[bitcoin-dev] Why Satoshi's temporary anti-spam measure isn't temporary

Gregory Maxwell gmaxwell at gmail.com
Wed Jul 29 20:09:05 UTC 2015

On Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 7:56 PM, Owen via bitcoin-dev
<bitcoin-dev at lists.linuxfoundation.org> wrote:
> On July 29, 2015 7:15:49 AM EDT, Mike Hearn via bitcoin-dev:
>>Consider this:  the highest Bitcoin tx fees can possibly go is perhaps
>>little higher than what our competition charges. Too much higher than
>>and people will just say, you know what .... I'll make a bank transfer.
>>It's cheaper and not much slower, sometimes no slower at all.
> I respectfully disagree with this analysis. The implication is that bitcoin is merely one of a number of payment technologies. It's much more than that. It's sound money, censorship resistance, personal control over money, programmable money, and more. Without these attributes it's merely a really inefficient way to do payments.
> Given these advantages, there is no reason to believe the marginal cost of a transaction can't far surpass that of a PayPal or bank transfer. I personally would pay several multiples of the competitors' fees to continue using bitcoin.
> Sure, some marginal use cases will drop off with greater fees, but that's normal and expected. These will be use cases where the user doesn't care about bitcoin's advantages. We must be willing to let these use cases go anyway, because we unfortunately don't have room on chain for everything anyone might want to do.
> Therefore, bitcoin tx fees can go much higher than the competition.
> Remember how Satoshi referenced the banking crisis in his early work? The 2008 banking crisis was about a lot of things, but high credit card and paypal fees wasnt one of them. There's more going on here than just payments. Any speculative economic analysis would do better to include this fact.

Precisely.  And as "just a payment system" Bitcoin is not an
especially great one: The design requirements for decenteralization
impose considerable costs.  To the extent that the technology in
Bitcoin is useful at all for building "just another payment system"
this technology in in the process of being agressively copied by
parties with deep fiat relationships (including in partnership with
centeral banks).  If the focus for Bitcoin's competative advantage
becomes exclusively "better" payments then it will almost certinatly
fail in the market-place against competing systems which avoid the
Bitcoin currency adoption related obsticles (but also gain none of
Bitcoin's important social/political promise).

Also, critically, if Bitcoin's security properties are manintained and
enhanced then Bitcoin can be used to build secure systems which _also_
accomidate those applications and we can have both. But if Bitcoin's
security properties are not strong then then advanced tools cannot be
built for it.  E.g. atomic swaps make trustless trades with external
systems possible; but they are especially sensitive to long
reorginizations by miners... so they can only be securely used where
those reorgs are infeasable.  So while I agree that we must be willing
to tolerate not catching every conceivable use case; most of the time
all that means is addressing them via a less direct but more focused
solution rather than ignoring them completely.

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