Big Story 2021: This article is part of our Year in Review series.
The battle was lost, and the war began.
Members of the cryptocurrency industry have been so busy reading and re-reading 1997’s The Sovereign Individual that they convinced themselves they could get away with waiting until nation states were just some sort of contract on the internet — or whatever that book is trying to say. That idle delusion hit the wall this July when the U.S. House of Representatives began arrangements to squeeze the industry for $28B in revenue to help ease passage of President Joe Biden’s $1T infrastructure bill.
How do we put this? The industry flipped out.
Crypto leaders believed the language reflected a poor understanding of the technology, requiring miners, developers, and other participants not directly involved in the markets to collect and report client information they were ill equipped to handle (or didn’t, on any level, even have).
Battle lines were drawn! Caravans lobbied! There were tweets! A minor cottage industry in t-shirts that said “shadowy super coder” was born!
The campaign was an abysmal failure. The drama faded, and the language passed basically intact. But the Treasury promised it wouldn’t be ridiculous and there would be some relief for crypto ventures as the law was implemented.
But something changed. An army formed and is now ready to fight. It was as if the industry all of a sudden woke up and got politics. Not everyone wanted to approach the controversy the same way, but that’s OK. The point is that crypto’s denizens are showing up in the real world now, in the places where we collectively make decisions about society.
This has manifested in all kinds of ways. First we started to see the stirrings of grass roots organization. NFTs funded advocacy groups. Broadsides were penned.
A major DAO started looking at how its very operations could begin convincing the world that crypto is actually good, very good.
One entrepreneur even said he was going to run for the U.S. Senate (is he though?)
Now Republican House Members are typing out “gm” on Twitter, stirring hope that lawmakers finally get it. It wouldn’t be fair to say that crypto had been absent from Washington. CoinCenter, the Blockchain Association, and the Chamber of Digital Commerce have been there for years. But it became a bit less secondhand, and the intensity cranked up in 2021.
Round One went to the U.S. Congress. The next several rounds are likely to look very different. If there’s one kind of terrain crypto denizens navigate well it’s an adversarial environment where no one trusts each other.