[bitcoin-dev] Bitcoin XT 0.11A

Mike Hearn hearn at vinumeris.com
Sat Aug 15 19:21:52 UTC 2015

> I use bitcoin heavily (not from time to time) but I don't mine - can I
> vote? The way I see it I cannot, and I am not saying it is a bad thing,
> but I missed the argument explaining why users don't matter and only
> miners do.

It is a reasonable question. Let me try and explain why it's done this way.

*In theory*, you do have a vote. If a majority of miners were to club
together and decide to change the protocol against the wishes of the wider
user base, then we'd get a fight between the hashpower majority and the
so-called economic majority. And because bitcoins only have value because
you can buy things with them, in theory, the wishes of the economic
majority should always win.

*In practice*, the code we have today doesn't let us measure what the
economic majority wants. It's not even really clear how that term is
defined. Intuitively we can understand that people who are trading real
goods and services for bitcoin have the final say, because they can always
just refuse to accept BTC. But defining it precisely enough to put in an
algorithm is tricky.

Then you have the question of how to express the vote? For miners, it's
easy: they express their vote by switching to a different full node
implementation that gives them different blocks.

For users, it'd mean switching to a different wallet. If their wallet is
fully validating and the decision is implemented via hard fork, this is
sufficient. If the wallet is *not* fully validating and cannot detect the
fork point by itself, then it'd need help in the form of checkpointing.
Some months ago I pointed out this possibility and a whole bunch of people
freaked out - then bitcoin.org decided to start censoring any wallet that
said it'd ignore what miners wanted.

So if you want a user vote, that's an issue that'd have to be tackled: the
people who admin the main communication channels Bitcoin users have vowed
to censor any program that doesn't slavishly follow 51%+ hash power. That
attempt to control the conversation is certainly not libertarian or
democratic in nature, but there you go.

We can also imagine voting via proof-of-stake. This might be useful as a
form of opinion poll, but wallet developers would have to actually add
support for such a protocol to their apps, and then we're back to the same
issue as with mining pools. Plus, of course, static wealth does not equal
economic importance.

Luckily the wallet market is a decentralisation success story. There are
wallets everywhere these days. Man+dog make their own wallet, it seems. So
it's not silly to think a coin voting protocol could one day happen.
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