Bitcoin Shall Stay Safely for a long time as a Cyber Commodity (比特币会继续流行及长久存在)

Despite the recent arrest of Bitcoin traders Charlie Shrem and Robert Faiella in January 2014 for charge of  money laundering by the US government and the ban on trading of Bitcoin from all financial institutions by the Chinese government in December 2013, it is the author’s view that Bitcoin shall stay safely for a long time as a Cyber Commodity.

Although many people called Bitcoin a cryto-currency, the characteristics of Bitcoin in fact more resembles those a commodity such as gold than banknote which is just a promised to pay note.  People worry that Bitcoin will disappear overnight in a way like the junk stock of a bankrupted company or like the deprecated banknote of an overthrown government of a third world country. Or,  people may imagine that Bitcoin is controlled by an organization, which if  raided by government authority will lead to total collapse of the whole Bitcoin system. People worry about the possibility of unchecked issuing of Bitcoin which could generate so much of the commodity that it will be rendered worthless. In fact, all these are misconceptions. None of the aforesaid scenario is likely to happen.

Bitcoin is not a physical entity, but a cyber product. It  is a widely distributed commodity like gold and has a sophisticated decentralized and highly encrypted ledger keeping system, technically called the block-chain. Many people possess Bitcoin. However, instead of storing the commodity (i.e. Bitcoin) in safe deposit boxes, people store Bitcoin in their computers or i-phones.

One may think of Bitcoin as a commodity for bartering other products or services. Like any commodity which is subject to the laws of supply and demand, the price of  Bitcoin fluctuates. Being so new (it was introduced only in January 2009) and mystical (little people fully understand what it is), its price is extremely volatile. However, it will continue to exist in the financial market as a popular commodity because of  the  robust nature of decentralized record keeping system (technically called the block-chain) and the anonymity of ownership. What identifies an owner is just a set of number technically called the public key. An owner exercise all his authority by another set of numbers called the signing key (or private key). Taking ownership of the signing key of a person would mean taking ownership of all the Bitcoin asset of that person. So if the signing key is not properly safe guarded for example proper backed up, one may loss all the Bitcoin asset by just losing that key.

There are two groups of people who love Bitcoin particularly. The first group are gamblers who think they could take advantage of the volatility of the price of Bitcoin by betting on its rise to make money. The second group are criminals who make illegal dealings such as drug dealing because of anonymity and convenience. One can try to imagine that, billion of dollars can change hands by just passing over an i-phone which contains the signing key.

If one merely uses Bitcoin for bartering, there is no way of  identifying the dealing parties because the deal is peer-to-peer and anonymous. It is like a cash transaction in the cyber space. The only control government can exercise is when a third party trading platform is involved because by government regulations participants in trading of financial products must make known their identity. This is a worldwide protocol. So criminals would prefer hoarding Bitcoin like hoarding gold or diamonds and use it for bartering whatever illegal items they want to procure. Their transactions are mostly peer-to-peer in order not to get into trouble on a third party trading platform. Anyway despite the US strong auditing of the trading platforms and China banning them, peer-to-peer deals in Bitcoin will be still continued actively in these two jurisdictions. Drug deals will continue to happen and corrupt money could still be remitted overseas.

虽然美国政府於2014年1月逮捕了比持币对换商人Charlie Shrem 及Robert Faiella 对他们发出洗黑钱的指控,及中国政府於2013年12月对金融机构发出禁止对换比特币的指令,但笔者认为比特币会继续流行及长久存在。


比特币不是一件实物,而是互联网络的产品。它已分布於世界每一个角落,为很多人持有,好像黄金为很多人持有一样。它有一个分布很细致并非只一人拥有的记帐系统(Block-chain) ,要把这记帐系统毁灭,理论上要毁灭差不多每一个比特币拥有者的电脑,因此这是不可能的事。现在很多人拥有比持币,不过他们储存比持币的地方不是保险箱而是电脑或手机。

比特币可被联想为一种以物换物的商品。既然是一种商品,它会专守供求定律,其价值会有波动。由於它是一种相当新的产品(它於2009年1月才面世) 而相当神秘(是实上很多人还未完全认识它是什甚) ,所以它的价格波动是很大的。虽然如此,它在金融市场上仍然会是流行的。其原因有二,其一为它可靠及不受区域限制的记帐系统,其二为其匿名保密的持质。比特币持有人是靠一组数目字确认其身份,这组数目字叫Public Key。比特币持有人行使转让权是靠另一组只有他知到而无任何人知的数自字,这组数目字叫 Signing Key。因此任何人取得比特币持有人的Signing Key便可使用其比持币。如果比持币持有人未好好地保管他的Signing key,一但遗失,他将会永远失去他所有的比特币。

有两类人特别喜欢比持币。第一类是赌徙,因为他们认为大幅的价格波动可让他们低买高卖中迅速获利。第二类为作非法买卖如毒品买卖的不法之徒,他们利用比特币非常容易转让及匿名的特质。试想,把一个存有Signing Key的手机转手另一个人,数亿元便可以在不知不觉中转让了。

如果用比特币作以物换物的交易,基於交易是点对点而没有中介的,交易双方的身份是查不出的。这就相当於现金交易。政府惟一可控制的是比特币的第三者交易平台。因为一般规例金融交易机构要有详细的客户纪录。因此不法之徒不会用第三者交易平台,而是用比特币作以物换物的交易如使用黄金或钻石作以物换物交易一般,使用以点对点的匿名比持币转让交易。因此非法之徒会储存比特币留作交易之用,如他们储存黄金,钻石或美钞一样。现在虽然美国政府正严格审核比特币的第三者交易平台(即中介平台) 及中国政府禁止金融机构交易比特币。但比特币仍然会在这两个地区活跃使用,以比特币作毒品交易仍会进行,贪污之财亦可以比特币方便汇出国外。

Виктор С.

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