I once trained as a martial artist. I trained with a Sensei who had reached the pinnacle of Kenpo Karate, and then, desiring more training, went to live with a martial arts family in China that studied all forms and took only the most effective techniques from each. In one of my early classes we were asked to identify weapons while standing in what I considered an empty room. I looked around and saw nothing. But, by the end of the class, we had identified a trashcan can you put over someone’s head to blind them, trash bags in the trashcan that could be used to garrote someone, panes of glass in the windows that could be shattered and used as weapons, pens on the registration desk which could use be used to stab eyes or neck, and several other weapons that weren’t initially identifiable by me. At the beginning of the exercise, I had a different view than I did at the end of the class. After that class, my view of common items had changed.
Fast forward a year or so when I'm in line a at a European airport and I’m asked "Does your carry-on bag contain any weapons?' My brain races back to my training and I count numerous weapons in my head, like neckties, shoelaces, toothbrush, etc. but I casually say "no" and hope that my face doesn’t betray my thoughts.
The point of my story is that we see things differently depending on how we’ve been trained.
Recently, President Joe Biden has requested, through an executive order, that various federal agencies submit reports on crypto in six months time. Each of the federal agencies is likely to see crypto through their own lens, based on how the agency has been trained.
The reports aren't out yet, but I predict that FinCEN, which is tasked with tracking all money transfers to prevent illicit use of money, will see crypto as a way to avoid reporting, commit crimes and launder money.
The SEC will see crypto as a way to bypass their agency's eighty year old rules against letting financially disadvantaged people invest in innovative ideas during the early riskier phase of a business.
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The CFTC will claim that crypto acts like a commodity and that any futures contracts on those commodities must be regulated by their agency.
Treasury is likely to see crypto as competition to the US Dollar, and possibly as a threat to taxable income tracking. The lens through which you view a simple ledger often causes you to see only the negative aspects and ignore the much larger positives.
The US State Department and Department of Defense are likely to see crypto as a way to avoid sanctions and weaken the United States' ability to use money as a weapon.
The truth is that crypto is novel, new, and multi-purpose. It's a multi-tool. Viewed through one lens, a multi-tool can be used as a weapon, or lock pick for breaking and entering. But, viewed through different lens one might see a can opener. Someone else might see an apple peeler, or a way to remove a hook from a fish's mouth. The use cases of crypto are limitless and we are just beginning to explore them. Like the internet, the good will far outweigh the bad. We should embrace this technology and let the US lead as we explore new ways to use decentralized ledgers.
Crypto is a just ledger, or in the case of Ravencoin or Ethereum, many ledgers. These ledgers create a scarce qty of a token like Bitcoin ( BTC), Ravencoin ( RVN), Litecoin (LTC), etc which obtains a value through simple market supply and demand. Or it can be used to create tokens that track equity, debt, fractional ownership, tickets, membership, gift cards, loan obligations, access to digital platforms, etc. It can also be used as a single item ledger which we call NFTs (non fungible tokens). These beneficial use-cases all represent new areas for the US to lead and to bring jobs and prosperity to our shores. The nature of this distributed technology is such that the talent and investment will naturally flow to the jurisdictions that provide a welcoming environment.
While we're evaluating these upcoming reports, we should also carefully consider whether we should be tracking all money movements while violating the privacy and rights of US citizens. Should we be restricting the not-so-rich from participating in investment opportunities, or using money as a weapon against our rivals? All of these things come at a cost, and the more control exerted, the less likely the US will benefit from this inevitable transition.
We need to be especially careful not to let someone with the wrong lens define this technology for everyone.