Connect with us


Bitcoin After 2140: Differing Views On The Future Of The Future Of Money



Bolstered by its ascent on the world stage, not to mention the newfound admiration of tech icons and investors, it’s no secret Bitcoin believers are bullish on its future, with advocates going so far of late as to predict the global economy to be on the verge of a cataclysm only its invention can solve.

Still, if there is now an acknowledgement Bitcoin has carved a place in the economic order, discussions with the technology’s more tenured advocates reveal there remains a divergence in outlooks on its long-term development, divides that cut to the heart of the mysteries that remain in the decades-long experiment to create a digital cash.

But while no doubt natural in any emerging scientific field, the disconnects have arguably grown more pronounced with an influx of new investors into Bitcoin over 2021, many of whom are now more familiar with Bitcoin’s economics than its computer science breakthroughs, and who have been further emboldened by the escalating promises of its more eccentric advocates.

Indeed, far from a technology trapped in competition, a growing number of today’s users see Bitcoin as a dominant predator on the economic landscape, an asset whose fixed policy and finite supply differentiate it absolutely not just from fiat monies, but all other cryptocurrencies.

Still, on the margins, Bitcoin’s more tenured evangelists appear to be quietly chafing at the fervor of the day, arguing against a complacent culture, seeking to accelerate the pace of network upgrades, or else asserting that the project could still fail.


The unspoken tension emerging can be summed up as such: At a time when Bitcoin advocates are eager to delight in the inadequacies of the global economy, its leading thinkers remain arguably as uncertain as to how its economy will mature as an alternative.

Promoting debate of late is that while Bitcoin is becoming mainstream as a portfolio asset, it remains a peer-to-peer network, the two attributes being irrevocably intertwined, each equally necessary for the system’s eventual operation.

From here, thornier dilemmas begin to emerge – namely, if Bitcoin’s long-term viability as an asset is assured, why make improvements to its network at all? And conversely, what if our optimistic attitude toward its asset turns out to be a liability for the economics of its network?

To begin, the intent of this author is not to draw alarm, but to inform debate by parsing the prevailing opinions of those who today believe Bitcoin to be the only viable cryptocurrency, separating what the mainstream today sees as a homogeneous group.

Rather, this article will attempt to divide Bitcoin Maximalists into three broad camps – monetary maximalists, network maximalists, and platform maximalists – each of which holds a different bias toward its long-term direction.

In the paragraphs to follow, we’ll expand on these varied worldviews, illustrating how and why they appear to be subtly, but meaningfully, out of sync.

A Clash of Concepts

Embraced by all groups, of course, is the acknowledgement that Bitcoin is “decentralized,” a term that denotes how its money uniquely operates free from the control of any person or group. But we need only a brief survey of the crypto world to see there is disagreement on the definition.

Within Bitcoin there are notable divergences in its use as well, and it is here where the break between the sectarian groups of Bitcoin maximalists begins to become apparent.

Chiefly, while all variants believe strongly that Bitcoin is the only decentralized cryptocurrency, they differ as to the reasons why. Monetary maximalists, for instance, view all alternatives as inherently centralized, yet when asked, give answers that appeal to Bitcoin’s monetary policy.

Put succinctly, monetary maximalists seem to believe Bitcoin is decentralized because it has a finite supply and fixed monetary policy no one can change. If a cryptocurrency can change the rules that govern its asset or network, monetary maximalists argue the system is centralized.

Still, what appears obvious in this observation is that, in holding this view, monetary maximalists are introducing a definition of decentralization that is purely germane to the world of Bitcoin and not applicable to other computer science fields. Further, this obfuscates the fact that Bitcoin as a network can and does change parameters, the most recent update coming last year.

Unsurprisingly, this is where the network maximalists clearly diverge. Composed mainly of more tenured developers brought up on the Bitcoin white paper and its cypherpunk vision, network maximalists harbor the same distaste for centralized cryptocurrencies as monetary maximalists, but stick more closely to definitions applicable to the internet and networking technologies.

Stated clearly, network maximalists believe Bitcoin is decentralized because the cost to censor transactions and change the rules is meaningfully high. Bitcoin may have value due to its asset properties, but these properties are protected by a network that’s always at risk of subversion.

Doubtless, there is much agreement between the groups on what contributes to Bitcoin’s value – including the fair launch by creator Satoshi Nakamoto, the low cost of verifying transitions with a node, and the free market competition for new money issuance enabled by proof-of-work.

Yet, to the network maximalists and platform maximalists, decentralization needs to be evaluated, measured, and in the case of networks built on Bitcoin (like Lightning, Liquid, and sidechains), strategically limited to scale the network to handle larger volumes, add new features, and experiment.

Either way, the difference in attitudes should be obvious – one group sees decentralization as an absolute, while the others see it as a fragile, mutable state. This divergence accepted, we can move to the next question – namely, what is the attitude of each group toward Bitcoin’s long-term economics, security, and viability?

Network and Platform Maximalism

For network and platform maximalists, the answer has long been that the network’s security is tied to decentralization, which is protected by its mining power. Indeed, the idea that hash power equates to security is a long held belief, obvious in many initial assessments of its design.

As these groups of maximalists are all too aware, in order to maintain its finite asset supply, the number of new bitcoins the network issues to miners must trend toward zero over time. As there will only ever be 21 million bitcoins, one day Bitcoin will no longer distribute any new bitcoins.

Immediately, this appeared as if it should be a driving concern among Bitcoin believers, and so it was inferred that since miners protect the network, this “subsidy decline” was a liability, one that could only be solved as proposed by Satoshi Nakamoto, with transaction fees paid by users.

As such, the total fees paid by Bitcoin users has sometimes been termed a “security budget,” the implication being that replacing new Bitcoin issuance with fees is essential to the network’s eventual operation. It so follows, network and platform maximalists are unified in foreseeing a future where fees for Bitcoin transactions may need to be both consistent and high.

Yet, cryptocurrency is anything but static, and shortly, a development would split the groups. Emerging in the mid-2010s, alternative cryptocurrencies would begin to launch, offering users new and experimental features, including some both camps assumed would be valuable for Bitcoin – like added privacy and the ability to create or represent new kinds of assets.

What would emerge in response was an ambitious thesis called sidechains, a so-far unrealized effort that sought to wield Bitcoin’s network effects and user base in an effort to assimilate new assets and blockchains, with the idea that Bitcoin could serve as an ultimate platform for digital assets.

But while the network maximalists saw Bitcoin’s ability to serve as a platform as a more limited feature, meant to empower users with new freedoms and privacy, platform maximalists instead interpreted it as a mechanism to engineer its economy at the expense of alternative networks.

Indeed, what would become clear is that while network maximalists accepted Bitcoin’s inherent value over alternative networks, platform maximalists feared that Bitcoin was competing against these networks for demand as a platform, a competition that, if lost, could lead to its demise.

But while less influential in Bitcoin of late, platform maximalism continues to dominate the crypto design ecosystem, where leading cryptocurrency builders assert openly that demand (measured in fees) is what gives their competing cryptocurrency networks value and security as platforms.

This outlook defined, it’s clear platform maximalists accept a world where blockchains are just transaction platforms competing to: 1) Win demand 2) build fee volumes and 3) ensure the underlying incentives that power their respective networks. Network and monetary maximalists do not.

Monetary Maximalism

Yet, emboldened by a decade of demand for Bitcoin as an asset, monetary maximalists appear to be the most vocal in questioning the idea that the Bitcoin network is in any competition at all.

Increasingly the dominant form of Bitcoin maximalism, monetary maximalists believe Bitcoin’s asset has inherent value, and that its network benefits from inherent demand. Said another way, because Bitcoin is intrinsically valuable, settlement on its network is also intrinsically valuable.

In fact, monetary maximalists foresee a future wherein demand for Bitcoin increases to the point where paying for settlement on its blockchain is not optional. Rather, everyone will have to pay fees to move Bitcoin due to the fact it will be the most widely accepted global money.

Still, as outlined, this has important implications for Bitcoin’s development roadmap. After all, by holding this view, monetary maximalists are effectively rejecting the idea that top-level networks need to grow or boost Bitcoin’s demand beyond what is occurring for it naturally.

That this is true is evidenced by their primary critique against other cryptocurrencies, which in their effort to serve as platforms allow the creation of new money in the form of tokens – the very money printing monetary maximalists say Bitcoin solves. Far from a benefit, they assert this practice makes it impossible for these cryptocurrencies to ever garner any real demand.

Opposed to this alternative economic design, monetary maximalists are rejoicing at a time when Bitcoin fees remain low and evoking a future where they might always remain low.

As Saifedean Ammous, author of The Bitcoin Standard, explained in a recent interview: “There’s no scenario where people are holding $1 trillion in Bitcoin and they can’t afford to pay to keep the network running.”

Even tenured developers, like Adam Back, cited in the Bitcoin white paper, have alluded they support this view. In a Twitter Spaces last year, he posited that users may simply pay to run the network because it is valuable, as they do the internet today.

Said differently, Ammous and Back evoke a future where Bitcoin is not secured absolutely – via some mechanism design that guarantees fees equivalent to today’s block rewards – but where Bitcoin is secured by users, who they say will always have the means to ensure its operation and overcome an attack.

Ammous goes so far as to suggest the value of the block reward – now $250,000 – may only be a kind of bootstrapping tool, necessary to protect the Bitcoin network in its infancy. By the time the subsidy runs out in 2140, hyperbitcoinization, he suggests, will have already occurred, a transition that will find global economic activity repriced in Bitcoin.

Summarized, far from an environment where the Bitcoin network remains at risk of attack, monetary maximalists see a future where humanity is destined to embrace and secure Bitcoin.


These positions described, we can assert that there are three important differences between the groups, first in their bias to action toward improving the network today, secondly in their attitudes to building on top of Bitcoin, and lastly in their confidence in its ultimate design security.

Indeed, it may be tempting to see the views of the differing maximalist groups as outlooks users can adopt freely to their advantage. Bitcoin has developed a cyclical economy, and so long as this monetization continues unabated, it may be decades before Bitcoin’s longevity is a concern.

Yet, the fact remains that, in following the monetary maximalists, Bitcoin is clearly charting a very different path than the one embraced by alternative cryptocurrency developers, who still see blockchain networks as having little value beyond their economic utility as platforms.

For Bitcoin’s platform maximalists who still hold this view, the change in sentiment has been a shock, and of late, they have been forced to reckon with the idea they may now be a minority in the culture, working on solutions for problems that are no longer widely accepted.

It’s this author’s assertion that this is the likely cause of notable recent defections from Bitcoin, including the ardent advocates who of late have argued Bitcoin maximalism has “failed” due to the disinterest of users in competing or collaborating with alternative networks.

Still, it’s worth noting that all these groups soldier on, the network maximalists seeking ways to use Bitcoin to build technology that expands user freedoms, the platform maximalists promoting models that argue that Bitcoin’s price appreciation may not be enough to secure the network into the future, and the monetary maximalists focused on Bitcoin’s institutional adoption.

Of course, either way, it remains at best unclear how Bitcoin’s economics will evolve – while an interesting field of study, predicting the future 100 years out is difficult.

So why study the question at all? In his defense, this author would argue that, while clearly a historic invention, it remains to be seen if Bitcoin, as a technology designed and operated by humans, can remain truly free from our human flaws.

Ultimately, the real question posed by studying the variances may be bringing to light the biases at the core of each outlook – a bias to economic engineering (platform maximalism), a bias toward activism (network maximalism) and a bias toward economics (monetary maximalism).

Viewed through this lens, however, it’s hard not to see why the platform maximalism view has lately fallen out of favor. As opposed to a system defined by economic engineering, Bitcoin’s monetary maximalists appear at least united in believing that the Bitcoin economy may only ultimately persevere through our collective decision to value and protect it.


Will There Be War Over Taiwan – The Next Spy Thriller



I usually go through a rhythm of reading one or two serious books, followed by a few works of fiction and with summer on the way I wanted to highlight a few of both. In that regard I have just finished Laurence Durrell’s ‘White Eagles in Serbia’, an old-fashioned espionage thriller where the hero Colonel Methuen is dropped behind enemy lines in post war Serbia (he speaks excellent Serbo-Croat) and becomes embroiled in a violent plot to overthrow Tito.

The book is a warm-up to reading Durrell’s ‘The Alexandria Quartet’, a work that nearly won him the Nobel Prize. Durrell was part of an interesting Anglo-Irish family, who largely considered themselves Indian – his brother Gerald, the naturalist and writer, touches on this in ‘My Family and Other Animals’.


Though I am not an expert on these matters, I found ‘White Eagles’ a more realistic account of espionage than much of what we see in the media today (Mick Herron’s ‘Slow Horses’ is good), and overall it is a tale of derring-do that is more in keeping with the work of the founding fathers of the genre – Eric Ambler, John Buchan, Erskine Childers and Ted Allebury for example.

It also made opportune reading given what seems to be an epidemic of espionage – with reports of the Chinese hacking group APT40 using graduates to infiltrate Western corporates and notably the admission by the head of Switzerland’s intelligence that Russian espionage is rife in that country (notably in Geneva – for which readers should consult Somerset Maugham’s ‘Ashenden’ as background material).

These and other trends – such as the outbreak of a heavy cyber battle last week (against Lithuania and Norway for instance) and the increasingly public ‘clandestine’ war between Israel and Iran (they have just sacked their spy chief) point to a world that is ever more contested and complex.


Secret World

One of the new trends in the space is cyber espionage – both in the sense of stealing state and industrial/corporate secrets, influencing actors (such as the manipulation of the 2016 US Presidential election) and outright acts of hostility such as the hacking of public databases and utilities (i.e. healthcare systems). Here, if readers are looking for some serious literature I can recommend two excellent books – Nicole Perlroth’s ‘This is how they tell me the world ends’ and ‘Secret World’ by Christopher Andrew.

I am personally more intrigued by the difference between a spy and a strategist. A spy’s work could well be described as the pursuit of information about someone who is acting with a specific intent, as well as a sense of their reaction function. There are plenty of examples – from Christine Joncourt (‘La Putain de la Republique’) to Richard Sorge (see Owen Matthews’ ‘An Impeccable Spy’).

In contrast a strategist may try to plot trends and the opportunities, spillovers and damage they may cause. The US National Intelligence department is good in this regard, becoming the first major intelligence agency to publish detailed warnings on the side effects of climate damage.

Spies and strategists might work together, but history is full of examples (LC Moyzisch’s ‘Operation Cicero’) where intelligence fails to make it through the strategic process or is simply ignored for political reasons (might the early warnings on the invasion of Ukraine be an example).

Asia next?

In the spirit of the Durrells and Flemings of the world, what issues might be of interest in terms of digging into unknown knowns and unknown unknowns. Here are a few ideas, most of which are Asia focused (we might see an uptick in Asia focused thrillers).

On the diplomatic front, an interesting recent development was the visit of Indonesian president Joko Widodo to Ukraine, and then Moscow. It was a rare visit to Ukraine by an Asian leader and potentially marks the emergence or at least aspiration of Indonesia (population 273 million) as an emerging world diplomatic player. What has intrigued me so far is that there has been little coordination by the populous emerging (largely Muslim) nations (Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan) in the face of high energy and food prices, and that potentially Widodo could play a unifying role here.

Then, still in Asia, but on a more deadly footing, if the Western commentariat is to be believed, China is preparing an assault on Taiwan, and looking to learn from Russia’s military errors in this regard. Other countries are reacting, and I suspect that there will be much intrigue around Taiwan’s ability to acquire sufficiently powerful ballistic missiles that could strike the coastal cities of China, and relatedly how long might it take Japan to produce nuclear missiles (my sources say they could very ambitiously do it in five months!).

So, whilst the espionage literature of the 20th century has tended to be focused on Geneva, Berlin and London in the 21st century we may find ourselves reading about ‘behind the lines’ exploits in Jakarta and Tanegashima.

Continue Reading


Crypto Minsky Moment Now Happening



During the second half of the twentieth century, economist Hyman Minsky provided a set of guidelines to identify what makes financial markets fragile and economies unstable. It is the midpoint of 2022, and a crypto Minsky moment is underway.

Investment professional Paul McCulley coined the term “Minsky moment.” He did so when describing the dynamics of an earlier financial crisis, the Asian Debt Crisis of 1997.

Minsky actually died in 1995, and so was not alive either to witness for the 1997 Asian currency crisis, or to see his name used in a catchphrase for economic instability. Nevertheless, the term “Minsky moment” has stuck.

Here are three facets of the crypto Minsky moment that is ongoing.

1. At the beginning of 2022, Bitcoin BTC was trading at $47,743, and closed on June 30 at $19,986, down 58%. The market value of Bitcoin comprises the lion’s share of the entire crypto-market; therefore, as the value of Bitcoin goes, so goes the value of the entire crypto asset class.

2. Hedge funds are shorting shares of Tether USDT , a stablecoin that is not so stable and beginning to wobble. Notably, Tether is the major “coin of the realm” for the inter-crypto market, the exchange of one crypto-asset for another. Another stablecoin, TerraUSD, did worse than wobble: it collapsed in May.

3. The crypto-lender Celsius is now fighting for its life.


In February 2022, Bitcoin was trading in the neighborhood of $44,000. At that time, I warned that crypto-investors needed to pay attention to how the issues Minsky studied applied to cryptocurrency markets. Now that these markets are experiencing a Minsky moment, let me just recapitulate in hindsight what I warned about in foresight.

Minsky’s framework features about a dozen major components. Below are six that just leap out.

1. Fringe finance: This was the term Minsky applied to what Paul McCulley — and now the rest of us — call “shadow banking.” Shadow banks are financial institutions that operate outside the central banking system, and do not have the central bank as their lender of last resort. Crypto-markets are a perfect example of fringe finance, as they operate at the fringe of the global financial system.

2. Speculative and Ponzi finance: Minsky warned about debt finance in which the source of the funds for making interest payments and repaying principal is price appreciation rather than cash. Prudent debt finance, Minsky was very clear to say, is based on hedge finance, where cash generation, not price appreciation, provides the funds for borrowers to fulfill their obligations to lenders.

Minksy warned, very loudly, that when market participants are gripped by euphoria, they shift from hedge finance to speculative and Ponzi finance. The stability issues associated with Tether and TerraUSD UST stem from the riskiness of the portfolios which back the stablecoins they offer, or in the case of TerraUSD offered. The concern is that these portfolios are weighted towards speculative and Ponzi finance. In 2021, a group of entities including Tether reached an $18.5 million settlement with the office of New York States attorney general. The office had accused these market entities of making several public misrepresentations regarding the dollar reserves which back them, especially the Tether stablecoin.

3. Asset pricing bubbles associated with financial innovation: Those wondering what an asset pricing bubble looks like need only look at Bitcoin’s history. Those wondering what financial innovation looks like, need only look at how DeFi has evolved to produce assets like Tether and lending institutions like Celsius.

4. Excessive leverage: Celsius has an assets-to-equity ratio of 19-to-1, much higher than 9-to-1 for the average North American bank in the S&P 1500 Composite index. Assets-to-equity is a standard ratio measuring leverage: the higher the ratio, the higher the leverage.

5. Bank runs, beginning with the commercial paper market: Tether is concerned about a run on its stablecoin, as investors rush to sell their Tether coins en masse. There are rumors that the assets backing Tether include highly risk commercial paper issued by Chinese entities. Tether denies the rumors, but that has not stopped hedge funds who are shorting the Tether to express their concerns that this is the case.

6. Too big to fail: Minsky asserted that during a financial crisis, governments would engage in what he called “contingency socialism” and rescue firms that are too big to fail. At this stage, there appear to be no firms large enough to qualify as too big to fail. TerraUSD certainly did not so qualify.

I am not saying that cryptocurrencies have no fundamental value, and in fact I believe that they do. Economists call the concept “value in use,” which they contrast with “value in exchange.” The problem is that there has been a large gap between crypto value in use and “crypto over-value in exchange.”

Crypto investors might believe that they are making bets on crypto-fundamentals; and indeed they might be doing so, to a small extent. The thing is to a large extent, most of what they are betting on is sentiment. Minksy warned that euphoria will surge during economic expansion, at least until the Fed raises interest rates to address inflation. Then investors’ sense of euphoria collapses, and with it asset prices.

As Yogi Berra once said, and might have said again in connection with Minsky’s perspective and crypto markets: It’s deja vu all over again.

Crypto euphoria is in a state of collapse, which is why crypto markets are experiencing a Minsky moment. Down the line, a crypto phoenix will rise out of the ashes, with less euphoria, similar to the way that the dot-com sector emerged from the dot-com bubble. Until then, investors of all stripes would do well to pay attention to what Minsky taught.

Continue Reading


Stock Market Investors: Don’t Fear Inflation – Embrace It



The inflationary trend is now self-perpetuating, but that doesn’t mean investors cannot earn excellent returns.

Start with today’s inflation:

The three underlying causes are:

  1. Too much money
  2. Too low interest rates
  3. Inflationary actions/reactions being taken by businesses, other organizations, employees, consumers, investors and Wall Street

Number 3 is the reason an inflationary trend is so hard to stop. It’s a chain effect of “sellers” pushing prices up at least in line with cost increases and “buyers” attempting to hold back the inevitable.

Therefore, don’t expect this Fed to subdue inflation with a “soft” landing. Inflation well above the Fed’s 2% target likely is here to stay and even increase until the Federal Reserve and political leaders accept the need to take drastic, unsavory actions.

Okay, that sounds dire and distressing. So, where does the happy investor part come in?

How investors can win from the inflationary growth periods


Remember, inflation is rising prices. On the surface, that means company revenues and earnings get an inflationary boost, producing stock price gains for investors.

However, industries and companies get affected differently. Therefore, succeeding in the coming inflationary bull market means adjusting strategies and expectations for the altered environment.

How to adjust strategies and expectations

The conditions to understand and accept are:

Inflation – Expect a rising cycle of higher highs and higher lows as organizations and consumers get into the swing of it

Interest rates – Realize they are still well below the level capital markets would set without Federal Reserve interference. So, consider this a bonus inflationary period where the Fed says it is tightening, but it actually is only reducing the loosening already in place. In other words, there is a long way to go before conditions truly get tight.

Economic growth – Until there is a recession, “real” (inflation-adjusted) GDP growth will remain positive. That means “nominal” (not inflation-adjusted) growth will be increasing at a higher clip as prices rise.

Company growth – Here is where things get interesting. An inflationary environment creates winners and laggards. Therefore, do not expect yesterday’s winners to be tomorrow’s in this new environment. Most likely, a significant shift will occur. And that brings us to…

Company stocks – As the financial, economy and business conditions transform, so, too, will Wall Street. Expect to see new strategies, selections and valuations based on inflation-based rationale. And that means the biggest change ahead is probably…

The shift to actively-managed funds from index funds

The inflationary growth period will push “outperformance” to the top of investors’ wish lists. No longer will matching the whole market’s middle-of-the-road results be satisfactory. As active managers charge ahead, investors will begin jumping aboard.

Skeptical? Don’t be. The combination of new, different and outperformance will be like meat to today’s malnourished investors. It’s a bull market cycle driven by extraordinary conditions that will replace the worry refrain of inflation-interest-and-recession (Oh, my!)

Note: Like many stock market periods, the reasons and results come from a combination of conditions and actions – not one simple explanation. Therefore, be sure to read my previous article, “Exceptionally Good Conditions For Stock Bull Market Launch In July.” In it I list four actively managed funds in which I have invested.

MORE FROM FORBESExceptionally Good Conditions For Stock Bull Market Launch In July

The bottom line: Multiple conditions build inflation trends, so ignore simplistic commentaries

Many (most?) media reports link simple explanations to results. Ignore them. They are written by reporters on a deadline with no time for analysis. Just think back to the gyrating explanations for each daily (or intraday) stock market move. The reason cited is normally a coincidental occurrence. For example, “8.6% inflation!” Or, “Consumer sentiment at a new low!” Or, when a simple reason is lacking, something like this from The Wall Street Journal (June 27) – (Underlining is mine)

“U.S. stocks slumped Tuesday, giving up early gains and falling for a second consecutive day as investors parsed fresh economic figures for clues about the pace of monetary-policy tightening.”

No, the market didn’t fall because investors were parsing for clues about anything. In fact, most short-term market moves are noise, often reversed a day or two later. A better short-term period to watch is a week, because the weekend market closure has day traders sitting on their cash.

Instead, follow economic, business and financial developments without trying to tie each to a stock market move. A beneficial approach for linking everything together is quarterly analysis. Why wait three months? Because each quarter contains all the earnings reports (and management outlooks), followed by the quarter-end reporting and analysis from active managers. Moreover, examining a trend quarter-by-quarter does away with all the in-between gyrations that can produce more uncertainty than understanding.

Continue Reading