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Elizabeth Warren Does Not Speak for the Left on Crypto

4 mins
Updated by Josh Adams
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In Brief

  • Elizabeth Warren, a progressive U.S senator, has been one of crypto's biggest enemies in the States.
  • One stereotype of the crypto community is that it is largely right-wing. The truth is more complicated.
  • A 2018 survey showed that crypto was ideologically diverse. It is likely to be more so now.
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Politicians like Elizabeth Warren have helped create a reputation of the political Left as the enemies of crypto. The truth is far more complicated.

A prevailing stereotype about those in the crypto community is that they are primarily right-wing libertarians. It’s not hard to understand why. Its worldview shares many similar ideas to crypto. Namely, individual liberty and minimal interference by the government in economic affairs.

In the U.S., crypto’s most determined enemy has been the Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren. She has waged a years-long campaign to restrict its use. She has said that crypto “has created opportunities to scam investors, assist criminals and worsen the climate crisis.”

The threats posed by crypto show that Congress and federal regulators can’t continue to hide out, hoping that crypto will go away. It won’t.”

In recent months, she has been organizing a bipartisan effort to heavily regulate the technology. Crypto advocates have pushed back, claiming that it poses an unconstitutional threat to privacy.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren speaking with attendees at the 2019 National Forum on Wages and Working People hosted by the Center for the American Progress Action Fund and the SEIU at the Enclave in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Elizabeth Warren has been campaigning for tougher rules on crypto. Source: Gage Skidmore.

Before her failed 2020 Presidential run, Warren was a popular champion of the Left in America. Her first Senate run in 2012 attracted attention across the country, and she was widely seen as a rising star. Alongside Bernie Sanders, she is one of the country’s most progressive politicians in a generation. Warren and her ilk advocate for a stronger role for government in the economy to reduce poverty and income inequality and tackle systemic issues like climate change and discrimination.

The Crypto Community Appears More Ideologically Diverse

However, where Warren goes, the political Left does not necessarily follow. In 2018, CoinDesk Research conducted a survey that appeared to show that crypto was more ideologically diverse than people thought. The 1,200 respondents broke down to 8% anarcho-capitalists, 24% libertarians, 21% conservatives, 9% centrists, 27% liberals, 9% socialists, and 3% nihilists.

The same survey showed that while 55% of Bitcoiners skewed Right, 55% of Ethereans skewed Left. Ripple could be described as relatively “centrist.” The privacy coin Monero was home to the most anarcho-capitalists—a group that advocates for the elimination of the state. No surprises there.

Five years is an age in crypto, so it is worth asking how relevant this data is. Although, as adoption has increased, it would make sense to assume its users have become more like the rest of the population. More diverse, not less.

It’s More Complex Than Just “Right Wing”

A 2020 survey by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority showed that most use it for speculative investing, a hobby not generally associated with Lefties. So, is crypto inherently right-wing? “For the most part, yes, crypto is dominated by right-wing libertarian ideology and speculation,” says the Blockchain Socialist. “Is that the only possibility ​for the use of the technology? No, I don’t think so, and there have been progressive-minded uses of the technology that don’t comply with right-libertarian logic.”

As the 2018 survey suggests, the crypto community is full of progressives, socialists, and liberals. Although, a counterpoint to this is that they are so often signposted. The fact that The Progressive Bitcoiner, Jason Maier, feels the need to write a book called “The Progressive Case for Bitcoin” is telling. On his website, it says, “he didn’t feel like Progressive people had a place within the Bitcoin community.”  

“Even worse, he noticed his Liberal friends were being given misinformation about Bitcoin from the media and some Liberal politicians.” Figures like Elizabeth Warren aren’t helping.

The Common Thread Is Anti-Establishment

Crypto is not just a vessel for anti-government feelings. It can also be anti-corporation too. The entire Web3 model is based on a critique of the Web2 internet giants, farming our data for profit. It is hard for any attack on that system to be essentially right-wing.

“​In general, I’d say most people attracted to crypto are anti-establishment first and foremost, but many of these people are led to believe right libertarian narratives around money, the economy, politics, etc.,” continues The Blockchain Socialist. “Even though often if you were to sit down with them and really ask about their values, why they are dissatisfied with the status quo, and what their ideal society looks like, they would contradict the libertarian narrative.”

The cypherpunks, a hacktivist movement in the late 20th century, were known to be ideologically diverse. Without their activism, the internet would be an even more dystopian place than it is today. 

“There was a contingency who were more into the open source development aspects of crypto, which generally attracts more left-leaning people. But they were far from the majority.”

‘Left Wing’ Does Not Mean Anti Crypto

It is also worth noting that freedom, individual liberty, and a more atomized state can be Leftist goals too. Anti-censorship was a left-wing concern far before conservatives became its champions. Left-libertarianism is a thing, after all. However, it is not as famous as its right-wing cousin. 

One left-libertarian writer points out to BeInCrypto that the libertarian movement has its roots in progressive causes. It goes back to “pre-welfare state forms of self-organization such as cooperatives,” he says. However, it is worth noting that Senator Warren’s views on the role of government in regulating markets and protecting consumers differ from those of the libertarian movement.

“Similarly, today’s crypto communities can be seen as forms for mutual learning and empowerment, members helping each other rather than dog-eat-dog anarcho-capitalism. However, as recent Uniswap governance issues involving venture capital firm a16z show, the decentralization inherent in the code doesn’t automatically extend to who has the power to run a crypto platform.”

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Josh Adams
Josh is a reporter at BeInCrypto. He first worked as a journalist over a decade ago, initially covering music before moving into politics and current affairs. Josh first owned Bitcoin in 2014 and has followed the space ever since. He is particularly interested in Web3 adoption, policy and regulation, CBDCs, privacy, and the future of the metaverse.