Crypto not just divided by tribalism, but by fundamental differences in values: Balaji Srinivasan

“As squabbling as they are, they’re going to be the mammals that inherit the earth after the meteor hits the dinosaurs.”


Lightspring/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks


The terms describe classes of people, living within and outside the crypto world: 

“No-coiners” either know so little, understand just enough, or are otherwise motivated to ignore or actively reject cryptocurrencies. 

“Maximalists” ascribe to a particular coin as the one true solution to the world’s problems — most often Bitcoin — with all other options, including fiat currency and gold, flatly discarded as monetary failures. 

Finally, “poly-coiners” — relativistic heathens in the eyes of the mono-coin maximalist — are open to a broad range of possibilities, with a variety of crypto solutions for any problems.

Balaji Srinivasan, ex-chief technology officer at Coinbase and former partner at Andreessen Horowitz, sees them not just as conflicting tribes, but as people driven by fundamental differences in their values.

The angel investor and entrepreneur talks to Blockworks on the Lightspeed podcast (Spotify/Apple) about the parallels he sees between religion, the perceived role of government in society and attitudes about crypto.

Srinivasan begins with religion. Religious adherents can generally be classified as monotheistic or polytheistic, while atheists reject the notion of any sort of overseeing deity.

Attitudes about the state can be similarly categorized. An “a-statist” rejects the state and might ascribe to an anarcho-capitalist system, he explains. A “mono-statist” finds comfort in the notion of a singular empire of sorts to “dominate the world,” Srinivasan says, whether that be Chinese communism or America-first ideology. 

The “poly-statist,” he says, is like a digital nomad with no loyalty to any particular state. “They’re like, where can I get the best value for money?”

Srinivasan continues the analogy, with no-coiners, or “a-coiners” being fundamentally against cryptocurrencies, including central banks, the Chinese Communist Party and Elizabeth Warren’s anti-crypto army. He notes examples on both the left and right, citing former President Trump’s past insistence that the US dollar remain the world’s reserve currency.

“Then you have the mono-coiner,” he says. “That’s the maximalist.” And the poly-coiner, “which is like the venture capitalist or the tech person who switches between coins.”

It’s not just tribalism

An American might be, for example, a monotheist, monostatist, a-coiner, whereas Srinivasan says he is from a polytheist background, seeing himself as a poly-statist and poly-coiner. 

“I come from a completely different philosophical tradition of choice on all three axes,” he says.

“That’s not simply just tribalism, that’s a fundamental difference in fundamental values.”

He points out that a “polytheist is okay with the other guys worshiping their own god, but not vice versa.” The same is true of the relationship between poly-coiners and mono-coiners. 

But mono-coiners, like their monotheistic counterparts, can be unified “under one god,” he says. “Bitcoin is God’s way of making libertarians cooperate,” he says. 

Srinivasan argues many poly-coiners do not understand where maximalism comes from. Being poly-coiners, they typically come from “a higher trust environment in their head space,” he says.

“They are less likely to believe that the Western system is on its last legs, and as such, they don’t need the same level of security guarantees in their code, or they don’t think they do.”

Srinivasan says he’s glad so many different communities exist in crypto. “Because as squabbling as they are, they’re going to be the mammals that inherit the earth after the meteor hits the dinosaurs.”

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