Joerg Platzer: If People Would Not Buy Drugs With Bitcoin, There Would Be No Way Bitcoin Could Be Money
The notion that Bitcoin is instrumental for criminals is one of the traditional arguments against it and other cryptocurrencies. But however popular is the argument, Bitcoin’s potential for criminal use should be seen in context.
Ironically, it may be one of the actual drivers behind its adoption. Another less obvious force driving Bitcoin adoption is the monetary regulations imposed by the governments worldwide.
We’ve discussed the problems of Bitcoin’s criminal applications and the regulatory pressure with Joerg Platzer, a hacktivist, author, and founding member of the Crypto Economics Consulting Group in Berlin.
Liliia Tulupenko: You said that when it comes to Bitcoin, the German government is much keener on surveillance and restrictions than other governments. Can you elaborate on this statement?
Joerg Platzer: Well, it’s just a matter of fact that the German government is one of the most hostile governments towards Bitcoin. You can see that in various examples.
While you have thousands of Bitcoin ATMs all over the planet, there weren’t any in Germany until a couple of months ago, when a few people actually dared to set some up. We do not have crypto-exchanges in Germany, like Coinbase or Binance. The reason is that the government simply doesn’t grant licenses to run such an exchange or they create barriers of entry that are so high that nobody can do it.
LocalBitcoins.com doesn’t serve customers in Germany, because the German government gives them more trouble than hardly any other government. I think North Korea, Iran, and China are other places where LocalBitcoins doesn’t quite work. So it’s them and Germany.
Liliia Tulupenko: What is the reason behind this hostility to Bitcoin?
Joerg Platzer: You need to ask the government. I can only make some educated guesses.
You see, Germany is the financial powerhouse of Europe. Germany’s wealth depends on the euro. It is not a coincidence that other European countries, especially the southern countries,
are doing economically bad while Germany is doing economically very well. Today, almost two decades after the euro was introduced, people realize those who said that it’s a really bad idea to have any weak economy like Italy’s and a strong economy like Germany’s sharing the same currency.
The weak economy cannot devaluate its currency against the currency of the strong economy, which is usually how they can stay competitive. Since we have these economies of different strengths and different potential using the same currency, this competitiveness is not possible anymore. And that is an absolute advantage to the stronger economy, it makes a stronger economy even stronger.
So, Germany has that advantage now. The euro is an absolute significant economic advantage for the German economy. And maybe that is the reason that any suggestion that we could replace the euro with something better like Bitcoin finds so much resistance in Germany.
This is my guess. Feel free to ask the German Finance Minister or Mrs. Merkel why they dislike Bitcoin so much.
Liliia Tulupenko: Is it possible for state regulation to increase the demand for cryptocurrency?
Joerg Platzer: First of all, there’s the topic of monetary oppression. It means the government defines that you cannot buy a product from a person in Iran or you cannot send money to Iran.
There are funny circumstances there as well. It is entirely legal in Germany to sell products from Cuba. But there is a 60-year-old law in America that declares a boycott on Cuba and Cuban products like Cuban cigars and Cuban rum. And because all the financial institutions like Mastercard, Visa Card, PayPal are all American companies, they enforce American law in Germany, so you cannot buy Cuban rum there. Simply because banks are enforcing 60-year-old nonsense American laws all over the world.
So, that’s one part of it. Most people don’t care about that. They can get by without Cuban rum and have Jamaican. Others don’t have friends in Iran to send money to. For them, that’s not a big problem.
But the monetary policy in itself is what will drive people to Bitcoin.
Imagine your money in your bank losing value every year because of negative interest rates or inflation. If your bank makes some wrong deals and loses a few billion, then your money will be bailed-in to save the bank.
I mean, these are regulations, and the harder these regulations hit people, the more people will move towards Bitcoin.
Literally, financial regulation is the best promotion for Bitcoin we could ever imagine. By now, I say we could actually just sit back and do nothing to promote Bitcoin at all. The best promoters of Bitcoin are governments and banks that make completely irrational financial politics and monetary regulations.
I hope that the financial collapse that is upon us will not be a sudden one that creates absolute turmoil. I would hope that it is a slow decline of the fiat world giving way to slow adoption of the new Bitcoin monetary system.
Liliia Tulupenko: Would you agree that all crypto-enthusiasts can be called criminals, given that operations with cryptocurrencies can be outlawed overnight in any given jurisdiction of the world?
Joerg Platzer: You know, the government can outlaw anything they’d like. But the government declaring something a crime has got nothing to do with morals, or ethics, or justice, or anything like that. Look at all the people in the U.S. serving lifetime prison sentences without parole for having had some marijuana.
Of course, criminals are using Bitcoin. Thank God criminals are using Bitcoin, thank God people are buying drugs with Bitcoin. If people would not buy drugs with Bitcoin, there would be no way Bitcoin could be money.
Bitcoin is money and people do with Bitcoin everything they do with money. And money is one part of every economic transaction on the planet. So, of course, it is also one part of every criminal transaction on the planet.
The whole discussion about it is actually pretty absurd. Even though criminals do use Bitcoin, and drug deals are done with Bitcoin, many more criminals use dollars and euros and buy drugs with these currencies.
So I think the discussion is literally obsolete.
And I want to point out one thing: the real crime is done through the banking system.
Every major global bank has money-laundering problems. You’d struggle to find one bank on the whole planet that is not involved in really evil criminal stuff. And there are some unbelievable cases.
For example, HSBC English bank was found guilty of having laundered more than a hundred billion dollars for the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico. More than a hundred billion over the course of about 10 years. And the Sinaloa drug cartel in the course of these 10 years has killed an estimated 10,000 people.
The highest prosecutor of the United States gives a press conference and tells people: “we cannot put the bankers of HSBC to court for the money-laundering, because then we would also have to put them to court for aiding mass murder in 10,000 cases, and if that would happen, we would have to smash HSBC, and if we would do that, the whole economy collapses.”
It’s the highest guy in charge of justice in the U.S telling us that bankers can get away with aiding 10,000 murders because otherwise, the economy would collapse.
I’m pointing this out to just show you real crime really doesn’t need cash. It’s the banks, and the banks know this.
Sometimes banks book me to hold a lecture or give a talk there. Before I hold a talk for bankers, I do five-minute online research about that bank. Five minutes is enough to find out a whole list of criminal stuff for almost any bank.
Usually, the first question from the bankers after my talks is: “but what about money laundering and criminal activity?” And I usually answer something like: “but you are bankers, you know that every drug lord, every terrorist, and everybody who wants to launder money just goes to their bank and their bank launders the money for them.”
The bankers usually respond with: “it’s the other banks, not us!” And that’s where the research comes in handy, so I tell them: “oh, look, I made a little list here about the tax evasion cases of your bank. If you want to talk about money laundering, we can talk about money laundering.” And then the discussion is over.
The whole discussion about “people are doing illegal stuff with Bitcoin” and “people are laundering money with Bitcoin” is pretty absurd to me, given the crimes actually happening on the government and banking levels.
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