58 Comments

Thank you Bari for bringing the best minds and lucid arguments to our attention. Your newsletter is highly anticipated in our home

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"This is to say nothing of the environmental aspect of Bitcoin mining, which uses more energy than entire nations."

I'm not entirely sold on Bitcoin, but one would need to provide comparables for this to be convincing. How much energy does conventional currency "use"? Factoring all aspects such as banking, printing, distribution, storage, security, all computer usage, etc. I'd imagine it dwarfs Bitcoin.

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Having been a close follower of CT (Crypto Twitter) for over a year, I have to admit a lot of what Michael says here is true. The recent use of Bitcoin to pay the Colonial Pipeline hackers has been the biggest red flag for me, personally, to date. I want to believe the CT hype, but as Josh Brown said after the Robinhood/Gamestop fiasco, "Wall Street always wins." In this case, "The money-makers always win." I'm afraid, and it pains me to say as a huge Bitcoin fan, criminal/laundering activity will be Bitcoin's downfall.

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For me, the hesitancy of "investing" in Bitcoin has to do with who stands behind it? In the case of the dollar, I have the US government standing behind me if bad actors, etc., victimize me. Who would help me if defrauded using Bitcoin currency?

Great article, Bari. I love reading your articles. I first heard of you on Megyn Kelly's podcast when you were her guest. I've been a subscriber and follower ever since.

Keep it up.

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"Bitcoin is an open Ponzi" -- Nassim Taleb.

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A fascinating debate. Thank you Bari. As one of the oldsters I must say the brilliance of Srinivasan's thinking loses luster by the grandiosity of his claims. I almost expected him to argue that Bitcoin will cure cancer. Utopian thinking often ends very badly when it comes up against the limits posed by human nature. Still I've purchased a very small amount of bitcoin--in case I'm wrong.

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Many of the arguments here are interesting, but the idea that Bitcoin is extremely energy intensive does not hold up. Fiat currencies ultimately cause far, far greater energy consumption and waste of every kind, including war. Fiat currencies are essentially a blank check for governments to spend as much as they want whenever they want, and we have seen this in no uncertain terms this past year. It's also telling that all of the major belligerents of World War I went off the gold standard. America's going off the gold standard in August, 1971 was supposed to be a temporary measure, and it marked the beginning of the era of ever increasing income disparity, with woeful results for what is left of the middle class. Fiat currencies have also deprived savers of their due return, encouraged speculation, and in turn financialized the economy. The financial sector accounts for nearly as much of the economy today as manufacturing. Finance should be there to support industry, not be the backbone of the economy. Alas, today, far more smart people go into finance than would otherwise, and the economy has been less stable than during the gold standard era. Much, much more could be said about the waste enabled by fiat, enough to fill volumes and volumes of literature.

As an aside, is anyone going to press for prohibition of Christmas lights and gaming? Both consume for more energy than Bitcoin, but nobody says anything about them.

Ultimately, Bitcoin is by far the cleanest currency and would do much for world peace if adopted as the world reserve currency. Most people who say otherwise are merely statists who want to control every aspect of the people's lives. Going forward, it's Bitcoin or bust. It's either going to be personal freedom or a Black Mirror hell of Chinese-style government.

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Why is this being framed as an either / or question? Certainly it seems highly likely that as so much of life has been digitized, there is a need for a digital currency? The idea that bitcoin will kill fiat, or one should invest everything you have in it, is not necessarily the point. That there is room and need in the world for a digitized currency to solve problems that fiat currency can't solve is just plain true. There will be problems and challenges we didn't see coming, as there have been with social media and other digital innovations, but why make the argument that btc isn't worth investing in at all?

These debates are worthwhile to make sure we manage expectations and don't get carried away with unrealistic visionary claims, but at this point acting like bitcoin isn't going to be a part of our financial future feels misleading.

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The difference between tulip bulbs and Bitcoin is that Bitcoin’s value proposition is driven by a now universal distrust of fiat currencies. It is the ultimate middle finger to politicians who show no concern for protecting the value of currencies.

And the Biden Administration is proving those investing in Bitcoin, justified in their disdain.

Tulip bulb speculation was a true Ponzi scheme. More could always be grown. Not so with Bitcoin.

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The article is hard to take seriously when it ends with the word freedom in scare quotes.

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These arguments have been thrown at Bitcoin since the beginning. The author is being dishonest to begin with in reference to Thiel. Thiel was making the point, that the US Treasury should be BUYING BITCOIN, because China may be doing it already.

Thiel IS PRO BITCOIN. (see the video on his thoughts)

Bitcoin is a threat to ALL FIAT, but the Dollar is the world's reserve currency, so it has the most to lose. Thiel also said the EURO was China's hope to take down the dollar, so it is not limited to Bitcoin. Theil is warning the USA that China, Russia and others are embracing crypto. THe USA needs start moving or will be left in the cold.

Also, Bitcoin mining is now moving to using renewable energy, so the energy argument is weakening. Using excess methane from Oil patches for mining is more economical and climate positive, for example.

But most importantly Bitcoin is a decentralized network that is controlled by NO ONE. Bitcoin doesn't care if you believe in it. There will only be 21 million produced. It doesn't care if you buy it. Its supply, unlike the US Dollar is finite. And the Treasury is printing dollars out the gazoo, much like Venezuelan money printing.

Munger and Warren Buffet are in their 90s and will not live to see Bitcoin be "stopped" .. and neither will we.

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Wow, this debate was great, Bari. Best yet. Been struggling for years to get this type of succinct look at both sides of the cryptocurrency argument.

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How do you know a cryptocurrency is not bogus? Who takes responsibility for its administration? What fees do the administrators take? How do I know that I'm not buying a "BernieCoin"?

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It appears that you purchase Bitcoin with money - invest - and if you purchase a good which can be paid for in Bitcoin, you use some proportion of your Bitcoin hoard. BUT the value of your Bitcoin investment can go up and down - inflation and deflation of your asset with enormous volatility - which you can't predict. Apart from that, the "mining" - recording of your transaction and holding details - is mostly run on Chinese computers.

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Again, Bari thanks for bringing these type of discussions to your readers. There is great value in this "two side of the coin" approach (no pun intended). Here I will simply repeat - and simplify what I said in response to the first "pro" cryptocurrency piece. And that is - we cannot let technology drive policy- which is what the cryptocurrency advocates are looking to do. We first need to determine and agree upon what policies we want and look at how technology may - or may not advance those policies. Moreover we also shouldn't allow the advocates behind a new technology drive the way in which it is implemented in an unfettered fashion. Technology is a tool and can be used for good - or bad. On the flip side just because we may reject the uses of a technology - in this case advocates for cryptocurrency looking to replace sovereign nations with sovereign individuals (if that is accurate), doesn't mean we just reject the technology. There may be perfectly sound and just applications we want to pursue. For example there may be sound applications of the blockchain technology that underlies cryptocurrencies. And, with the right policy controls, there may be sound applications for the currencies themselves. All that to say that in cases like this- policies, processes and governance must come first.

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… Or, your thesis about unbound sovereign individuals is overstated and a large group of people are aware of the risk factors you raise and are willing to accept those risks. The focus is not delegitimizing government and subverting culture. Culture is not the issue; the issue is financial, and in that regard the United States is delegitimizing itself.

With an economy that is expected to have historic GDP growth rates in 2021, the Fed has the discount rate pinned on the zero bound and is buying $120 billion PER MONTH of treasuries and mortgage securities. On the fiscal side, in the first 100 days, the Biden administration has proposed $6 trillion in new spending. I guess they figure the Fed will buy all of those treasuries too.

I cannot see how anyone with an understanding of economics can feel sanguine about the future of our fiat currency.

I submit for consideration that on November 2nd (the day before the election) Bitcoin closed at $13,550.49. By the end of the week, $2,000 later, it was off like a scalded chimp. Even after its most recent pullback, at $50,000, it is up 269% in six months. Coincidence? I think not.

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