All of which is to say that doing anything legally with bitcoins — and especially converting them into fiat currencies — is going to get harder and more expensive as governments involve themselves. So hard and so expensive, I’d argue, that any advantages the crypto-currency may have over normal means of exchange, like credit cards, will soon disappear.
The problem, as I see it, is that bitcoin only value is it’s medium of exchange, without any real effort. It is ripe for fraud and manipulation, but what fiat monetary system isn’t. The automatic systems of growth to a finite number of units along with the division into smaller increments are intended to eliminate the problems of past monetary failures but cannot control human nature. As the medium of exchange and perceived value increases, hording will occur.
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.
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.