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Can the government shut down Bitcoin?

Posted 10/30/20 by Reed Wommack

At some point on everybody’s Bitcoin journey, they begin to realize that Bitcoin may actually be a better form of money. They realize that it has a number of traits (supply capped, digital, censor­ship-resis­tant etc…) that make it better than their government’s currency. However, the govern­ment benefits from printing its own currency. So people fear their govern­ment will try to shut down Bitcoin. 

Fortu­nately, Bitcoin was purpose­fully designed to be resis­tant to the government’s attacks. Bitcoin’s founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, studied the past failures of non-govern­mental curren­cies before he designed Bitcoin. He realized that many past non-govern­ment curren­cies (like E‑gold or Liberty Dollar) failed because there was a central­ized point that govern­ments could attack. So when the currency got too big, the govern­ment would take the CEO to court, raid an office building, or disable the small network of computers that ran the currency.

Bitcoin was designed to be resis­tant to these types of attacks. There is no Bitcoin CEO. There is no single physical location of Bitcoin. There is no one-building that Bitcoin is stored in. Instead, it is stored and run by thousands of computers (aka nodes) all over the world. 

Even if the US govern­ment tried to track down all of the computers running Bitcoin in the US (which would be impos­sible given that many are run in rural, totally secret locations) they still wouldn’t be able to kill the network. Any American with internet access (or even radio access!) could still commu­ni­cate to the Bitcoin computers running the software in Ethiopia or Indonesia. So Ameri­cans would still be able to access and send their Bitcoin. So long as one person anywhere in the world is running the Bitcoin software, Bitcoin works.

If govern­ments cannot easily kill the network because there is no single weak point to attack, people then fear that they will try to ban Bitcoin. This is a slightly more credible threat. Govern­ments could pass laws making it illegal to own, buy or sell Bitcoin. After all, govern­ments have tried to ban other things (like Brie cheese, saggy pants, kissing on Sundays, marijuana, and alcohol during the prohi­bi­tion). But Bitcoin has some advanced privacy features that make enforce­ment of a ban very diffi­cult. It’s very easy to hide your Bitcoin and very diffi­cult to prove that you own it. And, if people find Bitcoin useful, they will probably keep using it regard­less of the ban! 

That said, we don’t expect the US govern­ment to ban Bitcoin. After all, it seems like they are being increas­ingly supportive of Bitcoin. However, if the winds shifted and they did begin to try to attack Bitcoin, they would not succeed. Bitcoin’s decen­tral­ized computer network assures that a govern­ment cannot kill Bitcoin.

This blog offers thoughts and opinions on Bitcoin from the Swan Bitcoin team and friends. Swan Bitcoin is the easiest way to buy Bitcoin using your bank account automatically every week or month, starting with as little as $10. Sign up or learn more here.

Reed Wommack

Reed was a high-school teacher and outdoor guide for five years before he fell down Bitcoin rabbit-hole. Now he loves to read Austrian economics, write, and meditate. He currently works as Customer Support for Swan Bitcoin, joyfully on-boarding new Bitcoiners.

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Swan Bitcoin does not provide any investment, financial, tax, legal or other professional advice. We recommend that you consult with financial and tax advisors to understand the risks and consequences of buying, selling and holding Bitcoin.