Sticking the carrot to the regulator

I’m grumpy this morning, after reading this on Reuters:

“Regulators know the rewards of cryptocurrency and blockchain could be huge but (they) have more than one eye on the catastrophic ramifications if good governance, stability and control are not preserved.”

“If the carrot of self-regulation proves insufficient, the regulators will not hesitate to use their stick.”

So said fintech lawyer David Futter. I say we should stick the carrot to the regulators.

Futter’s argument is nonsense, even if the regulators believe it and that’s all that matters in our interventionist world.

Self-regulation works by failure, just as creative destruction does. Failure itself is the good governance.

The whole point of self-regulation is that it prevents the failure from being catastrophic because it is isolated. When regulators mess up, it’s inherently a systemic problem because regulation is systemic. When Lehman Brothers went down, it triggered a global financial crisis. When Mt. Gox failed, people got ripped off.

The good news is that technology seems to be the only industry developing fast enough to stay ahead of regulators anyway.

That speed is why we’re back to bitcoin today. So much has happened since you read yesterday’s Capital & Conflict. A lot will probably happen by the time you read this.

Yesterday evening our waiter at the motel in Mount Gambier had a hushed conversation about bitcoin with the barman. Just before the Great Depression, a famous investor sold out of stocks because his shoeshine boy wanted to give him a stock tip. Are we reaching the same point of saturation?

That’s far from the only unsolicited bitcoin moment I’ve had in the last 24 hours, either. Yesterday’s article took a look into how I expect cryptocurrencies to boom in the end. When large and trusted companies get in on the act, several key pitfalls of cryptos can be solved. This morning, we got news on this already.

South Korea’s second largest bank announced it is developing a bitcoin vault and wallet for customers. The launch should be mid next year. It’s unlikely it’ll get the balance between bitcoin and traditional banking right. But others will follow.

The revealing part is the reason the company gave for its innovation. There has been too much controversy, theft and fraud in the bitcoin world. People trust their bank more. So banks could become the new bitcoin hubs. That’s very similar to what I argued yesterday. Except I don’t trust banks…

Then there’s the returning rumour that CME Group will offer bitcoin futures soon. CME Group runs the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where the world’s commodities are traded. Because they’re largely traded using derivatives, the world’s other derivatives found a home there too, creating the largest derivatives exchange in the world. If bitcoin joins the line-up, that’ll be an enormous boost for the cryptocurrency.

Exactly why people need bitcoin futures is a mystery. Why not just buy the bitcoin? Bitcoin doesn’t need warehouses like grain and copper do, so there’s no advantage to a derivative. My fear is that, once again, the financial world is trying to jump on a bandwagon it will end up driving. Gold futures dwarf gold bullion these days. But that’s another story.

Personally, I’m hoping the craft brewing industry jumps on the initial coin offering (ICO) bandwagon instead. ICOs create new cryptocurrencies to raise funds for something. The development of a new India pale ale, for example. Then, if the brewing process works out, you can buy the beer with the coins. The quality of the beer determines the value of those coins.

Now that’s innovation!

Ban ‘em

My grumpiness continued when The Telegraph reported on the latest bitcoin crime figures:

There were 8,652 “misuse of [bitcoin]” cases by 18-24 year olds between January and September this year, a 75pc increase compare to the year before and twice the number four years ago, according to figures from Cifas, the fraud prevention service.

Outrageous! Someone needs to do something about this. Making cryptocurrencies illegal is the first step.

Except the article, selectively edited by me, is actually about ordinary bank accounts, not bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency. Money mules are people who allow criminals to use their bank account to disguise illegal transactions. And their numbers are surging.

So it’s not just cash that competes with bitcoin in the dodgy transaction space. Bank accounts do too. The crackdown on financial crime is just shifting the crime to more innocent people. No different to drugs.

In an effort to ban this “gateway crime”, I believe we should ban bank accounts.

Discriminating between cryptocurrencies, cash and bank accounts is clearly racist. If you want to ban one, ban ‘em all. And if you disagree with me, I will find it offensive, so you are wrong.

My apologies if you’re the parent of a teenager and have to put up with such arguments already. Keep in mind their votes will drive government policy eventually, leaving you to deal with the ramifications. Perhaps owning a secretive cryptocurrency isn’t such a bad idea…

Despite all the bad news for cryptocurrencies, the technology behind them is set to revolutionise the economy. The stockmarket may yet prove to be the better way to profit from the blockchain boom. Find out precisely which stocks could match bitcoin’s returns here.

Until next time,

Nick Hubble
Capital & Conflict

Category: Investing in Bitcoin

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