Here’s another thought-provoking blog submitted by Jitendra Rathod, newsletter contributing editor.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Mahatma Gandhi said these famous words to describe how his unique strategy of non-violence that fired a nationalist movement, was perceived by the oppressive British Rule in India. He, however, had ultimate faith in his vision that eventually became instrumental in freeing India from the clutches of the British Raj that ruled over the Indian subcontinent for close to two centuries.
Are cryptocurrencies the present day David?
Time and again, these very words have been instrumental in defining a newcomer underdog that marches forward to challenge the monopolistic institutions, whether in culture, society or even in global economy. Today, the world is poised as it watches another such David take on the mighty Goliath. After centuries of financial hegemony, banks seem to have found their match in cryptocurrencies.
It was the very audacity with which banks, colluding with governments, behaved with peoples’ money, that fuelled the innovation we know today as Bitcoin. It was invented as a novel electronic peer-to-peer system of payment that would require no intermediaries, would be immutable, required no trust and had a decentralized, unregulated currency at its heart. Today, while the world is going gaga over the limitless opportunities and capabilities of cryptocurrencies, banks are losing sleep over the dwindling prospects of their own future.
Banks have played their part in demeriting crypto
While the world was coming to terms with the concept of cryptocurrencies, the banks were busy ignoring it, thinking that it was just a passing fad. However, when the price of Bitcoin started rising since the beginning of 2017 and exploded at the end of that year, banks and other financial institutions laughed cynically. It was a bubble waiting to burst, they said.
Spokespersons of reputed financial institutions around the world stuck their necks out to speak ill about cryptocurrencies, its various features and even the underlying technology. Yves Mersch, member of the European Central Bank’s executive board talked about the fact that bitcoin transactions took several hours to complete. “At these speeds, if you bought a bunch of tulips with bitcoin, they may well have wilted by the time the transaction was confirmed,” he said at an event in London. Mr. Mersch, however, conveniently forgot to mention how the current cross border transactions took 3-5 days to complete.
Augustin Carstens, head of the Bank for International Settlements described bitcoin as “a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster.” Mr. Carstens probably forgot to mention that the traditional banking system was the biggest Ponzi scheme in human history.
Nouriel Roubini, American economist, has become notorious for being the biggest critic of the crypto phenomenon. He has called cryptocurrencies “the mother of all bubbles” favoured by “charlatans and swindlers.” He has said that the fundamental value of bitcoin is zero. Mr. Roubini seems to have forgotten that same is the case with the United States Dollar.
JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon has called bitcoin a fraud “that would ultimately blow up.” A few months later, news surfaced that JP Morgan was considering a bitcoin futures product. Now this is hypocrisy of the worst kind.
In a news that came as a slap on the face of traditional financial institutions, the Polish central bank was found secretly funding anti-cryptocurrency campaigns on social media. It had paid famous polish Youtuber Marcin Dubiel more than $27,000 to create fake videos to discredit cryptocurrencies.
The Bank of Russia has called cryptocurrency a pyramid scheme. China has brought a blanket ban on cryptocurrencies. The Reserve Bank of India has asked all of the Indian banks to stop providing services to people who deal in cryptocurrencies, effectively sabotaging the people’s collective attempt to trade in a novel asset type.
But cryptocurrencies are ready for a long, drawn-out battle
We have seen the financial institutions’ attempts to laugh it out and now they trying to fight it out by choking off what is slowly becoming a mass movement. However, what banks do not realize is that the more they try to discourage people, the more people will see for what they truly are. The bank’s cynicism of cryptocurrencies is, ironically, adding fuel to the fire.
There is good reason for financial institutions to fear cryptocurrencies and some banks have been candid enough to admit it. the Bank of America recently said that cryptocurrencies posed a competitive threat to their business.
Why are banks afraid of crypto?
While banks have been harping about the risks of cryptocurrency being used for money laundering and other criminal activities, this submission is completely unfounded. Each transaction is immutably recorded on the blockchain that is accessible by public. Every account has been verified on a cryptocurrency exchange and if the law requires, the exchange can share all of the account details with the authorities. So where is the question of laundering money through cryptocurrencies?
Cryptocurrencies cut down the role of intermediaries and that’s where banks feel threatened. If people start saving in crypto, banks won’t have money to play around with. If people start buying things with crypto, banks won’t make money on debit and credit card fees.
Most importantly, cryptocurrencies are immune to the kind of manipulation you see with fiat currency. Look at the market crash of 2008 and you’ll realize what we’re talking about. It was a classic case of banks manipulating a system that was never transparent in the first place. Also, banks lend more than they have through a neat system called “fractional reserves.” But with crypto, there is no leveraging. Either you have it in your wallet, or you don’t.
Fiat money is prone to inflation. The banks and the government can print as much money as they wish thereby decreasing the value of existing circulating money. Bitcoin, on the other hand is capped at 21 million, so there is no risk of devaluation.
Finally, the state cannot steal your crypto assets. So, isn’t your fiat money safe in banks? Well, if that is what you believe, look at what Cyprus did during its 2013 financial crisis. All account holders who had 100,000 or more euros in their accounts had to lose a sizeable amount of their savings to save the Cypriot economy. You, however, don’t hold crypto in a bank. You hold it in your personal wallet and have access to them every moment of the day.
This is a battle that may well determine the future of money itself. For centuries we have been forced to use a medium for payment that has lost much of its backing and isn’t even worth the paper on which it is printed. It’s value is further undermined by the banks who hold them and the governments who print them. We, the people, are held at the mercy of traditional finance to revere a currency that has lost much of its value and charm.
The time is ripe for a revolution and cryptocurrencies are leading the charge. Financial institutions are fighting to survive and it looks like they are losing this all-important battle.