The decision to participate in Bitcoin, in other words, means less than your conduct within the bitcoin market. I think it’s worth considering the history of other substitutes for government provided currency when discussing the use of Bitcoin, etc, as an option. Real currency is based on the presumption of stability, but cryptocurrencies are experiments. Bitcoin isn’t quite a currency; it’s a wholly new sort of financial instrument, functioning differently than anything with which we are familiar. And at least we know why Bitcoin is valuable, unlike most social media startups: People pay money for it. There is an ideology that is part of the Bitcoin service; one can not help but download it along with the electronic wallet. So if you want to ask if there is horse meat in these altcoins, the answer is, somewhere, yes. The true Hobbesian SF fantasy is happening in the competition between altcoins, because nobody really knows what makes a good altcoin, until they see who emerges from the cryptocurrency mining Thunderdome.
The retailers who are just trying to make a profit running a store? Or Procter & Gamble, who in 1946 invented alkylbenzene sulfonates so good at washing clothes in a gentle machine, completely changing the way that we do laundry? Combine the high value of the brand name with relatively low margins made by the retailers, and you get a burgeoning grey market in which small shopkeepers don’t think too hard about buying a discount load of washing detergent bottles out of the back of someone’s trunk for cash. Just as buying groceries with dead presidents doesn’t invalidate your radical ideas, downloading a cryptocurrency wallet does not transform you into a seasteading libertarian. Even the most radical anarchist, in struggling against the appropriation of surplus value through the alienation of labor, is sometimes forced to move some commodities around in order to live in this world. Most of the aforementioned altcoins aren’t even really planned, they are just cloned and released into the wild to see how they do with a little bit of extra marketing and a few tweaks to the block pattern. There is often talk of a conspiracy between the high-traffic mining pool owners, and the developers of some of the common software and coins being released.
Since every computer on the network is simultaneously generating the proof of work (and is rewarded for doing so by being given a fraction of new BTC according to the amount of work they are doing, in what is called mining), it would take a computer that is more powerful than all the others combined to mess up the record. It is only a few years’ work to a Silicon Valley angel investor or a drug cartel, and a minute fraction of the student loan industry. A service has been announced that adapts Bitcoin and Torrent technology into a secure communication tool, but it is too new, and the jury is still out as to whether or not it will work. Technology, on the other hand, whether attempting to replace the current means of currency, transportation, or communication, is a tool, neither good nor bad, and certainly not neutral. Bitcoin is supposed to be the killer app of a libertarian dream-it is purportedly 1) a digital currency, 2) a means for conducting anonymous transactions, and 3) an egalitarian, peer-to-peer economic system that will render obsolete the need for fiat currencies, cash, wire transfers, bank accounts, and any other current financial framework that happens to be unpopular.
I’ve watched from the sidelines, trying to see what this small pocket of the internet is like, in the same way mainstream America watches The Wire so that they think they understand the “drug game.” I’ve mined a bit of Dogecoin (DOGE). The beta release rolls onward, as the human species continues to see what it can do with all of this wonderful technology it has created, mostly as it tries to make a buck off of its fellows. In this era of late capitalism, tangential, voluntary-markets are proliferating-thanks in no small part to the technology which makes many of them possible. But this phenomenon is not strictly an effect of digital technology. So, through this peer-to-peer verification system, the record stays legit, without needing the need for a centralized bank to be in charge. I mined a coin called “42,” the gimmick of which is that there are only forty-two of them. Your political views are not decided when you are forced into a market. Cryptocurrencies are not a market that anyone is currently forced into. In the U.S. this was more prevalent in the 19th century and brought with it (along with the fluctuating gold/silver standard) greater market volatility.