Bitcoin: By the Privileged, for the Privileged
Every once in a while — most recently with the collapse of online exchange site Mt Gox — the world starts paying attention to Bitcoin, the hacker-project-cum-digital-currency that has garnered the love of a certain subset of people on the internet. Who are those people? According to an online poll from Simulacrum, the average user is a 32.1-year-old libertarian male. By users’ accounts, those men are mostly white.
Breaking that down, about 95 percent of Bitcoin users are men, about 61 percent say they’re not religious, and about 44 percent describe themselves as “libertarian / anarcho-capitalist.” On the last point, the political ideology of Bitcoin users is evident from the fact that the whole idea behind Bitcoin is that it segregates economic markets and currency from a country’s government. Bitcoin aims to be a universal currency, connecting people “peer-to-peer” instead of through set institutions. It wants to replace our current economic system and practices in their entirety — changing the way we buy goods and distribute money. The libertarians, or anarcho-capitalists as the case may be, don’t trust the government to handle their money.
They’re the same people who want to “end the fed.”
Those libertarian tendencies are generally held by white men. “Compared to the general population,” an American Values survey reported last year, “libertarians are significantly more likely to be non-Hispanic white, male, and young.” Specifically, 94 percent are white, and 68 percent are men.
Why does Bitcoin specifically have this demographic makeup? Well, there’s a fair amount of privilege built directly into the currency: In order to buy the sometimes wildly expensive currency, Bitcoin users need to be wealthy. And they can afford to put their wealth into a currency that isn’t widely accepted or even recognized. Plus, they move easily through the financial and digital space — the process of “mining” BitCoins demands it; it is all about knowing coding and decryption and how to use an exchange. The sum total of these things — advanced knowledge of computer science, wealth — are also markings of the young, white male.