Stablecoins: Cop Out Or Compromise

I would call myself a cryptocurrency purist. The reasons why digital assets appealed to me in the first place are their decentralized nature and the fact that the blockchain is ‘trustless’. Furthermore, it is a riposte to the banking community, which for a very long time has controlled us all unchallenged. And then they caused a financial of the collapse of such proportions that stability was ripped away from the average citizen. People lost their jobs, their homes, and there were even worse tragedies.

So when the Bitcoin whitepaper was published in 2009, it felt like a way forward. One of the problems was that the early Bitcoin believers were perceived as being anarchic hackers and the techie equivalent of punk rockers. And yes, some of them were, but there were also technology entrepreneurs like myself who embraced its possibilities.

In the early days, the buzz suggested that the crypto revolution would be an easy process, but of course, we have discovered that it is a rocky road and we are nowhere near mass adoption a decade later. Much of this is attributed to the price volatility, the lack of opportunities to spend crypto and the opposition of regulatory bodies in numerous global jurisdictions.

Along Came Stablecoins

And then along came stablecoins. If cryptocurrency was a sport, the purists were all shouting ‘foul’ and ‘cheat’. What I want to consider in a calm way is this: are stablecoins a cop-out, because they are ‘fake’ crypto’ to some extent? Or are they a compromise that could ultimately open the floodgates to mass adoption of all forms of digital assets?

In respect of a compromise, I’d compare stablecoins to the trainer wheels on a child’s first bicycle. They help the child get used to the idea of balancing on two wheels. Eventually, these ‘stabilisers’ can be removed and the child can progress to the reality of riding a bike without them. Now, even as a purist, I can see the potential advantage of this. I recently met an economics student, a Generation Z crypto enthusiast, who is invested in a small way in digital assets. He happily extolled what he believed would be the benefits of Facebook’s Libra, as just that kind of ‘trainer crypto’ that would enable mass adoption. I don’t put this forward as a conclusive argument for this view of stablecoins, but only as anecdotal evidence about possible public feeling, especially amongst Millennials and Gen Zers.

How else might stablecoins benefit us? I looked up some expert opinion on the topic.

MakerDAO says,

“A successful stablecoin implementation would be a major catalyst for disruption to global financial infrastructure, challenging weak governments and mismanagement of national economies. Furthermore, stablecoins allow for decentralized insurance, prediction markets, transparent credit and debt markets, and create a level playing field between small and large businesses in global finance.”

If MakerDAO is correct in their assertion, then isn’t it the case that stablecoins are performing the same kind of disruptive element crypto purists believed Bitcoin would deliver?

Stablecoin As Cop Out

As you know, stablecoins are tied to fiat currencies such as USD, GBP, Euro, etc. And there are those who believe that is their fatal flaw. What they are saying is that stablecoins are only as good as the asset they are tied to, and the way in which the two assets are tethered. This is a more complex debate. But, if I can simplify it at all, I’d say this: the core problem purists see with stablecoins is that they are still centrally controlled, they can be manipulated by market forces, and they are certainly not ‘trustless’ in the same way that BTC, ETH or LTC are. Some, such as Ben Prentice argues that stablecoins will simply lead us into the same trap as the old order of fiat currencies. He writes, “I believe inflationary fiat currencies where monetary policy is decided by few individual humans is not a sound form of money.”

So, I ask you — what do you think? Do stablecoins have the potential to help people slowly adapt to the decentralized digital assets, or are they a cop out intended to ensure that fiat currencies, controlled by a global elite according to some, remain dominant in the way we make all of our financial transactions?

Winklevoss twins tell Wall St to wake up

Winklevoss is a big name in the crypto world. The twins, who were Facebook co-founders, have been advocating for cryptocurrency for many years now, and have built up a considerable bitcoin holding, as well as founding the Gemini crypto exchange.

In the last couple of weeks, bitcoin has risen above $10,000 and dipped below it, but overall this year its value has climbed by 200%, giving hope to the crypto bulls, who were left out in the cold during the bear market of 2018.

Enter the Winklevoss twins, who have now warned Wall St banks that they have been “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies generally.

“Unlike the internet, which you couldn’t buy a piece of, you can actually buy a piece of this new internet of money,” Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss told CNN. They added, “It’s still a retail-driven market, from day one. And a lot of people have done really well. Wall Street has been asleep at the wheel.”

As Billy Bambrough at Forbes comments: “Bitcoin’s epic 2017 bull run, which saw the bitcoin price soar from under $1,000 per bitcoin at the beginning of the year to almost $20,000 in December, was largely thought to be due to Wall Street and that institutional investment could be poised to flow into bitcoin and crypto.”

However, the institutional investment didn’t materialise and the price of bitcoin crashed. The Winklevoss twins took a different approach, “We had to invest because we were afraid of missing out, we couldn’t miss out on this future.”

It appears they are now lobbying the Wall St banks to become more involved with the aim of seeing that institutional investment emerge this year, even if it didn’t appear in 2017.

Bambrough suggests that in some ways keeping the banks outside the market has helped bitcoin retail investors, and he cites teen bitcoin millionaire Eric Finman as an example. Finman recently announced that he is backing Metal, which launched in 2017, but has been revamped as a “all-in-one digital banking platform for cryptocurrency” — despite slumping 98% in value since its all-time high. Finman’s support comes as Metal Pay relaunches to compete with more directly with the likes of Venmo and PayPal, payment platforms that want users to store and send cash on their apps.

Meanwhile, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss said they are open to partnering with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on the social media giant’s Libra cryptocurrency project after it was revealed they have been in talks about joining the Libra Association.

The banks may appear to be losing out in this emerging market; it may even make banks a thing of the past. But there is a way to go before we’ll see that, even if these institutions are slumbering giants.

Youngest Bitcoin Millionaire’ Willing to Stake it All on Metal Pay

Erik Finman made his name as the youngest ever bitcoin millionaire and is one of 17,000 bitcoin addresses containing more than $1 million worth of bitcoin.

The young crypto enthusiast is now backing Metal, a P2P crypto payments app, which launched in 2017, but has been revamped as an “all-in-one digital banking platform for cryptocurrency.”

Finman has been predicting that bitcoin (BTC) will reclaim its $20,000 value this year, simply because of the entrance of Facebook into the crypto market with its Libra stablecoin. He also referred to the fact that candidates in the upcoming US presidential elections have been talking up bitcoin, as has Apple.

Oddly enough, last year, Finman claimed that bitcoin was dead during the worst moments of the 2018 bear market that left most major tokens down almost 90% in value.

Finman, who has also tried to encourage passive investment in bitcoin with his CoinBits project said, “Bitcoin could be at $50,000 per bitcoin without all the fragmentation.” But you can’t change the fees,” he added. “You can’t change the loading times. I’m very pro-crypto and pro-bitcoin but with just one coin you can only do so much.”

Metal, which also has the Metal (MTL) native token, peaked at over $13 per token in September 2017 as bitcoin and cryptocurrency excitement reached fever-pitch, but has failed to hold almost all of that value as users and investors dried up, slumping to just $0.30 per MTL currently.

As Billy Bambrough writes at Forbes, “Finman’s support for metal comes as Metal Pay relaunches to compete with more directly with the likes of Venmo and PayPal, payment platforms that want users to store and send cash on their apps.”

Finman’s partner at Metal, founder and chief executive of Metal Pay, Marshall Hayner said, “We’ve worked for years to make certain that all laws and regulations are met in an effort to deliver the best possible product for our user base. With this launch, we truly believe that Metal Pay has the opportunity to become bigger than bitcoin.”

In other media coverage, Finman and Hayner also claim that Metal Pay will kill off Facebook’s Libra, when the contentious stablecoin finally launches. How that works out, remains to be seen.

Twitter comes under fire from McAfee

John McAfee, the bitcoin buccaneer, has grabbed the headlines again this week, but this time it is in a good cause rather than a self-serving one.

Earlier this week Ryan Smith at CCN revealed that a scammer was impersonating John McAfee on Medium. He wrote, “The so-called “McAfee Crypto Extravaganza” promises mouth-watering 10x returns — if and only if — you deposit a small amount of Bitcoin or Ethereum in the attacker’s wallet first.”

CCN alerted McAfee’s wife Janice to the scam and she posted on Twitter that it was a fraud. It was clear that the scammer had gone to some lengths to create two cleverly crafted phishing sites and the fraudulent pages even go so far as to fake Bitcoin transactions and mimic BTC block explorers.

It wasn’t long before John McAfee stepped up to add his view of the situation, and he took aim at Twitter for what he sees as its lax approach to bitcoin scams.

McAfee told CCN: “This happens three or four times a day where people pretending to be me on various platforms, attempt to scam people using a variety of scams. On my Twitter account everyone of my tweets are peppered with comments from people pretending to be me and attempting to get people to send Bitcoin or Ethereum in exchange for a larger amount. I no longer bother to report them to Twitter because I never get a response.”

You can understand his anger and frustration. As Ryan Smith commented, “Twitter has the paradoxical reputation of being both incredibly resourceful and annoyingly frustrating. Influencers find it increasingly difficult to wade through the information swamp only to interact with their genuine followers.”

And as CCN reveals, scammers will even use Pope Francis for an “Official BTC Giveaway”. Although, if anyone believes the Pope is giving away bitcoin, perhaps they also think that the moon is made of green cheese.

Over a year ago, Jack Dorsey, a big bitcoin supporter and one of the co-founders of Twitter, promised he’d take action to reduce the problem. But as CCN says, the problem seems to have got even worse. CNBC Crypto Trader host Ran Neuner recently challenged Jack Dorsey to stop wasting resources on a new user interface and do something to stop the exploitation of novice crypto users on Twitter.

Twitter may still be the leader in short form content, as Ryan Smith points out, but should another platform emerge that is scam-free, then Twitter may find its sizable community of crypto followers deserting it for a safer harbour.