COIN TALK is produced in partnership with Medium and hosted by Aaron Lammer and Jay Caspian Kang. Press “Listen to the story” above to play the episode. (You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, download the MP3, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Zach Voell: Aaron, good to be on the show. Thanks for having me.
Aaron Lammer: You were at the hearings today. You must’ve had to hustle home for this call.
Zach Voell: Actually, I feel like I didn’t get my money’s worth watching, because it was a pretty short hearing. I was expecting a little bit more. A lot of the committee members were missing. The round of questioning was relatively short. Much shorter than I expected.
Aaron Lammer: It felt like a stunt hearing, not a full hearing.
Zach Voell: Yeah, I’d agree with that.
Aaron Lammer: I’m trying to think. This is at least the second hearing that I’ve streamed. What was the first time this issue came up in a senate commissiony kind of way?
Zach Voell: I couldn’t tell you the first time off hand, but I remember going-
Aaron Lammer: That was an unfairly trick question.
Zach Voell: … No, that’s fine. I can say though, and one of my favorite senate hearing crypto memories is from a hearing, and I desperately have tried to find where this clip is because I know I had it at some point, but the chairman of, I wanna say the same committee that held the hearing today, the senate banking committee, the chairman asked a question, in early ’16 I think it was, something along the lines of whose face is on a bitcoin. Obviously, thanks to the work of some policy advocates in DC, they’re slightly more educated on cryptocurrencies and public blockchain projects and that sort of thing, but it’s increasingly the focus of a larger and larger number of senate hearings and today was the latest one.
Aaron Lammer: If I were to describe anything, I didn’t stream the whole thing, but it’s incredible how banal this has become in government. These hearings didn’t even particularly move the market. This is almost a footnote kind of a hearing.
Zach Voell: Yeah, you would see big committee hearings on blockchain or cryptocurrency or some sort of bitcoin and cryptocurrency related regulation and people would freak out. I guess they say bull markets react to good news and brush off bad news, bear markets brush off good news and react to bad news. So I guess a committee hearing, more often than not, is probably good news. Given the bear market trend, brushing it off could just be typical behavior for the market cycle we’re in right now. I’m not sure. But, it is becoming very commonplace, which in my opinion is a good thing. The opinion of many crypto anarchists, not a good thing. C’este la vie.
Aaron Lammer: As an outsider, and the way that most of the hearing was covered, it seems like the big testimonies were Nouriel Roubini and Peter Van Valkenburg. Did I miss other hits or was that the Sports Center highlights of the day?
Zach Voell: Those were the big witnesses. It was very interesting. It was a smaller hearing I guess, partly because some of the committee members were missing. Even the committee itself, like you mentioned, seemed to regard it as maybe more of a footnote than a headlining committee hearing, but it was just Peter and Nouriel testifying before the committee today. I know Coin Center and a bunch of crypto Twitter users loved that experience of having these two people with diametrically opposite views on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies and other blockchains testifying in tandem with each other. It was a pretty interesting event, a pretty great event, in that sense.
Aaron Lammer: They’re interesting foils for each other. Peter has been on the show before and I would say my bias is probably in his favor here, but in a traditional showdown like this, you would expect it to be one person is advocating for lots of government oversight and regulation and one side is arguing for no government or minimal government oversight and regulation. Actually, what you have between the two of them is one person who’s saying this is a total scam with zero redemptive value and the other one’s saying we would like it to be regulated, more or less the way we’ve regulated financial products for the last 100 years. It’s been working well. Let’s keep doing it. This isn’t exactly the battle I would’ve predicted a few years ago.
Zach Voell: Sure, that’s more than fair. About Peter specifically, I totally agree. Every time I’ve heard him speak, I should say, his opinions and testimony or interviews are always objectively quite compelling and his demeanor is very calm and persuasive. He’s an excellent communicator and obviously whip-smart as well. A pretty lethal combination. We’re lucky to have him on our side. Also, more often than not, I’m hesitant to say every time I’ve heard him speak, but I can’t think of a time that I haven’t heard him advocate for regulation using the phrase light touch, which is Coin Center’s brand to protect the innovative potential and disruptive upside of open public blockchains like bitcoin by encouraging regulators to educate themselves and regulate accordingly, but understand that a lot of existing regulation is sufficient for the type of things we’re trying to accomplish and not stifle the potential of these projects. Those are the talking points Peter stuck to at his testimony today, among a couple other things. Nouriel, his academic pedigree is quite seminal, quite impressive, but he came across as, in the hearing specifically, maybe a little bit too aggressive. Definitely on Twitter afterwards, you might say a little bit unhinged with his emotive reaction to the hearing and commentary about it on Twitter, that sort of thing.
Aaron Lammer: He’s gone this far with this take, this is no time to quit now, at the senate hearing. In some ways, I feel like this is the grand finale of the opera that Nouriel Roubini has been writing. He’s, along with our former guest Adrian Chen, I think one of the top three no-coiners in the world. To me, a no-coiner is not defined by simply not having coins, but in some ways being animated by your anger and disapproval of coins. Not anger. It can even be lighthearted I think, but a true no-coiner is someone who is obsessed with what’s wrong with bitcoin. I think that’s Nouriel. What I sometimes feel like is missing in his voice being the great no-coiner voice of his era is someone saying bitcoin and crypto is serious and is dangerous and real. His dismissal of it actually means that no one is making the case that bitcoin is a very real, perhaps inevitable phenomenon that is going to wreak havoc on financial systems, which I’m not sure is my own personal belief, but I think it’s a case that I’d like to see made by people who both believe in the power of coins and that there is, to put it in a fully comicbookian sense, a great destructive power that goes behind that.
Zach Voell: I totally agree. I think his opinion, which he’s expressed on Twitter and in certain publications, and definitely in the hearing this morning, is that bitcoin and other public blockchains have essentially zero utility whatsoever. He expects them to be tossed into the trash heap of history within I guess a couple years maybe and forgotten about completely or simply be the butt of certain jokes for however long in the future. I totally agree. I think his dismissal of the fact that anything like bitcoin or another blockchain could possibly have any utility is a little bit shortsighted, a little bit ill informed, and just wrong. I think it’s relatively obvious that something like bitcoin, maybe bitcoin, but if not bitcoin something like bitcoin, will always exist. The technology is quite special. Maybe literally everyone on the planet won’t own satoshis or use bitcoin in some way, shape, or form, or something like bitcoin, but it’s not just gonna disappear in a year or two or even a decade. I think his dismissal is a little bit misguided.
Aaron Lammer: Nicholas Taleb’s view is that now that the idea cat is out of the bag, it’s never going back in. It may not be called bitcoin or even look particularly like bitcoin in its final state, but that you can’t take back ideas like this. Which is, again, to me a weird positive and negative statement about crypto. I think that speaks both to the fact that the senate has to consider it and also that they should not consider it without a certain gravity. I couldn’t help but, while I was watching the live stream, think about the last time I heard someone describing technology in a hearing, which was Zuckerberg testifying. This is happening amidst a weird season for tech talking to government.
Zach Voell: The intersection of tech and the state is increasingly pronounced. In some cases, that’s good. In some cases, I would suggest that’s not so good. You mentioned Taleb’s commentary on technology and that sort thing. I think his idea of the Lindy effect, popularized in bitcoin circles by Nic Carter of Castle Island Ventures, the fact that the longer something exists, the longer you can expect it to continue to exist is very accurate, going again to Nouriel’s probably misguided dismissal of bitcoin and open blockchains. One thing I will note that you may not have seen on the C-Span live stream of the hearing was also very telling of the demeanor of the two witnesses and the reception of their testimonies by members of the committee, is certain facial expressions and gestures and nonverbal communication between members of the committee.
Zach Voell: Specifically, I remember seeing Senator Warren interact with Peter after he finished a bit of his testimony, answering one of her questions. He was cut off or cut short and she just smiled and said thank you with an understanding nod and that sort of thing. Peter received those sorts of nonverbal communications from other members of the committee, but nothing like that was paid to Dr. Roubini. Again, I think something we discussed a few minutes ago, that goes to the fact of Peter’s demeanor and his pathos, his effective communication. His skill as an orator is always on display. The aggressive brand of Dr. Roubini is not always well accepted.
Aaron Lammer: It’s interesting because in a way I feel like we should never hear from either of them again. No shade to Peter Van Valkenburg, but it’s a little strange to take a pretty broad issue that affects millions if not billions of people around the world and be like we’re just gonna continually hear from this angry professor and this head of a coin lobbying center from it. It feels like there has to be a greater diversity of viewpoints than that, but again, to call myself out, I don’t know who I’d suggest in either of their places.
Zach Voell: I guess I agree that a wider diversity of expert witnesses is always better than a less diverse pool of witnesses. I know Dr. Roubini and Mr. Van Valkenburg have been on a plethora of congressional panels as expert witnesses, but I know a variety of people who I interact with on Twitter and Telegram and Slack and other social media platforms that would be exceptional witnesses. Maybe I’m forgetting or are unaware, but have not testified so far, I’m thinking specifically of a number of attorneys and lawyers who are exceptionally sharp minds commenting on events in the crypto space and always temper their opinions with a healthy dose of skepticism, sometimes more than is palatable to die-hard crypto enthusiasts. But I agree. I think Peter’s testimony was today and always is good. I obviously think the opposite of most things that Dr. Roubini said today and usually says, but there are a wide variety of individuals who are actively contributing to and thinking about things happening in this space that I would love to see on similar panels talking to these lawmakers. I guess I should say the down side or the unfortunate thing is that many of these super smart individuals are of the anarcho-capitalist anarchist, crypto anarchist variety and have zero interest in talking to anyone associated with lawmaking. That’s a discussion for a whole other time, but I think a wider variety of expert witnesses would be great.
Aaron Lammer: Maybe an Andreas Antonopoulos type. Someone who doesn’t have such a clear skin in the game or a professional association but has been pursuing it independently. That seems like the best kind of witness. I understand also that the nature of hearings is to take diametrically opposed views rather than someone who is charting a middle or moderate course, so maybe what I’m asking for is actually the same thing everyone’s asking for from politics, which is not to gravitate immediately to the extremes, which we seem to have trouble doing in a variety of ways. The other thing I was thinking while I was watching this, I don’t know if this occurred to you, was how dramatically different these hearings would be if Satoshi was not anonymous. If there was a person behind bitcoin who had to stand up and defend it and explain how it was gonna work and apologize for its every shortcoming or tout its every success, I think it would have a much bigger vector of attack. The fact that there’s not a person there who’s the proverbial CEO of bitcoin means that everyone who’s talking about is not really a firsthand source. There’s no real spokesperson for bitcoin out there.
Zach Voell: I totally agree. I think a useful corollary is considering if dogecoin was bitcoin and we hauled Jackson Palmer in front of the house and the senate multiple times every session to testify about the scams being built on top of or financed with dogecoins or something. The problem-
Aaron Lammer: Nouriel Roubini’s testimony would be aimed like hey you, Jackson, you specifically, this is your fault. Korean pensioners are losing their shirt because of you.T here’d be a person to wag the finger at.
Zach Voell: Exactly, exactly. I think that would be a disaster for the project. I’m infinitely grateful, as I think are almost every Bitcoiner, all Bitcoiners, that Satoshi is anonymous if in fact they are still alive. But I think to my knowledge, this has never happened and I would love to be corrected by your listeners. You can find me on Twitter and tweet at me if I’m incorrect, but I don’t know if any-
Aaron Lammer: Even if he’s right, just yell at him anyway.
Zach Voell: I don’t know of any core contributors who have gone before the House or the Senate and testified in the U.S. or elsewhere and I think their testimony would be crucial ’cause they’re the ones or Bitcoin miners for that matter people who are running and building big mining farms. We’ve had plenty of exchanges. We’ve had some attorneys who are working in this [inaudible 00:19:04] field of crypto law, and regulation, and whatnot, but no core developers and no big Bitcoin miners to my knowledge, and their testimonies are just as important if not more important than the policy advocates, and attorneys, and whatnot. I really think Congressional committees should work to have those people on their panels. Their testimony would be invaluable.
Aaron Lammer: You heard it Jihan Wu, just come testify. Actually I did hear in the section I listened to it did seem like the centralization of mining is an issue that’s of interest to politicians.
Zach Voell: Yes, there were a couple of questions about the centralization of mining, the oligopoly of Bitcoin miners as Dr. Roubini put it-
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I think Bitmain went public this week, right? Or like last week?
Zach Voell: I think that’s correct. [crosstalk 00:20:00].
Aaron Lammer: It seems like it’s gone public several different times, depends where you gauge it. But basically these hearings are happening in the midst of the public offering of Bitmain.
Zach Voell: Yeah, I’ll [inaudible 00:20:11] really quickly my colleague at Messari, Katherine Wu, she is super sharp, and has written a bunch of tweets and a few articles on the IPO for Bitmain, a little bit of a messy situation definitely check that out. But the Senate hearing is happening as all of that stuff is going down, and Dr. Roubini basically answered one of the committee members who asked him if mining centralization is inherent to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. He basically said yes-
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, controversial question.
Zach Voell: Yeah, yeah, exactly. “Yeah, it’s inherent.” He and I were going back and forth a little bit on Twitter this afternoon. I took exception with the use of the word inherent as if there’s no alternative, it’s just the way it is when quite obviously Bitcoin mining was at first incredibly decentralized. Well I guess Satoshi was the only one mining so highly centralized, but it became exceptionally decentralized much more so than you might say it is now, and now we’re seeing a trend towards centralization again. Obviously, centralization is a tendency for mining of any cryptocurrency. But I think it’s definitely not inherent, and the efforts of people like Matt Corallo and other developers to build alternatives to mining that allow it to be increasingly decentralized are essential. I strongly disagree with Dr. Roubini that it’s inherently centralized, and I don’t remember-
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, it seems like that’s just the timeline we’re on now, you know?
Zach Voell: Exactly. I mean we’re almost on the 10th anniversary. We’re barely a decade in, and Bitcoin as I said has gone from insanely centralized, that being one or two people, Hal Finney and Satoshi, to exceptionally decentralized. A lot of people are trying to mine Bitcoin with GPUs and whatnot to now big mining farms being set up and maybe an uncomfortable level of centralization of mining. But I think it’s always useful to remember that in these discussions about mining and centralization and decentralization in general it’s not a binary term. It’s very gradient, so one person’s decentralized is another person’s centralized, and it’s always excellent especially in the context of Bitcoin and other open public blockchains to work towards an increasing level of decentralization. But you can’t just slap on a label Bitcoin mining is now centralized because I mean quite obviously it’s very decentralized, but it’s just not as decentralized as some people would prefer, and there are some problems with the level of centralization it’s at right now. But it’s a very fluid term. It’s not binary, and I think that context is very important and usually lacking from discussions about mining centralization.
Aaron Lammer: Well, I don’t think we’d be discussing mining centralization if the centralization was in America. I think the important part of the mining centralization is that it happens to be located in a country that has a trade war brewing with the United Sates, and potentially I think it could be argued, I’m interested in what your colleague Katherine Wu Katherine would think about this that the biggest winners of the crypto economic boom so far have been Chinese miners. That if you look at like which player in the game’s position I would take of any seat at the table right now they’ve got a pretty good business. There’s some cracks in the Bitmain armor, but for the most part it’s been a really good business. I mean from what I’ve heard about people who spent time in crypto China, they’re not even particularly interested in holding coins. They’re mostly just interested in the mining business, so I feel like it’s a very specific timeline we’re on, and it’s budding up against this major world narrative which is Trump coming to a head with China.
Zach Voell: Yeah, I agree. Those, the mining centralization in China narrative and the trade war between the U.S. and China narrative are definitely coming to a head. I think it’s important to note though that obviously all Bitcoin mining doesn’t take place in China, and these discussions, Andreas Antonopoulos tweeted maybe a year or two ago or something that some of these conversations, and they’ve done a decent job of getting better about this now, but definitely a year or two ago sort of had undertones of xenophobia, and racism, and whatnot in them sort of slamming the Chinese as like taking over Bitcoin and whatnot. But it’s important to realize that a lot of other countries have huge mining farms being developed in them right now. A lot of these nations are ASEAN countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, like Vietnam for example, big mining farms are being built there.
Zach Voell: Right now I’m in the D.C. metropolitan area and in Virginia Beach there’s a huge mining farm, a relatively huge mining operation being built in an old brewery, factory building type thing, and this happening all over the world, so the fact that a lot of it was and a good amount of it continues to be, Bitcoin mining that is, continues to happen in China is not the way it always has been, and is definitely not the way it always will be at least in my somewhat optimistic but I also think realistic opinion. It’s literally everyone’s job in Bitcoin to work to decentralize mining, so if you’re not using a simple client like NiceHash, or HoneyMiner, or something to run on your PC and decentralized mining you’re not-
Aaron Lammer: The Honeyminer came on the show. My chair has a soft cushion of a HoneyMiner t-shirt that they gave me, so this is a great lesson everyone. If you send me a t-shirt, I will refer to it on air.
Zach Voell: I love the HoneyMiner team. If you like Bitcoin and if you’re also worried about mining centralization, download HoneyMiner and start mining some Satoshi’s on your PC. You won’t have a massive effect but neither does your node singularly have a massive effect of the network security. It’s everyone’s job to do their part, and that sounds really Communist, but it’s true. Do your part, secure the network, decentralize mining, and we can try and make this thing work together.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I mean on some level it seems narratively appropriate that this huge mining concern would land in China, and so far as I think we’ve already seen with like the whole idea of mining that like even though Bitcoin is a virtual currency it takes on many of the same, Saifedean Ammous writes about this in his book. You still have to do things that are difficult that resemble physical mining. Just like it’s cheaper to make goods in China there is a profit motive where at least for the very early part of Bitcoin’s history China has been one of the cheapest places in the world to produce Bitcoin with electricity.
Zach Voell: Yeah, exactly. Electricity arbitrage and Bitcoin as a catalyst for cheap electricity generation via renewable sources and whatnot are huge points of discussion in this debate. Excuse me. We don’t have to necessarily get into you like the energy consumption debate right now, but [crosstalk 00:27:47].
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, and it also gets into the chip debate. Even if we had like a flat price in electricity around the world China would still probably be leading mining simply by access to chips that are developed in China.
Zach Voell: Yeah, yeah, exactly. But any market, electricity, mining chips, monies, anything has where there’s profit there will be entrepreneurial talent attracted to making money and arbitrage away the profit, and we are already seeing that happen in many aspects of Bitcoin, and the resources it touches, and we’ll continue to see that. So it’s a little bit ludicrous to think that the imperfections of Bitcoin’s functionality right now will continue indefinitely into the future.
Aaron Lammer: Zach, you are an analyst by trade which means you are asked to take in information like these Senate hearings and come to conclusions based on it. So I’m curious like what is your information/real world diet? What are your inputs? Where does your impression of where Bitcoin is, come from?
Zach Voell: Sure. That’s a great question. Honestly something I think about quite frequently as I try to manage the content that I consume. I obviously spend, and unfortunately more than I maybe like to admit, waste a decent bit of time on Twitter, but it’s obviously a valuable resource.
Aaron Lammer: It’s for work, damn it.
Zach Voell: It’s for work, exactly. I think efforts like this right here, podcasts are one of the great things, one of the best educational resources in the space. I host one myself and I think I have interesting content. Aaron Lammer: Hey, tell the people where to subscribe to your podcasts before I forget.
Zach Voell: Sure, yeah.
Aaron Lammer: Just search The Coin Pod. One word, two words?
Zach Voell: Exactly. Well three words at The Coin Pod. We’re on Twitter, and pretty much every podcast platform where you listen to podcasts. Check us out. We stick to shorter weekly episodes than some of the other podcasters out there, but good conversations. It’s exclusively Bitcoin, so we don’t really talk about all coins, exclusively Bitcoin.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah. One of the things I like about the diversity of Bitcoin podcasts out there right now, I mean I put quotation marks around diversity because there’s probably a lack of certain forms of diversity, but like me and my co-host Jay call this a podcast for crypto moderates, and I think wherever you land on the like you know moderate to like I’m never eating another vegetable for the rest of my life kind of spectrum, there’s like a podcast for you somewhere in there.
Zach Voell: Absolutely, and I would say there’s an episode in my podcast for you too regardless of where you are ’cause I try to, and this show as well, your show does an excellent job of having a variety of guests, all of whom probably don’t agree with each other on the show but that’s what makes our conversations fun. I think the fact that we’re even talking about this is a little bit of a shame. I respect people who have very strong opinions. I have plenty of strong opinions but they’re weakly held and easily changeable. But a lot to the vitriol, and aggression, and whatnot, antagonism in the Bitcoin space towards maximalists, and heretics, and all of this nonsense is like at the same time laughable, and cringe-worthy, and just sad. So hopefully that will change in the future. I don’t know, we’ll see, but you’re right, you can probably find a podcast for you out there, and podcasts are a great resource.
Aaron Lammer: Have you followed at all this whole Meltem Demirors criticism that’s been on the internet in the last couple weeks?
Zach Voell: A bit, yeah.
Aaron Lammer: For people who haven’t followed it, she’s a crypto person. She’s been involved in several projects, and like everyone else she has both held shitcoins and is now rallying against shitcoins. Someone was sort of giving her crap about it, and it touched off a larger debate. But I really think it’s true like that if you’re involved in crypto at all even on a podcast level and your mind has not changed about something fundamental like I don’t know what you’re doing. If there’s ever been a space where you have got to believe some of your core opinions are going to change over time, it’s this one.
Zach Voell: I 100% agree. And I will say I love Meltem. I think her work and her-
Aaron Lammer: I also apologize if I mispronounced her name there, but I did feel like the criticism of her was unfair and unwarranted.
Zach Voell: I agree. I think she’s just a microcosm, a singular example, but people criticizing other person’s … for what they have in their portfolio in my opinion is total nonsense. You should be criticized for trying to scam people out of what’s in their portfolio or trying to misinform earnest, eager newcomers. But what you choose to spend your money on is really no one’s business, and it’s kind of the point of this whole thing. We should be able to buy, and spend, and transact with whomever we want for whatever we want whenever we want. And if you’re criticizing someone for buying shitcoins, it’s a little bit antithetical to the purpose of this whole experiment, but people don’t really like to think about that.
Aaron Lammer: I mean let he or she who has ever held shitcoins, throw the first stone at the glass shitcoin house. I mean look, if it was a static quality of what was and what was not a shitcoin, no one would ever own shitcoins. Shitcoins are the story of people believing in something that’s bullshit, and some of those people thought it was bullshit from the start, and thought that they could make a good trade, and some people believed in it with all their heart and made a bad trade.
Aaron Lammer: I mean it just feels to me like I know that reporters are not really supposed to hold coins, which is always an interesting thing. So of course, most of the journalistic institutions are no coiner because they’re actually no coiner by policy. But one thing we’ve really espoused on this show is that there’s a value in actually trying this stuff out for yourself. It’s different to talk about using Ethereum to buy an ERC-20 coin than it actually is to going and doing it yourself, and I have very little belief that people who have never tried any of this stuff firsthand really have a grasp on it.
Zach Voell: Yeah, I totally agree with everything you said. Two points in particular. The fact that using the thing, and trying to store it securely, and maybe mining it via some of these lightweight clients like NiceHash and HoneyMiner. I also think with regard to disclosures it’s a little bit odd and I hope in the future we get away from especially with cryptocurrencies but with maybe other things in general, I don’t really have enough of a qualified opinion to [inaudible 00:35:29] on that but especially with cryptocurrencies forcing journalists to own nothing or specifically disclose what they own is a little bit of a futile effort because owning nothing sort of hamstrings their opinions in certain ways.
Zach Voell: People will disagree with me on that, but I think it’s very important if you’re writing about cryptocurrency because it is so new to own some for an extended period of time, not some of these editorials where the journalist owns it for a week or something, and then decides that that’s sufficient and they can write about it now, but it should be to the point where we should just assume journalists own a little bit of everything more or less. That everyone does, and if they write about a coin, the assumption that they do own it should just be instinctual. In part, because it’s impossible, really, to prove a negative. It’s impossible to prove that you don’t own something. But also, it would just make coverage of these things much more simple. Much simpler to assume that everyone owns whatever they’re writing about, instead of having these laborious disclosures, that are really just a charade, and don’t prove anything, ultimately.
Aaron Lammer: I think, I don’t have quite as broad a view of you of transparency in holdings. If I found out someone was actively, actively, saying “I’ve never held this, I have nothing to do with it.”
Aaron Lammer: And then I find out that they were holding coins, I would feel misled. And I don’t it’s crazy for Jim Cramer’s Mad Money to have to say “I own these stocks.”
Aaron Lammer: I think where we get into the weird nether realm with bitcoin is, are you disclosing “I hold these stocks”, or are you disclosing “I hold US Dollars”.
Aaron Lammer: Because reporters are not asked to disclose that they have life savings, or how much are your life savings. So it really depends on what lens you see crypto through. And even within crypto, I think disclosing that you have some of your life savings it Bitcoin is super different than disclosing that you have a mass investment in a nascent ICO, that you’re pumping. These are kinda different forms of holdings that are being lumped, in a way, into a disclosure ideal.
Zach Voell: Yeah, I totally agree, and I think, obviously given the illiquidity of crypto and crypto assets, in general, one or a series of journalist pieces on a particular asset can cause significant price action.
Zach Voell: So, maybe, disclosures in that regard are more important there, if you subscribed to the necessity and the benefits of disclosures. But, as a roughly equivalent corollary, we see journalists, though, pine on Forex markets all the time, currency markets.
Zach Voell: And one journalist could love a strong dollar, or another journalist could want a weaker dollar, for various economic reasons. Or they could love a different currency all together, or have trade set up, or something. Or beholding a portion of that currency.
Zach Voell: And should still disclose it, it’s just a little bit of a redundant standard. I’m not expert on financial disclosures, I just think, across the board, if we’re aiming for consistent standards, then the highest level of consistency, and maybe optimizing disclosures, and the communication of content. Journalistic opinions, would be reached by simply abandoning disclosure all together, and assuming everyone owns whatever they write about. Instead of forcing journalists and other people to explain, “Yes, I do own this. No, I don’t own that, and what not.”
Zach Voell: But again, I have a lot of opinions, and all of them are weakly held.
Aaron Lammer: Fair enough. I know you’ve had a long day, so I won’t keep you too long. I’ll ask you one last question. Which is … and it’s a big question. You’re an analyst, as we said, you’re tracking all kinds of different stuff. What are the major narratives? Let’s just say, narrowly within Bitcoin, that you are keeping your eye on or you you feel like are going to drive the big picture shifts over the next year.
Aaron Lammer: And, does government regulation, does what the US Senate thinks, or any other regulatory body thinks, play into those big narratives? Or has, in some wacky way, regulation become something of an afterthought?
Zach Voell: Sure, sure. So with regard to the United States first, obviously we are still a powerful global hegemon, and the things we legislate and regulate has significant effect on the rest of the global community. Within Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, there is a significant amount of what’s called, regulatory arbitrage going on.
Zach Voell: And that will continue and intensify over the coming years. Which are points that Peter noted in his testimony this morning. United States does not want all of these innovators and developers fleeing the US to other more regulatory friendly countries.
Zach Voell: So what the US does-
Aaron Lammer: Or Puerto Rico.
Zach Voell: Or Puerto Rico, sure, US Territories. What the US legislates does matter a lot. Anarchists and crypto-anarchists, and what not, be damned. As far as the narratives I’m paying attention two. I guess, two in particular, and they sort of go in tandem-
Zach Voell: Well, not really in tandem. Two things I’m thinking about are, obviously, the increasing institutional financialization of Bitcoin. That’s key. From, sort of, a meme standpoint, Bitcoiners love to hype the institutionalization of Bitcoin, as sort of a catalyst for the next leg of the hyper-Bitcoinization parabolic prize pattern wave and what not.
Zach Voell: But, from a little bit more moderate, objective, standpoint. The institutionalization of a new asset, or a new technology, is important, and probably will have a significant effect on the price within the next two to three years. I’m a little bit bearish still. I think we have a decent way to fall, a couple thousand dollars still. Maybe we’ll see a three to four thousand dollar bitcoin by Christmas, that’s roughly my target. Based on some analysis, I’m not a technical analyst, but I sort of piggy back on some of the analysis that some of my good friends, who are solid technical analysts, have produced.
Zach Voell: But also, in addition to that, I think we’ll stay in this trend for a little while, and I hope, at least, we don’t hit another massive bull run. Like we’ve seen over the end of 2017. Because, I think, a lot of people still need to go to jail. We have had a lot of crime, and a lot of scams, and good people investing in this space-
Aaron Lammer: Can we have both for Christmas? People go jail and we get a bull run?
Zach Voell: Yeah, let’s have both please.
Aaron Lammer: That’s the move that I’d like to see.
Zach Voell: I would love that too. Well, first, I would love some cheap Bitcoin and accumulate a few more. Then we can send them all to jail and have a bull run, and what a Merry Christmas that would be. But, seriously, I think people still need to go to jail. Nick Carter, he came on my show, I guess, a few months ago, and he said, very correctly, that the past year and a half or two has been some of the most rampant un-prosecuted wave of crime in the US.
Zach Voell: Since the boiler room, chop shop, equity sales of the 70s and 80s, I guess it was. That we watch movies about now, and people need to go to jail. I hope this bear market continues until they do go to jail. So a lot of the things that Dr. Roubini said in his testimony today were accurate. Especially in his opening comments, the first five minutes of his testimony.
Zach Voell: I encourage listeners to go listen to that, because it highlighted a lot of things that were true. A lot of what happens in this space is scammy and criminal. If you’re a criminal, regardless of whether you’re an anarchist or not, you need to be held to account for your crimes, by social punishment or by men with guns, the state. And I hope that enforcement comes quickly.
Zach Voell: Preston Byrne, said on a panel, some time ago, that the government is going to stop advising and start enforcing at some point, or something to that effect. And I’ll think we’ll see that ring very true in the Q4 2018, and maybe Q1 and Q2 2019.
Zach Voell: And then, after everyone’s locked up, we can commence another bull run.
Aaron Lammer: Well, just to ask the stupid question, if I were to divide the entire world of crypto into Bitcoin and not Bitcoin, and we can call not-Bitcoin whatever we want. Isn’t most of the going to jail, on the not Bitcoin side?
Zach Voell: I would say, probably … definitely, yes. But there’s a lot of people who cash out in Bitcoin and Ethereum, with their scams. But as far as project development and personalities building things, oh, definitely.
Zach Voell: It’s almost exclusively on the not-Bitcoin side.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, it just strikes me, that if you get your Christmas wish, which is a bunch of sealed indictments. Ultimately, that feels somewhat foolish for Bitcoin, in that, I guess, a bunch of sealed crypto indictments is probably not great for the story as a whole.
Aaron Lammer: But the people who being weeded out of the system are competing with Bitcoin. Or in some ways, trying to scam their way into a market share, which would otherwise be occupied by Bitcoin.
Aaron Lammer: So I guess, if I see a bunch of ICO handcuffs getting slapped on, to me that feels like a good time to by Bitcoin.
Zach Voell: Oh, I would I agree, and I think it’s been noted-
Zach Voell: I’m definitely not the first person to say what I’m about to say. It’s been noted before on Twitter and in articles and what not. But, people who want the state to not attack Bitcoin and not regulate it and not what, revel in the fact that there is so much scammy activity going on.
Zach Voell: For the reason that, all of the regulators attention is spent on punishing these scammers. Who, like you said, are in the not-Bitcoin sector of the space, and that sort of makes Bitcoin seem like the golden child out of all of this horse shit.
Zach Voell: Like, Here’s a project that’s decentralized, people are building legitimate things. Venture capitalists are pouring money into legitimate projects. Some of the smartest minds are building and writing some of the best code out of the entire space, in this one blockchain called Bitcoin, and the rest of it can go to hell, and you can arrest them, and burn all their code bases and what not.
Zach Voell: People sort of enjoy the fact, somewhat facetiously, but also somewhat legitimately, that all the regulators attention should be spent on and is somewhat spent on mitigating and eliminating all these scams. And Bitcoins seems pretty good in comparison.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I feel a little bit, like, people talk about the Ethereum amusement park. If I take all of crypto as an amusement park, it’s like, you think people were regulating these extremely elaborate huge rides that are what the allure to the park is. But what you and I are actually talking about is food and safety restrictions on the fry cooks in the kitchen.
Aaron Lammer: Very little of the stuff that is going wrong has to do with the engineering of the roller coasters that are being built. It’s more of like, 1800s fraud for the blockchain. This is my overriding belief about the crypto era, is that we will later be able to realize that every scam of the crypto era existed in the 1800s, in some analog form.
Zach Voell: Yeah, I agree. If Bitcoin is an amusement park, or a circus, or something. Everything else is a skinny old white man with a van, offering free candy to kids.
Aaron Lammer: Absolutely. It’s like some off chili being served out of the back of a concession stand. Anyone reasonably who smelled it, could of said, that’s not good food. But we still need regulations in place that stops people from selling bad chili.
Zach Voell: Exactly, exactly. I’m not an anarchist by any means, I think small government is great. I hate a big state, but anarchy has some problems. Regulation is good, is the moral of the story.
Aaron Lammer: Yeah, I think everyone, basically, people don’t want their guns regulated, they don’t want this regulated. But when you give the food at a carnival example, you’re like, all right, a little bit of regulation there doesn’t seem like a terrible thing.
Aaron Lammer: We don’t necessarily need to leave this to total freedom.
Zach Voell: Exactly, exactly. I know, I can think of a list of people in my head right now, who might be listening to this and thinking, “Well, the government can’t regulate Bitcoin, it’s regulation proof.”
Zach Voell: And that’s true, but that’s obviously limited to on-chain transactions, and maybe some secondary and tertiary decentralized protocols and applications, as well. But there’s a lot more to this ecosystem than just that, and regulating the on-ramps and off-ramps, and essentially regulating the regulate-able things about this space is good, and the job of the men with guns.
Zach Voell: So you may hate the men with guns, and want to stick it to man. And a little bit of all of us wants to stick it to the man, but the men with guns are there for a reason. Government is good, we’re political animals, and having regulators do their job is a good thing, and we should appreciate it. Not, as many people too often do, is, sort of, pardon the French, but shit on The Coin Center, and all of the good work that they do.
Zach Voell: Because their work is valuable. You may be an anarchist, but advocating for policy makers to have a light touch, and educating them on these things, has zero downside. It’s all upside, and we should appreciate their work.
Aaron Lammer: All right. Give some money to Coin Center, download Honeyminer, subscribe to Zack’s podcast, and have a great week. Thank you so much for coming on Zack, I know this has been a long day. Really appreciate it.
Zach Voell: Oh, thanks for having me here. This has been a blast, thoroughly enjoyed it.
Aaron Lammer: Come back on when you have something you need to get off your chest. I’m always here to listen.
Zach Voell: Will do, will do.