written by @veriphibtc
For the first time in history, you have the phenomenal possibility to audit the global supply of a currency in a completely sovereign and independent way. That audit will cost you practically nothing and will only take a few seconds.
The Full-Vested Power of a Bitcoin Node
When you run your own full Bitcoin node, you have the prodigious power to verify with an ineluctable certainty how much Bitcoin there is in circulation and how much of it is left to mine. This is possible because your node contains the full blockchain of Bitcoin and therefore its entire history, including the full set of the latest UTXOs (Unspent Transaction Outputs).
Verify It Yourself
Therefore with a simple command, you can ask how many Bitcoin are in circulation to your node without relying on and trusting a third party that will do otherwise. You can try it yourself after installing your full Bitcoin Node. Just enter on your command line terminal:
These magic numbers will come out suddenly:
You can find a lot more interesting information with your Bitcoin Full Node. For example, “height” indicates how many blocks were confirmed and part of Bitcoin’s Blockchain at the moment you made the command.
For today’s article, we will be focusing on the most interesting output of this command, “total_amount” which indicates how many Bitcoin there are in circulation when the command was prompted.
In the snapshot above, you can see at that moment there were exactly 18,464,223.37865277 bitcoins. However, this number seems strange knowing that block rewards have been rounded up figures thus far. Shouldn’t the appropriate amount of bitcoin at that block be calculated by multiplying the number of blocks between each halving by the block subsidy of their particular subsidy epoch?
(210,000 * 50 + 210,000 * 25 + 210,000 * 12.5 + (644,304-630,000) * 6.25 = 18,464,400
18,464,400 – 18,462,23.37865277 = 176.62134723
This logical calculation is telling us that there should have been 18464400 bitcoin circulating at the moment and not 1846223.37865277 bitcoin. This means that there are exactly 176.62134723 bitcoins that are missing.
This is quite perplexing but easily explained by the fact that miners haven’t always claimed their full coinbase reward when due. Too bad for them but good for us as the unclaimed bitcoins are now irrecuperable and their loss slightly increases Bitcoin scarcity.
Why is this an important feature of Bitcoin?
A thousand-year-old tale for businesses, governments, and people is the never-ending complexity of accounting and auditing. That problem is persistent throughout all assets but since the advancement of Bitcoin, the need to trust other parties was removed from the equation and complete auditability of a form of money is now possible.
You can always verify how much Bitcoin you have compared to the current total supply without the risk of someone acting maliciously (as shown above). Therefore you know your money isn’t being diluted by a corrupted centralized party! Bitcoin’s simplicity, when juxtaposed to the Fiat system seems just too apparent for anyone not to notice in the longer term.
Even Gold, which has always been considered as a reserve and hard asset, is far from capable of Bitcoin’s verifiability. The current gold supply is only an estimation as when it’s taken out from the ground, it’s not necessarily reported or compatibilized the right way.
Bitcoin was the response to the unfairness of these monetary systems that kept diluting the value of people’s money through internal corruption, incompetence, and unjustified printing frenzies. Every person now has the power to be their own auditor with relatively cheap hardware and relatively simple software which is Bitcoin Core. You can run your own node on microcomputers such as a Raspberry Pi and only need approximately 300 GB of hard disk space to contain the full blockchain.
However, this isn’t the case with other cryptocurrencies.
How to Interpret the Recent Debate Around Ethereum Supply?
This article’s idea was spurred by the recent debate around the fact there was no way at that moment to diligently and independently verify Ethereum’s total supply.
Pierre Rochard (A high-profile individual in the Bitcoin ecosystem) has levied some criticism of the Ethereum community on their lack of dedication towards running a full Node. Since it’s been trendy (on Twitter) to talk about how easy it is to verify Bitcoin’s supply with the command shown above, Rochard questioned the Ethereum community on the auditability of ETH’s supply and how it could trustlessly be verified.
Vitalik Buterin, the main creator of Ethereum, responded to the Twitter thread by saying that the supply is “clearly known” but providing proof of it through the most popular Cryptocurrency data website on the web, CoinMarketCap. As this clearly wasn’t addressing the question of trustless auditability of the cryptocurrency’s supply, there was a fair amount of blowback.
From then, #SupplyGate began trending on the Twittersphere with folks on the Ethereum community divided, some saying this was just a silly “gotcha” moment that was superficial since Ethereum’s client source code is open, others agreeing with Bitcoiners that work has to be done to make it simpler for users to do things on their own.
If web APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) like EtherScan would be good enough, how can one claim that censorship resistance is a priority? Decentralized projects need to be bulletproof and rigid from the ground up like Bitcoin is.
Rochard then put up a 1 Million Satoshi bounty for the development of an open-source script that could be hooked up with an Ethereum Full Node to verify the supply in a trustless way. After a few tries by other community members, it seems that the user lastmjs.eth finally got to it and released his code and data from it in this GitHub repository. By looking at when he added the data, it seems that it took him a few days to run the script on all blocks up to the present date. That’s an eternity compared to the Bitcoin command which takes anything from 20 seconds to 5 minutes depending on the computer you’re running it.
It seems like the ETH supply can now be audited trustlessly, though it’s not an easy task. Through an analysis by Jameson Lopp, we can observe that a $2000 USD desktop computer with an internet high-speed connection took 5 days and 15 hours to sync the Geth implementation of Ethereum (A Full Node) compared to only 6 hours and 40 minutes for a Bitcoin Full Node.
Yes, some people did exaggerate the drama over #SupplyGate for meme purposes, but the point is valid. Trustless verification of any and every aspect of a cryptocurrency is integral to the very ethos of the space. The very existence of these systems hinges on this ability, and any criticism that results in the building/simplification of these necessary tools should be welcomed with open arms.
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