Ethereum Co-Founder Joe Lubin: US Crypto Hostility Goes Beyond Biden, Gensler

In recent months, anger at the U.S. government’s increasing hostility to crypto has—perhaps unsurprisingly—taken on a partisan flavor, with many industry leaders laying blame at the feet of individual Democrats, including President Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler

But Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin sees things differently. To him, the root cause of crypto’s crisis in America may not be the fault of any individual political actor—or even one political party. 

“It might go beyond that,” Lubin said in an exclusive interview with Decrypt. “There may be some entity—related, perhaps, to the banking lobby—that is behind this.”

Lubin believes that crypto and decentralization pose an existential threat to the global influence long enjoyed by the American state in cooperation with traditional finance. Thus, he figures, some nonpartisan element representing long-term American global interests may be behind the country’s accelerating crypto resistance. 

The idea has echoes of what some prominent people in the crypto industry describe as “Operation Choke Point 2.0,” popularized by Castle Island Ventures partner Nic Carter. The theory goes that there exists a coordinated effort at the federal level, and perhaps beyond, to make it very difficult for crypto companies to do business

The speculative agenda borrows its name from the very real “Operation Choke Point” the Department of Justice ran from 2013 to 2017 that sought to unlawfully cut off payday lenders and firearms dealers from banking services. Is the same thing happening now with crypto? Lubin says it may be bigger than even that.

“It’s pretty obvious that the United States likes to operate top-down, to control as much of the world as it can—through, especially, financial intermediaries,” Lubin said. “This technology doesn’t make guarantees that the bank holding companies will maintain their edge long-term.”

“So maybe it goes deeper,” he added.

As Lubin sees it, a so-called “clash of civilizations” between decentralization advocates like himself and the entrenched American establishment has always been something of an inevitability. In that light, he said, the SEC’s current assault on the crypto industry isn’t much of a surprise or aberration. 

Last month, Consensys, the Ethereum software company founded by Lubin, filed a preemptive lawsuit against the SEC, challenging the regulator’s reported position that the buying and selling of ETH constitutes an illegal unregistered securities offering. Lubin has previously said that an SEC victory in the case would “spell the end of the Ethereum blockchain in the United States.” (Disclosure: Consensys is one of 22 investors in Decrypt.)

As far as Lubin’s theory about Wall Street’s secret hand in crypto’s current woes goes, there are a couple of caveats. For one, he says, it’s just speculation. And second, it’s not like traditional finance has been wholly opposed to blockchain innovation: Most major banks embraced spot Bitcoin ETFs, and still more are lining up to list spot Ethereum ETFs

But, Lubin says, profiting off crypto ETFs is a far cry from endorsing genuine decentralization. Wall Street firms could easily enrich themselves on Bitcoin ETFs while, at the same time, fighting to prevent companies like Consensys from building a decentralized future.

“All of them can do well on this technology,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they don’t want to just perpetuate the system for as long as they can.”

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