Does Bitcoin’s future lie in crime?

A photo of a crime scene
Photo: flickr/ Indigo Skies Photography (Creative Commons licence)

Breaking the law is good. That’s according to millionaire businessman, Bitcoin angel investor and anarchist Roger Ver. In a speech at the Bitcoin Expo 2015 he said:

“The law breakers – from Galileo to Rosa Parks – are the people who bring society forwards.”

In his keynote address Roger Ver argued that Bitcoin supporters should be open-minded about the currency’s links with criminality rather than trying to downplay them.

Bitcoin first came to public attention as the currency used to buy illegal goods on the now defunct online black-market Silk Road. Shoppers were able to pay for drugs, weapons and sex through the site using Bitcoin. Silk Road has been taken offline but the association between crime and Bitcoin remains in the minds of many. And Roger Ver believes this is no bad thing.

Mr Ver’s rallying cry in support of Bitcoin’s subversive potential comes at a pivotal moment in the development of digital currencies. Use of Bitcoin in everyday transactions remains limited and many are wondering where the currency goes from here. Should it, like Mr Ver suggests, market itself as an anti-establishment currency with no moral compass? Or should it clean up its act in an attempt to win over the mainstream?

At Cryptocity we decided to find out where our community stood on this issue by turning to our friends and followers on Quora for their thoughts.

Here’s the question we asked them: do you think the Bitcoin community should embrace the currency’s links with criminality or should it speak out against them?

First to reply was Joseph Chen-Yu Wang, Chief Science Officer at finance start-up Bitquant Research Laboratories.

Joseph Wong: the bitcoin community is stronger if everyone says what they think.

The Bitcoin movement draws a lot of support from people with libertarian beliefs who are committed to the rights and freedoms of the individual. It’s unsurprising that Mr Wang’s comment, which warned against groupthink amongst Bitcoin users on the issue of criminality, proved popular.

Jerry D Chang went one step further than Joseph Chen-Yu Wang. He argued that much of Bitcoin’s appeal lies in the fact no single Bitcoin user can impose his or her views onto others. (There is no Bitcoin central bank governor who intervenes in the market when he perceives there is a problem.)

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 11.26.17

Luke Parker made the point – as many others have done in past debates on this topic – that Bitcoin is far from the only currency to be used for criminal purposes.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 11.27.01

All in all the Bitcoin enthusiasts who contributed to the discussion took a laissez-faire approach to the use of Bitcoin by criminals. There were no calls for crackdowns or celebrations of criminal mavericks. If there was any consensus, it was that there should be no consensus. Among Bitcoin users the worst crime appears to be telling others how to behave.

If you agree or disagree with anything written in this blog, please comment below.

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