On Matters of Merchant Adoption

In the present era of fiat economics, delaying gratification just doesn’t work. Branded as unpatriotic, unproductive, and selfish, waiting to save up for something you really want is a one-way ticket to social alienation. If you’re not stimulating the economy, constantly injecting fresh capital into the bloodstream of the junky, it’s going to collapse, go into withdrawal, and die. You have to buy that shit right now. Or else? Well, you won’t be keeping up with the Joneses and inflation will rob your ass.

This lens, that of citizen-as-consumer, is a bizarre worldview indeed. It’s a sort of fascist bread and circus routine. You’ll be happy as long as the multi-nationals have something to sell you. Won’t you?

But you can’t trick the Bitcoiners! Oh no! We’re better, smarter, faster, and (can afford to hire people who’re) stronger! We don’t succumb to materialism, the temptations of The Man, etc. That’s for other people. Lesser people.

But if that’s so, why do the vast, vast majority of Bitcoiners (at least those on bitcointalk, /r/bitcoin, and Facebook) constantly expound the virtues of merchant adoption? Why does the ommmm of mainstream Bitcoiners sound suspiciously like “Amazoooooooon”.

The logic of merchant adoption appears to be loosely based on the idea that the more people see “BITCOIN ACCEPTED HERE” signs, the more people will know about Bitcoin, the more people will want it, the more demand pressure will squeeze the known supply, the more to the moon. This line of logic continues, with a known BTC supply increase of 11.11% in 2014 and a perfectly efficient market (which, if Mt Gox is anything to go by, is a ludicrous notion), we can infer that any USD/BTC price increases represent an increase in demand net of that supply increase. All because of merchants. Because obviously.

Aside from the increasingly obfuscated price signali, there’s a philosophical contradiction here. Bitcoin is powerful because it’s outside of the current paradigm, outside of the existing infrastructureii, and because it presents an opportunity to abjugate ourselves from a fossilized system. Yet our birthplaces and our places of habitation, soaked in deep layers of consumerist muddle, prevents us from seeing what lays beyond yonder mountain of Walmart refuse.

If independence means freedom, in the emerging Era of Bitcoin, independence means freedom from physicality, both geographic and material. If Germany had its wealth stored in BTC instead of gold, it wouldn’t have to beg the USG to please, pretty please, let it audit its own stores under Manhattan. If Germany stockpiled bitcoin instead of gold, it might actually be an independent nation.

Merchants like your local coffee shop have never accepted diamonds for goods or services rendered. And diamonds aren’t available from ATMs in the shopping mall. Incredibly, rappers still think they’re crazy valuable. Funny how that works.

Effective marketing rarely, if ever, increases the value of a product by making it 100% accessible all at once – it tends to be the opposite. De Beers hoards that shit in warehouses so it’s only as available as they want. Why don’t we do that with BTC? Rather than feeding into our consumerist leanings and making bitcoin easier to buy and spend, perhaps we’d be far better off making it more exclusive, like a velvet-roped night club, but for numerically competent folks. A velvet-roped library, then.

As the individual responsible for helping several local businesses accept BTC, this conclusion seems a bit contradictory coming from me. Perhaps the best spin I can put on it is that I’m helping local entrepreneurs promote themselves, strengthening their positions in the community and putting a bit of the world’s most valuable asset in the pockets of some of the city’s most well connected people.

Bitcoin, unlike fiat, demands that we delay gratification. For once. This can be confusing at first, but it’s a lesson we soon learn. I learned it last summer when I spent 3 BTC on a $450 case of wine in Kelowna. Today, I could’ve bought that case for 0.64 BTC, and probably more like 0.1 BTC before long, then 0.001 BTC, etc.

For those of you holding, be patient, watch bitcoin grow, and fight the temptation to spend it. Your future self will thank you for it.

___ ___ ___

  1. See Mircea Popescu’s February 2014 statementfor his options-trading and securities exchange outfit, MPOE. []
  2. Bitcoin is sovereign. []

41 thoughts on “On Matters of Merchant Adoption

  1. […] 2014, Peter Dushenski (aka BitcoinPete) made WhenBitcoinMetPete, which is […]

  2. Nick Jachelson says:

    I generally agree, but there is one point you missed. Without legitimate merchants, lawmakers will simply say bitcoin is used only for illegal cap, let’s ban it. Some have tried that anyway but will fail because of backing from Overstock and other big name merchants.

    • Bitcoin Pete says:

      This assumes that Bitcoin can, in effect, be made any more illegal than drugs/communism/terrorism. History would not be in their favour. Lawmakers would just as soon ban beauty as Bitcoin. Natural language is vague, elusive, and uncapturable.

    • Nick Jachelson says:

      Let’s face it, we are much better off with it being legal vs. illegal.

      It’s very simple. Politicians hate drugs, terrorism, etc. but they love feel-good stories about business bringing in $1 million in sales thanks to bitcoin (guess who funds their political campaigns?)

      So we put an end to the former and grow the latter. Friendly regs come out. More people invest in bitcoin, including inst investors. Price goes up. Lawsky runs for governor and wins. It’s a win-win situation for all.

    • Bitcoin Pete says:

      Since when has the right path or the best path been the easiest path?

  3. NJS says:

    Absurdities, such as the reference to Germany and its post WW2 stockpiling of gold in the US, don’t strengthen arguments. The entire gold saga is nothing more than a conspiracy theory manufactured by those with a political agenda and ginned up by the zero hedge / Glen Beck / “global financial reset” media complex. Even if it were true, bitcoin solves none of the problems that truth would imply.

    Beyond that, underlying the entire piece is the assumption that bitcoin’s price vs. fiat will continue to rise ever upward. Possible, but nothing more than a hopeful guess. Supply restriction is only one side of the supply / demand equation, and possibly not even the more important of the two with regard to bitcoin.

    The comparison to diamonds is inapt, as their demand curve is mostly understood and derives from cultural norms (marketing). Bitcoin’s demand drivers are far less reliable, and mostly unknowable past the mania / speculative phase we’re experiencing now.

    If bitcoin is not to gain traction as a currency of sorts, from where will all of this demand come? The velvet rope argument is pregnant with further assumptions, chief among them, that the affluent will choose bitcoin as a store of wealth over existing options. This is far from certain, and much more reliant on the unpredictable whims of governments and institutions than many bitcoin proponents care to acknowledge. Sure, the blockchain may live on, but there are many choke points, and only a handful of chip makers in the world.

    I’m hopeful for the future of bitcoin, but it faces massive challenges, and is just as likely to be superseded by another technology as it is to reach the heights your piece assumes to be a foregone conclusion.

    • Bitcoin Pete says:

      I see Bitcoin’s demand coming from those fleeing inflation. In this capacity, it will accomplish what modern gold bugs have been wishing for their precious metal for the past few decades, as periodically throughout history. It’s not that Bitcoin doesn’t have challenges, it’s just that it represents deterministic scarcity distilled as pure data. It’s not perfect, it’s just better. Things that are better tend to win.

    • I’m much more fascinated by the function of the network then variable scarcity. You have no fear of present or future bitcoin flaws and have complete confidence that all unknown future speed bumps will be easily resolved?

    • Bitcoin Pete says:

      Bitcoin’s scarcity is the only reason the network has value. This is incidentally why Dogecoin is so fucking useless.

      And not sure where you get the reductio ad absurdum idea that I have “no fear…”

      SHA256 and ECDSA may well have flaws, the latter almost certainly, but I have confidence that the players involved are incentivized to overcome those weaknesses. So far, so good, despite the malicious actions of The Foundation et al.

  4. […] The world didn’t die of deflation on the gold standard, nor did it toil in a dry pool of unmet needs, but it is unquestionably suffering under the present inflationary regime. Everywhere, plastic is replacing tangible, useful goods. Your car is made of plastic14 because steel is too expensive, your cellphone is made of plastic because aluminum is too expensive, the foods at the grocery store are made of plastic or covered in plastic pesticides because local food is too expensive, etc. Then there’s the rampant social confusion and associated mental illness, to say nothing of the debt. Oh, the debt! And people still want to increase merchant adoption in Bitcoin? […]

  5. […] specify the protocol. This isn’t news to anyone and should be priority numero uno. Fuck the merchant adoption shit […]

  6. […] idea that Bitcoin cares about killer consumer applications has been but to rest. Let’s move it […]

  7. […] so dashing dressed up as Satoshi? Or why Circle’s new webwallet is so exciting? Or why merchant adoption is so important for Bitcoin to go […]

  8. […] don’t care, but Circle sucks and will do little more than out-derp Coinbase. I guarantee it. Mass adoption is an illusion. Get over it. Bitcoin is […]

  9. […] need not mean merchant adoption, which, if anything at all, follows rather than leads greater adoption. Dat CoinDeskin’ […]

  10. […] Leer texto original, en inglés […]

  11. […] Leer texto original, en inglés […]

  12. […] don’t want mass consumer adoption. It’s down there on the list a good ten spots underneath blockchain blowies. We know that […]

  13. […] we have Bitcoin and we have PGP – two technological developments that are nowhere near broadly accessible and are therefore naturally geared towards hierarchical organizations. And yet, they’re also […]

  14. […] Diamandis doesn’t read Contravex and still thinks consumers matter for Bitcoin, when, in fact, it’s the exact opposite: Bitcoin smashes consumerism. […]

  15. […] biggest challenge ahead isn’t “bringing Bitcoin to the people” or some such nonsense, it’s in maintaining a sufficient number of nodes to relay and […]

  16. […] the off chance that you thought derping on Reddit and persuading merchants to accept Bitcoin was sufficient to demonstrate your supreme knowledge and superiority on all […]

  17. […] stories and VC money driving Bitcoin? That’s lulzier than the merchant adoption angle. All of these follow, rather than lead. Dat conflation of cause and effect. […]

  18. […] listened to a podcast or two, you swallowed the pitch of the merchants and exchanges who say “Spend your coins to st-st-stimulate the Bitcoin economy!” Of […]

  19. […] ATMs were all the rage. “The Community” was frothing with excitement at the prospect of bringing Bitcoin to the people with little grey boxes installed on every street corner where interested parties could pump in […]

  20. […] This purest, sweetest form of capitalism is the most decent thing in the world. And we don’t even have to wait until it’s mainstream. […]

  21. […] opposed to, say, some start-up, “bitcoin consultancy,” or the like. […]

  22. […] said “master of product development” in person), kid eagerly and blindly wants to help because adoption, kid double-builds hacks together an online store using pictures allegedly portraying the mining […]

  23. […] it serves to further demonstrate the overall weakness of fiat bank security, predicated as it is on mass adoption, Microsoft Winbloze, and "the customer is always right" user […]

  24. […] it at the time, I once spent some measure of time and energy with the local meet-up/conference/merchant/grassrootsy-bordering-on-redditarded crowd, trying to drill whatever sense I then had at my […]

  25. […] is why mass adoption smells worse than the wretching gutters of Mumbai. This is why goodness is the domain of the elite. […]

  26. […] dashing of fiat markets will instantly lead drive untold waves of Bitcoin adoption any more than buying falafels with Bitcoin is somehow going to make a difference, it’s more just […]

  27. […] user choice will sort this all out, just as it always has, though much to the current dismay of the mass adoptionists who would dilute the holdings of the bold and brave fast followers (what early adopters […]

  28. […] biggest challenge ahead isn’t “bringing Bitcoin to the people” or some such nonsense, it’s in maintaining a sufficient number of nodes to relay and verify […]

  29. […] favour and the barriers to entry are only getting higher.x Needless to say, Bitcoin needs “significant public adoption” like Obama needs a third term : in no way would this make either them or the world around […]

  30. […] be any further question on the topic – is why barriers to entry are a thing and why “mass adoption” is literally death. Not kinda maybe “sorta” death. Mass adoption is complete, […]

  31. […] almost-four-year-old article speaks to exactly this “mass adoption” fallacy. Self-recommending.  […]

  32. […] hey, no one said mass adoption would be easy, or lead to anything other than the exact same centralised fiat bullshit world that […]

  33. […] which it is! It’s true! But just because a technology doesn’t succeed in terms of merchant adoption, much less the wholesale replacement of all fiat currency in all places and times henceforth and […]

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