So you can’t turn on CNBC today or any other financial news network and not hear something about Bitcoin, Ethereum or one of the other crypto currency’s, but from a layman’s point. What is crypto currency? Is it sustainable and is it a viable form of payment throughout the world. For something entirely virtual, Bitcoin and digital currencies have caused a very real uproar. Everyone from central bankers to anarchist and cypherpunks have queued up to give their thoughts and feelings on “decentralized online currency”, as the US Treasury describes it. Is Cryptocurrency the greater leveler that many claim? Or is it, as others argue, an unruly upstart that threatens to send the monetary system into chaos. Will it only be sustained by individuals on the “dark web” or will major e-commerce players continue to adopt and embrace the next leap in economics.
- What is cryptocurrency?
- Is Cryptocurrency sustainable?
- The arguments around Digital/Crypto Currency will rumble on. But, from a sustainable finance perspective, is it worth the fuss? The answer is most definitely yes. Credit Cards came in to being in the late 50’s early 60’s with Diners Club and Caret Blanche. The dominance of physical cash as an instrument of exchange is dwindling fast. Expect more and more alternative currencies to join the list of over 1100 current Crypto Currencies. As there will always be bartering and there will always be people who want to avoid being under government control there will always be a market for non controlled currencies.
Upside of Crypto Currency
Let’s start with the positive. Bitcoin, being the largest of the currencies works as a pretty effective medium of exchange. As a digital currency, it effectively bypasses the intermediary role of banks, with their expensive credit cards and high processing costs. That makes online transactions smoother and cheaper, as well as providing more flexibility for financing projects.
The fact of direct exchange bodes well for internet entrepreneurs and traditional businesses too. Right now, if you design a high-transaction business that requires online payments in tiny amounts – say $.99 or less – bank charges make it a non-starter. Digital currency changes that.
Downsides of Crypto Currency
The downsides, however, are only too apparent. Stories abound about how the high-profile digital currency is the coinage of choice for the ‘darknet’, used for everything from arms running to money laundering. The closure a few years ago of Silk Road, an online narcotics marketplace beloved of Crypto currency users, hit the reputation of the digital currency hard.
Bitcoin suffers two other major downsides, neither of them headline-grabbers but important nonetheless. First, the idea of an alternative currency isn’t that new. Recent decades have seen waves of other examples, says Leander Bindewald, a currency expert at the New Economics Foundation, a London-based think tank. Think Local Exchange Trading Systems in the 1980s, Time Banking in the 90s, and “transition currencies” such as the Brixton Pound or online community exchange systems more recently.
Nor is Bitcoin actually that unique. Ethereum, Litecoin, Namecoin, Peercoin and a myriad of other crypto currencies like them are all based on a similar premise and adopt similar technologies. It’s just the narrative around Bitcoin – its claims to disruption, its decision to set the total issuance of Bitcoins at a fixed amount, and so on – that cause it to stand out, Bindewald claims.
“There’s a lot of discussion now about how Bitcoin is interesting as a payment mechanism and a governance paradigm. But the currency that everyone knows is pretty uninteresting – it’s just a proof of concept that the payment mechanism and governance paradigm actually work,” he adds.
Crypto Currency is here to stay and as your major e-commerce companies adopt the ability to pay with Bitcoin or Ethereum it will only help them continue further.