Why Peter McCormack Is Dead Wrong About Medium of Exchange vs. Store of Value

By TheDesertLynx | Digital Cash Network | 20 Feb 2020

Last week, Bitcoin maximalist pundit extraordinaire Peter McCormack famously approached the Venezuelan border, spoke with a few people, and determined without a shadow of a doubt that the uncensorable digital payments use case for cryptocurrency is without merit, that only store-of-value matters. Obvious issues with methodology and propagating biased hearsay aside, McCormack raises a relevant argument that the digital gold use case is the real killer app for blockchain technology. As it tuns out, he’s dead wrong. And not just in regards to the developing world, but including his First World bubble. There’s a veritable digital gold mine of use cases for digital cash just waiting to be leveraged the world over.


Legitimate Banking and Payments Issues Exist in the Developing World

There are countless reasons that current payments systems don’t work well enough in some parts of the world, so many that it almost feels unfair to list them as part of an argument. But here are a few of the more commonly-occurring issues. Lack of access to reliable electronic payments in cash-heavy areas where most consumers nonetheless have a mobile phone, either smart or otherwise, can give a strong use case to cryptocurrency, which needs no more significant infrastructure than that to operate. Underdeveloped, inefficient, or corrupt banking systems mean that customers and business owners can pay high fees and wait weeks, if not months, to access their money and pay bills. And, of course, there’s the classic use case of remittances, where workers abroad pay excessive fees and endure long waiting times to send money home, when a cryptocurrency payment can cross borders instantly and for an insignificant cost.

The situation in Venezuela is particularly poignant because of the unique mix of an educated populace with infrastructural failure and hyperinflation. Where much of the world may operate on a cash-only basis, this isn’t practical when an almost-worthless pile of paper notes can become completely worthless in transit, meaning that electronic payment solutions are absolutely necessary. Issues with payment processors have created untenable situations where shopping mall goers sometimes have to wait hours to pay for parking and leave, with no cash alternative solution, while cryptocurrency payments still work. Nationwide power blackouts have taken down all manner of payment processor, but due to some mobile phone networks still operating during blackouts, SMS-based crypto wallets such as Dash Text still work for sending money. Forget simply protecting savings from rapidly wasting away in value, there are countless purely payments-based problems that are still in desperate need of solutions.


Adequate Stores of Value Already Exist

Probably the most common, and easiest, way people have benefited from cryptocurrencies is through their speculative use as an investment. Yes, it’s true, probably more lives have been changed by buying a digital token and seeing its value increase exponentially (or at least hold its value better than the local currency) than have profited significantly from actually using the tech to process payments and other similar uses. However, there is nothing unique or revolutionary about this benefit. Plenty of stores of value exist already. Most common among these is the US dollar, which tends to hold its value decently in the short term, even though over a century it has lost most of its value against gold, a superior store of value that existed long before Bitcoin. Add in all the various other investment vehicles and most people in most countries have access to something that works better than their national currency at holding value.

That’s not the point of Bitcoin originally, or of cryptocurrency more broadly today. The point wasn’t that its value didn’t tank with inflation and manipulation. The point wasn’t even that its value didn’t tank and no one could stop you from owning some. The point was that its value wasn’t open to manipulation and no one could stop you from owning AND USING it. You can invest in any number of assets and profit long-term. You can buy gold in cash without anyone knowing it, and store it (and its value) without anyone’s permission or knowledge. But you can't do all this and then sent it to anyone anywhere in the world for pennies per transaction. Uncensorable PAYMENTS are what matters.

The only reason Bitcoin has value today is that people bought into its payments ability, which still exists to a limited extent today, with store-of-value properties only valid after its payments capabilities had built an impressive network effect of adoption. Otherwise no one would have bought this worthless digital token that’s backed by nothing in the “real world” and is expensive and difficult to move around.


Plenty of People Are Still Getting Screwed By the Banking System

Even in the most developed and wealthy countries in the world there are still plenty of people critically underserved by the current banking and payments space. Some of these are those deliberately targeted by the powers that be such as politically controversial groups including Wikileaks and firearms sellers, while others including legal cannabis sellers remain in a grey zone where they can legally operate but are denied access to banking services. Still others operate in industries or use cases deemed “high-risk” by the payments world and are subjected to high-chargeback rates, expensive fees, long waiting times, and other headaches.

Even though McCormack might operate in a privileged world where all means of transmitting money just work, many of his friends, neighbors, and countrymen aren’t as lucky. And you can bet there’s a massive amount of money to be made in solving these critical problems, meaning that any cryptocurrency that manages to pull it off will win big.


Even in the Developed World, Payments Suck

The payments industry has come forward by leaps and bounds since the old days of swipe-only credit cards. But let’s be honest: it still sucks. Its issues may be well-hidden by slick interfaces and “free” services, but try really putting things through their paces and you’ll quickly see the inherent limitations of a permissioned system. Try signing up a new user from scratch, sending them either a significant or insignificant amount of money right away, and having them then send a payment to someone in a completely different country. You’ll likely run into identity bottlenecks, waiting periods, requests for documentation, fees, and other issues blocking you from just simply sending your money wherever and however you please. Try it with cryptocurrency and, as long as you use something geared towards this sort of thing like Dash, you’ll encounter almost no hiccups or delays: just download an app without ID requirements, send any amount of money in and out, to anywhere in the world, for microscopic fees. The digital cash experience is really something that can get addicting once it catches on, once the early clunky usability hurdles are solved.

The world stands in crying need of a decentralized, efficient, uncensorable payments system. It’s the entire reason people paid attention to Bitcoin to begin with. People like Peter McCormack who refuse to acknowledge this growing reality will be stuck swiping antiquated plastic cards and angrily shaking their fists at true global financial freedom.

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Crypto and liberty lover. Journalist. Living unbanked off of crypto since 2016. Free State Project mover. Opinions are my own.

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