Tag Archives: Gold

Is Bitcoin in a Bubble?


The Big Question:

This seems to be the question of the day, if not the decade.

Can cryptocurrencies replace money or are they just another bubble?

The answers vary.

To the optimist, but not necessarily the realist, bitcoin is already money. So, yes, not only will it replace all government fiat cash, but it will free the masses from the tyranny of the state. It will never “bubble” and the way it’s designed, it will only become more valuable with time. Freedom for all forever and all the drugs you want. Gold? It’s a quaint idea. Caveman monetary policy, complete with pretty rocks.

Okay, maybe that was a bit overboard.

To the pessimist, no. Bitcoin is a Ponzi scheme. It is a well-marketed fiat asset trick. Don’t fall for it. It will eventually bubble, crash and burn. In the meantime, it will benefit the criminal element. It must go and/or be regulated as soon as possible. The state should always be the final arbiter of monetary policy, after all.

To the middle-of-the-road folks? Bitcoin can exist along side the current fiat money systems. It should work within the current frameworks of nationalized  monies, however. It can improve things from there. We can create a sound money standard after we iron out all of the regulatory kinks within the new cryptocurrency technology.

Unfortunately, our governments, as they are now designed, will not be able to survive on a diet of sound money and that is why fiat money was created in the first place. To escape the bonds of reality with a legal fiction, all the while, kicking the inflation can down the road.

But why not stop inflation by connecting bitcoin with gold? Make each one represent a certain amount of some rare earth metal? Why not couple gold and cryptocurrency, privately? Because the political environment is fiscally destructive. That’s why.

We know that our centrally planned economies will not allow citizens to derail the inflation machine which keeps our governments in control. It is only when the puppeteers begin to loose control of inflation that the money strings of government unravel, resulting in a revolution against the “evils of money.” Such revolutions do not always end up with a population of free citizens, however.

Cryptocurrency Negatives:

So, let us be cruel to ourselves. Take it on the chin, like a good cryptocurrency enthusiast should.

What is often cited as the main reason that bitcoin (or any cryptocurrency) can never serve as money? There are many reasons actually and here are a few:

  • Unstable Value
  • Trust
  • Fiat
  • Acceptance
  • Taxation
  • Bubble

Now, before we go off spouting all the great things about cryptocurrency, lets define money. I mean, what is this paper stuff we carry in out wallets and what are those electronically recorded digits in our banks? Better yet, let’s just define a good money.

Money:

  • A tool of humans
  • Used when high level of productivity is reached
  • Desire for long-range control over their lives
  • A tool of saving for delayed consumption and later production
  • A material commodity which is:
    • imperishable
    • rare
    • homogeneous
    • easily stored
    • not subject to wide fluctuations of value
    • always in demand among those you trade with

Source: Ayn Rand Lexicon

Few people ever go this deep, however. The dollar, euro, yen, dinar, peso, franc, pound, lira, rupee, krone, zloty, rand, and the shekel are, for all intents, legal notes. It’s money for the masses. Buts it’s not real money. It’s fiat money, which represents nothing but trust. I trust you, do you trust me? Besides, what choice do we have, right? It’s legal tender. It’s easier to use than chunks of silver, which the government wants to value in fiat anyway.

You can, at least in the US, pay your taxes with fiat currency and most of us trust that the currency is money.

We also know everything is becoming more expensive, but few of realize that the root cause of inflation is not the weather, the wealthy or our enemies. It’s simple math. The more fiat notes we print or e-print, the less valuable they become. This holds true for some cryptocurrencies as well. You simply divide the value, in fiat currency, by the current number of altcoins. This gives you a rough estimate of the fiat value of a particular cryptocurrency, at a given moment in time.

So, it’s easier to understand values with cryptocurrencies, since their creation is usually straight forward. There is no Federal Reserve to manipulate alleged M1, M2 and so on. There are no banks to create endless supplies of fiat. The only inflation regulators in bitcoin, for example, is its code base. It is currently programmed to create a finite number of BTC’s. It’s not manipulated to screw the masses, but to retain its spending value.

Paper money used to represent or hold title to gold or silver. That was why it worked. Why it functioned. Once the paper no longer held title to some form of property, it became fiat. It became dysfunctional. At that point, almost always, economies begin their decline. Some economies decline faster than others of course.

Perhaps if our governments set hard long-term limits on fiat numbers, then our fiat monies might stand a chance. But there are no such limits.

High Hopes:

Many hoped that bitcoin could save our failing economies, tame our ever growing governments, and usher in some new global paradigm of wealth, but not without effort.  If this is your thinking, you are guilty of being overly optimistic and just maybe, a bit naive. Don’t worry, I’m rooting for you because I’m a near-convert myself.

What holds us back from becoming “one with the crypto?” History. It is full of examples of ledger based monetary systems that ultimately failed. It is replete with evidence that all of the fiat based systems failed as well. And the gold-backed systems — failed, but after the decoupling of functional money (paper notes) from the metals. The governments enforced these failures, often by confiscating the one form of money that has never become valueless: gold.

So we have to ask ourselves why have all monetary systems failed throughout history? Now, I’m not asserting that gold became worthless–ever. Fiats did. Ledger systems were scrapped or forced out. Seashells were abandoned. But not a single monetary system transcended all governments, in any cohesive fashion. Bitcoin, though an asset, does.

Asked another way. Aside from gold and silver being an asset for thousands of years, what monetary system, fiat or otherwise, has ever existed beyond the constructive control of all governments, simultaneously?

Bitcoin as an Asset:

The latest thinking is that bitcoin (cryptocurrency) is not money, but acts as like an asset. That is Peter Schiff’s thinking. Schiff works with Goldmoney Inc., based in Canada and he lives in Puerto Rico. Goldmoney(tm) is a company that allows you to spend gold, via a debit card, in many countries, for a small fee. You can also store gold in various vaults around the word. And there are other benefits.

You can find out about more about Schiff’s views easily. He has his a radio show, owns several companies, is an author, but to sum up his financial views I would offer this:

He has repeatedly held bullish views on long-term investments in foreign stocks and currencies in countries with sound fiscal and monetary policies, as well as global commodities including physical precious metals and has expressed bearish views on the US economy and the US dollar.

Source: Wikipedia

So what is an asset?

An asset is anything of value that can be converted into cash.

Source: Investopedia

It’s a bit more complicated than this, but for the sake of argument, all cryptocurrencies are assets, since conversions to some other form of trusted money is the fundamental purpose to both buy and hold bitcoins. I mean, that is the allegation, right? Moreover, as Schiff asserts, companies that accept bitcoin in payment for services or products, ultimately convert it to either fiat currency or some other more trusted asset. Sure they do. After all, what real choice do they have? None.

In other words, the companies that will accept your bitcoins direclty just want to sell you stuff. Of course they do and they are held to the regulations requiring them to report their earnings in a nationalized fiat currency format. A government euro. A dollar. One wonders what would happen if companies and citizens were not required to convert to government fiat money? If they were actually free to use the asset of their choosing for all debts, public and private.

But we are not free in this sense. Not completely.

You Must Comply:

Are we to then shrug and comply? I don’t think so. The future is not made by those in the halls of government. That is not the purpose of government. They are present simply to protect and serve the people. They are peace keepers, not currency makers. Currency and money should be denationalized anyway. Things like bitcoin serve as a reminder of who should be in charge. Even if it fails. Even if it is a bubble.

Under the current circumstances, bitcoin, as asserted by Peter Schiff, is untraceable. This, I’m afraid is close, but not the complete cigar. All bitcoin transactions are public. You can see them zip around the network, but they can be obfuscated for privacy and criminal reasons. And your name is not attached to your account. Other cryptocurrencies are much better at retaining your privacy.

A Common Criminal:

Naturally, Schiff keys in on the criminal aspect. We’ve all heard it. A terrorist or crook will send his bitcoin, instead of carrying cash. At some point the bitcoin will be converted into cash to buy or sell something illegal.

One of the main problems with this criminal tactic are the fluctuations in bitcoin prices. The criminal might have a set price for his product and bitcoin is terrible for that reason. Perhaps it would be better to use what is called Tether ™. It’s a bank backed cryptocurrency that is almost pegged at the US dollar. Better yet, use paper dollars or digital fiats. That’s the routine.

I used to work in criminal justice field, just a few years ago. We rarely came across evidence of cryptocurrency use. Maybe it’s more prevalent now. What we did come across were stolen credit cards, emailed cash, fiat bill, drugs, debit card numbers and so on. Criminals wanted dollars just as fast as they could get them. Not gold or silver coins, but paper fiats. They used the banking system and filed false IRS refunds (very lucrative since the IRS does a terrible job of policing their own refund system) as a way to easily subvert the antiquated, government regulated, fiat monetary system.

This is not to say that cryptocurrency is immune to criminal exploitation, but cash is king — by law. And even criminals love to exploit that law. Some even print their own bills. This is next to impossible with bitcoin.

Bubbles:

The comparison of cryptocurrencies to the Dot-com bubble is also interesting, but old. The idea that investing in cryptocurrency is similar to a fad or is speculative, is certainly a strong argument, however. More and more people are becoming aware of the technology and as a result, more money is flowing in. Is this a new opportunity for those who are already versed in their use and speculation? Sure it is. The first comers are on top of that pyramid, right? But can’t this also be said of a new stock? The more people buy the faster the value of the stock increases, right?

One must realize, however, that as cryptocurrencies become more and more popular, they become more and more risky. They are not stocks. There are few barriers to entry and trades are nearly instant. There are few restrictions. You are free to lose and gain and panic. At least with stocks, you have a broker who earns very high commissions by comparison, and you can execute trades reasonably quickly, in most cases. Oh, and you have no privacy. Every transaction is logged for tax and regulatory purposes, to ensure that you are not being cheated. That never happens…

This new injection of funds into the cryptosphere, ostensibly from a broader base — regular people — and not simply from the brokerage houses that fueled the Dot-coms, serves to magnify the potential bubble. This is a given. If such a bubble bursts, the fallout could eclipse a standard market collapse…in the future. Not right now though. Which is why the heat is not all that hot.

Currently, the amount of money in the cryptocurrency system is peanuts compared to the banking sector. Sure, lawsuits and investigations happened after the Dot-coms, the housing bubble — after any number of market implosions. Bailouts are always an option for government to soften the blow of poor investment decisions. But when banks collapse, governments step in and the insurers pay up. Then the arrests come. Fines and Senate Hearings, when the circus comes to town.

Brokerage houses are known entities. The mortgage companies and banks are all around us. If bitcoin fails, the loss is real. It will hurt millions, but in the scheme of things, it will be very small. Currently, if all the cryptocurrencies listed on coinmarketcap here went to zero overnight, it would only be half as bad as the Washington Mutual insolvency in 2008. One bank compared to over 1000 cryptocurrencies.

Diversification:

Diversification may not help. One might be safer with a mutual fund or an ETF but not a cryptocurrency. Why? Because there are few, what I will call base-cryptocurrencies, bitcoin being one. When bitcoin drops in value, nearly all cryptocurrencies lose value. So, loses are often magnified. When bitcoin recovers, so do the others. Tether cryptocurrency is one exception. It usually hovers around one US dollar in value, but it has little upside. Conversely, if say Ripple (tm) devalues, bitcoin may not.

The tie-in with bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies happens because it was a first comer and trusted. If you want other cryptocurrencies you will often need to trade for them using your bitcoin. If you want to convert back to fiat, it is often best to use bitcoin. This is changing, however. Other coins are slowly earning a type of base-currency status.

Anti-Money:

The Fallout:

What do you suspect will happen to the hundreds of international cryptocurrency market exchanges, when (and if) the bubble bursts? Do we even know where they are? How about the US based exchanges? Will their doors be closed, their assets frozen? Will your bitcoins be stuck in Europe or Asia? Will you keep your BTC at home on your hard-drive or some other device. Will cryptocurrency developers in the US then be shuffled off to prison?

How about the giant bitcoin mining farms in China and the world over? Shut off? Scrapped? Bitcoins Confiscated? What about the cryptocurrencies that do not use the ‘farms?’ The ones like Peercoin ™, which is essentially PC based?

What of the decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges that exist only between you an unknown parties over the internet? Will these applications be shut down and their unknown creators sought?

The fact that Amazon ™ lost 90% of it’s stock value over as many years, as Schiff indicated, is his example of what can happen to bitcoin. The nearly constant ICO’s (Initial Coin Offerings), the new cryptocurrencies popping up like so much graffiti, will not survive, even if they use the latest blockchain technology or some variant of it. There will be a saturation point, no doubt. Already, there is talk that if you are in “blockchain” (your company invests or develops this type of new tech) you don’t make any money.

Some companies can exist in the red for years, but at some point they must turn a profit or fail. The only other option is to ask for a loan. In any event, even Amazon ™ has not failed, but it has real products as well as software. (Bitcoin is software. An intangible asset.)

The Beginning of the End?

Flipping houses before the market imploded was all the rage before 2007. It still happens today, in Florida, where I live, but not nearly at the pace of a decade earlier. When friends quit their jobs back then, bought huge homes, new cars and lived the life, only to be financially destroyed later, it was rough. The house flippers paid the price. After the building boom things slowed and housing prices dropped. We can argue all day about how and why the crisis began. One thing is certain, however, irrational exuberance was the norm.

Is that beginning to happen with cryptocurrencies now? In a sense, flipping cryptocurrencies doesn’t really happen. You can’t buy one, improve it, unless you are the developer, sell it and walk away. You can however, buy one at the bottom, when it’s cheap, then trade it for bitcoin or Tether, when it increases in value. Unfortunately, the tax headaches in some countries makes this type of arbitrage unprofitable. If you ignore the taxes, you are chancing fines or worse.

But what of the P/E Ration? I mean, we can calculate the price to earnings ratio of a stock, but how would you do that with bitcoin? Can we ever know when and if it is overvalued? We can see when underlying government fiat money is devaluing by comparing it to something like gold. When more fiat buys less gold we have inflation or more correctly, currency devaluation. When less bitcoin buys more fiat dollars, what is occurring? Is bitcoin becoming more popular or is it acting like gold? Is it becoming like a peoples’ barometer of their own fiat money — worldwide?

The Aftermath?

After this cryptocurrency bubble bursts, if it does, what might remain? Cryptocurrencies which offer a type of service, like Ethereum ™? Ones that offer fiat trading via third parties, and other services, like Stellar ™? Newer models, such as Iota ™ or Neo ™? It’s your guess.

Worse case? Your country outlaws innovation or co-ops it, then slowly destroys it.

The best case scenario, for now? Bitcoin keeps growing and more nationalized fiat  currencies fail. The cryptosphere becomes indispensable, trusted by people everywhere, and nations begin to compete by adopting sound monetary policies.

In the meantime, don’t fall for the hype. Do your homework if you are curious about cryptocurrencies.

And a parting thought. At some point, technology will be able to create physical items upon demand. If we are then able to create gold by recombining atoms and molecules, an abundant resource nearly everywhere where we look, on the cheap, how will we then design a voluntary, sound monetary system?

 

Good Day,

Jack Shorebird.


 

 

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Clif High

 


Hello, crypto enthusiasts. Thanks for stopping by again. This is just a quickie for tonight. I mean it’s night where I am — in Florida (United States). You Europeans are dead asleep by now, but hey, you’ll open your emails in the morning. And you Asian folk, you’re getting off of work about now. I’m not sure about you Aussies. You guys (and gals) are what, eating dinner and watching the news about North Korea? Guam on your minds?

As usual, I’ve been scanning the net for the scoops. Watching the markets for the fizz and pop. And here’s the latest curiosity I’ve managed to dig up from the fintech ether. And mind you, the people (person) I may cite herein may not have the cleanest resumes, but damned if they don’t get your spaz juices flowing.

Bitcoin and Ethereum seem to be in the keeping modes right now. Meaning they are looking great. Clif High, and he’s a bit of a, how can I say this nicely — an unusual chap? But I’m not one for killing the messenger, even if he is a bit burnt, if you catch my drift.

And that’s why I’ve been chomping at the bit today and yesterday. Kind of mulling this whole thing over. Trying to align my belief in a gold backed (silver backed) monetary system with the alleged future facts (and ideas) Clif High is constantly bringing to the table.

But I can’t really do it justice and I do not work for Clif. Don’t know him from Adam, as it were. Yet the guy is able to explain, in words and ideas — in a few seconds — to sort of encapsulate what many of us might think. How bitcoin (cryptocurrency) may, within the next 10 to 20 years, undo thousands of years of stagnant and centralized money control. How this new world of crpyto can serve as a shot-in-the-arm for economies, for wealth, technological development and so on. That, according to Clif, America (the U.S.) split from Great Britain when about 3% of the people wanted it. That only about 1% or less of people, now want bitcoin or cryptocurrency. That, if this margin reaches 10%, the governments of the world, which are always behind the times, will be unable to stop it. That, the iron is heating up and you may be able to make some serious cash, if you invest soon. That is what Clif is implying, I believe.

These are very positive statements in a lot of ways, in my book.

But, I hope that Clif’s inexplicable descriptions, his references to the unusual and seemingly unproven, are not, in some ways, infecting his ability to maintain his rationality. As far as I can see, his “predictions” have raised eyebrows for several years now. But are his prognostications simply too general? Too crazy?

He talks about silver prices skyrocketing — for a time.

Gold’s just sort of okay, as far I can judge by Clif’s statements.

New tech that will create matter from energy is only a few years away. So why mine gold or silver in say, 15 years?

Potential limited nuclear wars are on the horizon.

But by and large, the outlook is very positive, in Clif’s assessments.

He didn’t talk about my current favorite crypto’s though: Neo and Iota.

Please — you be the judge. Give this guy a listen. Tell me that he does not, in some weird way, make you very positive about the future of our world.

Here’s his latest talk. It’s long — a YouTube interview.

The Interview.


 

 

Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin July 19, 2017 — Roundup.


An unbiased and quick look at some big players…

The good news:

  • Litecoin is undergoing major updates to Litecoin Core 0.14.2
  • John Mack, a former CEO at Morgan Stanley venturing into crypto
  • The “dean” has advised that crypto is replacing gold

The bad news:

The “other” news:

  • A rare look inside some of China’s bitcoins “mines

The videos:

  • Jeff Bewick continues his upbeat and wacky video series about bitcoin
  • Andreas Antonopoulos explains the current state of bitcoin

Based upon the last 24 hours of news, the cryptosphere is decidedly negative, with concerns over bitcoin and Ethereum, mounting.


Image: Flickr

Morgan Stanley…bitcoin…a poster child for speculation

It’s fashionable, right now, to bash Fintech — especially bitcoin. So get your blockchains while they are hot!

This is the latest on the banking/investment front. When bitcoin (BTC) loses value, the traditional financiers let it be known that it just will not work and, in all honesty, they might be right — in the long term. But so too will the US dollar devalue — probably sooner than we think — unless a rabbit is pulled from the proverbial hat, in the short term.

Bitcoin may be the reigning prima donna of the crypto market but Morgan Stanley is not impressed.

Source: Morgan Stanley thinks bitcoin is nothing more than a poster child for speculation – MarketWatch

In a nutshell, the Marketwatch article, by Reporter Sue Chang, at first tells us that bitcoin has soared by over 250% in the last year. “Great!” we say, but then she drops the bomb. She cites Morgan Stanley’s analysts and James Faucette in particular. Bitcoin is on a wild ride and it’s probably not a legitimate currency we learn. I guess that all depends upon how one defines legitimate, because nearly anything can be a currency — or as I have indicated in the past — “functional money.”

On the other hand and we need to face the music. There is, according to Faucette, virtually no merchant acceptance. Again, virtually is another one of those weasel words. And we are so surprised. Aren’t you surprised, dear reader?

Sure, I can’t buy a gallon of milk at the corner store with my BTC, but I can buy a TV or a chair or even bike, on Overstock.com. Microsoft, Virgin Galactic, Steam are other well known vendors and the list goes on. So are we really losing vendors? Yeah, probably. Okay then, why?

According to the article, bitcoin does not appeal to retailers — and that is one reason it is not so good. Let’s examine that objection. Why does bitcoin appeal to the country of Japan say, but not the local supermarket in New York City? Is it because we, as a nation are less technologically advanced? Probably not. Is it because the regulations in the United States, the tax laws, the trading laws, the money laundering laws — you name it. The short answer? It certainly puts the kibosh on the whole thing, does it not? Only the big players, such as Coinbase or Subway Sandwiches, with a bevy of lawyers and tax accounts, seem brave enough to wander into that quagmire. On the other hand, the small players and the hidden ones (not all criminals by the way) can also wade into that pond.

Hoarding was another objection. Sure, bitcoin has appreciated. People are holding it, but there is still a lot of BTC available. One can’t simply worry that there will only ever be approximately 21 million BTC’s in circulation. It would be like saying, if we put cash under our mattresses, hoarded large denomination fiat bills, we would somehow make it less usable. The thing is, there’s plenty of cash out there. Too much actually. In a manner, hoarding can serve to increase and stabilize bitcoin values.

The objection to bitcoin’s accelerating costs and slowing transactions time is a legitimate concern, however. We will know, probably within the next 30 to 60 days, if bitcoin will adopt new perimeters allowing for faster confirmations, but the applications — the coding — is still being hashed-out. And there are associated centralization of power risks as well. Only a few developers control the code, but don’t forget, anyone can copy (clone)  the code and “improve” it.

Surprisingly, the apparent objection that bitcoin’s own skyrocketing — I would say its volatility — worth, is somehow a minus, is ludicrous. Speculators are certainly present, but as I have submitted, the fact that regulators stand in bitcoin’s way, is the primary culprit. The Great American Regulatory Wall, against mass adoption — that it the goblin.

Government oversight is needed, they say. And that, my friends, is the big snow-job. It is not required at all. The real reason bitcoin cannot, in this environment, ever be allowed to function unhindered is that it threatens the dollar. It threatens all fiat currencies in existence. That is plain. When a digital currency, not printed into oblivion does that, no debt-based economy can abide it. Even Japan, mired in its eternal economic crises, probably hopes that cryptocurrencies can save their century.

Is bitcoin funny money? That’s another implied objection and it’s an ignorant one at best. If so, then the dollar is funny money. A reserve note that represents a slowly failing — bankrupt system. Most intelligent people know this already. We just have little choice. We are required, by law, to use this debt based system. Is it moral to force people to use a monetary system that has no real value? Even less of a perceived value than bitcoin? That’s a no brainer, right?

Morgan Stanley is the sixth largest bank in the United States. Banks take our fiat dollar deposits and create more fiat dollars — out of thin air. Now I’m not against honest banking services, where money is real — like gold and silver — and where fractional reserves are quaint memories, but to attempt stay the high road in a FED-made swamp? What magic is this? Answer? The emperor is naked.

And finally, we the people also know, us speculators and hoarders alike, that bitcoin could fail. The blockchain tech might fork. China might continue to build BTC mining farms and essentially own the network.  But, my Morgan Stanley late-comers, the Fintech field is just getting started. I’d keep an eye on the Fintech start-ups and the giant Cloud Servers owned not by the banking system, if I were you.

I’d hate to know what they think about Monero or Aeon. Kind of reminds me when the car replaced the horse. Many objected back then. It was certainly a learning curve.

Thanks for reading. Let me know if I bored the hell out of you.

 


Image: Wikimedia

Cryptocurrency Outlook

Coins

What is store for the cryptocurrency near-future? More ICO’s (Initial Coin Offerings) or a slow realization that public blockchains are risky?

In the realm of the digital, cryptography is definitely a contender for your money. Not unlike your retirement plans, savings accounts and the cash hoard under your mattress. You might also be surprised that cryptography is changing more than finance, however.

Cryptocurrency is creating its own financial vortex. An ever growing singularity threatening to unravel, not only the monetary systems in place today, but the social systems upon which they rely.

What would happen if the state money you have in your bank went the way of the Dodo Bird? Would you use gold, silver or a cryptocurrency to get you through the bad times? Perhaps a lesson is unfolding right before our eyes.

The average Venezuelan could tell you about bad times. Their economy continues to nose dive as their monetary system crashes. Social services, food, water, medicine? All hard to come by. And it is a result of policies that made their money evaporate. They simply “printed” too much and it — their entire social system — is dying as a result.

…cryptocurrency can be hidden much easier than silver coins.

Is bitcoin  propping up the average Venezuelan citizen today? Certainly, it is helping. Government agents cannot reach into the Bitcoin Bank and take your money. They can, however, force you to give up your passwords and make you transfer your funds to them. Unless you use a third party service. One in another country that refuses to release your funds.

In short, cryptocurrency can be hidden much easier than silver coins.

More specifically, it is in cryptocurrency that many of us place our hopes and dreams. But are our hopes misplaced? Is this new fin-tech space a mere blip in the larger scale of the Information Age?

If bitcoin cannot be “over-printed,” by design, what is it really? A steadily valuing asset, so long as we keep using and buying and trusting it? Trusting a digitized currency?

Many of us already know the risks involved with Bitcoin or any cryptocurrency. You can stand to gain, maintain, or lose your proverbial behind. Billions of dollars of real money have been made during this ongoing; and certainly speculative run up. Values continue to climb, then retreat, and most unfortunately, the system itself, especially the most popular cryptocurrency of all, bitcoin, is showing signs of strain.

We can make comparisons all day. The Dot.com bubble. Tulip Mania. Speculation. A craze. Decentralized money. Be your own bank. Smart contracts. The World computer(s) galore.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry has a new idea…

Every Tom, Dick and Harry has a new idea for a new cryptocurrency. Just as every new company has new stock. Whole countries are “testing” the waters, allowing the new non-state monies freer reign.

And choices are great. Eventually, however, the most efficient tech will surpass the rest. Just as large home computers gave way to tablets then smart phones, the fastest and most secure systems — the most trusted — will win.

Reliability is also key. You can fix it if it breaks, but you might lose your customer if it breaks for long. For example, I really liked Peercoin when it first came out. An unknown  developer (Sunny King) who sort of kept his or her distance. An energy efficient system. It seemed more decentralized, even if it was not private — meaning others could see my balances and purchases. All the same, when Peercoin broke — forked — I was ticked off. Never again did I invest. Well, maybe once or twice, but I steered clear of the software. Just traded it.

Central Control…

Central control is another concern. Central authorities like our various governments often step in to assert that money must be controlled. To protect us. Bitcoin itself was the antitheses to centralized control. Today, to state that Bitcoin is decentralized would be stretching it.

Large computational warehouses churn out Bitcoin’s life blood. Many are in China. The sheer amount of electricity used to continue this process is staggering. And China is by no means a free country, but are any countries truly free these days?

Power consumption. If we use the United States as an example it is estimated that Bitcoin miners worldwide use nearly the same amount of electricity as nearly 300,000 homes. An argument for Bitcoin’s value to be sure. Even so, this very fact makes the giant Chinese Mining warehouses targets.

Is Bitcoin money? Does it have a real value? Why does it continue to thrive? These are all great questions and many have chimed in — attempted to answer them. In truth, there is no simple answer.

So what happens next?

Will whole regions compete with their favored cryptocurrencies? Will the public blockchains rule or will private ones begin to take market share? Will governments give certain companies special rights to sell their wares, so long as they are complaint with all of the reporting requirements? Does this latter situation not break all the rules of cryptocurrency?

And the “next” is already occurring. The herd is moving in the fields, but the fields are fenced-in. Slowly, the acreage will be sectioned off. A divide and conquer strategy.

Will it be bad? Not initially. Not until the authorities begin to demand changes to the code to allow several things. Easier snooping and taxation. Eventually, not unlike Peercoin, the social engineers will ask the ultimate sacrifice: faster inflation. That will spell the end of it.

There are no places to hide. Yes, companies can hock their wares — sell their crypto-goods — with governmental permission. They can report all account holders and take names. They can play the game.

Many of us will use these trusted public blockchains. Many of us will unknowingly use the current banking systems, unaware that they will soon be using Ripple or maybe Stellar Lumens or some other well researched, official and “approved” system.

There are a few cryptocurrencies remaining that, as of yet, have refused to comply with authorities — completely. They also have better reputations that most. Monero and Aeon. Their developers remain, mostly, anonymous. A good and bad thing. As a result, there are fewer markets. Fewer places to purchase these relatively private cryptocurrencies. But they are far more secure and private than most other competitors.

It reminds me of Prohibition in the United States beginning in the 1920’s and even the current laws against drugs today. What happens when people are told that they cannot buy and use something they want? In the end the price goes way up. A sort of “valuation wave.”

Is this what is in store for Monero and Aeon?


Image: Flickr

 

 

 

Bitcoin: Intrinsically Speaking

To be Intrinsic or not to be intrinsic. Is that the question?

No. That is “noise.” It is another attempted “nail” from our friendly coffin maker. The one who wants to copy the “block-chain” and deny your private use thereof. The reference by Ayn Rand, perhaps one of the greatest thinkers of our time, is rather concise. It deserves to be explored, even in the face of her other definitions of money.

Why? Because it helps us to understand that cryptocurrency can function as money.


Why is it important, in Fintech, to understand “functional money”?

Because many economists imply or otherwise provide tortured explanations about how cryptocurrencies have or retain an intrinsic value.

Actually, they don’t have such a value. They cannot. But this is not a problem.

Cryptocurrencies do not require an intrinsic value. They are not gold in the rough.

Should one attempt to prove such a value, one often winds up in a trap of reasoning, logical, but unwinnable arguments or the proverbial blind alley. Frustrated. But the faithful preach the gospel. Bitcoin has intrinsic value, they say.

On the other side of that coin, the intrinsic value thinkers advise that there is only one true money—or maybe several. Gold, silver and perhaps copper.

Gold can be an “unconsumed” good. A hard currency. It can be jewelry and so on. Therefore, it is the only money. But we all know that other items can function as money.

Gold is not “backed” by anything. It is simply a sought-after material for its rarity, properties and uses. The old story that gold has been money for 5000 years rings true.


What does this mean as it relates to all cryptocurrencies? Do cryptocurrencies need to be artificially rare?

No. Their number can be infinite. Again, they have no intrinsic value.


 Would cryptocurrencies devalue, if the numbers kept rising?

Not if they were “backed” by “unconsumed goods.” This would not be unlike you having an unlimited number of blank checks. So long as the one you write is “backed,” the check is good.

Blank checks in your desk at home have no face value. Excessive numbers of cryptocurrency “blank checks” are unimportant.

What is important is that the cryptocurrency, like a check, is backed by an “unconsumed good” ; that at least one or more atomic cryptocurrency unit holds title to the “unconsumed good.”

Does this mean that a cryptocurrency cannot hold the title of “functional money?”

Not necessarily. It simply means that any cryptocurrency, is not an “unconsumed good” — in the physical sense. Given this definition, cryptocurrency, with few exceptions, is not functional money, yet. But neither are dollar bills or euros. Dollars, for example, are backed by nothing.

Trust value is transitory and can dissolve quickly, even if governments make their fiat currencies official money during economic disasters, such as what is occurring in Venezuela, where the money remains dysfunctional. It will act like what it is: paper — but be worth even less.

India is another example. Making higher fiat denominations unofficial in a thinly veiled attempt to confiscate the wealth from all of its citizens.


Are cryptocurrencies “goods” in any sense of the term?

Again, does it matter?

But they have no substance.

Litecoin, as an example, is for all intents and purposes, software. Yes, the codes that represent Litecoin can be stored on paper, and paper is a commodity, but the ledger or balances are transmitted electronically.


If a cryptocurrency is not a good, then why are they considered intangible assets or goods?

The legal codes describing digitized music, by way of similarity, as an intangible good or asset, do not lend software music any real substance. These types of laws allegedly justify regulations and taxation. These laws should instead seek to clarify copyright.

But the test here is the consumed part. Let us get back to that.


Can any cryptocurrency, be consumed in the same sense that gold is consumed?

If we “use up” an item, we consume it. But, within economics, if we buy an item, we are also consuming. So yes, you can consume a cryptocurrency, in a sense.


Cryptocurrency as a service?

Some economists will differentiate between goods and services. Digitized music, for example, has no substance and is therefore classified as part service and part good.

Cryptocurrencies do not need to be goods or services. They merely need to function as a medium of exchange. And they do, to a point.


So why did Ayn Rand not simply advise that money had to actually be an “unconsumed good?”

As civilization advances, we no longer need to carry our commodities along with us. This entails risk. Gold coins in a purse attract unwanted attention. So we stored our unconsumed goods at home or in a bank, but again, there are risks involved. Burglary and confiscation, to name a few.

In any event, we used checks (functional money) to transfer title of our goods back and forth. Cryptocurrency can function as money, if it represents, holds title to or is backed by an unconsumed good. Preferably a good like gold, with a stable value.


What is the real issue?

The debate, then, is not the lack of intrinsic value of a cryptocurrency. The debate is how to accomplish and establish, voluntarily — the “backing.”


Why can’t you simply divide the number of atomic units into the total investment amount to arrive at the value of any particular cryptocurrency?

Like dollars or yen, the temporary, constantly fluctuating, value of any currency or good is also a function of supply and demand. In the cryptocurrency sphere, it is rather simple to calculate current base value using this method, and then trade when one sees that the formula indicates undervaluation or just the opposite.

Again, unlike real goods, such as apples, Bitcoin can change in “monetary” value very quickly.

In any case, the idea that monetary inflows lend cryptocurrencies intrinsic value is incorrect for a variety of reasons. These include the inherent price instabilities and potential lack of demand when the next best altcoin hits the market.


Can a cryptocurrency “back” itself?

Cryptocurrencies have many attributes, but in the scheme of ‘money’ they are quite new. A young project on the financial stage.

Untraceable or private cryptocurrencies may be best suited for cash-like use, so long as they are as secure as possible. Attributes, such as these, should increase the perceived value of the currency for now. But perception is not the “intrinsic.”

Bitcoin, on the other hand, is traceable and could decrease in value for this reason — even if it is “tweaked” to “repair” these shortcomings.

In any event, to state, at this stage of the game, that a cryptocurrency can somehow obtain an intrinsic value and all the necessary attributes of money, is unknown.


Which Cryptocurrency will Succeed?

Just which cryptocurrency is on the “Bleeding Edge?” AEON, Monero, Zcash? Will it be those that are currently backed by gold and silver? Will Bitcoin keep its position?

For all the research into Fintech, the ongoing debates about value, the idea of voluntary use and privacy, the search for security through anonymity and trust, we may be witnessing the next best cryptocurrencies to hit the markets since 2009.

But always remember: do your homework. Fintech is a work in progress. You may need to leap to the next best cryptocurrency as you watch this whole thing flower.

Perhaps it’s time to think outside of the box and beyond the blockchain. Perhaps, and until we live in a world were cryptocurrencies aren’t so heavily regulated as to make it nearly impossible to give them the title of “functional money,” we need, in addition to the current technology, something more.

But you have to ask yourself, even if Bitcoin is transparent, does that not make it stronger?

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Photo:Source

Trust-Mining

 

To Pre-Mine or not to Pre-Mine? That is the question.

Is it really?

No. It’s “Trust Mining.”

Pre-mining: To create or mine cryptocurrency in advance of public release.

One of the arguments against any cryptocurrency launch is the idea of a pre-mine. There has been a tremendous amount of discussion about the topic. But these discussions are scattered all over the net. This is an effort to place some of them in one place.

First, before we get into the weeds, we must answer the basic question…

Does a Creator of a Cryptocurrency have a Right to Pre-mine?

This is the first question many seem to overlook. They list numerous reasons against the practice, but gloss over the fact that the decision to pre-mine is the right of the creator of the cryptocurrency. Whether a software application is given away or sold, the creator — the developer — has the option to pre-mine or not to pre-mine.

Whether you agree with that statement or not is immaterial. Facts are stubborn things.

All the calls to make such a thing illegal demonstrates an underlying motive. That motive is to steal another’s idea. If you don’t like the Pre-Mine, change the channel. A developer can do anything he wants with a piece of code, absent making it reach into your bank account or similar.

Remember, cryptocurrencies are “voluntary.” You use them only if you so choose. So stop your whining.

Is it a Good Idea to Pre-Mine?

It depends if your application is open source or not and how it is updated or changed.

Ripple and Stellar are companies and therefore centralized — and Pre-Mined all of their cryptocurrencies. Both have had some reasonable success and have rights to their respective blockchains.

Ripple is integrated with the current financial world, whereas Stellar is attempting to appeal to the masses. Neither has come close to the success of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin was not Pre-Mined, but Satoshi Nakamoto did begin to mine first and then others became interested. This is not the official meaning of a Pre-Mine, however.

If Satoshi had set aside in apparent million “BTC,” before anyone knew what he was doing and then he attempted to release the application to the world, the success of Bitcoin would have been in doubt.

As it was, Satoshi launched a “cooperative” venture and asked anyone who was interested to download and begin mining. And we know the results. Whether Bitcoin will exist long term is another question.

When others began to copy the Bitcoin idea — literally or not — the idea of a Pre-Mine entered the Fintech vocabulary. It has been considered deceptive, if the launch of a cryptocurrency did not advise that a Pre-Mine existed.

If a Pre-Mine was publicized before launch, it was the decision of the people to mine or not.

The “Dump” Risk?

This is perhaps the best argument against Pre-Mining. The fact that at any moment, the creators can flood the market with their own coins — sell at a profit — and essentially crash their own coin. A few days later, they then announce a new coin and the process begins anew.

This scenario appears to diminish with time, however. It’s the early days, where pumps are in hyper mode, when a Pre-Mine Dump would be tempting.

For example, if there was a 10% Pre-Mine that would mean 10% of all the coins ever to be mined are now in someone’s wallet. No big deal right? What a minute. What if only 20% of the total coins have been mined? That would mean the Pre-Mine is currently 50% of the total. If a dump were to occur the ‘coin’ could crash, as the developers cash-in.

Those unlucky enough to be holding their ‘coin’ after a major dump of Pre-Mined coins, are in fact, fleeced. Many such comments litter the net about “Bag Holders” with “dead” coins after a big Pre-Mine dump. AuroraCoin anyone?

But if I Pre-Mine and do a Giveaway, won’t that help?

So far, the answer appears to be “no.”

Closed source coins like Stellar and open source ones like AuroraCoin have tried. Stellar has been trending lower for over a year. Again, their long term success is in doubt.

To give crypto-coins away, as effort mask the fact that you will dump in advance is also a deceptive practice.

Then there are the pure Proof-of-Work Coins. They are or can be 100% Pre-Mined. If you trust the developers fine. Sunny King of Peercoin fame may be onto something, but the old proof is in the pudding, right? Peercoin has been trending lower since the “Great Bitcoin Pump,” but so has Bitcoin.

 If the Developer does other Good Things with the Pre-Mine, won’t that Help?

Maybe.

Stellar uses the Non-Profit angle to assist the uneducated and the alleged, underbanked. If you want to pour your hard earned money down that potential black hole, be my guest. I gave at the office, thanks.

But many other cryptocurrencies use the Pre-Mine for upkeep and updates. The danger here, is that “they” are often in full control of their semi-centralized blockchains. I’m thinking about DASH here. (Not Dashcoin – DSH.)

DASH does have a voting system when proposals are made to change the ‘coin,’ and the system reflects a business-like model. DASH also, allegedly, had a Pre-Mine. And they have been in an uptrend for over six months. Pre-Mining, which DASH developers have explained as a glitch in the early works, has not yet hurt the crypto. But their innovation may have overcome the bad taste of the early coin hoarders. Again, only time will tell if the ‘coin’ has staying power.

What is a Pre-Sale?

Some cryptocurrencies Pre-Mine millions of coins and then sell them off to investors to generate revenues, before the official launch. In other words, the coins are actually released to the public, beforehand. This is not as bad as withholding sale and should not be considered a “pure” Pre-Mine.

But let us not mince words. He who controls a Pre-Mine, even a sale thereof, controls the ‘coin.’ This may be why, among other reasons, that Ethereum now has a partner (okay competitor) called Ethereum Classic. It is also instructive that the original developers of ETH turned their clock backwards to ensure that a funds were not diverted inappropriately, due to a problem with some “code” as it were. If that’s not centralization of monetary power, I don’t know what is. Certainly Janet Yellen noticed.

No Pre-Mine

If you want to have others adopt your private currency, in some meaningful way, then you need cooperation. You need miners if you are going that route. Miners that support your blockchain. Stakeholders in your system. Producers of your coin. Users of your API’s. Investors in the wonderworks. Speculators to drive everyone else mad. And all the rest.

If others feel that you have the investment advantage, your level of cooperation may be diminished. Starting everyone at the same place — at square one — seems to be relatively ‘cooperative.’ It shows that you believe in your product enough to start right alongside everyone else. To get into the fray, for better or worse, with those who you wish to adopt your plan and support your network — your blockchain.

In this sense, the developer is the artist. Everyone is invited to make a copy of his/her/their work and use it. Occasionally, the developers make improvements upon their works. Or they work as a team and use some form of voting system to approve or disapprove changes. There are many variants.

The Pre-Mine with a Side Show

Perhaps a lesser explored reason for Pre-Mining is to show the actual cryptocurrency in operation. The “red herring” idea or “selling the sizzle, not the steak.”

The cryptocurrency enthusiast is curious about all of functions built into the newly designed ‘currency,’ such as faster transaction times, blockchain savings, secret messages, private markets and the like. But when you check the website and the hacker news, you find that there was a huge Pre-Mine. That should be a warning to you — unless you truest the developers.

The Fee-Mine Concept

One way developers avoid Pre-Mining, is to code in a fee based system using the native currency. Each time you send or mine the cryptocurrency the developer receives a small portion of the proceeds, which they can then divvy out among the miners.

Trust Mining

We all know that cryptocurrency has no intrinsic value. It is not necessarily durable. All the aspects of a sound money are certainly not imbedded within. But to come as close as we can to a sound money system might be the ticket.

After all, the dollar is a mere piece of paper. The United States has what many refer to as shadow gold standard. But like a cryptocurrency, if the dollar loses its trust, say when the printing presses shove out “QE4” forever, all bets are off.

Multi-Mining:

In a sense, Ethereum and now Ethereum Classic are attempting to provide an intrinsic-like value to their cryptocurrencies. The do this by having the native “primary” coin function or fuel many other side processes, colored coins, self-executing contracts and applications. The list goes on.

But these “primary” coins only function within their own ecosystems.

In contrast, one of most stable monies and currencies of all time, gold, has uses other than its monetary use and outside of a captive blockchain.

Utility Mining:

Perhaps one of the best ways to establish a cryptocurrency is to allow it more versatility…more utility. A ‘coin” that has more than one use. Like gold has more than one use. A coin that when mined, can be used “outside” of its blockchain for other utilitarian or even decorative purposes. Off blockchain uses that will allow for private transfers as well as public receipts.

Thus far, many seem to focus upon the many blockchain uses. Perhaps it is time to look at another facet. A cryptocurrency that can function off-blockchain or not require a blockchain at all.


Photo Source: By Jericho [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons