Thursday, February 14, 2013
In a blog post last week at Unqualified Reservations, the author described a fictitious account of how bitcoin dies because a “DOJ indictment is unsealed” naming any and all BTC exchange operators as criminal defendants and the “BTC/USD price falls to zero and remains there.”
While this U.S.-centric plot would seem more plausible in a cryptographic flaw scenario, it does bring to light some interesting game theory strategies for both regulators and free market monetary proponents. Aside from the impact on price, would a government ban on bitcoin, including a direct ban for law-abiding merchants, shrink the available size of the so-called bitcoin market? Is an officially “illegitimate” bitcoin a useless thing?
I maintain that a government ban on bitcoin would be about as effective as alcohol prohibition was in the 1920s. Government prohibition doesn’t even do a good job of keeping drugs out of prisons. The demand for an item, in this case digital cash with user-defined levels of privacy, does not simply evaporate in the face of a jurisdictional ban. One could even make the case that it becomes stronger because an official recognition that Bitcoin is not only a “renegade” currency but a “so-effective-it-had-to-be-banned” currency would imbue the cryptographic money with larger than life qualities.
Ironically, the ban would create something like the Streisand effect for Bitcoin generating an awareness for entire new demographic groups and new classes of society. Unlike alcohol, bitcoin itself might not be considered a consumption good but it certainly makes it easier to acquire and sell certain consumption goods.
The under-banked people of System D would awaken to using bitcoin for eliminating onerous fees or the risk of handling cash. The individuals seeking drugs without violence or prescriptions would understand the imperviousness of sites like the agorist Silk Road. The anti-banking crowd would race to get their hands on some bitcoin as a symbolic gesture to weaken bankers’ firm grip on payments. The pro-gambling casino people would all of a sudden realize how play money bitcoin bypasses the ridiculous and religious anti-gambling laws. The asset protection wealth managers would start to become fascinated with esoteric things like deterministic brainwallets and Tor.
Which brings us to the giddy, pro-banking-integration spokespeople for Bitcoin that tend towards full compliance because it’s required or, worse, preemptive compliance because they believe it to be safe. What happens to their rosy world when bitcoin exchanges can no longer operate in the open without fear of State retaliation? After all, they were patiently counting on ‘railroad tracks’ and connected links with existing financial institutions to grant Bitcoin a legitimacy mandate.
Now with burgeoning covert and in-person exchange opportunities plus a variety of reliable exchanges operating outside of the U.S., the Bitcoin of our fictional story is far from fading into obscurity. Conversely, it is the ambitious opportunities for crony capitalism that fade into obscurity because a closed-loop bitcoin economy not requiring meatspace exchanges would emerge and accelerate.
One doesn’t drive Bitcoin underground. A free Bitcoin was designed to be ‘underground’ for its own survival otherwise it wouldn’t need such an inefficient, decentralized block chain. The low-cost and non-reversible bitcoin transactions that appeal to mainstream commerce are merely byproducts of a mutinous system that doesn’t rely on trusted third parties.
Full article: http://www.forbes.co … ould-fail-miserably/