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Bitcoin fixes a Greek problem – but not the Greek debt problem
Wanna GTFO? Yay, blockchain
Worstall on Thursday Hallelujah and may the Lord be praised! Someone has finally managed to find a decent economic use for Bitcoin. This isn't what those of us interested in the nitty-gritty of economics ever really expected, to be quite frank.
We have looked on the alt-coin world as a rerun, a recapitulation, of every scam, fraud and mistake that banking and monetary economics has allowed people to make over the past several millennia. Indeed, there's a number of us who do know our histories of scams and frauds in banking and finance, and have been thinking about trying out a few of the ones that nobody has stumbled across yet. The possibilities inherent in controlling three or four currencies simultaneously are simply marvellous, just as one example.
So, the idea that someone has indeed managed to find something useful to do with the technology is interesting: it's not just a pump-and-dump scam being perpetrated by the technically competent on the less than so.
What it is useful for is dodging government restrictions on exporting money out of whatever country you happen to have it trapped in. As FT Alphaville points out, we're seeing a well-understood pattern here.
Chinese Bitcoin exchanges have prices well above (five or six per cent – that's “well” for something like a currency) the standard market price, while the American exchanges seem to be well behind that market price. The pattern being that of people buying lots in China and selling lots in America.
All of which makes sense given the porous ban on exporting capital from China. Of course, he billionaires aren't having such problems but China's economic development has been so staggering that there's a vast middle class there now. That is, people who really wouldn't mind getting a few tens of thousands of $ out of the country and into somewhere where you know that the law allows you to keep your own money. Once you're actually in that alt-coin world those bans on moving money across borders rather disappear.
Which means that if you convert yuan into Bitcoin, (or litecoin etc) you can indeed get it out of China. At which point, presuming you want to turn it into $ at the end of the process, the US seems like a good place to try and cash out again. Those price distortions are at least consistent with that theory: and more detailed examinations do seem to be showing that that is what is happening.
It also seems to be what is happening, on a much smaller scale, in Greece. For one of the interesting little details in Greece is that you can't get much cash from a bank (only €60 a day), and you can't make a transfer out of the country: but you can make transfers through the banking system within the country. So much so that people are paying their bills – even their tax bills (for those few Greeks who do pay tax) – in advance, so that as and when the crash comesk it'll be someone else that loses the money.
This does also mean that one can make a transfer into an alt-coin exchange within the country. That can then, in turn, be moved to another alt-coin exchange anywhere in the world: a pretty handy way of getting your money out of Greece.
Assuming, that is, that one ends up using whatever tiny portion of the alt-coin universe that is not simply an out-and-out scam.