Bitcoin symbol inside donation box with a banned text

Ireland’s political donation ban shows it doesn’t understand Bitcoin

A few years back, Russian interference in democratic elections was a big news story. These days, the press is more focused on its actions in neighboring Ukraine, but at least one European nation hasn’t forgotten that the Kremlin is trying to influence elections in the west.

In an effort to mitigate this, the Republic of Ireland seeks to ban all political donations made via digital currencies. This comes on the heels of several U.S. states like California and Michigan doing the same in recent years.

Why does Ireland want to ban political donations made with digital currencies?

Ireland wants to prohibit all political parties from accepting donations via any digital currency. 

Local Government Minister Darragh O’Brien seeks to amend the Electoral Bill 2022, citing the “fundamental threat faced by all democracies” posed by the Kremlin’s interference.

However, it isn’t just Russian influence that Ireland is concerned about. The move to ban digital currency donations comes as part of a larger push to limit foreign influence on elections.

The news rules would prevent Irish parties from accepting donations via BTC, Ethereum, Monero, and other digital currencies and would legally oblige them to reveal their wallet addresses.

Analysis: The Irish government doesn’t understand Bitcoin, and it’s not surprising

This move, and the others like it, show that governments are still essentially in the dark when it comes to understanding Bitcoin.

In a world in which everybody understood that Bitcoin is an immutable ledger that presents in clear text and is not a ‘cryptocurrency’ of any kind, political watchdogs would encourage political donations on the Bitcoin ledger so that they can be tracked, traced, and audited easily and by anyone.

However, we don’t live in such a world. As things stand, most governments are still a long way from understanding what Bitcoin really is and how it can positively impact things like the integrity of political donations.

Yet, as this story shows, even those in powerful positions still believe that Bitcoin is an anonymous “cryptocurrency” that facilitates crime and empowers bad actors to move funds in an untraceable way. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. All Bitcoin transactions are traceable on the public ledger. No single party can alter it, and if wallets sending political donations were KYC verified, Bitcoin could become the most transparent payment system the world has ever seen.

The confusion about all of this is not surprising. Criminals and cypherpunks have both misunderstood and deliberately misrepresented Bitcoin as the type of system they want it to be. Vast quantities of time and money have been spent painting Bitcoin in a negative light. So the inaccurate picture most governments have of it is natural even though it is incorrect.

If countries like Ireland really want to get serious about knowing who is donating to their home-grown political parties, understanding Bitcoin and moving the political donation process onto an open, immutable public ledger like it is the direction they should be moving in.

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