This post is offered in response to a Bitcoin Magazine article entitled Gavin Andresen: Bitcoin Core Is Not Listening to Its Customers, in particular the following quote by Mr. Andresen.
The root of my issue with [Bitcoin] Core is I just think that they’re not listening to their customers. I don’t think that they’ve been listening to the miners, and I don’t think that they’ve been listening to the people that do the bulk of the transactions on the network.
Who is the customer of a software system that implements a money? It is of course the person that owns the money.
This person can choose to spend money on services like a bank (e.g. Coinbase) or transaction processing (miners), or he/she can simply save. The money is not the property of these businesses and therefore the software system that implements the money does not serve them. This is a critical distinction when considering the impact of changes to the money — the motivation for the quote.
When a money is modified without universal consent, money is stolen. Money is property and it can’t be stolen from you unless it’s your property. The 1913 U.S. Federal Reserve Note was a gold obligation. The money was hard-forked in 1933, resulting in catastrophic losses for its holders. Except to the extent that they held these notes in their own account, banks and mints were not robbed by this act, and generally thrived. A contentious hard fork in Bitcoin would be the same larceny.
In the case of actual consensus (universal agreement) all owners of the property consent to the change, in which case it is an increase in value to everyone. Bitcoin developers can help people achieve consensus, but to the extent that a proposal does not have consensus, it is unethical to push a hard fork. The interests of services, that are paid by coin-holders, are not only irrelevant (it’s not their money) but often in conflict with the interest of their customers.
It should be quite clear that, if a contentious hard fork is possible, Bitcoin is broken. I’ll explore the measure of this damage in a subsequent post.