As is their wont, each faction described the growth of WBTC tokens, whose value is pegged one-to-one against a locked-up reserve of actual bitcoin, as proof of their coin’s superiority over the other. The Ethereum crowd said it showed that even BTC “hodlers” believe Ethereum-based applications provide a better off-chain transaction experience than platforms built on Bitcoin, such as Lightning or Blockstream’s Liquid. Bitcoiners, by contrast, took it as confirmation that people place greater value in the oldest, most valuable crypto asset, than in Ethereum’s ether token.
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The yield cap policy would be new for the Fed, but it’s really an extension of an ongoing effort to do one thing: get the market to believe its intentions. The way monetary policy works these days, it’s meaningless unless the market behaves according to what the Fed wants. It’s not about what the central bank does per se; it’s about what it says and whether those words are incorporated into investor behavior. But the more it doubles down on this, the more the Fed creates situations in which it risks having its words held against it. And that puts it at risk of losing its most important currency: the public’s trust. Commitments to price targets are always especially risky – ask Norman Lamont, the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had to abandon the pound’s currency peg in 1993 because the market didn’t believe the U.K. would back its promises. The Fed has unlimited power to buy bonds, but whether it always has the will to do so will depend on politics and other factors. Once it’s locked into a commitment, the stakes go up. For now, the markets – most importantly, foreign exchange markets – still trust the Fed. But, as the saying goes, trust is hard to earn, easy to lose.
This system is being fueled by a global innovation and development pool bigger than Bitcoin’s. As of June last year, there were 1,243 full-time developers working on Ethereum compared with 319 working on Bitcoin Core, according to a report by Electric Capital. While that work is spread across multiple projects, the size of its community gives Ethereum the advantage of network effects.
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TRUST ME, BOND MARKET, PLEASE. James Glynn at The Wall Street Journal had a piece this week about how the Federal Reserve is considering following Australia’s lead in using “yield caps” as a policy tool to keep long-dated interest rates down. The thinking is if the central bank explicitly signals it will always institute bond-buying if the yield on a benchmark asset such as the 10-year Treasury note rises above some predefined ceiling, the market will be less inclined to prematurely believe the Fed is going to start tightening monetary policy. In other words, we won’t see a rerun of the 2013 “Taper Tantrum,” when the U.S. bond market, worrying that the Fed would start tapering off its bond-buying, or quantitative easing, drove down bond prices, which pushed up yields. (For bond market newbies, yields, which measure the effective annual return bondholders will earn off a bond’s fixed interest rate when adjusted for its price, move inversely to price.)
I like POW (proof of work) crypto currencies where the system is ruled on the basis of how much computing power you can apply to maintaining the system. I’ve steered clear of Ethereum because it is heading towards POS (proof of stake,) a system where oligarch-sized owners of the coin get to call the shots and likely do what oligarchs do best, poop on the little people and fight to the death amongst themselves. Crypto is politics in software form, so to me the political framework of cryptocurrencies is all important. The POS future for Ethereum is a killer for me long term, but right now it is not that “in the long term we are all dead” that is the key, it is that visibility of the long term itself is all but dead.