Digital Dough

I invested in my first cryptocurrency back in 2014. It wasn’t much of an investment. I didn’t understand the premise completely, and I didn’t want to risk much. Not that it mattered. I was three years too late for getting on the bandwagon as Bitcoin was already trading at around $600. I couldn’t afford to buy even one. I was, however, able to get a free dollar’s worth of Bitcoin for joining Coinbase, a digital asset exchange company that mainly deals with Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. Back in 2014, one dollar bought 0.0016 worth of a BTC. Today that “non-investment” has netted me enough to buy one fancy soy latte and a pack of gum.

Quick Origin Story

After that initial purchase with none of my money, I basically forgot about cryptocurrency for the next few years. Then, in early 2017, I found my interest renewed with a specific angle on social justice and solidarity finance. I had read a few articles and watched a few documentaries that touted cryptocurrency as an alternative to a corrupt financial system and a government that had allowed it to run unchecked for too long.

The Market Crash of 2008 gave rise to cryptocurrency and Bitcoin. But, its actual roots can probably be traced back to the 80’s where an interest in anonymous digital cash was lit from David Chaum’s white paper, “Security without Identification: Transaction Systems to Make Big Brother Obsolete.” That paper saw the rise of Cypherpunks. Wikipedia describes the Cypherpunks as, “…any activist advocating widespread use of strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies as a route to social and political change.

From the early Cypherpunks discussions came the general idea of Bitcoin. But, it wasn’t fleshed out and fully realized until the Market Crash of 2008. In the aftermath of that global economic meltdown, a mysterious (and, still unknown) developer going by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto published his white paper, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” In 2009, Bitcoin became the first decentralized cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency For Social Change?

I’m no stock broker, and I’m no mathematician. Sometimes the numbers and technical complexities behind digital currency can get away from me, but what I do understand is the premise behind it and the goal at the heart of its creation.

Our current banking system is replete with manipulation, tampering and outright fraud by the bankers themselves and the governments. Traditional money can be easily printed. This can cause hyperinflation, like in the case of Zimbabwe and their trillion dollar bills. Most banks only have so much money on hand and if all their customers withdrew their cash at once, the banks would be forced to close – effectively denying funds to a large portion of their customer base.

Cryptocurrency is a fully decentralized monetary system – there is no central authority – no company, government or single person who can regulate it, control it or shut it down. It doesn’t care about borders, either. There are no exchange or transaction fees which should make it especially interesting to the billions of adults of the world without bank accounts. Cryptocurrency can basically create a bank in their cell phone.

In a recent Business Insider article titled, “Cash May Be on the Endangered List,” Bhaskar Chakravorti and Benjamin Mazzotta studied the cost of cash from across a wide range of countries and found that “the poor and those with less access to institutions bear a disproportionate share of the overall costs of using cash.” Those without a bank account bear a higher impact from a regressive tax imposed on cash usage. And, on average, they pay higher fees per month for access to cash than those with a bank account. In examples like this, it’s easy to see how centralized banks have continued to be an extension of federally regulated racial control in marginalized areas. It can be hard to see beyond all the privileged, white tech bros in suits and high rise offices that seem to represent the current cryptocurrency gameplayers, but I believe in time we’ll see that representation change much in the same way that internet access has evolved from the hands of a few to the global reach of billions.

Cryptocurrency is a fully decentralized monetary system – there is no central authority – no company, government or single person who can regulate it, control it or shut it down.

It’s going to be bumpy, interesting ride. It’s not a perfect monetary system…yet. The digital ledgers are cryptographically secured and meant to be impossible to hack, but vulnerabilities have been exposed more than a few times which have allowed digital coinburglars to make off with millions. You would think each time this happens that the cryptocurrency community would have their faith shaken, but instead it seems to reinvigorate developers to create smarter, more secure code. Maybe it’s the excitement that comes with being a part of a new global financial landscape. Through the successes, failures and constant government scramble to try find a way to control it, cryptocurrency offers us another choice and the more choices we have in regards to our money, the better.

Interesting Reads:
Bitcoin for Activists — What You Need to Know
Honest Financing as a Path to Economic Mobility and Social Justice
How Cryptocurrency Will Cripple Today’s Governments – and They Won’t See it Coming Using Cryptocurrency to Bring Economic Justice to the World