Bitcoin Is Forbidden Or Immoral Or A Commodity Or A Currency Or Not The Point Or All Of The Above

And 2018’s only four days old. Strap in.
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By Mike Cauldwell (https://www.casascius.com/photos.aspx) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mike Cauldwell (https://www.casascius.com/photos.aspx) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In case you weren’t sure after it barred its clients and financial advisers from trading bitcoin futures on its pristine platform, Merrill Lynch has a further message:

The ban applies to all accounts and precludes the firm’s roughly 17,000 advisers not only from pitching bitcoin-related investments but also from executing client requests to trade the Grayscale Investment Trust bitcoin fund, according to a person familiar with the matter. The ban extends an existing policy barring access to newly launched bitcoin futures.

That’s pretty definitive, although Merrill will have a little heart and allow brokerage clients to retain those shares of GBTC they managed to sneak in under the wire. Egypt’s top Muslim cleric is not so forgiving.

On the first day of this year, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam rang in 2018 with a sternly worded fatwa (religious edict) that Bitcoin trades lead its users to “fraud, betrayal and ignorance”.

Allam also said that terrorist and criminal groups can abuse the crypto-currency to fund their illicit activities such as moving drugs and weapons.

This strikes some—notably, this Cairo-based bitiot who shills the fake currency on Facebook—as unfair.

“Bitcoin is like all other currencies so what are the reasons that have suddenly made it so unlawful” said Atef Al Khateeb….

“The Mufti actually has given us the best public relations boost we have needed because he never specified how bitcoin was haram (unlawful). I think there will be more Egyptian traders now than ever”, he added.

Nice, but, about that first part….

If bitcoin is an investment, it most closely resembles gold…. If bitcoin really is digital gold, however, investors should analyze it like a commodity—looking at supply constraints and the factors driving demand.

That settles it! It’s a commodity, not a currency. Unless you live in a highly unstable or corrupt African country. Then it’s definitely a currency.

In Sudan, a young woman wants her dowry paid in bitcoin. In Kenya, students are using it to bet on English soccer games, and use of the cryptocurrency in South Africa has surged amid political turmoil….

“It’s a convenient and fast way to skirt sanctions,” Swissquote’s Mr. Masset said.

Still, one blockchain enthusiast finds all of the hullaballo about the value of this particular currency or investment or commodity or money-laundering machine all a bit gauche.

“I just really think [people are] missing the point . . . They should be talking about the companies,” he says in an interview with the Financial Times. “Bitcoin could turn out to be the winner; it also could turn out to be Betamax….”

His first foray came in early 2016, when he invested in Digital Currency Group, a venture capital firm set up by early proselyte Barry Silbert. Mr Hutchins refers to DCG as the “bitcoin primordial soup”, and his primary gateway into other companies attempting to harness the underlying technology. DCG has invested in a further 110 digital currency-based companies….

“I’m trying to put a chip down because, if this thing works, if this thing takes off, one of these will be Google, one of these will be Amazon, one of these will be Yahoo,” he predicts.

Merrill Lynch Bars Trading of Bitcoin Fund, Futures [WSJ]
Egypt’s top Islamic cleric has issued a fatwa against bitcoin [Quartz]
Bitcoin Isn’t a Currency, It’s a Commodity—Price It That Way [WSJ]
Bitcoin Is a Hit in Countries Where Locals Face Currency Troubles [WSJ]
Bitcoin price is a distraction, says big technology investor [FT]

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