Commentary by Jacob Donnelly.
At least twice a week, I get asked about Bitcoin. More people in my network realize I write about it, so they naturally want to know what it is, how it works and whether it’s a Ponzi scheme.
I quickly realized that I had rehearsed the perfect answer to every question. At least, I thought it was the perfect answer to every question.
Then I read The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey. The two are Wall Street Journal writers, and this is their attempt at explaining the history of digital currency, the inception of Bitcoin, its evolution and future.
“Our hope was simply to tell a good story well, to write something that could stand for years as a definitive document. I think we’ve done that,” said Vigna in an email to Bitcoin Magazine.
This book should be required reading for anyone who has an interest in digital currency or the capabilities of the blockchain.
The book opens with an implemented use case for Bitcoin. Because of Bitcoin young women in Afghanistan are able to write blogs and do social media and video production. In exchange for this work, they are paid in bitcoin. Bank wires required a lot of fees. And PayPal wasn’t supported. With bitcoin, these young women could be paid instantly.
The book then walks through the history of Bitcoin. Even as someone who has covered the digital currency for some time now, it was a refresher on where Bitcoin started, how it had gained its momentum and its tumultuous history.
Wall Street Journal and Bitcoin
Of all the mainstream media companies, The Wall Street Journal has covered Bitcoin better than all others. Earlier this month Bitcoin showed up prominently on the front page of the paper.
Vigna and Casey are leading that charge at the Journal. They’ve effectively become the expert journalists on Bitcoin. When CNBC wants to find out more about Bitcoin, I’ve seen Casey answering those questions.
“Just like at any institution, … individuals inside of it have gotten interested in Bitcoin,” Vigna said of the interest. “In this case, that’s myself and Mike and some others, but it’s the same at Forbes and the (New York) Times and Microsoft and Pantera Capital. At all these institutions, you first need individuals that are interested, that are taken by Bitcoin and its story, and they shape the institutional reaction. Eventually, it looks like an institutional take, but it’s not. It’s about the people first.”
In February, Casey interviewed Larry Summers, the ex-Treasury Secretary, at the Museum of American Finance. After that, Vigna led a panel with a few individuals to answer questions about Bitcoin.
The continuous coverage of Bitcoin can serve only as a positive for the entire community. As more people know about it, more can join in the experience. On March 4th, The Wall Street Journal published some of their readers’ comments on Bitcoin. They found that 83 percent of people polled believed there is a future for digital currencies.
“Bitcoin is one of the most important innovations of our generation — and comparable in impact to railroads, automobiles, telephony, Internet, etc., if not more,” said a person in Chicago.
“Four billion global citizens will finally have modern financial services,” said a person in San Francisco.
“I think that’s because Bitcoin is (among other things ) a finance story. Our editors realize that, and telling finance stories is what we do, so they gave us a long leash to chase the story,” Vigna said.
The way Bitcoin takes off
Vigna and Casey offered the best route for Bitcoin to take off. If a business paid its vendors in bitcoin, adoption would explode. They citied Wal-Mart, noting that when the retail giant started sourcing in China the surrounding region saw tremendous growth in manufacturing.
The same could happen with Bitcoin. If one of the big buyers offered to pay their vendors in bitcoin and it were shown to cut the time it took to pay by days, if not weeks, then those vendors would be more willing to accept bitcoin as payment. That would ultimately result in widespread adoption.
As businesses increasingly view it as a valid form of payment, more will accept it. And that will then trickle down into employees being paid in bitcoin.
In the end …
Bitcoin continues to cement its existence in society. This site is a testament to all that has occurred. But what The Age of Cryptocurrency does is to succinctly explain, without unneeded jargon, a huge amount of history and potential for Bitcoin, all packed into 368 pages. The next time someone asks me about Bitcoin I’m going to hand him or her this book. Even if you know a tremendous amount about Bitcoin, this book will remind you about all the potential that is out there.
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