This is an opinion editorial by Hannah Wolfman-Jones, Author of System Override: How Bitcoin, Blockchain, Free Speech, & Free Tech Can Change Everything and Founder of We The Web.
Academics will not be too soon for Bitcoin; There are too many incentives built into the college system that make them not to be. These include the incentive to please their Keynesian peers and bosses, and the financial incentives of research grants, consulting roles — and a revolving door of paid positions at the Federal Reserve, IMF, and other fiat financial institutions.
The bias in the university system against bitcoin runs deep. Sometimes it goes beyond entire departments not dealing with bitcoin — and cocky, ill-informed professors making strong statements against it — to examining the issue of blocking bitcoin in university IT systems.
I personally encountered this when I, a bitcoin pleb, suddenly found myself unable to thank New York Law School (NYLS) Professor Emeritus Nadine Strossen for my book on bitcoin and freedom of speech, to which she had contributed to contact. My emails to Stersen went out as usual, didn’t get any replies or bounce back messages, but didn’t reach them. A spate of email tests showed that all emails containing the word “bitcoin” were blocked without the knowledge of students, faculty, and staff from or before February 8, 2021 through April 24, 2021. The blocking extended to both incoming and (most puzzlingly). ) outgoing emails from all NYLS email accounts. Other cryptocurrencies and related words were not blocked.
I have expressed my concern directly to the NYLS President that this email block is “a gross violation of the principles of free speech” and “an unusually extensive and gross security measure that has been unacceptably (albeit entirely unintentionally) breached ) restricts academic inquiry and reasonable/productive communication”. I have stated that bitcoin is “a crucial tool for human rights,” which is very relevant, but my arguments did not seem convincing. NYLS did not change the email block after complaint as it is a normal part of their email security. Instead, they found Professor Strossen as a workaround and, unbeknownst to them, continued to block all email discussions about “Bitcoin” for the rest of the NYLS.
The email ban was eventually lifted after I told NYLS I would be writing about it publicly. NYLS students, staff and faculty can once again send email through “Bitcoin” for free. Unfortunately, despite my repeated requests to notify the NYLS community of the suspension, NYLS still has not notified them of the suspension and has not given them an opportunity to restore missed communications. Lawyers with a basic knowledge of bitcoin are well paid and in high demand, yet for months NYLS denied its heavily indebted students the opportunity to acquire such skills or job roles via email without their knowledge.
Assistant professor Craig Warmke has also encountered university IT restrictions regarding Bitcoin. Warmke explained that his institution, Northern Illinois University, has blocked access to some useful Bitcoin information sites such as “Bitcoin Wiki” and has previously blocked access to many others, including Bitcoin Magazine. This included pages that Warmke says would directly benefit his academic work.
As a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, Nathaniel Harmon received very strong opposition from many at school for his desire to do research with Bitcoin. After submitting a 17-page synopsis detailing how Bitcoin can subsidize the development of untapped clean and renewable energy sources in the oceans, Harmon was summarily fired and replaced by Dr. Michael Roberts, a prominent professor there, who told him, “These are not new ideas. They’re *tiringly* old ideas that are seriously wrong. Read Paul Krugman about Bitcoin… You’re wasting your time and others. Please stop selling your fool’s gold. Or, if you prefer, drop out of grad school and work for the Winklevoss twins or the Libertarian Party.”
Recalling the pervasiveness of the knee-jerk reaction against Bitcoin among academics, Harmon recalls, “I’ve learned to avoid talking about Bitcoin as much as possible, instead theoretically talking about a buyer of last resort. Everyone liked the idea until you mentioned it was bitcoin mining as a buyer of last resort and then shrugged it off. Anything other than Bitcoin would have been the idea five years ago… It kind of set me back.” While Harmon has many stories of being ridiculed and fired for his research into Bitcoin, there have also been many professors and colleagues who have been open-minded and were polite.
Professor Bradley Rettler, an assistant professor at the University of Wyoming who researches the philosophy of bitcoin, has had the exact opposite experience, with his bitcoin research being encouraged and embraced by academics. “I haven’t personally experienced any bias in science towards bitcoin,” says Rettler. “In fact, the university was thrilled to have someone work on something that they admit they don’t understand at all but seems important and relevant.”
Do you have stories about bitcoin research that are being discouraged, censored, or embraced by your academic institution? We’d love to hear them! If yes, email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your experience.
This is a guest post by Hannah Wolfman-Jones. The opinions expressed are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.