Commentary by Peter Jones. Blogger, photographer, social-safari explorer, and former editor of SlugLine
What is money? Ah it's an old cliché I know, and it probably belongs back in the sixties along with comments like "Money is the root of all evil" - that bible mis-quote* which I remember seeing on the wall during The Monkee's TV show which, subtly (blatantly) sold their naff records.
But I digress: isn’t money really just a token of confidence which has to obey a few simple rules to become accepted? If that’s so, couldn't anyone start creating the stuff?
Well now you can! With the advent of massive, cheap computing power, various individuals have invented their own currencies; the most famous of which is probably Bitcoin. Despite the reservations of people like Warren Buffet, who famously advises never to buy something you don't understand, Bitcoin has caught on like wildfire. Almost worthless just a few years ago, the last time I looked one Bitcoin was worth £500 - meaning the early adopters who enjoyed the rare novelty of using Bitcoins for goods like pizzas have, in time, been shown to have paid several million dollars in today’s terms for their Pepperoni-topped 12" snack - about a million dollars a slice in fact.
So if Bitcoins fluctuate so much, why do so many people think they are the currency of the future?
There are several reasons:
- they are not tied to the state so authorities cannot invent them, print them or over-supply them
- they can’t be loaned out until they actually exist, which counteracts futures-trading
- there is a limited, quantifiable amount of them
- anyone can read every transaction ever made, ever, if they really want to.
So am I going to buy any? Hell no, I'm a lowly qualified blogger/property landlord who knows little about the bizarre world of imaginary value. But then again, didn't I just pay for my McDonalds cuppa, which sits beside me here in Burnley McDs as I type this, by swiping a microchip over a microchip? And with that swipe, did someone physically remove 89p from my bank and bring it to the till in McDs to be transported again to Ronald McDonald’s Bank?
Of course not! It's all done on trust, with transactions measured in electrons, and no pieces of gold tied in as standard any more.
So surely it's only one short step away from removing the ties to nation-based currency altogether? After all, letters are rarely sent by government post offices any more. My entire photograph collection exists only in the imagination of some server in Norway rather than physical albums on my shelf. The government has no interest in my pictures or mp3 collection (unless you believe the anarchists' conspiracies) so could not my bank account be separated too?
According to the survey results, the answer seems to be Yes.
*(1 Timothy 6:10 “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”)