Bitcoins: The future of money?

Moderated by Andrew Nusca | October 7, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: The FBI's shutdown of Silk Road rekindles discussion about the prospects for that site's preferred currency.

Robin Harris

Robin Harris




Michael Krigsman

Michael Krigsman

Best Argument: Yes


Audience Favored: Yes (77%)

Closing Statements

Web currencies won't go away

Robin Harris

Mr. Krigsman's argument comes down to the government will crush web currencies because that's what governments do. Like they've crushed prostitution and recreational drugs? Like they (haven't) regulated the shadow banking system

Money is a tool, and like any tool it can be used for good and nefarious purposes. You can buy a pizza with Bitcoin - and why not?

It would be better if Bitcoin were accepted as an alternative currency by most national governments - but it isn't necessary. Money today is a medium of exchange and, to a lesser extent, a store of value.

If citizens choose to accept Bitcoin, it's a medium of exchange. And the wider its use, the less easy it is to manipulate its value.

National currencies are recent. The US Federal Reserve Bank is only 100 years old. Dollar gold convertability ended in 1971 and we've had floating exchange rates - no fixed values - ever since.

Bitcoin – or something like it – only requires a cloud-based infrastructure and individuals who choose to use it. The globalization of the economy and the desire of citizens to put their wealth to whatever private purposes they please are driving Bitcoin. Those trends aren't going away - and neither will web currencies.

Not a viable currency

Michael Krigsman

My worthy debate opponent believes that Bitcoin is a savior of freedom and will protect the American people from snooping by Big Brother and the NSA.

Friends, this view is simply wrong.

The question we must ask is simple – is Bitcoin a practical and viable replacement for US currency? The answer to this question is a resounding NO. Our entire economic system rests on the principle of trust and faith in the shared currency we call the dollar.

Today’s vote is not a referendum on privacy nor a statement of belief that the NSA snoops on all communications. The debate only answers whether you think Bitcoin can become a national currency.

I beg you, vote NO to send a message that false arguments cannot be allowed to win this serious and reasoned debate.

Digital currency could win the day

Andrew Nusca

While both gentlemen gave truly spirited arguments, I've got to hand this one to Robin Harris. He backed his claims with a more reasoned, inclusive response and underscored the fact that while Bitcoin itself may not be the future of money, a digital currency like it could win the day. Today, Mr. Harris did just that. Well done.


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  • Bitcoins - Freedom Loving People Will Embrace It

    I'm with Robin on this one. Sorry Michael, you have some points, and maybe it's just me, but do I detect a subtle amount of cynicism toward all of the (IMO) right reasons for bitcoins?

    Besides, like certain other inanimate objects capable of great harm (and secret transactions via bitcoins can have their own set of harmful least as far as the all knowing/all controlling big brother is concerned), "If bitcoins are outlawed, only outlaws will use bitcoins."

    I say use bitcoins even if they become regulated as money is regulated. Then, a new version of bitcoins that are not regulated should be adopted to maintain the anonymity that bitcoins were once intended to provide. I'm sure that'll be illegal, but so what? Rights aren't given by our government, nor do they come from our Constitution. Because they are "natural", every man and women possesses them. The problems occur when we stop utilizing them, by force when necessary.
    BTW: I couldn't figure out which option to select ("I'm for Yes" or "I'm for No"). Were these options referring to bitcoins or the two viewpoints presented?
    Reply 25 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Trying to create a nanny state is never a good reason to do something

      If the argument against bitcoin is it allows people to make purchases outside the police state control, the next thing they will try to do is outlaw money so that the police state can have a digital anal probe up everyone's wallets more than they already do.
      Reply 20 Votes I'm Undecided
  • Potentially long term, yes, future? Not so much

    Whilst I can see either BitCoin or a BitCoin derivative being around in the future, I can't see any uncontrolled currency as being allowed to run riot throughout the worlds economies.

    Equally I can't see major vendors as being interested in a currency that's volatile and susceptible to basic programming decisions (e.g. the March 2013 0.7 Fork debacle).

    So, on the face of it, I'm going to have to go for a No.
    Lost In Clouds of Data
    Reply 20 Votes I'm for No
    • March 2013 0.7 Fork debacle was more a success than anything else.

      The "debacle" was probably the best example of a decentralized current that fix thing quick without any cost or problem. The protocol is well created an problem like this fork can occured at any times, but they are quickly resolved. Wall street and banks have bigger problem than that and more often.
      Jean-Claude Morin
      Reply 7 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Merchants can avoid the volatility trivially

      Charging in Bitcoins is cheaper than charging in either cash or with credit cards. What merchant would not want to improve their profit margins?
      Reply 15 Votes I'm Undecided
    • re: Potentially long term, yes, future? Not so much

      Are you speaking for yourself, or for those who would enslave us?
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
  • thoughts

    "Most transactions in America are already bits moved around a network, not physical currency."

    Yeah, it kinda cuts both ways - our own currency is already mostly digital, with most of my transactions never touching physical currency.

    "Internet-based disintermediation has hit virtually every industry. Money is next."

    I'd say it's already hit money, as indicated above. What I regularly pay bills with is called "dollars," but it's all done over the internet.

    "Bitcoin’s appeal lies in being anonymous, untraceable, and unregulated."

    Attributes that honestly nobody except some edge cases (and most of those edge cases are black markets) desire to have in their currency.

    IMO Bitcoin, although a very interesting technology, solves the wrong problems, and thus won't really be appealing to most people.

    "Bitcoin will survive as a niche source of barter, purchase, and exchange. . . . Bitcoin will eventually be brought into the mainstream."

    Uh . . . so much for the law of non-contradiction. I err on the side of it will stay niche, and is unlikely to become mainstream.
    Reply 18 Votes I'm for No
    • As long as it is called Dollars, it's not disintermediated

      The dollar economy has arteries clogged with the gerrymandered rent-seeking captive regulation of two centures. It is ripe for failure.
      Reply 9 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Not sure how you go from voting to economy . . .

        Not sure to how you go from describing our voting structure to an economic argument.

        Yes, there are things that that we could improve with our voting, but I hardly think that has anything to do with dollars vs bitcoins.
        Reply 7 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Unregulated?

        I would add that either I must be an edge-case black-market fan, or my interpretation of "unregulated" (i.e. "value regulated only by free-market forces") must be different than Cobra's.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided