Tag Archives: BTC

China’s Crypto Ban and the Road to Total Control

You just went to a protest marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. You were scared, but you went. You wore a mask and took a winding route home. No one could have seen you.

You arrive home to your Hong Kong apartment and decide to check your bank account. Did the rent get deducted yet?

But when you log in, you see the balance has gone from 21,000 yuan to zero.

A notice appears to contact your local Party office.

This is the future China wants to bring about. Its tools:

1) The social credit score
2) The digital yuan
3) The banning of cryptocurrencies other than the digital yuan

Today, China banned bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies. All, that is, except its own digital yuan, which debuted this spring.

It wasn’t hard to see this coming. China banned cryptocurrency mining earlier this year. This is part of a long term trend toward total control under Xi Jinping.

China’s government has cracked down hard on tech companies, Hong Kong dissidents, and even seemingly random targets like celebrities.

What’s next? About five years ago, China’s government created a social credit score. Any action that upsets the government, from farebeating to protesting, can have dire consequences. One may be unable to get a loan, a job, or access the internet.

After the crypto ban, the next logical step for China’s dictatorship is to ban cash and all non-digital yuan. Then, all money is electronic, traceable, and centrally controlled.

Step out of line, and your life savings could be gone.

It’s a dark, dystopian future. But I strongly suspect it’s coming.

We in the United States and the rest of the free world should guard against any such thing being done here. I will be wary of attempts to ban cryptocurrencies or cash as paving the way for similar control. Control that has no place in a democratic society.

More on China tech:

China’s Real Goal in Tech Crackdown: A Regimented, Obedient Society

How China’s Tech Industry Dies

China Is Crushing One of Its Most Innovative Companies

Photo: “1984” by jason ilagan is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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Can Bitcoin Protect You From Inflation?

Bitcoin is often referred to as digital gold. Unlike fiat money such as the US dollar, its supply expands at a slow, steady rate.

The Federal Reserve has printed so much money during the COVID crisis that money supply is up over 25%. This has led to fears of inflation. The consumer price index (CPI) jumped by 4.2% in the first quarter of this year, the highest since 2008.

So can bitcoin, with its steady supply, provide protection from inflation? Bitcoin hasn’t existed long enough to provide a good test, but the evidence we have indicates that it doesn’t really correlate with the price index and thus is unlikely to provide a good inflation hedge.

Take a look at the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index excluding volatile food and energy prices. It’s been pretty consistent in the last decade, bouncing around the 2% level:

At the end of 2020, prices plummeted, pushing the US economy into deflation for the first time since this data series began in the 1950’s. If bitcoin is to provide an inflation hedge, it would need to drop when prices do and increase when prices rise. But we saw the opposite behavior, with bitcoin going vertical:

If you look at CPI as an inflation measure, you see the same pattern, with a noticeable decline in 2020 that wasn’t reflected in bitcoin:

Bitcoin doesn’t seem to perform well as an inflation hedge, although it could be useful for other purposes. If you’re worried about inflation, I’d suggest Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, which pay you a fixed rate plus the rate of inflation, protecting your interest payments from erosion by rising prices.

Dig into these posts for more on Bitcoin:

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The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

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My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Bitcoin Is Worth More than the GDP of Switzerland

Ah, Switzerland. Home of fine chocolate, discreet bankers and pharma giants. It’s one of the richest countries on earth per capita, and home to world-leading companies like Nestle and Novartis.

But this entire nation of nearly 9 million people with a history going back to the year 1300 has a GDP smaller than the total value of bitcoin, which has existed for just 13 years. The IMF pegs Swiss GDP at $824 billion, versus $921 billion for bitcoin.

The total value of all cryptocurrencies is over $2 trillion, comparable to the GDP of Italy, the number 8 economy worldwide.

These stats show just how accepted cryptocurrencies have become. They’ve gone from a fringe technology to a size comparable to the entire economy of major countries.

Will they someday pass the biggest GDP heavyweight, the United States?

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Bitcoin Is Now Bigger Than Facebook

As you cruise down the tree-lined road, the first thing you see is a giant thumbs up. You pull into the winding driveway and an endless panorama of multicolor buildings appears. This is the headquarters of the one of the most powerful companies on earth: Facebook, Inc.

1.8 billion people use Facebook every day, and its profits last year totaled nearly $30 billion. It controls news and social relations across the globe.

But all this is worth over $100 billion less than bitcoin. The total value of all bitcoin is $1 trillion. The total value of all Facebook stock trails far behind at $892 billion.

Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook, but no one really knows who invented bitcoin. Its creator called himself Satoshi Nakamoto, but he has never appeared in public and may not exist. “He” could even be several people working together.

I find it interesting that despite all his entrepreneurial genius, what Zuckerberg has built is worth less than what was built by an extremely obscure man who may not even exist. There is no monument like the palatial Facebook headquarters to mark bitcoin’s ascendance, but ascended it has.

I don’t invest in cryptocurrencies. Still, I can’t help but be impressed at what bitcoin has achieved. It reminds me of a quote from Godfather II:

“Michael, we’re bigger than US Steel.”

Hyman Roth

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To Replace Gold, Bitcoin Needs a Massive Increase in Transaction Capacity

Bitcoin is often referred to as “digital gold.” A major attraction of the cryptocurrency is its fixed supply and lack of connection to fiat money like the US dollar. But unlike gold, bitcoin has no storage costs and is hard to steal. Given these facts, bitcoin could be poised to replace gold as a store of value and inflation hedge.

But it faces one huge hurdle in doing so: the bitcoin system can only process seven transactions per second:

As a piece of global financial infrastructure, the Bitcoin network is hobbled by severely limited capacity. The worldwide network of miners can process a maximum of only seven transactions a second, and today the rate is running at around five, according to de Vries’s estimates. In comparison, Visa can process up to 65,000 payments per second. Hence, any spike in the volume of payments or transfers causes a backlog.

De Vries adds that Bitcoin performs poorly at the checkout counter. If you were to buy $100 in groceries using Bitcoin, it may take an hour to receive adequate confirmation.

Not only does this make bitcoin unsuited to processing daily transactions like grocery trips, it may even limit its use as a store of value. There are currently $22 billion in bitcoin transactions per day, and transactions already take a long time to settle.

Gold does $146 billion in transactions daily. To match that, bitcoin would have to increase its transaction throughput approximately five fold (if the current $22 billion in transactions represents 5/7ths of possible volume). Is that feasible when trades already settle so slowly?

And what if bitcoin becomes a lot more widely held? It’s very difficult to determine the number of bitcoin holders, but some estimates put the number at around 100 million people out of a world population of over 7 billion. That’s a ton of new potential bitcoin buyers, but the currency is likely to struggle to accomodate them given its low transaction bandwidth.

In all, this rapidly growing currency faces some significant barriers to wide adoption as a store of value like gold. I’m curious to see what workarounds blockchain developers come up with to meet these challenges.

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How China Could Attack Bitcoin

China is creating its own cryptocurrency, which will allow much easier surveillance and control of their population than existing coins. In order to push bitcoin off its throne and replace it with a digital yuan, China could launch a powerful sneak attack on bitcoin.

In order to push bitcoin off its throne and replace it with a digital yuan, China could launch a powerful sneak attack on bitcoin.

Bitcoin transactions are handled by “miners,” or powerful computers that perform calculations to verify transactions. A report from scholars at Princeton University and Florida International University notes that 74% of this mining power is in groups, or “pools,” managed by China.

That much computing power, also known as hash rate, gives China an unrivaled ability to hack the currency:

One broadly understood security property of Bitcoin is that no single party can control more than 50% of the hash rate, so this statistic is worrying.

Cheap land and energy have helped China dominate bitcoin mining:

These facilities are primarily located in remote areas with inexpensive electricity and cheap land, such as Sichuan province and Inner Mongolia. These advantages allow Chinese miners to achieve greater profit margins than their competitors in other countries; a study in early 2018 found that one bitcoin could be mined in China at 2/3rds the electricity cost of the same operation in the U.S.

One way China could attack bitcoin and its users would be to refuse to deal with certain addresses controlled by dissidents or geopolitical rivals. China could connect IP addresses and e-commerce data with bitcoin wallets in order to crack bitcoin’s anonymity:

With control of at least 51% of the hash rate, Chinese mining pools could simply announce that they will not mine on chains containing transactions from their list of censored addresses.

China could also use a variety of techniques to double-spend coins, which would undermine faith in the bitcoin system as a whole, perhaps paving the way for their own cryptocurrency.

One silver lining is that although nearly 3/4ths of mining capacity is in Chinese-managed pools, this doesn’t mean the computers doing that mining are all physically located in China. Miners can and do join pools managed by groups in other countries. The Communist Party will likely find it much more difficult to control miners abroad.

In all, China’s authoritarian government and massive influence in bitcoin mining represent a real risk to the currency. Crypto enthusiasts should begin preparing responses to possible Chinese attacks before they happen.

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Photo: “President Kagame and President Xi Jinping of China Joint Press Conference | Kigali, 23 July 2018” by Paul Kagame is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Major Financial Firms Start a Bitcoin Lobby

Fidelity Investments, Square Inc. SQ +1.30% and several other financial firms are forming a new trade group that aims to shape the way bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are regulated.

The Crypto Council for Innovation will lobby policy makers, take up research projects and serve as the burgeoning industry’s voice in championing the economic benefits of digital currencies and related technologies. Crypto investor Paradigm and Coinbase Global Inc., which operates a cryptocurrency exchange, also signed on as initial members of the group.

More here.

These companies are serious financial heavyweights. Fidelity has $10 trillion in assets under management. Square’s market cap is over $100 billion. And Coinbase expects to IPO soon as a valuation of nearly $70 billion.

I suspect these corporate giants are trying avoid the possible banning of bitcoin anonymity that I wrote about here on March 5. A proposed regulation from the last days of the Trump administration could have removed one of bitcoin’s most appealing features, its untraceability.

A major lobbying group, a Fidelity ETF…bitcoin is really becoming institutionalized. Although I don’t trade cryptocurrencies myself, I view this is a significant positive for the technology. Every step towards establishment adoption and away from crippling regulation helps.

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Photo: Coinbase CEO “Brian Armstrong – Caricature” by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Stimulus is Headed into Bitcoin

Even as Bitcoin sits near record highs, a new survey by Mizuho Securities finds that many Americans plan to put their stimulus check into the hot cryptocurrency:

…the Mizuho survey found around 20% of check recipients expected to allocate as much as 20% of their checks to bitcoin and/or stocks, while 13% expected to allocate 20% to 80%, and 2% expected to put 80% or more into the markets.

Bitcoin even outranked stocks, another popular choice:

“Bitcoin is the preferred investment choice among check recipients. It comprises nearly 60% of the incremental spend, which may imply $25 billion of incremental spend on bitcoin from stimulus checks,” wrote Mizuho analysts Dan Dolev and Ryan Coyne, in a Monday note (see chart above). “This represents 2-3% of Bitcoin’s current $1.1 trillion market cap.”

The graph below shows the extent to which bitcoin is favored over stocks as a home for stimulus funds:

This survey was small, so we shouldn’t put too much stock into it, but this could be a major shot in the arm for the cryptocurrency. I also expect a pop in other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Dogecoin, along with meme stocks like GameStop and AMC. But I’d advise my fellow Americans to buy stock/bond index funds instead.

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Bitcoin Anonymity Could Become A Thing of the Past If This Regulation Passes

In the waning days of the Trump administration, the government proposed regulations that would ban anonymity for holders of cryptocurrencies:

Users whose wallets now are only identified with codes would have their true identities recorded with the financial institutions they zealously avoided.

This proposed regulation has now been passed on to the Biden administration. There’s no timeline for a decision, but removing anonymity from crypto transactions could hammer the price:

If adopted, the regulations could cause a sharp fall in the prices of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, said Matthew Maley, chief market strategist for Miller Tabak & Co., adding that he thinks Bitcoin’s price will continue to rise in the long term.

There are some major companies like Fidelity and Coinbase pushing to retain anonymity, and I think their political influence may stop such regulations. But on the other hand, the possibility for anonymity to facilitate drug deals and terrorism could push the government in the opposite direction.

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Photo: “Bitcoin, bitcoin coin, physical bitcoin, bitcoin photo” by antanacoins is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0