Bitcoin is a poor currency and a crazy investment -- but the technology behind it is a real breakthrough.
Nov. 30, 2017 (Bloomberg) -- An influential new recruit has joined the chorus of bitcoin skeptics. The chief investment officer of UBS, the world’s biggest wealth manager, says it’s too risky to be added to the firm’s portfolios -- and his assessment is relatively mild. Others have called it “the very definition of a bubble” and even “a fraud.”
Those stronger terms are justified, especially after the latest spell of wild price volatility. But the idea underlying bitcoin -- blockchain, or distributed-ledger technology -- could be transformative.
The problem with bitcoin and other so-called digital currencies is that they’re a misuse of this technology. As either a new form of money or an investment, bitcoin has fatal disadvantages.
Tokens that are privately created -- "mined,” if you insist -- can succeed in a limited way as a means of exchange and be used to execute certain kinds of transactions. (Cigarettes in prison are a kind of currency.) But as a reliable store of value, bitcoin is much less useful, because its volatility is so extreme. The value of ordinary currencies is underwritten by governments and stabilized by central banks acting as trusted monopoly producers. Bitcoin and its rivals leave those vital roles vacant.