Bitcoin was launched in January of 2009. It introduced a novel idea set out in a white paper by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto—bitcoin offers the promise of an online currency that is secured without any central authority, unlike government-issued currencies. There are no physical bitcoins, only balances associated with a cryptographically secured public ledger. Although bitcoin was not the first attempts at an online currency of this type, it was the most successful in its early efforts, and it has come to be known as a predecessor in some way to virtually all cryptocurrencies which have been developed over the past decade.
Bitcoin might be a reserve asset for the crypto community but its recent price trajectory, with gains and losses tracking equities, suggest the non-crypto “normies” don’t (yet) see it that way. Given the COVID-19 crisis’ extreme test of the global financial system and central banks’ massive “quantitative easing” response to it, that price performance poses a challenge to those of us who see bitcoin’s core use case as an internet era hedge against centralized monetary instability. Far from complying with that “digital gold” narrative, bitcoin has performed like any other “risk-off” asset. Meanwhile, actual gold has shaken off its own early-crisis stock market correlation to chart an upward course. While bitcoin has repeatedly failed to sustainably break through $10,000, bullion has rallied sharply to close in on $1,800, levels it hasn’t seen since September 2012. Some analysts are predicting it will breach its all-time intraday high of $1,917, hit in the aftermath of the last global financial crisis in 2011. To add insult to injury, one Forbes contributor even stole from the crypto lexicon to describe the state of play, telling his readers that gold prices are “soaring to the moon.”
DeFi’s ‘Agricultural Revolution’ Has Ethereum Users Turning to Decentralized Exchanges. DEX, often touted as a fairer and safer way to trade cryptocurrencies, might finally have its use case: yield farming. In the past, as Brady Dale reports, most people haven’t wanted to self-custody, preferring institutions to manage the risks of holding their keys for them. But in DeFi, where people undertake dual borrowing-and-lending schemes to make big, quick returns on incentives and high interest rates, is better if you control the keys during the trade. And decentralized exchanges are seizing the opportunity.
Decentralized exchanges (DEXs), which allow peer-to-peer crypto trading without centralized exchange (CEX) taking custody of your assets, have integrated WBTC into their markets to boost the liquidity needed to make them viable. Sure enough, DEX trading volumes leapt 70% to record highs in June. (It helped, too, that June saw a surge in “yield farming” operations, a complicated new DeFi speculative activity that’s easier to do if you maintain control of your assets while trading.)
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OF MONEY AND MYTHS. I’m reading Stephanie Kelton’s book “The Deficit Myth.” In a future edition of Money Reimagined, I’ll have more to say on the most influential modern monetary theory proponent’s explanation of its ideas. But for now I’ll just say that, while I’m not likely to be a convert to all its prescriptions, it seems clear that MMT is widely misunderstood by folks on both the left and the right – also, very much by the crypto industry. The latter is perhaps because people in crypto tend to skew more to the metallist school of money, rather than to chartalism. Either way, a clearer grasp of what MMT is all about would, I believe, help improve the industry’s discussion around government, money, trust and how blockchain-based systems can integrate with the existing one.
That network now sustains its financial system, a decentralized microcosm of the massive traditional one. It takes tokenized versions of the underlying currencies that users most value (whether bitcoin or fiat) and provides disintermediated mechanisms for lending or borrowing them or for creating decentralized derivative or insurance contracts. What’s emerging, albeit in a form too volatile for traditional institutions, is a multifaceted, market for managing and trading in risk.
The original Ethereum value driver was the ICO (initial coin offering), another casino on Meth. The regulators did what they do well and snuffed it out but crypto at its base is a way of creating value outside of the maw of fiat monopolies and you can’t keep that at bay indefinitely. So snuffing out ICOs didn’t snuff out Ethereum, it just left it ticking over until the distributed computer got another hit app. Here it is.