Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

What Happens To Bitcoin Post-Dollar?

This is more of a thought piece than anything else, though I’m sure it will rile up a lot of Bitcoin HODLs and “technical analysts.” Much as I own (not enough) of the shiny algorithm coin,  the entire way we go about perceiving future currency seems rather warped. It’s a question requiring a bit beyond the typical wide-eyed enthusiasm of liberty advocates and the general freedom rabble.

For a long time, the theory of Bitcoin promoters has been that its limited cap of 21 million units serves as a safe store of value versus the highly-inflated dollar, which shows no signs of stopping its brrr-a-thon. Coin baggers predict that their currency will continue to rise as governments spend and borrow, perhaps at some point replacing the classical concept of “fiat” or paper money. Folks who have bought or continue to purchase before Bitcoin’s rise to a dominant financial position will be rich, while others are left with largely worthless investments.

But there’s one problem of sorts. These Bitcoin pumpers are basing their wealth and success on its exchange rate with the U.S. Dollar. In other words, to be a Bitcoin “millionaire,” you must assess its value in accordance with the same fiat currency that is supposedly unstable. Selling out of Bitcoin to realize some of this wealth means holding large amounts of an inflationary currency which continues to rise along with the president’s signature on spending bills.

Now, a skeptic could argue he will buy gold with his Bitcoin, but this is highly inconvenient for global transfer and transactions where the price point is less than a full ounce of yellow metal. Furthermore, gold itself is giddily valued in line with the dollar, despite the fact that its supporters believe fiat to be unstable and inflationary. A goldbug I knew even tried to diminish the validity of S&P 500 returns by claiming they were based in dollars instead of gold, despite arguing for gold on the basis of dollars.

This brings us to an important query: what happens if the dollar actually collapses, or ceases to exist? Does gold continue to “store” value? Is Bitcoin still worth a lot of money relatively, or does it adopt a dominant position attune to the dollar, albeit with less inflationary tendencies? And what happens to the people who failed to purchase crypto when it was cheaper in dollar terms? Are they doomed to scraping out an existence with whichever fiat currencies remain, or trying to collect a monthly check of 0.00000000001 BTC to afford the good consumerist lifestyle?

No one can really know. The future might be crypto, but that scenario could end up being unpleasant, depending on who possesses a bigger account.   

Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

The XRP Smackdown

There has been much gnashing and simping over the announcement of an SEC lawsuit against Ripple, one of the more controversial cryptocurrencies on the market. For some, the move is confirmation of their fears that XRP is a scam, and carries with it an advisement to purchase Bitcoin. Others are holding the line, suggesting the storm will work itself out and leave Ripple stronger than before.  

I tend to be in the latter category, perhaps driven in part by my long-time holding of the currency, but also because the lawsuit itself seems rather like a rather flimsy last-ditch attempt at relevance by Jay Clayton, the outdoing SEC chairman and historical big bank shill. Take a look at the government’s statement:

“We allege that Ripple, Larsen, and Garlinghouse failed to register their ongoing offer and sale of billions of XRP to retail investors, which deprived potential purchasers of adequate disclosures about XRP and Ripple’s business and other important long-standing protections that are fundamental to our robust public market system.”

The SEC’s argument hinges around the idea that Ripple should have been registered as a security (like a stock) rather than a currency, and thus their practices are problematic under federal law. They claim that the coin’s coming into existence with an existing trove of units rather than gradual mining of new ones pushes it outside the cryptocurrency category, as buyers were purchasing coins from the company itself.

Much as this might seem devastating to XRP’s future, it runs up against an obvious issue: the government previously granted Ripple the status of a currency, and thus will have to go against its prior declarations. While the SEC has won lawsuits against other altcoins in the past, this was following the release of a 2017 directive on their part, a rule which post-dated the ICO of Ripple. Thus Jay Clayton and Co. will need to prove XRP was running afoul of existing rules despite the relatively uncharted waters of cryptocurrencies in federal code.

Another obstacle for the federales surrounds the openness of the global community. Although Uncle Sam might well crackdown on firms like Ripple, other jurisdictions could opt for looser restrictions, or perhaps adopt XRP for themselves. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that smaller countries begin to use Ripple, and geopolitical opponents may well do the same. In any case, the nature of crypto makes it difficult for a single bureaucratic move to put the kibosh on all hope.  

Of course this could just as easily be investment white-knighting on my own part, but at least the cheap price of Ripple makes any future collapse largely nonthreatening.