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Greeks in crisis

Bitcoin offers no easy escape for Greece

Ben Johnson and James Perla Jul 2, 2015
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In the midst of the current Greek financial crisis, some cryptocurrency enthusiasts have pointed to Bitcoin as the panacea for the country’s financial woes. The price of the cryptocurrency has steadily risen as the Greek financial crisis has intensified. However, the question remains: can digital money give Greece an out? Spoiler alert: no.

Nathaniel Popper, author of the book, “Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires trying to Reinvent Money,” maintains Bitcoin will not save Greece because “at this point, I think Greek citizens are locked into their own system and the bad decisions people have made. I don’t think there is an easy way out.”

In theory, Bitcoin seems like just that. However, the logistics of buying bitcoin requires you to move money from your bank account to the bank account of a Bitcoin service. Not so easy when Greeks are unable to withdraw money from the ATM. Sure, you can buy bitcoins from someone in a café with cash from under your bed, but to pull a country out of a financial crisis? Unlikely.

Popper points to Argentina as an example where some “real experimentation is going on” with Bitcoin, but he reminds us that the Bitcoin story “is a very young technology. It’s not ready for the prime time. It’s like expecting to run Netflix on the Internet of 1995.”

As Popper explains it, Bitcoin hopefuls may be expecting too much from the cryptocurrency: “Throughout the Bitcoin story, it’s been offered as a utopian solution. But these utopian solutions always need to find some way to get from the current system to the utopian future.”

Ideas anyone? We’re still buffering our 1995 dial-up Netflix.

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