In one of the unfolding dramas of the Game of Thrones AAA farm league known as CryptoTwitter, Dr. Peter McCormack is now under fire from some members of the CryptoTwitterSphere for soliciting funding for his legal defense. That defense is the result of another unfolding drama involving McCormack, host of What Bitcoin Did and influential tweeter, who also dared Dr. Craig Wright to sue him and, it appears, was granted his request. Now, confronted with the prospect of facing down a billionaire, McCormack has a tough fight ahead of him, along with the grim guarantee that he will lose in some way, even if he prevails.
McCormack weighed in to claim that the collection had been taken up by others, on his behalf, and even then after protestations from him. This is a natural, even expected, defense against one part of the accusation; to disclaim having solicited money directly diminishes the likelihood that profit-seeking was the motive. Unfortunately, it lets stand the balance of the sentiment expressed, i.e. that even if every penny went to defense costs as stated, it would be wrong for McCormack to ask for others to pay for his defense.
Taking all of this in, I was reminded of a story that took place in 2016 during John McAfee’s bid to become the Libertarian nominee for President. We were all in New York for the televised Libertarian debate hosted by John Stossel on FOX. In one or other of the in-between moments of that trip, we found ourselves outside enjoying cigarettes on the streets of Manhattan. And as is often the case on urban streets, it didn’t take long for someone to approach us.
On this occasion it was a man who clearly had seen better days. If you took Steve Buscemi, beat him, dragged him through a dump and then pissed on him, the resemblance would probably be striking. One of the only things he had with him was a cardboard sign, and he explained to us that what he needed from us was some money, with which he intended to buy some alcohol and add to the stupor that clearly surrounded him already.
For the group I was with, inebriated ourselves without a doubt, the candor of this man spoke for itself, and I recall everyone ponying up something, what they could. There was discussion, and most everyone agreed that if nothing else, forthrightness and transparency should be rewarded. His approach meant either that he was an astute master of the art of human observation and behavior, and specifically formulated that pitch for people like us, or that he was just being honest with us.
Thankfully the group I was with was not composed of people who had fallen victim to some of the misconceptions surrounding money, and our relationships with it.
Back to McCormack. Let us stipulate, if only for a moment, that he was 100% personally responsible for his own fate, and made missteps along the way that further compounded his own culpability for his current predicament. Should it be wrong, ethically or legally, for him to hold out his hand and ask for others to contribute to his defense? What if he was a billionaire himself?
The answer here should be obvious, which makes it very strange to see so many people that just don’t get it, and it gets even stranger when you spot them on CryptoTwitter. There is no shortcut here people; there is really only one question. Does the money received end up being used for the purpose stated, with the balance returned? If so, in the context of voluntary contributions, nobody has been taken advantage of.
The reason for this is simple: on a level playing field, it is never wrong to ask. If no leverage or pressure are used, and a person is free to walk away from a pitch, no event of ethical significance has taken place. People can make up their own minds, and they are not harmed by the process.
The key to this lies in transparency. There is a reason why most scams involve the promise of vast returns or a heart rending sob story. If they leave these out, it can be difficult to get people who want to actually give them the money. “Donate to a billionaire so he can buy a Lambo” is not a very compelling case for most people to open the wallet. But unless the billionaire does not intend to buy the Lambo, there is nothing unethical in making the request.
The point is an important one. People like Dr. McCormack should not have to feel any more ashamed holding out his hand than the honest alcoholic roaming the streets of Manhattan. No one should, because there is no harm in doing so, even if the request is a stupid or unjustifiable one. In his case, he is embarking on a journey of great personal risk to his finances, mental health and personal stability. He is doing so as “the good guy” to a great many in the cryptocurrency community, David standing up to Goliath, in this case played by the child-king Wright. Not only would it be acceptable for him to ask for help from the community, the case can easily be made that it is fair that he do so.
This is all just a small piece of larger puzzle of the twisted American psyche, a culture composed of conflicting drives, that taken as a whole encourages people to succeed and then shames them for doing so. Where we have people that support Bernie Sanders, yet would rather see him trying to fight for their ideals as a poor man, with all of the additional obstacles that brings. Where any request for money is met with suspicion and, worse, immediate judgment. Where anything that isn’t offered for free, and even some things that are, is considered a rip-off, in some cases by people who otherwise describe themselves as free market capitalists. It is perplexing, but it is also disturbing.
The adult reaction to a request like the one made for money by or on behalf of McCormack is to decide for oneself if you wish to give him any, and what, if any, assurances you personally would require to ensure the money is spent as earmarked. That is it. Commenting publicly on the act, unless to present evidence that McCormack bought a cruise instead, is nothing but wasteful, toxic noise. Presuming to make the determination for others is even worse, it is a self-indulgence as insulting as it is grotesque. Each of us is the ONLY arbiter of the wisdom of our expenditures, and we should thank rest of the world to leave it at that.
So in the spirit of these revelations, please allow me the opportunity to shamelessly request money from you, especially those of you that don't wish to send any to Dr. McCormack. Well, Bitcoin, anyway. As much of it as you can send. I offer no justification for your doing so, make no promises, and have no plans to report to you or anyone else what I intend to do with the money. I won’t even promise that I will end up with it. If you choose not to send it, that is your business, and you may close this article in peace. But I would really like you to send as much as you can now for… reasons.<