Nearly three years ago, Senator Chuck Schumer claimed that Bitcoin was money laundering
-- which is, of course, ridiculous. For years, though, there have been plenty of concerns within the Bitcoin community over when and how there would be some sort of moral panic concerning Bitcoin, leading to some sort of excessive regulation. In the past year or so, however, the government has been surprisingly restrained
in dealing with Bitcoin, and really seemed to be trying hard to at least appear to understand the concept before running off half-cocked. However, when you're dealing with politicians, it's really only a matter of time until the insanity hits. And with all of this week's attention on the Mt. Gox debacle (in case you've been under a rock, the site, which was an early popular Bitcoin exchange, shut down after more massive problems, including possible theft of huge amounts of Bitcoin, were revealed), it should hardly be a surprise that a politician would launch an almost totally clueless attack on Bitcoin.
To do the honors, I present Senator Joe Manchin
, who (like plenty of Senators) does appear to get a fair bit of campaign money
from financial services and banking institutions. He's now calling for Bitcoin to be banned in the US
with a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Fed Chair Janet Yellen. But what's incredible in his letter is how... simply wrong he is about nearly everything regarding the cryptocurrency.
I write today to express my concerns about Bitcoin. This virtual currency is currently unregulated and has allowed users to participate in illicit activity, while also being highly unstable and disruptive to our economy. For the reasons outlined below, I urge regulators to take appropriate action to limit the abilities of this highly unstable currency.
First off, Bitcoin is not unregulated. Today's regulations concerning currency still apply to Bitcoin. Yes, there are elements that appear to be less regulated (or make it easier to skirt regulations) but to say it's "unregulated" is simply wrong. The fact that it has allowed people to participate in illicit activity could easily apply to just about any financial instrument from cash to debt to equity to whatever the hell Wall Street is cooking up. The idea that it's "disruptive to our economy" also seems... wrong. It has the potential to be disruptive in a good way (providing all sorts of benefits to today's payment systems) but Bitcoin is still tiny. It has no real impact on the economy today.
Due to Bitcoin's anonymity, the virtual market has been extremely susceptible to hackers and scam artists stealing millions from Bitcoins users.
Not even close to true. The "susceptible to hackers and scam artists" has nothing to do with the anonymity bit. For the most part, it's had to do with very poorly run businesses (like Mt.Gox) that appeared to be somewhat clueless about how to securely handle Bitcoin. This has been detailed repeatedly. In fact, the death of Mt. Gox should actually be quite a good thing for the Bitcoin community and ecosystem, because getting rid of the weak players will increase the safety and confidence in Bitcoin.
Anonymity combined with Bitcoin's ability to finalize transactions quickly, makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to reverse fraudulent transactions.
Replace Bitcoin with cash and... well, there you go.
Bitcoin has also become a haven for individuals to buy black market items.
The amount of US cash used to buy black market items makes Bitcoin barely a blip on the radar. But we don't ban cash.
I am most concerned that as Bitcoin is inevitably banned in other countries, Americans will be left holding the bag on a valueless currency.
First of all, if this is a risk that believers in Bitcoin want to take, why should the US block that? Besides there are plenty of investments that turn out to be valueless. Does Senator Manchin wish to ban all of those as well? Does he want to ban companies going bankrupt? Sometimes investments don't work out.
Two days ago, this exchange took its website down and is no longer even accessible. This was not a unique event; news of plummeting or skyrocketing Bitcoin prices is almost a weekly occurrence.
Actually, no, it's not. Let's look at the market price of Bitcoin for the past year or so, from Blockchain.info
Is it somewhat volatile? Sure. Are prices "plummeting or skyrocketing" as an "almost weekly occurrence"? Not even close. I'm sure someone with more time could easily find stocks that show plenty of volatility as well. Why isn't Manchin looking to ban such stocks as well?
In addition, its deflationary trends ensure that only speculators, such as so-called “Bitcoin miners,” will benefit from possessing the virtual currency.
This is a key point often raised against Bitcoin, but it seems to assume that pricing can't compensate for that, and it's not clear that's the case. Yes, when something is volatile, speculators are going to prevail, but that doesn't always need to be the case.
There is no doubt average American consumers stand to lose by transacting in Bitcoin. As of December 2013, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) shows 1.3% inflation, while a recent media report indicated Bitcoin CPI has 98% deflation. In other words, spending Bitcoin now will cost you many orders of wealth in the future. This flaw makes Bitcoin’s value to the U.S. economy suspect, if not outright detrimental.
Where to start? Again, I'm sure we could find a stock or other investment opportunity that has dropped in value over the last month. But picking a arbitrarily (and ridiculously short) time frame in which to make this argument is just... well, stupid. It makes no sense. We could easily point to the inflation
of Bitcoin over the past year and suggest that based on Mahcnin's own logic
that Bitcoin is a good investment
. Both arguments are equally stupid.
Before the U.S. gets too far behind the curve on this important topic, I urge the regulators to work together, act quickly, and prohibit this dangerous currency from harming hard-working Americans.
I'm curious. When Wall Street put the economy in real threat, including putting tons of "hard working Americans" at risk thanks to leveraging up the money supply to insane rates, did Joe Manchin (then a Governor) ask the US government to fix these issues and ban questionable banking practices? Hell no. Instead, he supported bailing out the banks
. Yet, now, suddenly, he's worried about this tiny little corner of a currency he doesn't even understand?
Even more ridiculous, he's now claiming
that he's only focused on Bitcoin, and his calls for regulation don't even apply to other cryptocurrencies, despite having many of the same features which Manchin doesn't even seem to understand in the first place.
This is nothing more than grandstanding anyway, but these issues are going to keep coming up, and it's important to point out when the people making these claims appear to not even remotely understand what they're talking about. Manchin's full letter is posted below in case you want to dig in deeper on the nuttiness.