Bitcoin turns 10 at the end of the month. And over the past decade, there has been no shortage of headlines about the inevitable rise—or the inevitable fall—of it and other cryptocurrencies.
Along with all the talk came a meteoric increase in Bitcoin’s price, culminating late last year. Bitcoin’s price soared nearly 1,332% in 2017, hitting a high of $19,783.21 on Dec. 17. Since then, however, Bitcoin’s price has plummeted more than 66% to around $6,436, as of Oct. 19.
The price gyrations have come as the cryptocurrency is getting increased scrutiny.
In August, the Securities and Exchange Commission rejected nine proposals for Bitcoin exchange-traded funds. Before that, the SEC rejected, for a second time, a Bitcoin ETF proposed by entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. Getting approval for a Bitcoin ETF could go a long way toward helping the crypto market attract mainstream retail investors, but the SEC has concluded that there isn’t enough transparency in the cryptocurrency markets to be sure prices aren’t being manipulated. The Wall Street Journal recently reported how bots are manipulating the price of Bitcoin on crypto exchanges.
A report from the New York Attorney General’s office in September shared some of the SEC’s concerns.
Meanwhile, Fidelity Investments announced last week that it will store and trade digital currencies, including Bitcoin, for hedge funds and other professional investors
And Bitcoin is a hit in developing and frontier markets—where the cryptocurrency is often viewed as a haven from political and economic turmoil and a way of navigating financial obstacles, including a lack of conventional banking services.
Amid all this, the debate over the long-term prospects for Bitcoin as a viable and dominant currency continues.
YES: There’s a Need for Alternatives to Today’s Currencies
By Lisa Ellis
Bitcoin, approaching its 10th birthday on Oct. 31, is having a tough 2018. As of late October, the price of the cryptocurrency is down about 54% year to date, and has not cleared $10,000 since early March. And it has suffered a series of rejections and delays by the Securities and Exchange Commission in attempts to launch Bitcoin ETFs.
The 2018 setbacks are, in my view, the normal growing pains of a developing technology, and Bitcoin will prevail. The cryptocurrency has a long-term role in society as a universal, alternative currency—functioning both as a medium of payment and store of value, in economies where the fiat currency is unstable or subject to manipulation.
First, the need, and demand, for an alternative to fiat currency exists. Data from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook show that 50% of the world’s population lives in one of 98 countries that have had at least one year in the past 10—since Bitcoin has existed—when inflation was above 10%.
In countries with high inflation, or an otherwise unstable fiat currency, people can’t trust that the government-backed fiat currency will hold its value, and they seek an alternative, such as gold, traditionally. I believe Bitcoin will fill this need in the future.
Consumer-payments companies, such as Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and Alipay, are working to digitize cash in order to drive out corruption and improve global financial inclusion. But even they are reliant on the stability of the underlying fiat currency. As Bitcoin emerges as an alternative to unstable fiat currencies, I believe you’ll be able to make a transaction on a credit card in Bitcoin, just as you can today in dollars, euros, yen and other currencies.
Bitcoin enables secure, arm’s-length transactions between two unknown parties, the bar required to function as a payment system. And Bitcoin is decentralized and open-source, enabling it to morph and adapt to usage requirements organically.
Bearish views on Bitcoin rarely argue with these design characteristics, however. They typically focus on current limitations, arguing that Bitcoin will never achieve the requisite level of stability, transaction capacity, security, ubiquity of merchant acceptance, governmental blessing, and trust to function as an alternative currency and payment system.
Slowly but surely, though, Bitcoin is addressing these limitations. Some examples: