Why Governments Will Not Ban Bitcoin

by Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds:

Those who see governments banning ownership of bitcoin are ignoring the political power and influence of those who are snapping up most of the bitcoin.

To really understand an asset, we have to examine not just the asset itself but who owns it, and who can afford to own it. These attributes will illuminate thepolitical and financial power wielded by the owners of the asset class.

And once we know what sort of political/financial power is in the hands of those owning the asset class, we can predict the limits of political restrictions that can be imposed on that ownership.

As an example, consider home ownership, i.e. ownership of a principal residence. Home ownership topped out in 2004, when over 69% of all households "owned" a residence. (Owned is in quotes because many of these households had no actual equity in the house once the housing bubble popped.)

The rate of home ownership has declined to 63%, which is still roughly two-thirds of all households. Clearly, homeowners constitute a powerful political force. Any politico seeking to impose restrictions or additional taxes on homeowners has to be careful not to rouse this super-majority into political action.

But raw numbers of owners of an asset class are only one measure of political power. Since ours is a pay-to-play form of representational democracy in which wealth buys political influence via campaign contributions, philanthro-capitalism, revolving doors between political office and lucrative corporate positions, etc., wealth casts the votes that count.

I am always amused when essayists claim "the government" will do whatever benefits the government most. While this is broadly true, this ignores the reality that wealthy individuals and corporations own the processes of governance.

More accurately, we can say that government will do whatever benefits those who control the levers of power most, which is quite different than claiming that the government acts solely to further its own interests. More specifically, it furthers what those at the top of the wealth-power pyramid have set as the government's interests.

Which brings us to the interesting question, will governments ban bitcoin as a threat to their power? A great many observers claim that yes, governments will ban bitcoin because it represents a threat to their control of the fiat currencies they issue.

But since government will do whatever most benefits those who control the levers of power, the question becomes, does bitcoin benefit those holding the levers of power? If the answer is yes, then we can predict government will not ban bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) because those with the final say will nix any proposal to ban bitcoin.

We can also predict that any restrictions that are imposed will likely be aimed at collecting capital gains taxes on gains made in cryptocurrencies rather than banning ownership.

Since the wealthy already pay the lion's share of federal income taxes (payroll taxes are of course paid by employees and employers), their over-riding interests are wealth preservation and capital appreciation, with lowering their tax burdens playing third fiddle in the grand scheme of maintaining their wealth and power.

Indeed, paying taxes inoculates them to some degree from social disorder and political revolt.

I was struck by this quote from the recent Zero Hedge article A Look Inside The Secret Swiss Bunker Where The Ultra Rich Hide Their Bitcoins:

Xapo was founded by Argentinian entrepreneur and current CEO Wences Casares, whom Quartz describes as "patient zero" of bitcoin among Silicon Valley’s elite.Cesares reportedly gave Bill Gates and Reed Hoffman their first bitcoins.

Their first bitcoins. That suggests the billionaires have added to their initial gifts of BTC.

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