cartesiandaemon (cartesiandaemon) wrote,

Cash vs bitcoin vs banks vs what

Currently we have:

Physical money
- partially traceable
- no way of undoing transactions

- partially traceable
- no way of undoing transactions
- is destroying the planet

Traditional banking
- mostly user friendly
- transactions can be rolled back if there's fraud
- lets the government spy on you
- for weird historical reasons, "consumer protection" and "get credit for everyday use" are bundled together

New faux-banking (including both things like paypal and cryptocurrency exchanges)
- perform many of the roles of banks
- some of the convenient, some of the protection, but sometimes not
- race to see how fast existing banking legislation covers them

There's a natural two tier system. Banking is built on top of money (originally physical money, now electronic money). Most significant bitcoin transactions use an exchange, even though someone can in principle make the transactions themselves.

Bitcoin was an ingenious technical innovation which unfortunately made so much unneeded cryptographic calculation it significantly impacted global warming with farms of graphics cards :( Probably it won't last.

Likewise, as with many "disruptive" technologies, the new banking systems had some benefits (you can just send someone money by doing so, without giving VISA veto power over whether your purchase looks kosher or not) and many problems (they started deciding for themselves whether to claim your transaction was fraudulent and keep your money, and were a power grab by people hoping to put the power in the hands of random tech companies, instead of governments)

So, "traditional money and banks bad, new fake money and banks good" is not a convincing narrative.

But in my opinion, "the new systems are destined to fail, therefore everything is fine as it was before" isn't convincing either.

There are extensive problems. If you're a small organisation, can people make small purchases from you? In person yes. Online, only if it's socially acceptable and you give patreon or VISA N%. Can you travel without the government knowing exactly where you go? Only if the transport takes cash, or TFL start taking anonymisation seriously. New systems helped temporarily with some of those problems.

Anything similar to consumer banking will need regulation the way consumer banking does now for the same reasons. Fraud will happen and there needs to be answers. Sufficiently large transactions probably do need to be scrutinised by the government for illegal activity.

But it would be nice if there were a more systematic approach. If there was an easy "just pay cash" equivalent where you accept a small risk of fraud in exchange for convenience. Where transaction fees didn't make small transactions so hard. Where everything you'd ever done wasn't stored in a convenient database one damoclesian law change away from being audited for "is this person sufficiently 'our kind of people'". But I don't know how we get there.

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Tags: money, society
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