If spammers are willing to pay the high fees, then the fees aren't actually high or the spammers aren't actually spamming.
That's a little compact, so let's expand it some. @GrassFedBitcoin put it nicely (even if he was being facetious):
Real TXs will price out spam.— Mechanic #FixTheFilters (@GrassFedBitcoin) December 26, 2023
Spam will never price out TXs.
It must be true because people just keep saying it.
Meanwhile default core blocks look like this (spam is poop-coloured): pic.twitter.com/boLQwBKiVh
Fees can work as a spam-prevention mechanism when they make it too expensive to send large quantities of low-value messages. If there's a real cost to using the network, people will have to bring in revenue to pay for the messages they want to send.
Fees only prevent spam if they cost more than a spammer can make by spamming.
Bitcoin fees are variable. Nobody determines the fee-rate for the Bitcoin network; everybody determines the fee-rate they are willing pay for their own transactions. Higher demand to get into the next block means fees go up. If you want to read a nicer technical explanation of this dynamic, here's Andrew Poelstra via @sethforprivacy:
Being anti-censorship and wanting a useful Bitcoin isn't the same as being "pro-spam."— Seth For Privacy | Activate CTV (@sethforprivacy) January 4, 2024
This ideological movement to censor or cripple Bitcoin to combat "spam" often shows that people are misunderstanding how Bitcoin works, or they have drastically different view of what makes… pic.twitter.com/lc290Gi1RI
This means that wherever fees end up is exactly what people are willing to pay for them, exactly what it's worth to them. And at the moment it seems that it is worth it to the inscriptions, oridinals, brc-20 people to pay the fees--fees that many people who want to use Bitcoin to send money-like transactions consider very high.
If you think one of the roles played by Bitcoin fees is to prevent spam, then it follows that the people who aren't willing to pay the fees are the spammers. In this situation, that would be the people who want cheap, money-like transactions.
Using Bitcoin as money isn't spam (but only if I pay the fees)
Obviously, the money use-case of bitcoin isn't spam. But thinking about it this way does help me understand the situation a little better: Bitcoin is a permissionless ledger. Anyone who wants to follow the rules and pay the fees can participate.
Perhaps we can tinker with filters and setting and make it more difficult for people to do things other than use bitcoin as money. At the end of the day, the block size limit is really the only reasonable way to control how much data goes in a block. Peter Wuille explains via @nvk:
Many of us have been saying this for quite some time now...— NVK ⚡️🌞 (@nvk) January 5, 2024
There is no "solution" against inscriptions that doesn't hurt bitcoin.
If there's an economic desire to use Bitcoin blockspace (or any aspect of the Bitcoin network) for arbitrary data, there's no good way to stop it while retaining Bitcoin's permissionless nature, The only way to keep blockspace from filling up with brc-20s or any fancy new idea (scammy or otherwise) is to fill it with high-value economic transactions.
Calling these non-monetary use-cases of blockspace spam implies that they will be fixed by fees and that no other changes are required. If fees can't fix the problem, then the problem is not best characterized by calling it spam. And it seems to me that we do have a conversation about censorship on our hands.
Spam that comes in your inbox vs Spam that comes in a tin
The spam you get in your email inbox doesn't pay any fees. A lot of the building blocks of Bitcoin itself have their roots in designing cost back into email to prevent spam. The spam that comes in a tin, on the other hand, may be unhealthy and gross and may fill up menus at our favorite restaurants– but it definitely won't be driven away by fees.
I believe there are two different conversations here. The first one is about how you stop something like spam in your inbox. Sure, the spammers want to send their emails and and we want to stop them, but it's not censorship because there's no built-in system to regulate the cost. Essentially it's figuring out how to deal with a DDOS. The second conversation, about how you keep spam in the tin off menus at restaurants or shelves at grocery stores very much is censorship.
If the people want spam (in a tin) who are we to stop them?
Hopefully you can see by now that I think the ordinals, inscriptions, brc-20s (and whatever other rule-following, fee-paying) transactions people want to make are spam in a tin. People who are working on ways to prevent such transactions are definitely engaging in a question of censorship and it's worth acknowledging the fact (even if you think the censorship is warranted).