We often encounter Bitcoiners who assert that Bitcoin is unstoppable and has already “won.” We happen to agree with them. But the endgame has yet to play out, and it still has two potential paths. One is easy; the other is hard.
On the easy path, positive narratives about Bitcoin outweigh negative ones. We experience a peaceful mass adoption process based on people’s expectations for huge individual and societal benefits of money that is hard to print, censor or steal. This is the path we seem to be on here at the beginning of 2021 as regulatory barriers fall and Bitcoin’s popularity rises.
But the hard path also remains open to us. On this path, Bitcoiners become vilified as self-righteous and arrogant winners who are identified with the phrase “have fun staying poor” and find themselves resented or even attacked by their less-fortunate neighbors.
One of us believes that the hard path is more likely than the easy one. Regardless of the probabilities of each path, we want Bitcoin and Bitcoiners to take the easy path, and if we can increase the probability of that outcome by even one percentage point, it will be worth the effort. Toward this end, we have concluded that pursuing the easy path requires some understanding of human psychology that we only recently discovered.
Inspired by research done by cultural anthropologist Richard Shweder, psychologists Jonathan Haidt, Craig Joseph and Jesse Graham developed the “moral foundations theory.” Like any psychological theory, it must be taken with a large grain of salt. But Bitcoin proselytizers can learn something from it that may help them push Bitcoin onto the easy path rather than the hard one.
The basic idea behind the theory is that most human action is driven not by cold, calculating, rational behavior such as might be observed in the fictional “homo economicus.” Instead, our intuition drives our actions, and…