False Confidence

JG Ballard QuoteWhen I’m out and about, I make connections with people I see regularly. Recently, I encountered a security guard I know who works regularly at a local mall, and he and I paused to chat. He generally has a ‘new and improved way’ to get out of his job, where he makes about the equivalent of $2 US an hour.

His new plan is cryptocurrency.

Internally, I boggled. Why would he be interested in cryptocurrency? I realize that he likely missed John Oliver’s recent factual mocking of cryptocurrencies, which is worth watching if you missed it.

I haven’t written about cryptocurrencies before, largely because I tend to like writing about things with intrinsic value and cryptocurrencies don’t. Yet people believe in them fervently at times. The technology is beyond the comprehension of the average person, yet the hype surrounding it, like NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) is really a bubble of artificial value.

I’m no financial expert. I’m not going to tell you how to get rich, much less get rich fast, though selling books on the topic seems like a niche market for people looking for a way ‘upward’. The financial value of something, regardless of what a ‘market price’ is, is really what someone else is willing to pay for it. Market values go up and down, but not everyone wants what people have. Ask anyone trying to sell a house, a car, or trying to get their adult children married off so they’ll get out of the house.

Why do things like cryptocurrencies make such inroads instead of being strangled at birth? I have a few ideas.

First, the present banking system treats you like a customer when in fact the bank is the customer most of the time. We stick money in, and they have the audacity to give us interest rates that are lower than the cost of living increases while charging us for holding the money we have effectively loaned them. They in turn loan out our money to other people for sometimes horrific interest rates while making lots of money for themselves and sticking you with less than 4% interest. These are not our friends.

Next, people generally want to claw their way up from where they are for various reasons. Social status, living more comfortably, or having that shiny red car that they think they can’t live without. Given that the financial sector is less than pleasant in these regards given that employment raises are generally lower than the cost of living increases, people look for quick and dirty ways ahead which includes cryptocurrencies but also includes crime and corruption.

Of course, many banks have said ‘cryptocurrency bad’ in various ways, but since people don’t trust banks as much as banks like to think they do, that has little effect. Governments? Same thing.

So we have people who basically throw money into casinos and lotteries in the hope that they will magically get ahead when no one else does. It is, as John Oliver pointed out, a confidence game.

Cryptocurrencies have demonstrated time and again that they’re not good gambles, much less investments. People sometimes argue that there needs to be regulation, but the banking industry’s regulation certainly hasn’t helped anyone either.

In a world that costs, where our individual efforts seem to have less and less value while corporations make more and more, people will always look at these things as ways to get ahead. A few lucky people might do well at the cost of many more that will lose.

Cryptocurrencies should be highlighting changes we need to deal with globally rather than get security guards speaking confidently about how they know how to move ahead using crypto…


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s