When last I checked in on imaginary internet money, the DoJ was launching an investigation into "possible" market manipulation in Bitcoin, Ethereum and other iterations of what, on multiple levels, looks like a giant global pyramid scheme (get it? "multiple levels", "pyramid scheme").
While that's all fine and good, it kind of misses the point. As I explained via a Sopranos reference, asking if there's manipulation going on in cryptocurrencies is like asking if there's prostitution going on at theBada Bing! . That is, of course there's manipulation in that market. But the larger issue is that the whole damn thing is suspect. Going after Bitcoin spoofers is like arresting hookers at the Bing. You're missing the forest for the trees.
I joke a lot about the absurdity inherent in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies and proponents of the market don't do themselves any favors by doing shit that reinforces stereotypes (see here and here, for instance). But in all seriousness, there is virtually no chance these "assets" survive in their current form. That doesn't mean the concept of cryptocurrencies and/or the theoretical underpinnings of the market are going away, but it does mean that if you're betting on, say, Bitcoin in its current form to rally unimpeded to infinity on the way to supplanting traditional currencies printed by developed market central banks, you are a moron. Plain and simple. It ain't gonna happen.
One person who agrees is Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller (and really I don't even know why I bother because citing mainstream economists in an effort to convince cryptocurrency acolytes they're wrong is an exercise in futility by definition), who earlier this week chatted with CNBC about what the future is likely to look like for Bitcoin.
His overarching message was that it might well just go the way of the dinosaurs, but he couched it in friendlier terms than that. To wit:
Bitcoin won't look anything like it is today. It will have a different name, if it exists. There will have been many hard forks changing it and changing it. And, it'll be a matter of dispute whether it exists or not.
Yes, "a matter of dispute whether it exists or not." Of course that assumes it still exists in one form or another and while, as alluded to above, it's likely the concept isn't going away, it's possible that it will, in which case there will be no "dispute" and the only people claiming it's still around will be the people who swear to Christ that Megalodon is still swimming around out there somewhere.
In any event, the punchline to the whole Shiller video comes when he describes an exchange he had with a student who insisted on keeping his laptop open during finals so he could ensure he didn't miss an "opportunity" to trade fucking Bitcoin. Have a listen:
Got that? Just in case, here's the transcript:
Shiller: I had one student who asked if he could keep his laptop during our final exam because he wanted to make sure he could make a trade... on Bitcoin. I told him, ok if it's so important to you, you can trade during the final exam.
And see that right there neatly encapsulates this whole debate.
50 years from now we'll either be living in “a crypto future��� involving Tron-esque cityscapes, massage parlors where topless Sophias give happy endings for Ripple tips and giant talking billboards featuring stream-of-consciousness-style ramblings from Supreme Leader John McAfee (who will have survived to be 125 years old thanks to robotics), or we'll still be living in some iteration of the current system.
If the former turns out to be the case, well then I guess Shiller's Bitcoin trading student will have the last laugh. But if the latter plays out, well then that student will be the moron who botched a Shiller final exam because he was busy staring at his Coinbase account.
[Disclaimer: I have no idea if that student in fact botched the exam, but if he's trading Bitcoin, well...]