Thousands of Bitcoins…
OK… the title was to get your attention. Here is the full story…
Recently, the head of the discount broking firm Zerodha commented that there are 1000 different “similar” coins like Bitcoin.
“If anyone can create a currency, I would favor the one with the most muscle. i.e., govt for me.”
So, why Bitcoin ?
There are three ways to respond to this:
First one, we could compare the merits of each as a currency - bitcoin and govt-issued currency - on the basis of its core offerings and promises. We could look at the total supply, centralization, backing, governance, ability to be a medium of exchange, unit of account or to act as a store of value !
Any for of money or currency should also typically exhibit the following properties:
It should be Divisible, Fungible, Durable, Portable, Uniform, Limited in Supply and Acceptable.
So, here is the mapping between the two on all of the characteristics - we have 20 of them to compare:
It has been made amply clear that governments run “sovereign currency empires” that keep getting larger. There is extremely centralized control and it costs a lot in the form of inflation. There has been no alternative but for the people to trust a Central Bank or Reserve to manage the currency of the nation-state. That central-control and lack of alternative has now been called into question with the advent of a “trustless” form of monetary issuance & governance. It is through a clever mix of technologies - a cryptographic blockchain with DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology).
Bitcoin is limited, decentralized and runs on cryptographic rules. All three together make it a potent mix of attractive elements for a new form of currency. It is the volatility that is often blamed for its inability to become some form of reserve. There also have been apprehensions raised about how it is not capable of handling large volumes of transactions - minor issue if the right team starts working on it - and there have been improvements. Central Banks already realize this and tagging Bitcoin as a commodity has set off the immediate risks. By taxing bitcoin transactions, it will not get the same level of support as a currency. But yes, it can serve as a store of Value !
Muscle may win for some time but merit will find its place.
Now, the second aspect of this is whether dismissing all of “Crypto Assets” on the “currency” rhetoric is valid at all.
Currency is just one “feature” of crypto-assets. There are a host of applications being invented every week. There are Blockchains, L2 Chains, Applications, Decentralized Finance, On-chain innovation, Gaming, NFT platforms, Tokenization, and promising other new streams in every industry.
DeFi is making a significant impact through Staking, Rewards, Yield Farming, Collateralized Lending, Liquidity Pools, Market Making.
Gaming and NFTs are capturing the imaginations of the youth and creative communities alike. They are monetizing value that was heretofore impossible to crystallize.
Tokenized Assets could revolutionize certain staid asset classes by introducing liquidity where there was previously none.
It is a whole new world being built. The Metaverse is coming.
Third aspect: the psychological and philosophical one.
Technology is now goading us to question some long held beliefs with respect to governance and scale.
As a people, over the last 100 years or so, we have been “taught” believe that the monetary systems of the world are best controlled by centralized institutions and that anything outside of it borders on the illicit and fraud.
One needs to look at the undercurrent of all this. The concept of currencies issued by Central Banks has been brought into question. We have been drilled-into that “Cash” is a non-negotiable unit of value that is not subject to speculation. Not necessarily. It has been inflated away for over 5 decades. Sure, it is still backed by a promise by the issuer - the government, land, resources, diplomacy and the military of that country stand behind it. But there is no way it is going to be possible to monetize all that nor can you exchange the currency for a part of that whole. “Trust” is what the system runs on.
The paucity of communication channels, lack of online voting systems, limited knowledge and scant ability validated centralized control. Not anymore. That paradigm has shifted.
Crypto natives are not calling for us to change political ideology and become more socialistic or adopt some form of extreme democracy with respect to currency issue. They are asking for the examination of a new system that may just work better - for all of us.
“Decentralization is the socialization of Capitalism.”
As people adapt to the new paradigm, they will find more opportunity than ever imagined. Disruption can often happen fast. The goal looks lofty and the path is riddled with challenges - but we are on our way!