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Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the Fall of the Roman Republic

Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the Fall of the Roman Republic

Bitcoin is unchanging, and in a complex world where everything changes all the time, this is what makes it a system the likes of which the world has never seen…
Sam Callahan
Sam Callahan
Jun 17, 2024June 17, 202427 min read27 minutes read

“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

– Will Durant

The Mos Maiorum of Rome — Duty, Loyalty, Discipline, Courage and Trustworthiness

Did you know the Roman Republic was not governed by a written constitution? Instead, it was governed by a set of unwritten values, rules, and traditions known as mos maiorum, meaning “the way of the elders.”

Mos maiorum encompassed a set of values that served as the foundation for the Republic’s political and social stability. Values like duty, loyalty, discipline, courage, and trustworthiness were cherished, and unspoken societal rules arose from them. These rules were always respected during the Republic’s most prosperous years. They included things like always honoring the Senate’s authority, always serving Rome above one’s personal ambitions, never publicly criticizing one’s superiors, and never bearing arms in the Pomerium, Rome’s sacred inner boundary.

However, as Rome expanded and faced internal and external pressures, the strict adherence to mos maiorum began to erode. Politicians and military leaders increasingly prioritized personal power and ambition over traditional norms, and the values that guided Rome’s ascension were slowly abandoned. The foundation began to crumble.

As author Mike Duncan wrote in his book, "The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic."

“When the Republic began to collapse in the late second century, it wasn’t the written laws that fell apart but the respect for the mutually accepted bonds of mos maiorum.”

Some examples of this abandonment were when Roman leaders like Julius Caesar and Sulla took unprecedented actions to consolidate power, bypassing laws and traditional norms.

Caesar famously crossed the Rubicon with his army, disregarding the authority of the Senate, and Sulla marched on Rome, taking up arms and spilling blood in the sacred Pomerium.

Actions like these compounded over time, eventually destabilizing the Republic. As the customs eroded, Rome experienced rapid social changes and an increase in the creation of new laws to address emerging issues. This led to a more complex and unstable governance structure, making the Republic more prone to chaos. Ultimately, this led to the tearing of Rome’s very social and political fabric, which contributed to the Republic’s eventual downfall.

Swan Private Insight — Issue 36, June 2024

Swan Private Insight — Issue 36, June 2024

Swan Private Insight is our free monthly research report exclusively for ALL Swan Private client (anyone who spends over $100k with Swan).

The mos maiorum of Ethereum — Decentralization, Immutability, Community Governance, and Innovation

When looking at the current state of Ethereum today, it’s not hard to see some similarities with how the Roman Republic fell all those years ago.

The 'mos maiorum' of Ethereum can be considered the early values that guided Ethereum’s initial development and ethos. Some of the fundamental principles that Ethereum’s founders emphasized were decentralization, immutability, community governance, and innovation.

These fundamental values guided Ethereum’s early development and ethos, but like in Rome, Ethereum’s values have been gradually cast aside as it has grown.

This piece will explore how Ethereum has broken with its mos maiorum. We will look back on its history and identify how change after change has led to the project’s deviation from its original core values. We will also explain why Ethereum’s increased complexity as a result of these changes could lead to more instability, increasing the likelihood of its future downfall.

Principles Get Lost in a Sea of Change

One reason the Roman Republic lost its way and strayed from its core values was due to swift changes in its governance. The Republic’s early values of shared power and civic duty were gradually undermined by a series of reforms and crises that centralized authority. As Rome expanded, the complexity of managing vast territories led to the rapid creation of new laws and institutions that increased executive powers, often at the expense of traditional republican norms.

This shift contributed to political instability and the transition to a more centralized form of rule.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from the fall of the Roman Republic, it’s that, in the face of relentless change, holding onto one’s principles can become challenging.

Like the Romans thousands of years ago, as Ethereum has expanded, the community has made significant changes to the system, which have arguably caused it to become more centralized over time. Ethereum’s governance model has allowed for relatively frequent protocol changes (a hard fork every 6-12 months).

To be clear, the ability to make frequent changes to the protocol does not necessarily make Ethereum inherently centralized, but it does raise questions. Why is Ethereum changing so much? Who is spearheading these changes, and why?

Since the infamous DAO hack, Ethereum has undergone 17 hard forks. Many of these hard forks have resulted in fundamental changes to Ethereum’s monetary policy and protocol.

The following table shows five major hard forks since the DAO hack that either directly or indirectly altered Ethereum’s annual issuance rate.

Furthermore, the graph below highlights how Ethereum’s annual issuance rate has changed after each hard fork.


The question becomes, “Is there a select group of individuals or entities pushing for these protocol changes?”

It’s widely believed that the decline of the Roman Republic was partly due to powerful leaders and politicians altering laws to serve their own interests and those of their contemporaries. Key figures such as Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great, and Marcus Licinius Crassus formed alliances and enacted policies that centralized power, undermining the Republic’s traditional values.

Ethereum’s governance process occurs off-chain and involves informal processes, such as public discussions, chat forums, social media, and Zoom calls. Said differently, Ethereum’s governance is achieved through social consensus rather than on-chain voting.

This can make it challenging to ascertain the true level of decentralization, as the decision-making process and the direction of the network can be influenced by prominent community members or a select group of developers instead of reflecting a fully democratic and decentralized approach.

Vitalik Buterin noted this risk himself when he wrote a post on blockchain governance stating,

“The leading alternative [to on-chain governance] seems to be core developer consensus. However, the failure mode of a system being controlled by ‘ivory tower intellectuals’ who care more about abstract philosophies and solutions that sound technically impressive over and above real day-to-day concerns like user experience and transaction fees is, in my view, also a real threat to be taken seriously.”

Although Ethereum proponents will argue that the Ethereum community today is too large and diverse for any single entity to make changes to the protocol, it’s hard to deny that certain organizations within the community have played crucial roles in nearly every major hard fork in Ethereum’s history.

One such entity is the Ethereum Foundation. The Ethereum Foundation is a non-profit organization established to promote and develop the Ethereum platform. It was founded by Vitalik Buterin and several other Ethereum co-founders. The foundation was initially funded through Ethereum’s Initial Coin Offering, where it received around 20% of the initial distribution of tokens in 2014. It has since used these funds to develop the protocol and support the ecosystem.

To this day, the Ethereum Foundation conducts research, funds developers, develops technology, and leads community discussions. But what’s important to note is that the foundation’s governance structure is opaque. No one knows exactly who’s in charge or how decisions are made within the organization.

At this point, it’s indisputable that the Ethereum Foundation has played a hand in every major change to Ethereum, whether that be by directly proposing the hard forks, facilitating discussions and advocating for them in the community, or technically implementing them.

Another prominent entity in the Ethereum ecosystem is ConsenSys, founded by one of Ethereum’s co-founders, Joe Lubin. ConsenSys has become an important company in the ecosystem because it controls and operates key infrastructure such as MetaMask and Infura. MetaMask is a leading self-custodial wallet, and Infura is a critical node infrastructure provider, both of which provide users access to the Ethereum network.

This has raised centralization concerns because one company can effectively act as a gatekeeper to the network. In the past, ConsenSys has blocked users from accessing its products due to compliance with sanctions.

Like the Ethereum Foundation, ConsenSys’s control over key infrastructure provides it with a large amount of influence in the Ethereum community. ConsenSys has played a pivotal role in many major upgrades to the protocol through its development and funding efforts, including with the Merge (which we will discuss later).

If these entities are, in fact, guiding the Ethereum protocol and pushing through changes to the system to benefit their own interests, then it’s not difficult to hear the echoes of Rome. If a select group of individuals are, in fact, manipulating the protocol, then Ethereum could be doomed to suffer the same fate as the Roman Republic.

But have past changes to the protocol benefitted these entities and early founders? Some would argue yes, but others disagree. Often, it is best to follow the incentives to find answers to questions like this.

The Immutability Principle is Abandoned

A common theme observed whenever Rome abandoned its core values is that it often happened during times of crisis. Similarly, this behavior can be seen when analyzing Ethereum’s history.

During past periods of crisis, Ethereum’s leaders prioritized immediate solutions over the project’s long-standing principles. A prime example of this occurred when the principle of immutability was abandoned during the DAO hack. In 2016, a hacker stole millions of dollars worth of ether. In response, Ethereum’s leaders implemented a hard fork to reverse the hack and return the stolen funds to the victims, rewriting Ethereum’s transactional history.

Part of the reason the hard fork may have been implemented is that many prominent community members were likely victims of the hack themselves. It’s unknown who exactly invested in the DAO or how much, but the DAO had significant backing from leading entities and individuals in the Ethereum community. It was touted as an innovative approach to decentralized governance. Even the founder of the company behind the DAO, Stephan Tual, was an employee of the Ethereum Foundation.

After the DAO was hacked, it posed a significant threat to the credibility of the Ethereum network due to the sheer amount of ETH the hackers controlled —about 15% of all ETH in circulation. In the aftermath, the community had an intense debate on how to move forward. Some community members wanted to honor Ethereum’s original principle of immutability and advocated for not changing the code. Other community members, including several prominent figureheads, pushed for a hard fork to reverse the transactions and return the hacked funds to the victims.

One community member who supported the hard fork was Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin.

After weeks of discussion, the community could not reach a social consensus, so the Ethereum Foundation leveraged its influence to push through the hard fork.

First, Stephan Tual from the Ethereum Foundation proposed the hard fork, but no social consensus could be reached on it. In another break with tradition, the Ethereum Foundation then chose to organize an on-chain vote instead. Less than 5% of all ETH participated in the vote, but a majority of those who did agreed to make the hard fork the default for node operators.

In other words, if an ETH holder disagreed with abandoning Ethereum’s core principle of immutability, they had to choose not to update their software.

After the vote, the hard fork was scheduled. For a hard fork to take effect, the new protocol rules must be implemented in the clients used by the nodes across the network. Clients are critical for coordinating network-wide updates. At the time of the DAO hack, more than 95% of nodes on Ethereum used the same client, Geth.

Source: Plotly, @shekhirin

It just so happens that the Ethereum Foundation funded and supported Geth. With Geth being such a dominant client then, it was much easier for the Ethereum Foundation to coordinate and implement the hard fork despite the lack of broad consensus in the community.

Galaxy Digital’s Christine Kim wrote an excellent report on Ethereum’s Governance, where she highlighted this, saying:

“During the DAO hard fork, the main software development team was Geth, and the consensus among Geth developers, which was influenced by the figureheads leading the Ethereum Foundation at the time such as Vitalik Buterin, was to execute the hard fork returning funds from the DAO hack to the DAO creators. This consensus among Geth developers and the Ethereum Foundation more broadly held a large influence over what the Ethereum community and the larger crypto industry viewed as the appropriate course of action for Ethereum.”

Influential entities and individuals in Ethereum reversed the DAO hack, changing the project forever. It set a precedent that Ethereum would favor the wishes of prominent organizations and leaders over the protocol’s immutability during times of crisis.

It’s pretty clear who benefitted the most from the hard fork—the individuals who invested in the DAO. These people got to rewrite history and recoup the ETH they lost. Is it a coincidence that that same group just happened to consist of many early prominent figureheads in Ethereum who advocated for and helped implement the hard fork?

The principle of immutability is crucial as it ensures trust, security, and the integrity of financial transactions on the blockchain. Any deviation from this principle negatively affects ETH’s long-term value proposition because an investor can no longer have certainty that the transactions on Ethereum will not be tampered with if another crisis emerges.

In many ways, the DAO hack represents the first major deviation in the mos maiorum of Ethereum.

The Decentralization Principle is Abandoned

Decentralization was another core value that formed the mos maiorum of Ethereum. It refers to the distribution of authority and control across multiple nodes or participants in a network, ensuring that no single entity has complete control. This makes the network more resistant to censorship and single points of failure.

Initially, Ethereum aimed to design a decentralized platform using a Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus mechanism. PoW utilizes the laws of physics to maintain the security and ensure the decentralization of blockchain. To validate transactions and mine a block, miners must expend computational power, creating a physical cost to participating in the network.

This cost acts as a form of physical governance because it ensures that any attempt to alter the blockchain requires substantial resources (energy and hardware), making it economically unfeasible for actors to gain control of the network. This also creates a fair playing field because anyone with the necessary computational resources can participate.

Using energy prevents centralization since control over the network is not based on ownership of the currency but on the ability to contribute computational work.

In addition, PoW is inherently transparent because the energy expenditure done by each miner is publicly verifiable. Every node on the network can validate miners' work, ensuring the blockchain’s integrity and security. This public verification process makes the system trustworthy.

There is also an important caveat here: In PoW, a separation of powers exists between validators (miners), nodes, and token holders. Only miners can validate transactions and add them to a block. This structure creates a system of checks and balances.

Miners need to produce valid blocks according to the rules enforced by nodes. Nodes enforce the protocol rules and can detect and reject any attempt by miners to cheat or deviate from them. Token holders have no governance power, which prevents large holders from exerting disproportionate control over the network. By dividing responsibilities among miners, nodes, and token holders, PoW reduces the risk of centralization.

In summary, PoW uses the laws of physics and energy consumption to create a fair, transparent, and secure consensus mechanism. This ensures that anyone with the required resources can participate, maintaining the protocol’s decentralization and integrity.

However, in 2022, after the largest upgrade in its history, the Merge, Ethereum abandoned PoW for a Proof of Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism. The new PoS Ethereum blockchain was dubbed “Ethereum 2.0.” This can be viewed as another break with one of the core principles that Ethereum was founded on: decentralization.

In PoS, validators are chosen to create new blocks based on the number of tokens they hold and are willing to “stake” as collateral. This mechanism reduces the reliance on physical resources and increases the reliance on social and economic factors. In a way, PoS can simply be thought of as shareholder voting. The more tokens one has, the more votes they have, and the more power one has in the system.

The concern is that PoS results in the centralization of power among a few large stakeholders, as those with more tokens have a higher probability of being selected to validate transactions and earn rewards. “In PoS, in many ways, the wealthier you are, the more powerful and influential you are. Sound familiar?”

The risk is that large token holders can theoretically collude with one another and drive changes to the protocol against the broad community consensus for their own benefit.

And unlike PoW, the separation of powers between validators, nodes, and token holders doesn’t exist in PoS. Token holders now become the validators through staking. As token holders can validate transactions, there is less independent oversight to detect and reject invalid transactions, potentially compromising the security and decentralization of the network.

The Ethereum Foundation once again played a significant role in guiding the network towards the Merge. They proposed the transition from PoW to PoS, facilitated and led discussions within the community, and developed the Beacon Chain, the backbone of Ethereum’s PoS blockchain. The Ethereum Foundation also spearheaded the technical implementation of the Merge.

This is likely why regulatory authorities are now asking questions about how involved the Ethereum Foundation is in governing this supposedly decentralized system.

In February 2024, the Ethereum Foundation revealed in a GitHub commit that they had received inquiries from an unnamed state authority. Previously, their website stated they had never been contacted by any state agency requiring non-disclosure and would publicly disclose inquiries outside regular business. This statement and the website’s warrant canary, a visual indicator of no secret subpoenas, has since been removed.

ConsenSys, too, played a pivotal role in the Merge. It used its unique position to influence key stakeholders and validators to approve and implement the Merge. In addition, ConsenSys was deeply involved in building and testing the Beacon Chain, particularly through its Teku client. They also contributed to important upgrades, including the Altair upgrade, which was essential for Ethereum’s eventual transition to PoS. These actions help highlight the substantial influence ConsenSys has had in guiding Ethereum towards PoS.

Similar to the Ethereum Foundation, this is likely why regulators had been asking questions about the company’s role in Ethereum’s move to Ethereum 2.0. In a lawsuit ConsenSys filed against the SEC, it was revealed that the SEC had issued multiple subpoenas related to ConsenSys’s involvement with the Merge.

The lawsuit states that ConsenSys received several subpoenas from the SEC seeking more information on its role in the Merge:

“The subpoenas do not just seek information on Consensys’s acquisitions, holdings, and sales of ETH. They also seek detailed information concerning the role of Consensys, including its software developers, in a host of Ethereum Improvement Proposals related to the Ethereum Merge, the transition from a proof-of-work to a proof-of-stake validation mechanism. These subpoena categories include information on Consensys meetings with third parties, communications with all Consensys customers, a list of the names of any Consensys developers who contributed to any coding related to the proposals, and the identity of all public and private repositories that Consensys developers contributed to in connection with their coding.”

The lawsuit continues by saying:

“The SEC’s ‘Ethereum 2.0’ investigation has only escalated in the year since… Just last month, the SEC served yet another document subpoena on Consensys. The subpoena categories include all documents and communications between Consensys and any secondary trading platforms as well as other third parties concerning the Merge, the ongoing development of the Ethereum blockchain, and Consensys’s role as a validator for Ethereum.”

The SEC has since announced that it has dropped its investigation into Ethereum 2.0 after the spot Ethereum ETFs were approved.

In an email titled “On the Matter of Ethereum 2.0,” the SEC wrote, "While we do not with this notice, or otherwise, agree with the factual statements or legal conclusions set forth in the June 4 Letter, based on the information we have as of this date, we do not intend to recommend an enforcement action by the Commission against your client, Consensys Software Inc. with respect to this investigation.”

This was a response to a letter that Consensys sent to the SEC on June 7, asking the regulator to confirm that the spot Ethereum ETF approvals meant that the SEC would close its Ethereum 2.0 investigation, given that it effectively labels ETH as a commodity.

The SEC did not give a reason for dropping the investigation, but it is noteworthy that the letter made it clear that the commission does not agree with ConsenSys’s statements. However, this doesn’t mean that ConsenSys is totally out of the woods.

On June 28th, the SEC filed a complaint arguing that "Since January 2023, Consensys has engaged in the unregistered offer and sale of securities in the form of crypto asset staking programs, and acted as an unregistered broker, through its MetaMask Staking service." It seems the SEC has abandoned its efforts to label Ethereum itself as a security and has instead shifted its attention to the argument that any staking-as-a-service product is an unregistered security. This development means that we may never know the full extent of ConsenSys’s involvement in Ethereum’s transition to PoS, but it does appear significant when looking at the role it played.

Ethereum’s abandonment of PoW can be viewed as breaking with the mos maiorum of Ethereum. Initially, PoW was integral to Ethereum’s goal of embodying the principles of decentralization and security. The shift to PoS represents a significant evolution in the network’s governance, prioritizing efficiency and scalability while sacrificing decentralization and security. It is irrefutable that large entities like the Ethereum Foundation and ConsenSys guided the system toward PoS, but why?

Ethereum proponents will argue that PoS provides better decentralization and security guarantees and that it has always been on Ethereum’s roadmap. On the first point, I respectfully disagree and have already addressed why earlier. On the second point, this is actually true. Vitalik Buterin always planned on Ethereum moving to PoS. In the White Paper, he wrote, “Note that in the future, it is likely that Ethereum will switch to a proof-of-stake model for security.”

Another possible reason why prominent individuals and entities in Ethereum advocated for the transition to PoS is that it further centralized Ethereum and gave existing token holders more control and power in the system. When one compares Ethereum before and after the Merge, one can objectively conclude that it has become more centralized and censored.

One explanation for this centralization is that running a validator node requires high costs and technical hurdles. An individual needs 32 ETH to run a validator node, which equates to more than $100,000 today. Most individuals don’t have the money or technical expertise to run one, leading to the rise of staking-as-a-service providers.

Source: Glassnode

Staking-as-a-service providers are third parties that allow users to participate in staking without needing to manage the technical aspects themselves. These providers take custody of users’ tokens and pool funds from various users to meet the minimum staking requirements. They then handle the setup and maintenance of validator nodes on behalf of their clients.

These services have become wildly popular because users can stake their ETH and receive yield without dealing with the headache of maintaining the node. Today, more than half of all staked ETH use service providers, and 73% of this staked ETH resides with just four service providers.

Lido, the leading staking platform, currently controls 25% of all staked ETH, which brings it alarmingly close to the 33% consensus threshold, where it could unilaterally jeopardize the network’s finality. Furthermore, if any entity, even a multi-operator setup like Lido, gains control of more than 50% of the staked ETH, it could theoretically censor transactions and reorganize the chain.

Although it could be argued that Lido is more decentralized than other centralized staking providers like Coinbase, it still maintains control over the curation of third-party node operators, centralizing decision-making power. Users of Lido deposit their ETH with the company and then receive profits from the staking that comes from Lido’s efforts. For this reason, Lido was deemed a security in the SEC’s latest complaint against ConsenSys. Although some people argue Lido is sufficiently decentralized, the SEC seems to consider it more as a centralized entity.

This centralization is a threat because it can lead to situations where coordinated actions by Lido’s node operators might compromise the network’s security and functionality. Additionally, even if Lido’s operators do not collude, the very concentration of staked ETH under Lido’s umbrella makes Ethereum more vulnerable to governance attacks or policy changes initiated by Lido’s primary stakeholders. Ethereum Foundation researcher Danny Ryan wrote about these risks, calling Lido a "systemic threat to Ethereum."

The fear is not just about one entity controlling the stake but about how that control can be exerted subtly and indirectly through governance and network influence. The fact that more than a third of staked ETH is held with staking-as-a-service providers should concern the entire Ethereum community. The concentration of staking in the hands of a few centralized providers can lead to governance issues, where these entities can alter the protocol and have a disproportionate influence over the network’s direction, especially if they collude with one another.

The power these staking entities have today has been fully displayed since Ethereum’s transition to PoS. Soon after the Merge happened, it became clear that many validators began complying with OFAC sanctions and censoring transactions. Today, nearly 40% of blocks are being censored.


Despite these sanctioned transactions being valid, validators have stopped recognizing them, refused to include them in blocks, and prevented them from executing on the blockchain.

The transition to PoS has resulted in a concentration of validators in centralized entities, leading to on-chain censorship in compliance with OFAC sanctions. This highlights the ease with which powerful entities can influence and further change the Ethereum protocol.

More Change, More Complexity, More Risk

The ease of change associated with centralization can lead to a cycle in which protocol modifications become more common, adding more complexity and potentially destabilizing the system.

Once again, Ancient Rome comes to mind, where increased wealth and power among a few elites led to greater political complexity as they frequently changed the laws, eventually destabilizing the Republic.

Similarly, Ethereum has grown more complex with each hard fork as the values of decentralization and immutability have been sacrificed for other values like functionality and scalability. As the network grows more complex, the likelihood of further changes increases, perpetuating a cycle of instability.

This growing complexity was touched on by Ethereum lead developer Péter Szilágyi when he wrote:

Why does added complexity matter? In 1999, noted cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier wrote, “The worst enemy of security is complexity.”

This idea suggests that as a system becomes more complex, it introduces more potential points of failure, making it harder to secure. Ethereum’s gradual abandonment of its immutability and decentralization core values has led to more changes and increased complexity.

Galaxy Digital’s Christine Kim notes in her report that the frequency of upgrades is increasing and becoming more ambitious, not less. She also described the risks that increased complexity brings:

“With hard forks occurring every six to 12 months, this is a recurring introduction of technical risk and associated smart contract risk to dependents. The argument against complexity is not that complexity is inherently bad, but that the protocol may not have enough developers and researchers looking at the first and second-order effects from these ongoing changes.”

Lyn Alden wrote an excellent analysis of Ethereum roughly three years ago, saying:

“Investors should understand that Ethereum is still in alpha development. Maybe in another 5 years, when Ethereum 2.0 is in place and functioning for a while, with consistent monetary policy for that whole time, it can be considered largely a finished project like Bitcoin. Until then, it’s experimental.”

The transition to PoS was meant to be the final hard fork before Ethereum began to ossify. Still, multiple hard forks have already occurred since the Merge. The recent Dencun upgrade reduced transaction fees, changing Ethereum’s annual issuance rate (once again) and making it inflationary (once again).

A common narrative after Ethereum moved to PoS was that it was “ultrasound money” because it had a deflationary monetary policy. Of course, a monetary policy’s soundness must first be judged by how difficult it is to alter. You no longer hear much about Ethereum as ultrasound money lately. Now, its annual issuance rate is inflationary again.

What’s true in Ethereum today will not necessarily be true tomorrow.

In fact, Ethereum proponents themselves are discussing how to best market Ethereum to Wall Street, given how many changing narratives it has experienced over the years.

This is a critical point to understand when it comes to Ethereum. The criticism of the protocol is not whether the changes are good or bad. It’s not that they are happening at all.

The future roadmap of Ethereum looks as complex as ever, with many developments underway.

What Lyn wrote three years ago still rings true today—Ethereum should still be considered an experiment, given that it seemingly refuses to ossify. At this point, it’s impossible to predict what the network or monetary policy will look like two years from now, five years from now, or ten years from now.

When I look at the graphic above, it’s difficult not to think about the graphic below. It comes from a paper by Zoltan Pozsar, in which he attempted to map out the plumbing of the Shadow Banking System.

Source: Zoltan Pozsar

The traditional financial system is so complex that one needs a magnifying glass even to understand what they’re looking at here.

This is where Bitcoin’s simplicity and immutability shine. Bitcoin is unchanging, and in a complex world where everything changes all the time, this is what makes it a system the likes of which the world has never seen.

The mos maiorum of Bitcoin — Security, Immutability, and Decentralization

Bitcoin is different from Ethereum and the Roman Republic. Unlike them, it has maintained a steadfast adherence to its mos maiorum. Bitcoin’s core principles are security, immutability, and decentralization. These core values remain unchanged and have been respected since its inception — even in the face of crisis. Bitcoin’s protocol has seen very few changes in its lifetime. Its development has been slow and conservative.

Bitcoin’s unwavering adherence to these core values has contributed to its stability and predictability. The continued commitment to decentralization and security ensures that no single entity can control or manipulate the network. This approach is what allowed Bitcoin to become a trusted store of value. It’s why there is certainty around its 21 million hard fixed supply. Today, an investor can buy Bitcoin, send it to a hardware wallet, put it in a safe for 5 years, completely forget about it, and sleep easy at night knowing that the protocol won’t undergo some significant change. Bitcoin will stay the same.

Bitcoin’s commitment to decentralization and immutability breaks the cycle of governance failures that befell historical systems like the Roman Republic. By maintaining a decentralized protocol where no single group can exert control, Bitcoin protects against corruption and manipulation. Its reliance on the physical laws of PoW rather than human governance ensures that it will remain a truly decentralized and incorruptible system.

This is why Bitcoin is different from Ethereum. This is why Bitcoin is different from the Roman Republic. Bitcoin is governed by rules, not rulers. These rules are set in stone. The mos maiorum will be respected because the mos maiorum is coded into unchangeable, incorruptible law. And that — that — is how you build the foundation of a system that will prosper for millennia to come.

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Sam Callahan

Sam Callahan

Sam Callahan is the Lead Analyst at Swan Bitcoin. He graduated from Indiana University with degrees in Biology and Physics before turning his attention towards the markets. He writes the popular “Running the Numbers” section in the monthly Swan Private Insight Report. Sam’s analysis is frequently shared across social media, and he’s been a guest on popular podcasts such as The Investor’s Podcast and the Stephan Livera Podcast.



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