Can Bitcoin Be Trusted as the Global Economy’s Safe Haven?

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Can Bitcoin Decentralize Trust?

Can Bitcoin Decentralize Trust?

In the wake of the financial crisis in Cyprus, interest in Bitcoins has soared, making Bitcoin a currency with $1 billion USD in market value. But is Bitcoin the new safe haven for the struggling global economy?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek contributor Paul Ford points to decentralizing trust as the key to Bitcoin’s growth in value and adoption.

I’m increasingly convinced there’s one thing that Bitcoins do that’s genuinely interesting. They decentralize trust. Trust is hard to earn; verifying transactions is a brutal problem, which is why PayPal locks down your account when there’s too much money flowing into it. Creating trust is traditionally the work of federal governments and branding agencies. Trust is also an easy thing to squander. Just close a beloved service, à la Google Reader. Or allow your banks to fail, causing an entire country to suddenly realize that the value of their deposits, the fundamental integrity of their financial selves, was arbitrary all along.

Along comes Bitcoin, a currency in which every transaction is stored by the entire network and every coin has its own story. There’s nothing to trust but math. Suddenly an idea that sounded terrible—a totally decentralized currency without a central authority, where semi-anonymous parties exchange meaningless tokens—becomes almost comforting, a source of power and authority.

That’s where Bitcoin thrives: where people would prefer to throw in their lot with anonymous strangers instead of the world economy. It’s gold-bug thinking reinvented for an age of fluid transparency and instantaneous transactions. And as such it’s an excellent indicator of anxiety. Where you see Bitcoins in action you find a weird and heady mix of speculative angst, a fear of being left behind, and people who appear to have lost faith in institutions, who feel most left behind. These are people who’ll trade in purely arbitrary tokens, willing to forgo the comfort of banking systems for the weight of mathematics and the Internet behind it.


Bitcoin image by zcopley used under Creative Commons license.

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One Response to Can Bitcoin Be Trusted as the Global Economy’s Safe Haven?

  1. [...] Can Bitcoin Be Trusted as the Global Economy’s Safe Haven? [...]

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