In a blog post last week at Unqualified Reservations, the author described a fictitious account of how bitcoin dies because a “DOJ indictment is unsealed” naming any and all BTC exchange operators as criminal defendants and the “BTC/USD price falls to zero and remains there.”
While this U.S.-centric plot would seem more plausible in a cryptographic flaw scenario, it does bring to light some interesting game theory strategies for both regulators and free market monetary proponents. Aside from the impact on price, would a government ban on bitcoin, including a direct ban for law-abiding merchants, shrink the available size of the so-called bitcoin market? Is an officially “illegitimate” bitcoin a useless thing?
I maintain that a government ban on bitcoin would be about as effective as alcohol prohibition was in the 1920s. Government prohibition doesn’t even do a good job of keeping drugs out of prisons. The demand for an item, in this case digital cash with user-defined levels of privacy, does not simply evaporate in the face of a jurisdictional ban. One could even make the case that it becomes stronger because an official recognition that Bitcoin is not only a “renegade” currency but a “so-effective-it-had-to-be-banned” currency would imbue the cryptographic money with larger than life qualities.
Ironically, the ban would create something like the Streisand effect for Bitcoin generating an awareness for entire new demographic groups and new classes of society. Unlike alcohol, bitcoin itself might not be considered a consumption good but it certainly makes it easier to acquire and sell certain consumption goods.
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