At the risk of repeating a tired line, the blockchain will forever change the way we conduct business. In fact, the blockchain goes beyond just monetary concerns. Any industry that involves data, and more specifically, its integrity and security, will benefit from the same digital revolution that sent cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin soaring.
While criticisms and suspicions abound, few go so far as to suggest stemming the blockchain in favor of “traditional,” or human-operated technologies. We humans have a natural fear of the unknown, and for most of the general public, the blockchain and cryptocurrencies are as foreign of concepts as you can get. Nevertheless, we also acquiesce that advancing technology will eventually get its way.
Those that are particularly eager for the mass integration of virtual currencies often support the digital platform due to the lack of government oversight. Without onerous laws and regulations, people can offer whatever they want in the (truly) free market. The onus of whether an investment is sound rests on the buyer, not the government.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most Bitcoin and blockchain proponents support this idea of free, decentralized markets. Cryptocurrencies were born out of the idea of trading without the limitations of arbitrary schedules and artificial barriers to entry. Like the internet, virtual currencies are open to any participant with access to a connected device.
That is the beauty and the pitfall of the blockchain. My InvestorPlace colleague Dana Blankenhorn had this to say about the crazy dynamism within virtual currencies:
Currency-without-government has become one of the year’s big stories. But where there is no government, thieves rule.
Law enforcement cracked Bitcoin anonymity and some black-market sites using it, but the bad guys simply switched to another coin called Monero, whose value is up 500% just in August.
The more common scams on the crypto-market, however, involve “initial coin offerings,” or ICOs. They’re sold as something like the public offerings companies do on the stock exchange but, again, without the public or private regulation that should interest any conservative investor.
Many are variants on the old Gordon Gecko saying, “A fool and his money were lucky to get together in the first place.” (Thanks, Stanley Weiser.)
While Blankenhorn may sound a bit cranky to the crypto-fanatic, objectively, he does have a point. Without government regulations and oversights, you invite criminals and those with less-than-noble intentions. You cannot decentralize profits without first decentralizing consequences.
What I mean here is that too many people are only looking at the positives of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, and not considering the negatives. Perhaps they don’t want to admit that negatives exist in the blockchain, but they’re there for anyone willing to take even a cursory look.
In fact, we’ve already proven that purely decentralized markets have severe consequences. When the Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox collapsed, its members were outraged, ferociously demanding their money to be returned. Yet all they can do was wail in frustration, perhaps letting out an anti-Semitic blurb against the Israeli that let it all burn down.
The bottom line for the Mt. Gox incident was that you pick your poison. If you want massive profitability, you went with Bitcoin and the blockchain. However, if consequences erupt, you’re on your own.
On the flipside, you can choose the safety and security of big government. However, you do so at great risk of limiting your upside potential, and at great cost to your individual liberties.