Justin’s note: The markets and our offices are closed for the holiday. So for today’s Dispatch, instead of our usual market commentary, we’re sharing an important essay from Casey Report editor Nick Giambruno on why bitcoin is the new “crisis currency.”
As you may remember, I interviewed Nick on this idea last month. In short, Nick thinks people will turn to bitcoin during periods of great turmoil. And that may happen sooner than you think, as he explains below…
By Nick Giambruno, editor, The Casey Report
When two federal agents showed up to harass suspected arms trafficker Phil Zimmerman, Phil was out of his element.
He wasn’t your usual gun runner. He wasn’t linked to any cartels, spies, or other shady characters. But he had written a bit of computer code that the US government considered a weapon.
In the early 1990s, Phil Zimmerman invented what is now the world’s most widely used email encryption system. It’s called Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), and it ensured privacy between the sender and receiver.
Zimmerman also made PGP freely available to anyone over the internet.
The US government considered the strong cryptography behind PGP a military “munition.” They charged him with violating the Arms Export Control Act. The penalty… Three to five years in prison and a $1 million fine.
In truth, the US government attacked Zimmerman for trying to protect something it loathes: personal privacy.
Rise of the Spy State
By April 1991, Zimmerman was deeply concerned about the state’s growing ability to spy on the average person.
He’d discovered a clause in Senate Bill 266 that allowed the government to engage in mass surveillance of the American people. That’s why he released his email encryption software for free online.
He also made the computer source code public. So, other people could publish the software on their own websites as well.
Eventually, the coding community made scores of copies, spreading the encryption technology across the US and Europe.
The US government hated that private individuals now had easy access to sophisticated encryption technology… something governments had long held a monopoly on. That’s why it targeted Zimmerman for a criminal investigation.
Ultimately, the investigation turned into a bitter lesson for the US government.
Anyone could download the code. And privacy enthusiasts had already spread copies all over the internet. So, there was no way for the government to stop it.
That’s because there was no single point of failure. There was no business to shut down, no corporate office to raid, no CEO to shake out, and no central database to confiscate.
In the end, the government dropped all charges against Zimmerman.
As I’ll explain in a moment, this failed witch hunt is just one of reasons I’m confident the government can’t stop Bitcoin… another private, encryption-based technology.
A Swiss Bank Account in Your Pocket
Bitcoin is a non-state currency and payment network. It’s also secured by unbreakable cryptography.
Anyone in the world can use Bitcoin, just like anyone in the world can use email. And, if you take certain steps, you can essentially make anonymous transactions.
You see, Bitcoin doesn’t use the traditional financial system. It has no central authority. Instead, it runs on a decentralized and voluntary network scattered around the world on many thousands of computers.
Bitcoin does not rely on so-called “trusted” intermediaries or third parties. It has no counterparty risk and no single point of failure.
In short, owning bitcoin lets you escape the matrix… the financial prison that governments have erected with fiat currencies, central banks, and privacy-killing regulations serving as the bars on the door.
It’s like a Swiss bank account in your pocket.
Unlike paper currencies, bitcoin is an inherently international asset. It has incredible value as an international transfer mechanism. You can take any amount of it in and out of any country. You don’t need permission from any government.
You can send it across any border—or any number of borders—as often as you want. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
With Bitcoin, there’s no central location for a SWAT team to raid. There’s no “capo” to arrest. Governments can do nothing but play an endless game of whack-a-mole across the globe.
It’s basically impossible for the US government, the Chinese government, or any government to kill Bitcoin without shutting down the entire internet… and keeping it off.
Bitcoin is simply bigger than any government. That’s why it’s extremely appealing to anyone who respects privacy and holds a healthy disdain for government.
This Terrifies Politicians
It’s also instructive to look at BitTorrent, the file sharing software, to appreciate why governments can’t stop Bitcoin.
BitTorrent is a similarly decentralized technology. It’s commonly used to download pirated digital content.
BitTorrent has been around for over 15 years. It’s easily accessible to anyone, despite the US government’s best efforts to shut it down. There’s no reason to expect the government would have any more success eradicating Bitcoin than it’s had with BitTorrent, or Zimmerman’s encryption code.
Bitcoin’s resilience to government interference terrifies politicians. This is why it’s such a disruptive and exciting technology.
I’ve seen this firsthand in Latin America, where bitcoin helps people get around capital controls. (Governments use capital controls to trap money within their borders so they have more to steal.)
Bitcoin helps people bypass these restrictions. That’s because governments can’t freeze, seize, or block the transactions.
Bitcoin has become an escape hatch for people living in crisis-stricken countries. But I think it’s valuable to ordinary people everywhere.
Bitcoin Bypasses Unsound Banks
Bitcoin is hugely popular in Venezuela and Zimbabwe right now.
That’s no coincidence. Both countries are suffering through chronic economic crises. They have some of the highest rates of inflation in the world.
Their governments also strictly control access to foreign currencies. This traps their citizens in a prison of rapidly depreciating fiat currencies. It’s been difficult to escape… until now.
Bitcoin offers regular people a safe haven. They can easily use it to send and receive wealth. That might mean paying for goods and services when the local paper money becomes worthless, or discreetly receiving a much-needed influx from relatives who have managed to get out.
Whatever the particulars, bitcoin bypasses unsound banks, worthless currencies, and government confiscation schemes.
When a crisis hits, a government can easily steal the money in your personal bank account. It can also steal purchasing power by printing more currency. But it’s next to impossible for it to steal bitcoin or prevent people from using it.
In a crisis, bitcoin is invaluable to the common man. Whenever there’s a crisis anywhere in the world, its price and volume spike.
That’s why I’m calling bitcoin the new “crisis currency.”
It’s also why I think bitcoin use will soar during the next global financial crisis, which I believe is not far off.
The Original Crisis Currency
For thousands of years, gold has been the safe-haven asset. Unlike fiat currencies, physical gold in your possession cannot be easily confiscated, nationalized, frozen, or devalued at the drop of a hat.
This is why gold is the traditional “crisis currency.” Now, with the advent of the digital age and bitcoin, people have another crisis currency to lean on.
That said, bitcoin is no substitute for physical gold, nor is it a threat to gold’s value. I still think gold is the best way to preserve wealth over the long term.
I see bitcoin as a complementary tool for advancing your financial freedom.
Today, very few aspects of your private life are beyond the reach of the government… the US government in particular. But bitcoin offers a relatively simple way for ordinary people to maintain some financial privacy and discreetly grow their wealth.
It has some of the same crisis benefits as gold. It’s also a solid speculative investment and a convenient way to start internationalizing your wealth.
I think everyone should own some bitcoin.
Editor, The Casey Report
Justin’s note: Casey Report subscribers can read Nick’s latest issue on this idea right here.
If you’re not a subscriber, investing in bitcoin is just one of the ways to protect yourself—and profit—in the years ahead. Nick has a full portfolio of recommendations to build your personal financial empire.
You can access these picks with a subscription to The Casey Report. And by signing up today, we’ll also send you a free copy of Doug Casey’s brand-new book. Keep in mind, this book is so controversial, we may have to take this offer down soon. Click here to see why.
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