Striking a Balance – The Tornado Cash Dilemma

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  • The Tornado Cash affair has seen very different reactions in the crypto and non-crypto worlds
  • The crypto space has reacted in horror, whereas the wider world either doesn’t care or thinks it’s a good thing
  • This is because most people don’t use the benefits of Tornado Cash to balance out the negatives

The Tornado Cash affair has ignited the spark of defiance that resides in many crypto users, but the reaction from the wider world has been one of ambivalence. Those who even took the time to learn about what Tornado Cash is will have shrugged and said that only people with something to hide will have used it, so where’s the harm? This attitude is one that sums up the feeling toward the crypto space in general, and those within the crypto space must understand that their battle is not one shared by most of the people out there, and that certain elements of the crypto infrastructure will always be seen this way, unless it solidifies its use case.

Tornado Cash Affair Polarised Opinion

When Tornado Cash was sanctioned at the start of the month by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the crypto space was up in arms – such services are perfectly legal to use in the U.S., and stopping people from doing so is a breach of the First Amendment.

The other 99.9% of the U.S. however, if it even came across the story, just shrugged and said it was a good thing because crypto criminals would now find it harder to launder their stolen money. This underscores the fact that the issue most people have with Tornado Cash is the same issue that most people have with crypto – it only exists to facilitate crime. Of course, there are plenty of statistics to debunk this (as far as crypto goes anyway), but this doesn’t address the opinion of the average person, and for one simple reason – they don’t need crypto or mixing services.

Benefit Versus Cost

The crux of the issue is this – with anything, be it an asset we might buy, a decision we might take or an activity we are considering doing, the benefit versus cost ratio must be favourable enough to make whatever it is worth it. For example, the world in general ignores the pollution caused by cars on an everyday basis because we need them to get around. The world also ignores the carbon footprint caused by web streaming services because they give us entertainment after a long day at work.

What the world doesn’t do is ignore the money laundering conducted by criminals, including North Korean hacking groups, through the likes of Tornado Cash because it doesn’t appreciate, or utilise, the benefits the service offers. Most people that it affords a few thousand individuals a bit of financial privacy every day – the cost is too much for the general population for them to forgive Tornado Cash its sins.

Lack of Use Case Still Holding Crypto Back

Now of course, many could argue that they don’t know they need privacy services, that our overlords are watching our every financial move and could seize our assets at any time, but the fact is that the vast majority of the Western world doesn’t do anything to warrant this – most people are able to send, spend and receive money easily enough and are generally left alone to get on with their day to day financial affairs, so a system that doesn’t benefit them personally will not elicit sympathy, especially when it is undoubtedly used by hacking groups and other criminal enterprises.

Only Crypto Can Fix Itself

This is the argument against the entire crypto sector – if something’s not broke, don’t fix it, and the financial system for the regular Joe isn’t broke enough for them to turn to the likes of crypto or Tornado Cash. Regardless of the merits of this ideology, it can’t be ignored – crypto doesn’t have a strong enough use case for the negatives to outweigh the positives.

If we were all living under a regime like communist China, the ability to transact privately would be incredibly sought after, and applications like Tornado Cash would be fiercely protected. It may take the introduction of a Central Bank Digital Currency to make people realise just how precious financial freedom is, but until that time the world will just see Tornado Cash, and crypto in general, as a new route for scammers and crooks to make hay.

And it’s up to crypto to fix it.