From Colour to Color and from Blockchain to Staking: How Definitions Pave the Way


March 7, 2024 2:12PM

In 1825 when Noah Webster completed his first comprehensive dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language, he changed the history of English forever. Webster believed spelling rules were too complex so he changed the spelling of words like “colour” to “color” and added words that had never before appeared in a dictionary, giving us the foundation for what we call “American English” today. 

Webster’s work teaches us an important lesson that still holds true today: the one who writes the definitions controls the meaning. In the world of public policy, clear definitions and laws provide the legal clarity necessary for businesses and entrepreneurs to take a risk to start a new idea without the fear of violating some vague law or regulation. 

Today, Tennessee policymakers have the opportunity to create that clarity and fuel a whole new sector in the economy. The legislature is currently considering a law that sets the legal framework for how the state will treat blockchain-based assets like Bitcoin. It provides the necessary definitions for blockchain technology, protects companies that invest millions of dollars in rural areas to run Bitcoin data centers (called “mining”), and enshrines the right of businesses and individuals to hold and use crypto digital assets. It also clarifies that certain ways people use crypto digital assets, called “staking,” are not subject to regulations of normal financial transactions. This is because the IRS already considers crypto as property, not money.

Now you might not know much or care about Bitcoin and other digital assets, but it’s big business for Tennessee’s economy. Tennessee ranks in the top 10 states for bitcoin mining, creating an estimated $150 million in value last year and over 1200 jobs. It’s also estimated that roughly 15 percent of Tennesseans own some amount of digital assets and will all benefit from this proposed law. With that kind of impact, it’s crucial to set the stage and provide these businesses the environment they need to succeed, especially when the Biden administration is failing to do so. Just as Noah Webster paved the way for a new language, Tennessee lawmakers today have the opportunity to make our state a hub for new jobs, investment, and economic growth. Hopefully soon, when you look up “forward-thinking” in the dictionary, you’ll read Tennessee.