The Moral Implications of Bitcoin Adoption in Developing Nations: A Case Study of El Salvador

Exploring the Ethical Implications of El Salvador’s Bitcoin Law: A Case Study in Emerging Economies

El Salvador’s Bitcoin Law Raises Ethical Concerns Over Cryptocurrency Implementation

Daisy Halaszyn ’25, a 2023-24 Hackworth Student Grant recipient at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, has conducted a thorough analysis of El Salvador’s recent implementation of The Bitcoin Law. The law, aimed at improving remittance sending efficiency, reducing reliance on the U.S. dollar, and promoting financial inclusion for disadvantaged citizens, has sparked ethical debates over its uneven distribution of infrastructure and lack of education.

Halaszyn’s research reveals that less than 5% of all Chivo ATMs, the primary tool for accessing bitcoin in El Salvador, are located in communities that were formerly controlled by guerrilla forces. This disparity highlights a significant lack of support for rural citizens and a failure to achieve the goals set forth by The Bitcoin Law.

The implementation of the law through the Chivo electronic wallet and ATM system has raised concerns about the government’s commitment to providing equal access to cryptocurrency resources. Halaszyn’s analysis suggests that El Salvador must take proactive steps to install Chivo ATMs in rural communities and provide education programs on the benefits and risks of using cryptocurrency.

President Nayib Bukele’s vision for the bitcoin project, which includes increasing remittance efficiency and serving underbanked populations, faces challenges in gaining widespread acceptance. Many citizens remain skeptical of the formal use of cryptocurrency, and businesses and financial institutions have expressed concerns about the sustainability of The Bitcoin Law amid bitcoin’s volatile value.

The international impact of El Salvador’s Bitcoin Law is already being felt, with countries like Panama considering similar legislation. Halaszyn’s research underscores the importance of discussing the ethical implications of widespread cryptocurrency use on a global scale and the potential for digital currency ethics to promote financial inclusion and equality in emerging economies.

For a more in-depth analysis of the ethical considerations surrounding El Salvador’s Bitcoin Law, readers can access the full report titled “Bitcoin in El Salvador: The Ethics of Cryptocurrency in Emerging Economies” by Daisy Halaszyn ’25.