: The Making of Ethereum and the Philosophy of Blockchains’, in which he outlines how cryptocurrencies represent a “new method of social incentivization” that will offer a new democratic “way to pool together our money and support public projects and activities that help create the society we want to see.”
The book is helpful, but not exactly in the way Buterin thinks. It reveals how Buterin’s case is wholly, shockingly bereft of a political vision to achieve such a society, let alone a vision rooted in the most basic political and moral principles of the Left. If ‘Proof of Stake’ is any indication of the existing rhetoric and principles from which one could construct a leftist case for crypto, then no leftist case for crypto can be made.
What emerges in ‘Proof of Stake’… is not a clearer leftist case for crypto but a clearer sense of Buterin’s essayistic style. The instant a reader wants to hear more about this oft-mentioned equitable world of public goods that crypto can bring us, Buterin scampers back into technical discussions.
As a writer, Buterin is the perfect embodiment of crypto as we’ve come to know it: he strays from his technical world long enough to look past the convoluted discourse and glimpse the need for a political framework, but then, whether by fright or disinterest, he returns to his comfort zone. He writes with admirable passion and unusual clarity about these technical issues that his technology is confronting, but the result doesn’t add up to anything resembling a leftist case for crypto — most likely because there isn’t one.