Articles written in third-party publications

Coindesk, Go West, Bitcoin! Unpacking the Great Hashrate Migration (June 2021)

I analyse possible reasons for China’s aggressive crackdown on Bitcoin mining and surface the under-appreciated point that China simply has less curtailed energy today as compared with 2016/17, due to a massive grid integration effort. This may well be motivating the CCP’s new policy.

Coindesk, El Salvador Doesn’t Need a Bitcoin Mandate (June 2021)
I investigate El Salvador’s new Bitcoin legal tender law and suggest that the ‘forced tender’ element is unnecessary and coercive; Bitcoin can flourish on its own.

Most likely, the Bukele administration will recognize the burdensome nature of the law and de facto walk it back. But to eliminate doubt as we progress toward implementation, El Salvador should reconsider Article 7 and let bitcoin flourish on its own merits.

Coindesk, The Virgin Bitcoin Fallacy (May 2021)
For several practical reasons, creating green, KYCed, or OFAC-compliant Bitcoin blocks isn’t as easy as you might think.

Harvard Business Review, How Much Energy Does Bitcoin Actually Consume? (May. 2021)
A digestible summary of the Bitcoin energy question for a mainstream audience.

Whether you feel Bitcoin has a valid claim on society’s resources boils down to how much value you think Bitcoin creates for society.

Coindesk, The Frustrating, Maddening, All-Consuming Bitcoin Energy Debate (Mar. 2021)
The third and hopefully final installment in my ‘Bitcoin energy’ series. I cover arguments made by prominent climate journalist Eric Holthaus.

Coindesk, What Bloomberg Gets Wrong About Bitcoin’s Climate Footprint (Feb. 2021)
I explain why comparisons between Bitcoin and Visa are spurious, and why computing the ‘energy cost’ of Bitcoin transactions doesn’t make sense.

Bitcoin is a full-stack monetary and payments system. Visa is a thin layer within the international dollar system, wholly reliant on seamless interoperability of the rest of the payments and settlement pyramid. Until Visa marshals its own private armies to keep the integrity of the dollar intact, the comparison will be a specious one.

New York Magazine, What Explains Bitcoin’s Resurgence ? (Jan. 2021)
My explainer on what differentiates Bitcoin’s 2020/21 rally from its prior rally in 2017, written for a mainstream audience.

Coindesk, Twitter, Trump and the ‘Private Company’ Fallacy (Jan. 2021)
I consider that common defense of corporate censorship, that internet oligopolies are ‘just private companies‘.

The Block, What 2021 might bring for Bitcoin, crypto exchanges and more (Dec. 2020)
I look back at my predictions for 2020 and look ahead to 2021.

Coindesk, Nationalizing Stablecoins Won’t Improve Financial Access (Dec. 2020)
My case for why the STABLE Act, which would require stablecoin issuers to obtain bank charters, would stifle innovation and hurt financial inclusion.

Coindesk, The Case for Bitcoin Banking (Despite Cred’s Bankruptcy) (Nov. 2020)
In the wake of the bankruptcy of a high-profile crypto lender, I reflect on what Bitcoin banking means, why it’s useful, and how it might be different from fiat-based or gold-based banking.

Coindesk, The Hard Forks that Didn’t Dilute Bitcoin (Oct. 2020)
My response to the common critique that hard forks dilute Bitcoin by creating endless copies. I point out that Bitcoin’s ability to repudiate these forks is an underappreciated development worth celebrating.

Coindesk, The Crypto-Dollar Surge and the American Opportunity (Sep. 2020)
Why the US should willingly disrupt itself and surrender its stranglehold over global financial infrastructure and instead promote a credibly neutral alternative. Crypto-dollars are here to stay, and the US should embrace rather than marginalize them.

The U.S. can continue to muddle down an increasingly exclusionary path and punish subscribers to its financial infrastructure by burdening them with political dictates, or it can embrace a neutral alternative. Self-disruption would be a significant bullet to bite, but it suits the U.S. Values like liberty, privacy, free enterprise and personal autonomy are embedded into our Constitution and social fabric. One can hardly think of a better nation to underwrite a shift to a truly neutral payments and settlement infrastructure.

Coindesk, Ethereum’s Fees Mean Choosing Between a World Computer and a Financial Network (August 2020)
I investigate the interplay between block space, transaction fees, and transaction quality on Bitcoin and Ethereum. I conclude that public blockchains are best suited to large, settlement-style transactions, with non-financial transactions priced out. I explain that Ethereum’s weak commitment to a blocksize cap means that large transactors have a limited incentive to optimize the economic density of their transactions.

Coindesk, Bitcoin’s Patronage System Is an Unheralded Strength (August 2020)
I point out that a vibrant system of patronage has emerged in Bitcoin in which a great number of firms subsidize Bitcoin developers but no single entity dominates. This is both a significant improvement relative to prior years in Bitcoin, and considerably differentiated from other cryptocurrencies. Other coins opt for protocol-funded rewards or premines, but these are recipes for graft or capture. Even coins with no protocol-derived infrastructure funding face shakedowns from influential developers who can demand a tithe.

For those versed in the dynamics of open source, Bitcoin’s patronage system as a funding model should come as no surprise. Bitcoin works in ways that are not short-term expedient, but pay dividends in the final analysis. Of course, a protocol-derived pool of rewards with which to pay developers would have been much more convenient, but it would have completely undermined the political neutrality of the monetary system.

Coindesk, After the Twitter Hack, We Need a User-Owned Internet More Than Ever (July 2020)
A follow-up to the social platforms as property article from June, in light of the devastating Twitter hack on July 15. My pitch for a move to decentralized alternatives.

The hack plainly illuminates issues that cryptocurrency and Web 3.0 enthusiasts have been raising for years. “Trusted third parties are security holes” isn’t just a slogan; it’s a concept that millions of people will have intuitively grasped for the first time yesterday. 

Coindesk, Version Control Can Help the Media Win Back Reader Trust (July 2020)
My argument that the press should commit to their article contents, rather than arbitrarily changing it post-publication, which is often done covertly. Using public blockchains like Bitcoin as cloud notaries is an obvious and simple solution here. I also timestamp the article using OpenTimeStamps as a simple proof of concept.

Coindesk, Where the NY Fed ‘Bitcoin Is Not New’ Blog Goes Wrong (June 2020)
My response to a NY Fed blog alleging that Bitcoin should be considered a fiat currency, with a Latin lesson and an etymological exploration thrown in.

Coindesk, Your Property Rights Should Extend to Social Media (June 2020)
My contention that, despite what the ToS’ say, users should actually lay claim to their digital property on internet platforms, under the Lockean theory.

Users cannot easily extricate their social graphs and followers should they choose to leave; they find themselves deprived of their commercially and socially valuable property at a moment’s notice with no recourse and they cannot influence decision-making. To make a political analogy, virtually all of these digital worlds operate as pre-democratic feudal regimes, with every participant a digital serf who tills the land at the pleasure and discretion of a capricious feudal lord.

Coindesk, The Neil Ferguson Affair Shows the Limits of Science During COVID-19 (June 2020)
What the rise and fall of British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson tells us about the risks of demanding excess precision from fuzzy scientific disciplines.

Coindesk, The Last Word on Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption (May 2020)
I lay out my thoughts on the Bitcoin energy debate, surfacing sometimes overlooked issues.

Imagine a topographic map of the world, with local electricity costs as the variable determining the peaks and troughs. Adding Bitcoin to the mix is like pouring a glass of water over the 3D map – it settles in the troughs, smoothing them out. As Bitcoin is a global buyer of energy at a fixed price, it makes sense for miners with very cheap energy to sell some to the protocol. […] Bitcoin thrives on the margins, where energy is lost or curtailed.

Bankless, Crypto-fiat: Mutualistic or Parasitic? (May 2020)
I interrogate whether the rise of stablecoins on public blockchains is hostile to the security model of these chains, and present data demonstrating the ‘dollarization’ of Ethereum.

American Mind, Après Le Déluge, Bitcoin (Apr. 2020)
How our financial infrastructure, from the global to the local level, is hopelessly politicized, and why we deserve apolitical alternatives.

One way to look at it is to understand the appeal of Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency industry more broadly as a reaction to the clear degeneration of the current financial system. Of course there is a monetary component to Bitcoin’s specific allure: imposing a rigid monetary policy, and creating a free market for the issuance of new units, such that no government can perform seigniorage. This gets the headlines. However, catalyzed by and building on Bitcoin’s success is a broader phenomenon: the buildout of politically neutral payments and settlement infrastructure.

Coindesk, How Blockchains Become Great Big Garbage Patches for Data (Apr. 2020)
Why the much-touted arbitrary data storage use case for public blockchains leads to one of two undesirable outcomes.

Coindesk, Bailouts Don’t Save the Economy. They Prop Up Companies That Should Be Allowed to Fail (Apr. 2020)
Why the massive post-Covid bailouts are fundamentally bad for the economy, by forestalling necessary failure that would allow the economy to refresh itself.

Coindesk, Corporate America Knows the Bailout Is Baked In (Apr. 2020)
How bailouts reward excessive risk-taking and punish prudent businesses.

If you eliminate the negative consequences of risk taking, you reward these risk-seeking entities. Now the calculus is different. The companies taking on leverage and refusing to buy insurance (in the form of capital retained on the balance sheet) outperform in the short andlong term, as the government writes them a gigantic free put option in the form of a bailout. The message is very clear: failure and risk taking is rewarded and encouraged.

Coindesk, Crypto Progressives Become Conservative With Their Own Chains (Mar. 2020)
Why crypto-progressivism is incoherent.

Coindesk, How to Stop the Next Quadriga: Make Exchanges Prove Their Reserves (Mar. 2020)
Why Bitcoin custodial institutions should take advantage of Bitcoin’s fantastic auditability properties and institute Proof of Reserves protocols.

Costly verification leads to concentration. The more expensive it is to verify the integrity of a monetary good, the more taking delivery of it is difficult for smaller holders, and the more it lends itself towards capture.

Coindesk, Policymakers Shouldn’t Fear Digital Money: So Far It’s Maintaining the Dollar’s Status (Feb. 2020)
Why stablecoins may end up being a powerful vector of dollarization, and why US policymakers should embrace this trend.

Far from compromising the dollar’s mighty advantage internationally, cryptocurrency, and the infrastructure built to support it, may well entrench its position.

Bankless, A crypto banking reality check (Jan. 2020)
I present data on how much BTC and ETH are held in a custodial setting, and investigate the depository assurances of investors holding funds on crypto exchanges.

The Bitcoin Times, The Cat is Out of the Bag (Dec. 2019)
A discussion of why we should expect – and celebrate – the adoption of Bitcoin by evil people or criminals, and why we need to internalize Bitcoin as “money for enemies”.

The Block, What 2019 meant for crypto and what 2020 might bring (Dec. 2019)
A retrospective on 2019 and predictions for 2020 in the crypto industry.

The Pomp Letter, My On-Chain Data Story (Dec. 2019)
In Pomp’s newsletter, I describe how I was inspired to build Coin Metrics and why I find on-chain data so compelling.

Token Daily, On Labels: A Critical Look at Blockchain Discourse (Jul. 2018)
I issue a critique of popular linguistic tropes used in the blockchain industry.