Last week, MPs in the UK launched an inquiry into cryptocurrencies, and European officials have asked for them to be placed on the agenda of the next G20 meeting, but what could this mean for the crypto community?
Many crypto enthusiasts welcome regulation. They see it as a means of protecting the interests of individuals in a world rife with would-be thieves, criminals, and scammers. This makes perfect sense since, for the use of digital currency to become widespread, people need to trust the technology. If imposing regulations means that these undesirables can be held to account, then the authorities would essentially provide a safety net for anybody curious about digital currency. As it is, crypto virgins are asked to place their trust a system that leaves them to fend for themselves, and this doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Of course, this autonomy is also one of the main reasons more people are looking at decentralized systems of transferring value. Some are even heralding a change in the established order and reveling in how the technology has rattled certain cages. (Yes, Mr. Banker, we are talking about you.)
The advent of blockchain technology doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re all going to free ourselves from the shackles of the vested self-interest of big banks anytime soon, but it does offer an alternative to the monopolization of money that has evolved since the days of the Medici. It opens up a discussion about democratic money which some would prefer we did not have.
This is evidenced in the BOA’s (Bank of America) habit of filing crypto-currency patents. That the BOA has filed more of these patents than any other institution is not evidence enough that they are stifling innovation, but when coupled with the fact the BOA benefits in maintaining the status quo (centralized banks’ hegemony in the world of money), it is clear to see that the gatekeepers of the financial world are worried. The fact that they have banned credit card payments for bitcoin and other altcoins is further evidence still.
The intervention of banks hasn’t been entirely negative, though. Banning customers from using their credit cards to participate in ICOs, for example, means fewer people are likely to get into debt after unwittingly investing in a Ponzi scheme or a similar scam. Many citizens unable to participate in ICOs can turn to airdrops which are a much safer way to acquire tokens, and this can’t have hindered the swelling of the crypto community’s ranks.
The result of the UK’s inquiry into digital currency will make for an exciting read. More so will be the inevitable discussion at the G20 meetings. Regulation is on the cards one way or another, this much is widely agreed, but whether these regulations will facilitate innovation or stifle it remains to be seen. One thing is certain, the technology exists, and it’s going nowhere. It’s up to the legislators of the world to adapt and meet the challenges it presents or try forlornly to put the lid back on Pandora’s box.
Michael is an English and Creative writing graduate of Liverpool John Moore’s University, a former editor of several magazines, and a crypto-currency enthusiast. He is mostly interested in crypto-legislation and the potential of decentralized technology to change the world.