Bitcoin’s path to the grave has always been fairly clear to me. . . . You can’t seize a Bitcoin like you can seize a dollar, since it’s simply an alphanumeric string. But people need to be able to get their money in and out of the Bitcoin economy in order for it to be a useful alternative. With Mt. Gox and other Bitcoin go-betweens having such a hard time staying afloat, it probably won’t be long before even some Bitcoin diehards consider packing it in.
The very reasons why Bitcoin has taken off today will be major reasons why its value is likely to collapse tomorrow. . . . [dramatic price instability] will cause the ultimate failure of the Bitcoin experiment. . . . Bitcoin will fail because a small number of hoarders control most of the supply.
At the height of its popularity, Bitcoin was trumpeted as a viable alternative currency for the internet age, a monetary system engineered to prevent theft, gaming, and criminalization. Then came the malware, the black market, the legal ambiguities and The Man. Today, you can’t even use it to buy Facebook stock.
Beyond the most hardcore users, skepticism has only increased. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote that the currency’s tendency to fluctuate has encouraged hoarding. Stefan Brands, a former ecash consultant and digital currency pioneer, calls bitcoin “clever” and is loath to bash it but believes it’s fundamentally structured like “a pyramid scheme” that rewards early adopters.
Although I think that Bitcoin is ingenious and fascinating in many ways, I don’t believe that it will succeed as a currency. The problem is that a Bitcoin is unlikely to ever be a good store of value (a primary function of any widely accepted currency) because the (eventually) fixed money supply will cause the purchasing power of a Bitcoin to be extremely volatile.
Bitcoins aren’t secure, as both the recent theft and this password problem show. They’re not liquid, nor a store of value, as the price collapse shows and if they’re none of those things then they’ll not be a great medium of exchange either as who would want to accept them? . . . It’s difficult to see what the currency has going for it.
Because, by design, there will never be more than 21 million Bitcoins in existence. And thanks to hoarding and attrition, we can be sure that it will eventually serve as nothing more than as a collector’s item. . . . I would like to call upon the Bitcoin community to stop referring to it as a digital currency. This is misleading and harmful.
Like the gold standard, a successful bitcoin would send our economy back into the dark ages. . . . Even if it became popular, governments would squash it because of #1 and because they like being in power. . . . With bitcoin, a single failure of the cryptosystem could result in an utter collapse of the entire financial network.
Negative feedback loops like this are basically homeostasis. In nature, positive feedback loops like exist with Bitcoin are lethal; the only thing that’s even kept Bitcoin alive this long is its novelty. Either it will remain a novelty forever or it will transition from novelty status to dead faster than you can blink.