Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bitcoin’s Greatness Not Realized By Succumbing To Regulation

By Jon Matonis
Forbes
Sunday, December 9, 2012

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonmatonis/2012/12/09/bitcoins-greatness-not-realized-by-succumbing-to-regulation/

Last Thursday's news that French company Paymium and their exchange division, Bitcoin-Central, partnered with a licensed and regulated Payment Services Provider (PSP) ignited a heated debate within the bitcoin community. Eventually, Bitcoin-Central tempered their overly-enthusiastic initial announcement.

"It feels like these French dudes are bringing saltpeter to a rave," declared Daniel Stuckey, a writer at Motherboard ridiculing the company for dismissing the founding concepts of bitcoin.

Not singling out the Paymium effort, there is a powerful undercurrent rejecting the notion that bitcoin exchange companies should seek approval to operate within the existing regulatory framework at all. That undercurrent has some validity. That is if larger forces at work don't settle the issue before then. However, it is the jurisdictions that they elect to operate within plus the specific exchange types that determine the level of required compliance. Legal counsel willing to challenge the status quo is sorely needed for the days ahead.

Floating-rate, rather than fixed-rate, exchanges are going to require the holding of customer funds in national currencies. Exchanges for actual delivery, rather than cash-settled futures exchanges quoted only in bitcoin, will also require holding customer funds in national currencies. Customers with large balances simply aren't going to use exchanges that don't identify their legal jurisdiction, delineate funds, and adhere to some type of recourse for insolvency and stolen funds. So, certain jurisdictions and their financial regulators tend to get involved. This is also the case with Mt.Gox being based in Japan.

Here's the real issue -- regulation in this context is only a bad thing if it leads to crony capitalism or if it suggests that "still-in-beta cryptographic play money" bitcoin requires regulation similar to a national political currency.

While an individual's bitcoin transactions may still be semi-private, the auditable address links on the block chain and identity requirements for entering or exiting the exchange will remove any doubt as to how much bitcoin was spent or earned. Also, the case can be made that, despite bitcoin's basis in mathematics and being devoid of ideology, graph theory analysis of the block chain can be significantly improved by having more 'regulated' data points thus cumulatively degrading the privacy of all bitcoin transactions. Bitcoin address logs for a bitcoin exchange are like IP logs for a VPN.

Yes, debit cards with a bitcoin logo are cool and they can facilitate easy movement of funds associated with bitcoin balances. But legacy debit cards are institutionalized vehicles of identity and they promote half-way measures. Any role for current financial institutions in the societal wealth transfer to cryptocurrency will come from embracing bitcoin on its terms. If banks want to participate in a meaningful way, they will have to adapt to Tor exit nodes, coin mixing services, escrow provisioning without identity, and underwriting private insurance on balances.

Bitcoin's great promise lies in its potential ability for both income and consumption anonymity. It is this feature alone that allows users to maintain the same financial privacy as physical cash today and it is this feature that will also lead to liberating advancements such as a thriving and interconnected System D, unhampered and undiluted freedom of speech, and superior asset management that can truly be said to be off-the-grid.

Those who support the antithetical overlay of  bitcoin on the current financial system ensure us that it will only be temporary and that we must build bridges. That would be nice but it's a fairy tale. It reminds me of the Marxist theory of historical materialism and the Marx-Engels ideology that if we only tolerate the bourgeois state during the transitional advancement to a higher phase, we will see the complete "withering away of the state."

True revolutionary transformations just don't evolve that way. Linux didn't first co-exist within the Microsoft DOS and Windows environment and then decide to spin-off into a competing operating system. File sharing under the BitTorrent protocol didn't conduct a Hollywood outreach program and explain what the technology would mean for the film and recording studios.

One doesn't request freedom, one claims freedom. As Bitcoin Forum member btcbug stated about bitcoin's acquiescence to legality, "It's kind of like a bunch of slaves breaking out and then running straight back because they were so brainwashed they didn't even recognize freedom." However, the sad reality is that most of the slaves don't really want to be free which is exemplified by voting for ever-increasing State services that have to be funded through confiscatory levels of taxation and inevitably that means diminishing financial privacy.

Get real people! This is about more than just "agreeing to disagree" when it comes to stricter regulation being a good thing. Bitcoin without user-defined anonymous transactions is a neutered bitcoin. Paper cash comes with more financial privacy. In circular logic fashion, the pro-regulation adherents must then answer to their success, "what have we really accomplished?"

For further reading:
"Necessary conditions for the long-term success of Bitcoin", ShadowLife, November 7, 2012
"Problems with State Money Transmission Laws Generally", Letter from Aaron Greenspan, November 7, 2012
"FaceCash Founder Claims New Financial Regulation is Unconstitutional", Elise Craig, February 2, 2012

2 comments:

  1. > "Bitcoin’s Greatness Not Realized By Succumbing To Regulation"

    in fact, Bitcoin’s Greatness Will Be Subverted By Succumbing To Regulation

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bitcoin technology is also useful for purposes opposite to those mentioned here.

    Altcoins which abandoned "Bitcoin's great promise ... for both income and consumption anonymity" would be a great tool for improving government transfer payments as described at http://blog.urremote.com/2012/11/innovative-value-transfer-systems-for.html .

    ReplyDelete