本文为Clem Chambers应小岛财经之约，为中国读者撰写独家评论员文章，深入探讨区块链和加密货币行业面临的监管及发展前景问题。转载请注明出处(小岛财经)和作者(Clem Chambers)，未经许可不允许转载。
The original idea for cryptocurrency was to use blockchain technology to create an autonomous accounting system that created a reward system that was permission-less, distributed and didn’t need intermediaries.
While Bitcoin is still the biggest cryptocurrency and largest brand, this idea of decentralisation is well on the way to being marginalised with the creation of centralised cryptocurrencies, many of which are overtly or covertly controlled by small groups of people in a highly centralised manner.
This trend suggests that decentralisation may not be the mainstream future of crypto. Instead the future will be, as now, controlled by centralised token issuers.
While most regulation concern has been Bitcoin and ICO-related, the real concern will soon turn towards the private coin issuers building undistributed private blockchain currencies. The market norms in old school markets aren’t in play in these assets and that’s probably not a good thing. Market manipulation and insider trading rules are not a bad thing and they will come to bear on crypto.
Regulation will normalise these new and different asset classes and will make players accountable. Without this, the shady practises that plague the cryptocurrency and token space will continue growing in turn restricting the appeal of this revolution to the public, who aren’t equipped to operate in anarchic markets.
The present wave of regulation is unwelcome to many, it’s not without reason that many fear the consequences of being held accountable. After decades of equity regulations of ever-increasing severity, stock markets of the world are still playgrounds for fraud and malfeasance. The regulators work hard to fight a never-ending influx of predators. Without constant rule enforcement, these markets would fail, because predators leave nothing behind them. This is no different for financial predators as we saw in the ‘Global financial crisis’ of 2008. Without this regulatory battle being taken to the blockchain, the emerging market of coins and tokens will be overrun with criminality. The trend is made clear in the crypto press where giant thefts and frauds are exposed almost daily.
Taken as a whole, this is a potentially fatal weakness for Blockchain. It’s critical that regulation gets underway in earnest to roll back the crypto crimewave. Then the industry be ready for its next wave of adding value. The best way to cripple crypto’s future is leaving it to the fraudsters to make it an unnavigable financial bad land where it’s impossible to avoid the next Mt. Gox. Some say it will self-regulate, but history shows us it won’t. Where there are resources there are always predators who severely limit the size of any non-predator population.
A blockchain like Bitcoin itself doesn’t need to be regulated, it is the intermediaries that need regulation. It’s the people that need to be kept honest. Owners and shadow owners of private blockchains will be a focus for regulation. At some point established financial companies will move into this space and they will already be operating under a whole gamut of financial regulation. By bringing a trusted brand with them they will push out players operating outside norms of general financial services legislation.
Blockchain is triple entry bookkeeping. It’s a more sophisticated record keeping system enabling a more sophisticated approach to commerce in the way ‘double entry bookkeeping’ helped unleash the economies of late medieval Europe. Currency issuance is the ‘tip of the spear’ application for this technology and even more valuable applications will spin out from this new economic toolbox, and cryptocurrency will always be bound/connected to this. It is key to keep bad actors at bay to ease and speed up the pace of development. Checking these wreckers is the key drag on the future of this huge economic opportunity and while institution resistance is highlighted in many minds, the bad actors are the current Achilles heel of the whole idea.
Private sector currency will be a boon to the global economy and will help balance demand and supply for money in a way that central banks can’t hope to match with their clumsy 0.25% interest rate changes and trillion-dollar QE and reverse-QE programs. However, you cannot get growth where there’s banditry. Every day a new headline exposes another huge robbery, that in the world of fiat could only be the subject of some Hollywood fantasy heist not an actual crime. Until this wave can be driven back, it’s the limiting case of how big the market cap of crypto can grow. While technology should help, it is ultimately down to government to sort out this problem.
Security is the classic role of government and the countries providing it for their crypto-blockchain ecosystems will be the ones that prosper most. The process has already begun and, as cryptocurrencies wallow in a bear market, now is the time that the next generation of players will emerge; they will operate in an increasingly regulated environment which will create a better platform than unbridled anarchy to build a new economy.