The debate rages on: Is Bitcoin the biggest bubble in human history? The headline-grabbing crypto currency is up over 2,000% in the past year alone.
In the video above, Demography analyst Neil Howe offers three reasons to be skeptical about the cryptocurrency’s parabolic ascent. Howe recently hosted an institutional call on Bitcoin. The excerpt above (and write-up below) provide a brief overview of why he’s bearish on Bitcoin’s long-term prospects:
1. Bitcoin doesn’t fit anywhere in the currency spectrum.
Throughout history, across the full range of market economies at every stage of development, all currencies have been backed either by some tangible asset (as in a barter system evolving into the gold standard) or by regulatory decree (as in certificates of debt, usually public debts, evolving into a “fiat” currency). Bitcoin checks neither box.
2. Where Bitcoin absolutely excels: Illicit activity.
Very few people use Bitcoin for legitimate real-world transactions. There is, however, one area in which Bitcoin has an unrivaled comparative advantage over any other type of money, and that’s the world of illicit activity. The dirty little secret about Bitcoin? Most of the people using it as an actual means of exchange have dirty little secrets to conceal.
We’re talking about a burgeoning dark web selling everything from fake IDs and stolen passwords to child porn and opioids. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We could add in Chinese investors who are trying to get around export controls. Or rogue states like North Korea and Iran, who are widely assumed to be making large Bitcoin transactions to evade global sanctions.
And then consider some $20 trillion in global tax-evading assets. When I run the numbers, I estimate that other-than-legal transactions constitute the large majority of Bitcoin’s means-of-exchange transactions—that is, transactions other than speculation. Governments around the world are winding up for some heavy crackdowns.
3. Bitcoin-loving Millennials are a small minority.
People sometimes tell me that Bitcoin is inevitable because Millennials like it. And it’s true, they do. Surveys show that Americans under 30 are more likely than older Americans to know about Bitcoin and to own some. On the surface, Bitcoin seems like a good fit for young people who like the idea of a democratized, algorithm-driven currency. It’s techie and geeky and most Boomers can’t understand it. Having said that, Bitcoin-loving Millennials remain in a small minority. Most Millennials are very unlikely to embrace Bitcoin for two basic reasons.
First, Millennials are by and large a risk-averse generation that figures even getting a credit card is too risky. And second, as a generation that values social trust, they are unlikely to underwrite a system that epitomizes social distrust. Most Millennials will be fully aligned behind government efforts to make all financial instruments, including currencies, transparent, accountable, regulated, and safe. Everything that Bitcoin today is not.