How can anyone not be skeptical and pessimistic about a "currency" developed and promoted by entities whose sole motivation is profit?
One question to say what took me paragraphs, badly.
There was an interesting series on Planet Money where they allowed Ben Horowitz to make a bet with financial journalist Felix Salmon over how many people would be using Bitcoin as a currency in a few year's time, then they actually followed through and revisited the bet in a later episode.
The outcome was that Horowitz lost badly. After the time had passed people still weren't actually using Bitcoin as a currency. It's purely a wealth stash for almost all users.
But the interesting thing is that they went on to discuss how Horowitz & co., by getting in early, still "won the real bet" because Bitcoin's price had skyrocketed. So despite barely creating an actual currency, those involved in its creation made out like bandits.
You see a similar story with the other ICOs. Where the makers cash in BIG TIME and everyone else is left holding the bag. Hard to think about this situation in different terms. All the early parties have a lot of incentive to pump this up and make a lot of money, regardless of longterm intent.
It's interesting to think about how this might be perceived in a pre Cambridge Analytica (among other scandals) world in terms of how much we'd want to trust those involved, but it also is hard not to think back on Facebook's Internet.org venture (and Marc Andreessen's regrettable "what's so bad about colonialism" comment on the whole ordeal).
The whole principle of capitalism is that the selfish profit motivation produces a better outcome for the whole. All the evidence seems to show that capitalism is effective in that regard, and furthermore has often produced better outcomes than efforts driven via government guidance. Is there any reason to suspect that the management of a currency should behave differently?
No. The whole principle of capitalism is that selfish profit motivation produces a worst outcome for the whole. The global climate crisis and the massive species extinction that comes with it is the direct byproduct of capitalism.
Capitalism is effective in privatizing profits and letting all the costs on the side, where they can or cannot be absorbed by public or, in the case of the environment, natural entities.
Agree 100% in that capitalism's toxicity has passed the point of no return. Though the OP of this comment is correct in stating that the premise of capitalism is it ostensibly "benefits" society when people are incentivised to act selfishly (this is the sentiment pushed by capitalism purists).
The problem with this narrow-minded view is it's treated like a fundamental law by economists even though it's very clearly flawed. Just look at climate change contributing to the massive bushfires in Australia or the huge inequality gap in 2020 (there were ~150 billionaires in the 1990s; today there are ~2500, but the quality of life for most people has not moved), to see how people acting selfishly really just destroy society in the long run.
On that note, I'm happy to take advantage of Facebook's other open-source contributions (e.g. React) but I would never contribute to or use Libra - purely for moralistic reasons.
Has the profit motive really produced a better outcome for the whole of society, or has it produced a better outcome for those in a position to profit at the expense of those not?
Outside the question of economic ideology -- on which I suspect we differ irreconcilably -- there's a clear conflict of interest when agents motivated by profit also control the/a medium of exchange. Look to the example of company scrip, which the US outlawed in the 30s for very good reasons.
That's possibly an excellent example. Governments all round the world tend to take a dim view of currencies they don't control. Well, wouldn't you, if you were in their position? That doesn't mean that they're right to do so, but it doesn't mean they're wrong either. Not being familiar in US economic history, was the company scrip used to defraud citizens of their savings, or were losses the result of poor or unlucky investment decisions?
When I say "company scrip" I'm not talking about fraud or losses or anything like that. It's possibly best illustrated. In our dumb cyberpunk fifteen-minutes-into-the-future, you work for a company which pays your wages in FaceBucks instead of dollars. You can buy things with your FaceBucks or exchange them for dollars at the FaceStore; naturally, being a good profit-motivated capitalist, your employer marks up prices and charges exorbitant exchange fees, since when you pay forty FaceBucks for a twenty-dollar shirt that effectively means the company had to pay you twenty dollars less. And good luck finding an alternative, because in this example you're not an experienced worker whose particular skills are in high demand but, let's say, a humble content moderator; you've spent most of your savings in dollars on goods not available at the FaceStore (or even converted them to FaceBucks to supplement your salary); and if you try to take your resume to the next company over, they're just going to pay you in Twugerrands.
The practice has longer antecedents but was most famously adopted in the wake of the Great Depression of the late 20s and early 30s. Some corporations even ran whole municipalities as their own economic fiefdoms; you may have heard of the town of Hershey in Pennsylvania. It was immensely exploitative, but by god was it profitable!
The idea of a currency free from centralized control is noble, for all nobody's managed to really get it off the ground yet. But there are, at this point, centuries of precedent demonstrating that the only less trustworthy economic stewards than governments are profit-seekers.
I see. Thanks for a great explanation.
Amazing comment 🔥
Dian. Amazing. Exactly. Old history.
Devto dollars. Devtoville. Devtoland. Devtobank. "The Peter Kim Frank Museum of Devtoville History & Science are proud sponsors of Devgov TV. "
Only if you do all the work too.
We're a place where coders share, stay up-to-date and grow their careers.
We strive for transparency and don't collect excess data.