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OF MONEY AND MYTHS. I’m reading Stephanie Kelton’s book “The Deficit Myth.” In a future edition of Money Reimagined, I’ll have more to say on the most influential modern monetary theory proponent’s explanation of its ideas. But for now I’ll just say that, while I’m not likely to be a convert to all its prescriptions, it seems clear that MMT is widely misunderstood by folks on both the left and the right – also, very much by the crypto industry. The latter is perhaps because people in crypto tend to skew more to the metallist school of money, rather than to chartalism. Either way, a clearer grasp of what MMT is all about would, I believe, help improve the industry’s discussion around government, money, trust and how blockchain-based systems can integrate with the existing one.
Ethereum is another use-case for a blockchain that supports the Bitcoin network, and theoretically should not really compete with Bitcoin. However, the popularity of ether has pushed it into competition with all cryptocurrencies, especially from the perspective of traders. For most of its history since the mid-2015 launch, ether has been close behind bitcoin on rankings of the top cryptocurrencies by market cap. That being said, it's important to keep in mind that the ether ecosystem is much smaller than bitcoin's: as of January 2020, ether's market cap was just under $16 billion, while bitcoin's is nearly 10 times that at more than $147 billion.
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This system is being fueled by a global innovation and development pool bigger than Bitcoin’s. As of June last year, there were 1,243 full-time developers working on Ethereum compared with 319 working on Bitcoin Core, according to a report by Electric Capital. While that work is spread across multiple projects, the size of its community gives Ethereum the advantage of network effects.
Gold has had at least three millennia to establish itself as a store of value people turn to when social systems are in stress. Bitcoin has only existed for 11 years. While plenty of investors are willing to speculate on the possibility bitcoin might supplant or compete with gold, the idea is far from ingrained across society. When will it be more widely accepted? Perhaps when the international crisis of global leadership unleashed by COVID-19 undermines the capacity of institutions like the Federal Reserve to sustain economic and social confidence. Whatever new institutions and systems we create going forward will need to address how the internet has upended society’s centralized systems of governance. When that happens, we’ll need a decentralized, digital reserve asset as the base value layer. As I said, it will take time. Meanwhile, the developers will keep building.
Over the years, the concept of a virtual, decentralized currency has gained acceptance among regulators and government bodies. Although it isn’t a formally recognized medium of payment or store of value, cryptocurrency has managed to carve out a niche for itself and continues to coexist with the financial system despite being regularly scrutinized and debated.