As we enter the final furlong of 2017, crypto-currencies present a paradox, best summed up by the hubristic words two weeks ago from the now-silent Saudi prince, Al-Waleed Bin Talal: “It just doesn’t make sense,” he lamented. “This thing is not regulated, it’s not under control, it’s not under the supervision of any central bank. I just don’t believe in this Bitcoin thing.” For good measure he compared it to Enron moments before being arrested and having all his riches sequestrated by Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
To Al-Waleed, safety in Bitcoin would have been worth about $10 billion. For everyone else, the fact that Bitcoin is limited to 21 million coins in total has some consequences. The first is that it can’t be gamed or devalued by governments and their central banks. What’s more, Bitcoin, being electronic, is infinitely divisible. This is not an inflationary danger but rather a price-finding mechanism. You don’t buy Bitcoin so much as bid on it in an endless open auction.
This suggests it’s not a currency but an asset, and its value lies in what it can do to provide services for consumers and investors. It is the ultimate in fungible capital, and its agility in exchange arises from eliminating inefficiencies in the form of political or financial “agency fees”. Banks don’t like it, bureaucracies hate it and this means it will force banks and bureaucracies to change and reform if, unlike Al-Waleed, they can see the future.
Yesterday Mark Yusko of Morgan Creek Capital Management said that, far from being in a bubble, the price of Bitcoin could go up to $400,000. That’s an insanely astronomical valuation – unless what he means is that being much more fungible and efficient, Bitcoin will suck up many of the funds currently in bonds as the true nature of cryptocurrencies as superior securities becomes clear.