Doug Casey: How I Learned To Love Bitcoin - Part 1


Bitcoin is up 495% this year. Ethereum, another major cryptocurrency, is up 3,507% since the start of the year. Smaller cryptos have soared more than 10,000%.

When you see gains like that, it’s natural to think that you missed out. I even felt this way for the longest time…that is, until I talked to Doug Casey.

You see, a few weeks ago, I called Doug to see what he thinks about cryptos. He told me why Bitcoin is money. He told me why the crypto market’s about to get a lot bigger. He even told me why Bitcoin could soon hit $50,000… That’s eight times higher than where it trades today.

After that conversation, I became convinced that cryptos are the real deal. I even just bought some Bitcoin myself.

Of course, I realize that not everyone’s got a legendary speculator on speed dial. So over the next two days, I’m sharing a brand-new essay from Doug. In it, he explains why the crypto boom has a long way to go.

By Doug Casey, founder, Casey Research

In this article, I’d like to explain how I learned to love Bitcoin. Why it’s a wonderful thing. Its potential as a speculation. How the government is going to co-opt it. And how this is all likely to end.

I was first introduced to Bitcoin several years ago in Cafayate, Argentina. A young Belgian guy came to visit, I bought him lunch, and we discussed Bitcoin. He was a very early enthusiast. He gave me a physical Bitcoin as a souvenir. They’re now collectibles, but the digital codes are inscribed on them. I still have that Bitcoin. It was worth $13 at the time.

I wish I had listened to his argument more carefully, because I could have made millions. Over 300-1 over just a few years… that’s rare indeed. I was inclined towards it philosophically, but outsmarted myself on an investment level. Because Bitcoin was pitched to me as an alternative currency, and I failed to see all of its advantages in that role.

My original objection was that Bitcoin isn’t backed by anything. It’s really a private fiat currency. It’s very much like the Zambian Kwacha, the Argentine peso, the US dollar, or any of the other 150-plus currencies in today’s world. It’s a floating abstraction. Unlike state currencies, though, its acceptance isn’t enforced by laws. But, on the other hand, its quantity is limited. But would that be enough to get large amounts of people to use it as a currency?

I missed something when I said, back then, that it had no value. It’s a fiat currency, yes, but it has much more practical value than any other.

A currency has to be a good medium of exchange, and a store of value. Even a few years ago, both of those things were wild speculations when it came to Bitcoin. I tried to analyze the situation rationally, using Aristotle’s five characteristics of a good money.

Aristotle defined the five characteristics of good money in the 4th century BC. And his analysis is as accurate now as it was then. It must be durable, divisible, convenient, consistent, and have use value in and of itself. Based on that, Aristotle believed gold and silver were best suited for use as money. Let’s analyze how Bitcoin does by these five criteria.

Durable. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are definitely durable—unless we have a major electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or a significant solar flare that wipes out all the computers. Bitcoins are not as durable as the metals, but they’re adequate, barring a collapse of civilization.

Divisible. Bitcoin is infinitely divisible. Better than the physical metals, actually—although the metals can be accounted in tiny fractions too.

Convenient. Yes—as long as you have a smartphone, Bitcoin is very convenient. But your smartphone, or something like it, may not always be with you. And your counterparty also has to have one. And it’s not very convenient if someone doesn’t know or trust Bitcoin. Right now, that’s still probably 98% of humanity.

Consistent. Absolutely. Every Bitcoin is exactly like another one. It’s at least as good as .999 fine gold that way.

The problem I had with Bitcoin was the fifth point: Does it have use value in itself, so you can’t get stuck holding the bag?

If you have a million US paper dollars, and nobody accepts them, they have no use in and of themselves—except as wall decorations or kindling. They’re just unsecured liabilities of a bankrupt government. In essence like a million Zimbabwe dollars, although there’s obviously a continuum. Fiat currencies can be easily destroyed by their issuers. The things are burning matches. They have half-lives, like radioactive elements.

Sure, there were advantages to Bitcoin being a privately issued fiat currency. But I didn’t see its real use value; that’s where I went wrong.

Bitcoin is certainly a fiat currency like the dollar or the Kwacha. But it’s also an excellent transfer device. You can move wealth from one country to another, or to another person, quickly and privately. I’d say secretly, but you’re not supposed to say “secret” anymore, you can only say “private.” Part of the politically correct corruption of language, I might add.

And you can do so outside of the banking system, which is increasingly important. If you use Bitcoin, you don’t need a bank to store your money.

Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoins, are just the first, and most obvious, application of blockchain technology. Hopefully, among other things, blockchain and Bitcoin are going to destroy the SWIFT system, the vehicle for wiring money from one bank to another. SWIFT is expensive (at least $50-100 per transaction), slow (generally a day or two, sometimes a week or more), and insecure (who trusts either big banks or the US Government?). And SWIFT requires that all dollars clear through New York; non-Americans don’t care for that. SWIFT is used by thousands of banks around the world to send payment instructions worth trillions of dollars each day. Incidentally, it's not that I'm against SWIFT itself. It's just that it's become a creature of the banks—who abuse it and are actually responsible for its problems.

So, this is one big use value of Bitcoin. It allows you to transfer something that is accepted as money outside of the banking system, and outside of government fiat currencies.

Bitcoin is well on the way to being accepted as money. I think it will succeed.

What is money? Money is a medium of exchange and a store of value. Almost anything can be used as money. Some things are just much better than others.

Salt, seashells, and cows have all historically been used as money. After all, the word pecuniary comes from the Latin pecus, which means cow. And salary comes from the Latin sal, which is salt. Wampum were seashells. Cigarettes are money in prisons and war zones. Even giant Yap island discs have been used as money.

Bitcoin is becoming more and more accepted as a medium of exchange, while most government fiat currencies approach their intrinsic values—essentially zero.

Bitcoin is a bit more problematic as a store of value. Once again, let’s get back to the basics. You’ve got two kinds of currencies: commodity currencies and fiat currencies.

The commodity currencies are actual physical commodities. You know they have use value. Fiat currencies, on the other hand, are just made up. They’re totally arbitrary and political.

It’s like that old joke about sardines. You’ve got eating sardines and trading sardines. Commodity currencies are eating sardines. Fiat currencies are trading sardines. Of course, there’s no guarantee that Bitcoin is going to be accepted a year or two from now. It’s a high tech innovation, and maybe a Version 2.0 will collapse the value of the current version. So in a few years, we may find that Bitcoin fails the store of value test. But it’s accepted at the moment. And it’s been growing in value at a crazy rate—unlike fiat currencies, which have all been falling against real goods and services at about 5-10% a year. Incidentally, I don’t put much faith in the accuracy of government inflation figures.

Bitcoin has been a great speculation so far. But as a store of value? Bitcoin is a technological innovation. There likely will be Bitcoin 2.0 and 3.0, not to mention other, even more advanced cryptos. What will the current Bitcoin then be worth? There’s a reason the expression “High tech, big wreck” is true. Just because so far it’s been a great speculation, doesn’t mean it’s a good store of value. Technology, a solar flare, or even government action could wipe it out.

The bottom line? Bitcoin passes the medium of exchange test for the moment and store of value test for the moment. So you can definitely say it’s money—for the moment. But so does the Argentine peso, for the moment. I have little confidence, however, Bitcoin will be here, say, five years from now. Buying cryptos is not like socking away gold coins.

The $64 question is: Where are we in the market cycle for cryptos? Clearly, we’re no longer early in the game. It’s like getting into the Internet stocks back in 1998—they weren’t cheap, but the bubble got much, much bigger. And the Internet—contrary to what people like Paul Krugman thought—was not itself a bubble. Up till now, the only way to play this has been the coins, the tokens, like Bitcoin. There are perhaps a thousand of them out there now, and most of them are garbage.

Because I think the bubble will get much bigger, I’m getting involved in these cryptocurrencies on several levels. Including public mining companies, which is not germane to this article. I’m trying to make the trend my friend. But cautiously, because there’s a lot of speculation going on.

I am concerned about the market, which is very bubbly. But I think it’s going much higher, for several reasons. One, as we discussed, is that some of the cryptos have great utility, and only about 25 million out of the 7 billion people in the world currently own them. I promise you that five years from now that number will be more like three billion. They’re going to get much bigger in the developed world, but even bigger in the Third World.


tmosley Sun, 10/29/2017 - 21:39 Permalink

jfc, bticoin is NOT a fiat currency. It can be created by anyone! Fiat currencies have their issuance limited to only a certain group of people, usually central bankers, and whose worth is arbitrary--nothing to do with the price of production. A one dollar bill costs the same to produce as a hundred dollar bill. ANYONE can mine bitcoin, and mining 100 bitcoins will cost about 100 times as much as mining one. If bitcoin is fiat, then GOLD is fiat too!

tmosley malek Sun, 10/29/2017 - 23:00 Permalink

I have told you exactly when it was going to ebb off.Has your brain been able to incorporate that bit of information, or have you blocked it out, as the implications were too damaging to your ego? Tell me, if you can. No sarcasm or attacks. Just accurately repeat back to me what I have said.

In reply to by malek

Memedada tmosley Mon, 10/30/2017 - 05:02 Permalink

/* Style Definitions */
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He meant “fiat” in the sense it has value because you believe in it/accept it as value and not because of any intrinsic value. The latter part is where he might be wrong. Bitcoin has some intrinsic value as a transfer-of-value-device and as cryptology.

In reply to by tmosley

NoDebt Sun, 10/29/2017 - 21:42 Permalink

"Every time I write about BitCoin I get lots of clicks.  Therefore, I love BitCoin.  I just wish I had actually bought some and made money on it."- Doug Casey

buyingsterling Sun, 10/29/2017 - 21:45 Permalink

If the value of the dollar continues to dwindle to zero, why would the government not ban legal businesses from accepting crypto currencies? For years ZH readers have argued that the dollar won't go down without a fight.One could argue that increasing 'investment' by banks etc. will drive govt. policies to be more liberal, but more likely is a government sponsored crypto, in conjunction with the big banks. It will be 'legitimate' for some reason, while other cryptos will be criminal. That, to me, seems like their general modus operandi, as opposed to tolerating a threat to the dollar from which the governent doesn't benefit.

Son of Captain Nemo HRH Feant2 Sun, 10/29/2017 - 22:16 Permalink

So let me understand this correctly...

"JM Bullion" IS NOW accepting "Buttcoin" to purchase your PM even though you could (if you chose to) BUY 4.9 troy ounces of .999 fine Au for "1 electronic encrypted" packet that's redeemable as an electroplated gold painted "slug"???...

Well... All I can tell you is at least they are giving you a "CHOICE" by accepting Buttcoin as a medium of exchange in the purchase of your PM! Or... At least I hope???...


Making Opportunity Cost the easiest economics 101 class THAT EVER WAS... OR SHALL BE!...


PLEASE let us know if JMB only allows purchases of "Buttcoin" for Gold as well as Gold for "Buttcoin"?...

If it's unidirectional Buttcoin for Gold and not the other way around "WE HAVE OUR ANSWER"!!!

In reply to by HRH Feant2

Mustafa Kemal Son of Captain Nemo Mon, 10/30/2017 - 00:19 Permalink

"So let me understand this correctly..."JM Bullion" IS NOW accepting "Buttcoin" to purchase your PM even though you could (if you chose to) BUY 4.9 troy ounces of .999 fine Au for "1 electronic encrypted" packet that's redeemable as an electroplated gold painted "slug"???..."Yes, you have that correctly.  After the cognitative dissonance goes away you will get to see it coming.  It is coming

In reply to by Son of Captain Nemo

Dr. Bonzo Sun, 10/29/2017 - 21:49 Permalink

You forgot the 6th point. Fungible. To exchange your bitcoin you need to go through "exchanges" which are run by scammers flimflammers quickbuck artists and huxsters. I don't wanna be a "member" of some shitbird website to exchange a goddamned currency. Or be on a goddamned mailing list or need to provide a credit card or some other horseshit verification.I actually needed to use Bitcoin a few years back and the exchanges looked so fucking shady to me I stuck with paypal. Sure, coulda been a millionaire by now. Shoulda woulda coulda.When digital currencies mature to the point we can literally swap them via email or chat app, I'll take another look.Until then, fuck your digiscam. I'm not buying.

HRH Feant2 Dr. Bonzo Sun, 10/29/2017 - 22:25 Permalink

Oh that "fungible" part applies to everything, including the NYC scammers on Wall Street where you have to pass through in order to trade anything.

Did you think you were getting a fair trade on Wall Street? Or the COMEX? Or the Forex? Fuck off moron they have been front running retail investors for years.

This is the first time there is really an open market with minimal entry barriers. I opened my account with $5!!!!!

Wall Street would have laughed at me and told me to fuck off and asked me for $100 to invest my measly $5.

Fucking moron. And when Wall Street and the government want to take your so-called investments in order to redistribute them to the poor don't ask me what to do. Get the fuck out of regular banking and investments before they order you to bend over so you can take it up the rear, hard, no lube. And don't come crying to me when it hurts.

Fucking dick. I hate people like you because you are the kind that act like you have all the answers. No. You do not.

The one great aspect of Bitcoin is you can buy .10 or a $1 million dollars worth! And you don't need a bank, you don't need a broker, you don't need a middleman that is going to skim off the top and tuck it in their wallet while they smile and lie to your face. I have met those assholes. Wearing a suit. The kind of dudes I would drop kick just because the grease seeping out of your skin makes me want to puke.

In reply to by Dr. Bonzo