One of the common criticisms thrown at bitcoin by those who are not bullish on its long term potential as a global, apolitical store of value and medium of exchange is that governments will eventually decide that the cryptocurrency should not be allowed to exist. Of course, it should be remembered that Bitcoin was designed in a decentralized manner specifically to prevent such a shutdown of the network.
Although there are indeed technical reasons that make it difficult to shut down Bitcoin, there are also legal constraints related to a potential bitcoin ban, at least according to Abra CEO Bill Barhydt.
Bitcoin is a Free Speech Issue
Barhydt appeared on a panel during the Bitcoin 2019 conference in San Francisco last week, and during his appearance, he discussed how Abra has enabled their non-American users to gain price exposure to the U.S. equities market.
Abra is built on top of Bitcoin smart contracts, which allow their users to peg the value of their bitcoin to a variety of traditional financial assets, such as Apple stock, in a non-custodial manner. In the past, Barhydt has explained how the non-custodial nature of Abra allows the company to avoid a large number of onerous financial regulations and restrictions (see more on how Abra works in this previous article).
During his appearance at Bitcoin 2019, Barhydt focused on the legality of Bitcoin as a free speech issue.
“The edge of the network, I think, should scare all of us because it’s not a Bitcoin-specific issue. That’s, you know, a government overreach issue and a free speech issue that I think we don’t take seriously. We don’t hear enough of a narrative around Bitcoin as free speech. And free speech needs to be a protected human right across the board,” said Barhydt.
At this point, Keiser Report’s Max Keiser, who was moderating the panel, noted that a philosophy exists among many individuals in the Bitcoin space that effectively states: Bitcoin is code, code is speech, and speech is protected.
“Sure, but governments don’t [say that], and that’s my problem with this,” responded Barhydt.
While there have been plenty of government hearings regarding the potential money laundering-related implications of Bitcoin, Barhydt stated that there’s another type of hearing that he’d like to see take place related to this technology.
“Where is the hearing about how we’re going to guarantee basic human rights as it relates to access to this technology?” asked Barhydt. “That’s the hearing I want to see.”
It’s ‘Not Possible’ for the United States to Ban Bitcoin
While Barhydt indicated Bitcoin bans could potentially happen in places like China and India, he also noted that such a ban would not be possible in the United States due to court rulings that date back to the previous Crypto Wars back in the 90s.
“It’s not possible,” responded Barhydt when the panel was asked how the U.S. government would potentially try to implement a Bitcoin ban. “The government can’t stop — the United States Supreme Court has already opined on this. You can’t prevent people from holding ones and zeros on a device in their pocket. That ship has sailed. We already know that. The question is: What can they do at the edge of the network — the onramps and offramps, the places where they exert control over the banking system, the exchanges, [and the] stablecoins.”
Barhydt added that the fact Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency is not as decentralized as Bitcoin and involves much more than just ones and zeros in someone’s pocket is a problem for that project (see this previous piece for more on the differences in how Bitcoin and Libra are structured).
That said, Barhydt and other panelists at the Bitcoin 2019 conference also made the case for how Libra could potentially benefit the bitcoin price in a rather roundabout way.
In the past, economist Saifedean Ammous and applied cryptography consultant Peter Todd have shared theories regarding governments creating their own cryptocurrencies as a potential way to harm bitcoin.
One of the common […]