The Myth of Store-of-Value
Sep 14, 2018
A 'White Elephant' is a popular metaphor for something that is peculiar and unique, making it superficially seem valuable, but in the end it's ultimately worthless. The reason I like this metaphor so much is that it so perfectly isolates that aspect of the human psyche related to impulsive monkey-brain instincts, from the higher-order logic parts of the brain. I mean, who wouldn't want a white elephant, right? That'd be super cool...until you had to find a place to keep it, or pay for its tons of food, or clean up buckets of its white shidizzle. Logic should tell you right away that the 'coolness' of a white elephant will wear off pretty quick, and then you'll be looking to offload that worthless asset onto the next monkey.
Now sure, one can make plenty of arguments about how to get value from owning a white elephant. Maybe you could do birthday parties, giving rides to the kids? (ya, how much elephant food money can you get from that?). Or maybe you could hook a plow to it and till some fields? (what would be the point of a white elephant over a much cheaper bull though?). It's really hard to look at a white elephant and say that because it's a white elephant, it can do certain 'special' things, that nothing else can do, or at least do better. Being white doesn't add value to an elephant.
To me, the widely-circulated buzzterm of 'store-of-value' is a perfect example of the white on a white elephant, and to really draw out how utterly worthless this notion is, I don't even have to make up something ludicrous because the most preposterous example of a white elephant I've ever heard of, relates to the very real 1637 Tulip Mania(<-required reading).
Essentially, Tulips (yes, the flower) were treated like a commodity, and a futures market was created around the harvesting of Tulips, no different in concept than the futures market of today. This being a relatively primordial time in human commerce however, a lack of regulation led to a massive speculative bubble, far far beyond the intrinsic value of a humble Tulip, who's only redeeming property was how objectively beautiful they looked. As the speculative bubble grew and grew, eventually it became obvious that there wasn't any way to justify the soaring valuations, and the Tulip market crashed.
Without any real use (utility) for a Tulip other than its beauty, it couldn't retain its hyped-up value because there's only so much people have to spend on the actual harvested Tulips. In other words, without corresponding utility to justify higher values, its role as a 'store-of-value' became meaningless. In even more other words, 'store-of-value' cannot stand alone, because its value is pure speculation; the greater-fool theory in action.
In other other words, literally ANYTHING, every crypto coin, every precious metal, a ball of yarn, pickles, your smelly shoes, my smelly shoes, ANYTHING, can be a store-of-value, if people believe it to be, until they no longer need it to be. There is nothing about being a store-of-value that qualifies as utility because anything can be store value. Anything.
An. Y. Thing.
And here we are today, entering the next epoch of human evolution with the digitization of 'value'. With this greatest of humankind's inventions, Bitcoin will make it possible for everyone and anyone to send digital coupons redeemable for human labor (aka money), around the world, instantly, at near-zero cost. Say goodbye to the tyranny of banks, now we can manage our own funds safely, and privately conduct our transactions without an overseer to control us.
With certainty, the purported virtues of this fantastic Bitcoin invention are game-changing. The ultimate expression of human ingenuity, igniting the full potential of the network effect and Jevons paradox upon humanity's economic blood flow, elevating us to an inconceivable degree of liquidity by removing all friction to commerce.
or so the promise goes..
We all know how that promise ends however. Bitcoin's run-up to $20k last year from the profound influx of Bitcoin speculators (and theoretically wealthy spammers), absolutely crushed the Bitcoin network. Super-long delays, with self-immolating fees...the network hit full capacity, delaying transactions sometimes for days as the struggling bitcoin nodes churned through an endless muckery of queued transactions from desperate buyers.
Really? Is this paltry throughput the actual limit of Bitcoin's capabilities? This wasn't even an example of utility usage, this was just a bunch of investors. What do you think would happen if another million people decided to try to buy something with Bitcoin? That's right, they're fucked.
Let's really bring this into focus then. Last December, the world experienced the ceiling of Bitcoin's capacity. All theoreticals have now been replaced with facts, and the facts quite clearly say:
- Bitcoin doesn't scale
- Bitcoin isn't cheap
- Bitcoin is dog-ass slow
This strikes a sharp contrast to the essential elements of a ubiquitous one-world-currency, which needs:
- Globe-sized scaling
- near-free fees
- near-instant transfers
On all points, Bitcoin is a super failure as a currency. It just is.
That leaves it with just one remaining function: Store-of-Value. Exactly like fucking Tulips.
Let's recap: ANYTHING can be a dumb store-of-value. To state that Bitcoin is a 'store-of-value', is like saying "I don't have a clue what I'm talking about". Why? Let's re-recap: ANYTHING can be a store-of value. For example, XRP is also a 'store-of-value'. It doesn't matter that Bitcoin has a higher valuation; it doesn't make it a better store of value at all because I can buy $100 worth of Bitcoin, and I can buy $100 worth of XRP. Both are now storing my $100. Both are in a 'store-of-value'.
Now let's pretend that XRP 'isn't' a store-of-value. What would that mean exactly? Would it mean that I no longer can purchase $100 worth of XRP? Cuckoo! Exactly. It's meaningless to say a coin 'isn't' a store-of-value, THUS, being a 'store-of-value' means dog shit. It literally means nothing at all. Like telling me your coin is a 'thing', implying the other coins aren't 'things'; ridiculous. For example, people often say to me "Hey stupid XRP shiller, LOLOLOLOL!!!! My coin is a 'thing', and yours isn't!! ...Wait... put that gun down...NOOO!...(crying like a little girl)...I don't want to eat any more...(sobbing)...it doesn't fit there.. it doesn't..fit...(mechanical noises)"
So, some of the maxis come back to me with, "well, they'll just fix Bitcoin so that it can be a real currency!" No, they can't. The reason it's so terrible is because of its core mechanism of Proof of Work (PoW)(works on many levels). PoW is a horribly wasteful means by which to compete for the block-reward lottery every 10 minutes. The motivation for creating the PoW idea in the first place, was to create a foolproof method by which to secure the blockchain from corruption.
PoW is one way, but there are other, more modern ways to achieve the same result, without burning the equivalent of Austria's electricity. XRP has achieved a form of consensus that uses zero energy, and doesn't take any more than 3-4 seconds, allowing for near-free nearly-instant transfers. The difference is that XRP doesn't reward its validators, and therein lies the conundrum. In order for Bitcoin to go faster, it has to change to a consensus mechanism that doesn't impose delays. Without PoW, there's no means to pay miners fairly; and since that's the large majority reason there are even people mining, they will instantly defect, and Bitcoin would collapse. Effectively, Bitcoin painted itself into a greedy miner corner.
Also, PoW doesn't inherently add to Bitcoin's market value by a higher hashrate despite the similar trends, nor does PoW make Bitcoin more secure than non-PoW. That's an outrageous myth, particularly in the context of XRP, which is considerably more secure at 80% required consensus versus Bitcoin's 51% double-spend and centralized-mining vulnerabilities. PoW also exposes transactions to censorship because the winning miner is responsible for assembling and signing the block, and they can exclude/include any transactions they choose. Unlike XRP consensus, which requires 80% of validators to agree on the next block, which they do in 3-4 seconds, and which is nearly impossible to censor or otherwise tamper with.
Now, it stands to reason that Bitcoin could evolve to Proof of Stake (PoS)(works on many levels), but that's a major overhaul that nobody's even discussing yet, nor has any major coin successfully implemented. PoS is very complex and unlikely to ever fit in the Bitcoin evolution.
So fine, maybe you're not concerned with the slow transaction times (even though the rest of the world is). How about costs, or scalability? Costs and scalability are relative to demand, which is relative to block size, right? So that seems like a simple fix. Let's just increase the block size so that there's always enough room for every current transaction! Tada! Doink! Sorry. Doesn't work.
Think about it like this. People all over the world are running full bitcoin nodes. These are required to secure the network. There are also wallets that allow you to remove zeroed accounts (compression), but for the most part, the transaction blockchain is still very large and the compressed version cannot be used as a verifiable backup of the blockchain, aka, not securing it. Full nodes are the only way to maintain redundancy of the blockchain.
As block size increases, this dramatically increases the size of the blockchain data on a disk drive. While it may still be possible today for most people to accommodate this amount of data, you have to believe that a perpetually increasing blockchain size will constantly stress the resources of those hosting full nodes, and one after another, they will continue to drop off when they lose interest in dedicating so much resources to it. Hosting a full node has 'nothing' to do with mining, and unlike mining, it's not incentivized in any way, so why would anyone continue hosting all that data?
In other words, larger block sizes results in fewer nodes, and a much less secure network, increasingly prone to DDOS, network isolation, or political attacks. It's one thing to say, well, there's enough nodes now to make that unlikely, but that's overlooking the downward 'trend' (with occasional meaningless recoveries, but the overall trend is down), and that trend inevitably leads to huge security-risk exposure, and demise. Sure, you can ignore the decline for now, but that's like looking at the pretty clouds while your plane falls out of the sky.
None of this takes into consideration the fact that even if it were possible to make a meaningful major change to Bitcoin, even more Bitcoin forks have to be created. That's just how Bitcoin evolution works. The major changes can't be facilitated with a soft fork, they need to hard fork. There's already Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold, Bitcoin Diamond... Yes, if you want change, better come up with yet another market-confusing coin name.
Ultimately, no matter how many forks they create, Bitcoin can never evolve remotely within a light-year of the performance of XRP. They are night and day in terms of design. So while you're sitting there waiting for the Bitcoin developers to validate your prayer for a Bitcoin miracle to make it the best ever, you're already missing out on your prayer's answer in XRP.
So you think the Lightning Network (LN)(I got nothing) will salvage Bitcoin back to decency? Let me tell you about LN. It's a very-problematic quasi-centralized layer over other cryptos, not just Bitcoin. It can layer over any crypto coin, Ethereum, XRP, etc. It is not, I repeat, NOT, solely a Bitcoin layer.
What if not just sending Bitcoins, you could also use LN to pay in gold? Would you still see LN as Bitcoin's savior? How about if we send Tulip futures by LN? (literally theoretically possible). If it can be digitized, it can be traded on LN. The point is, LN isn't Bitcoin, it's essentially what VISA is to money. Does VISA make money faster? Or is it just an IOU system that needs post-settlement? Seems an awfully complex means by which to speed up an incredibly slow coin.
So if LN doesn't give Bitcoin a hand up that isn't also extended to every other coin, what difference does it make? If you put wings on your BTC horse, I can put the same wings on my XRP lambo and absolutely destroy your ass.
Put another way, would you still use LN if instead we could somehow magically improve Bitcoin's native on-chain performance to be 1000x faster (3-4 seconds per transaction), 1000x cheaper, and could scale up 1000x more transactions per second? Seriously, a magic genie pops out of the bong (it's the good stuff), and grants you the wish of fixing every single problem with Bitcoin; poof! If that ever happened, of course you would skip using LN, you'd just use Bitcoin, right?
Now imagine while you're using this magical Bitcoin to send money instantly, for next to nothing, someone asks you to use their crappy slow expensive coin via LN instead. You'd be like, nuh-unh, now why would I want to prefund a LN account just so I can use it? You can keep your shitcoins, I got all the lightning I need right here in my super-cheap, super-fast, highly-scalable native Bitcoin.
Sounds like a nice dream huh? Well, I can make it come true for you, replace the word Bitcoin with XRP, and you have it today, like right now. Whatever prejudices or ignorances you have about the reality of that statement, don't believe any of that tripe you've been hearing, I urge you to test XRP and find out for yourself. Buy some XRP on an exchange, and transfer it to your Toast wallet and see for yourself all that whaddabang. Once you go zerp, you never go derp.
What a tug of war from all camps of Bitcoin proponents.. I see 4 Bitcoin perspectives:
Speculator camp - These folks see crypto as a stock market, and this is by far the largest segment of Bitcoiners. They try to apply existing TA tools to it, and most of the terminology in use is adapted from stocks (market cap?), but it's an ill fit for many reasons. Stocks represent a company with a product, but crypto IS the actual product. Because of this, once crypto enters a utility phase, there will be a compounding self-reinforcing effect because of this duality of being simultaneously both speculative and utility instruments; unlike anything we've seen in large-scale commerce before. It will be quite difficult to anticipate how valuations evolve. On the other hand, these folks have almost no understanding of the strengths or weaknesses of the underlying technology, and immediately discard any hint of technical limitations, believing abstract market fundamentals and historically-repeated parabolic gains are all that's required to predict Bitcoin's destiny to reach infinity!! Who cares about reality...
Economist camp - Economists look at crypto through a currency lens, and attempt regulation and modeling based on those precepts, but that completely neglects the irrationally exuberant speculative nature of it.
Techie camp - Missing from both the speculator and economist perspectives, is the full understanding of how crypto works, and I mean really understanding the nuts and bolts. It's probably fair to say less than 1% of Bitcoiners fit into this category, which is most unfortunate, for it is this 'technical' aspect that harbors some of the greatest secrets and hidden dangers of any given coin, obscured by mathematical complexity and technical mumbo-jumbo. While everyone on the speculator side is fighting a holy-war on the thus-far-demonstrated infinite-appreciation potential of Bitcoin, and everyone on the economist side is fighting over how it should be controlled, or perceived; it is in the actual software code that the future can be statistically foretold. Without a doubt, mathematical extrapolations based on the design of a coin, can accurately predict its fate, irrespective of any optimistic/pessimistic religious sentiments surrounding the coin that may exist. Techies have the ability to see the real future, and that's fucking sexy. (I'm a techie).
Philosopher camp - Such as purists, maxis, Libs, etc. These were the early adopters that have no clue about anything other than how oppressed they view their lives to be. They were brainwashed from the beginning to believe that Bitcoin can be their liberation from evil banks, governments, taxes, employment, on and on and on. Meatheads. On the one hand they're so pissed off at the 'man' for enslaving them away from their self-entitled right to not contribute to civilization, and on the other hypocritical hand they're waiting with bated breath for an ETF to get approved, or Bakkt, Morgan Stanley, etc. to finally start trading and bring more money into the ecosystem so they can buy their Libertarian Lambo. Shoot on sight.
Bakkt, Robinhood, CNBC, Abra, Morgan Stanley, ETFs, Winklevosses, etc. All of them are dedicating enormous effort to continue promoting the virtues of Bitcoin to rape more speculators. The very same popular namebranded Bitcoin that has already provably failed to have any meaningful utility.
Big finance is hoping to fleece the hell out of sheeple that only have an investment perspective of crypto, but have no understanding at all about the technology. If you bore witness to last December's Bitcoin debacle when the network was nearly frozen with delays and stratospheric fees, then it should be fairly obvious that when the volume returns, the same thing will happen.
"But but but maybe this time it will be different??" Why? Nothing's changed! Don't believe all this crap that Bitcoin is 'digital gold', or that it will evolve past these scaling issues. It's not like gold because gold can have low popularity and still have value. Bitcoin needs a lot of popularity to keep it secure. If it loses popularity, miners drop off, it becomes exposed to double-spend, and then sudden catastrophic failure. But they'll never tell you this, they'll just keep feeding the Bitcoin hopium to you until you OD on lambo ads.
Truth is, a lot of very large Bitcoin holder whales don't want to see their BTC holdings lose value, so they use the media to keep the attention on the wonder of Bitcoin, completely sweeping all the technical issues under the rug. I'm not being a conspiracy theorist, you can see for yourself the scaling/fees calamity caused last December, and it will happen again on the next run. To ignore what you can see with your own eyes, simply because you don't want to confront the reality that big BTC investors are telling you Bitcoin is absolutely fine just so they can cash out more of their massive stockpile of Bitcoins before more people figure out it's useless...is denial at its finest.
If there's no utility as a meaningful currency, and we already know where the low ceiling on the Bitcoin network is, how can it possibly justifiably be worth even more??
Bitcoin, is a white elephant.
There's a lot of suckers out there, and I'm seeing the biggest greater-fool scam ever to unfold. People's tendency to ignore the facts of Bitcoin's limitations is just something that's going to have to play itself out. All I can do is offer up information and my conscience is clean. I sleep very well at night.
So the next time you hear someone proclaiming that Bitcoin's redeeming use-case is as a "store-of-value", go ahead and tell them: "Lol...Enjoy cleaning all that white shidizzle at your kid's birthday party, loser.."
Comments welcome on Twitter. Please, no tipping, and I hope you won't be offended if I don't respond to every comment, I do read them all and I sincerely appreciate your thoughts, compliments, and criticisms.