The 2013 San Jose Bitcoin Conference has proven to be rather controversial. While it is considered to have been a success, being well attended and attracting high profile speakers, it has brought up a very divisive topic in the Bitcoin community…regulation.

In his presentation at the conference Peter Vessenes, the executive director of the Bitcoin Foundation, announced that the Foundation will be hiring a lobbyist saying “It’s time to engage with regulators and have a good, productive conversation.”

High profile investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss declared that “Cooperation [with regulators] is really the way forward.” And expressed that recent moves towards Bitcoin regulation are a good thing saying “FinCEN acknowledges virtual currencies. They’ve given guidance, which is a big step.”

There are many in the Bitcoin community who worry that close co-operation with regulators will destroy what Bitcoin is meant to be, free from political control and anonymous. Lifetime Member of the Foundation, Mike Gogulski, has even called for the disbandment of the Foundation.

Late last year Jon Matonis, also on the board of the Bitcoin Foundation, published an article entitled Bitcoins Greatness not Realized by Succumbing to Regulation.  In the piece he express concern that compliance with AML & KYC rules will link names to transactions and has the possibility of “cumulatively degrading the privacy of all bitcoin transactions.” Adding that …

Bitcoin’s great promise lies in its potential ability for both income and consumption anonymity. It is this feature alone that allows users to maintain the same financial privacy as physical cash today and it is this feature that will also lead to liberating advancements such as a thriving and interconnected System D, unhampered and undiluted freedom of speech, and superior asset management that can truly be said to be off-the-grid.

I tend to agree with Matonis. The idea that embracing regulation will actually work out for the Bitcoin community is a bit of a fairly tail. As he reminds us…

Those who support the antithetical overlay of  bitcoin on the current financial system ensure us that it will only be temporary and that we must build bridges. That would be nice but it’s a fairy tale. It reminds me of the Marxist theory of historical materialism and the Marx-Engels ideology that if we only tolerate the bourgeois state during the transitional advancement to a higher phase, we will see the complete “withering away of the state.”

I don’t see this as a political debate, or smart business management, or selling out, I see this through the lenses of power. Those who have it don’t like to lose it. Bitcoin and commercial banking/monetary policy are incompatible. Crypto-currencies threaten the government/banking cozzie power sharing deal and if you think they will give up power voluntarily you’ve got to stop dreaming about sailing the Caribbean in your new yacht and wake up.

As c-net reminds us co-operating with regulator didn’t work for e-gold.

that didn’t stop the E-Gold online payment system from being shut down after a federal indictment on charges of money laundering. Not only did E-Gold chairman Douglas Jackson interact with regulators, he even testified before the U.S. Congress a year before the indictment took place.

I can’t imagine that US regulators will stand by and let Bitcoin succeed. This isn’t crazy conspiracy stuff; this is basic theory on incentives and human behaviour.  All those regulators have mortgages to pay and friends to impress…they don’t want to be rendered irrelevant.

 

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