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28 May 2020

PODCAST: Josh Brown on Why Bitcoin Is Like the 1800s Railroad Boom

PODCAST: Josh Brown on Why Bitcoin Is Like the 1800s Railroad Boom

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“But what was left behind in the wake of that financial wreckage were the tracks, and the trains, and the stations, and the expertise to build more.”.

“So it’s possible that the crypto investments people made in 2017 were stupid, but that they had the right idea.”?

No longer written off as some ignorable niche, increasingly people are asking: Is bitcoin a macro asset.

A lot of people know you over crypto, but you’re certainly well known for your mainstream financial news.

So you could say whether or not you think gold is an inflation hedge, you know that other people do, and it acts that way.

In the month of October, I think it’s a world record of people around the world involved in various protests, whether we’re talking about Santiago, or we’re talking about what’s going on in Hong Kong.

If we’re worried about disinflation and we say that maybe people, if they’re scared of their own currency, there’ll be this huge rush into bitcoin.

So I would love to be able to answer in the affirmative and say, “Yes, bitcoin has now taken its place among the Pantheon of asset classes that people can use to express a macro view.” But it just isn’t, there’s no evidence for that.

And that you’re focusing on the behavior I think is the important part here.

A lot of people get caught up with what they want it to be and they sort of will fall into kind of a bubble, where they see it behaving in ways that maybe it isn’t actually, given the facts, and that you underlined here that the behavior of it, given all these conditions is pretty clear.

US dollars are what people want all over the world.

This is a fact, and then if we’re saying, “Well, people are going to use bitcoin when they want to get out of the denomination of whatever their country is”, or the jurisdiction.

They just put the capstone, I think it’s called, or whatever.

You could think about these as safe deposit boxes for Russians, Indians, Chinese, people that are trying to have assets outside of the country.

And that’s just one tower of five that I could reference off the top of my head?

So that is the way you’re seeing foreign nationals move money out of their currency, or out of their government’s jurisdiction and into what they consider to be a safer place.

And you’re just not seeing those dollar flows into bitcoin to the same extent.

And I think that’s a really interesting label, and that its behavior really hasn’t mimicked what you’d expect from a protest asset.

And that was really because people were worried about using their Oyster cards, their Metro cards to get home back to China if they’re going to the mainland, because they were going to get tracked, and basically just really worried about local dollars being tracked.

But we haven’t really seen that premium stick, and we haven’t really seen that sort of flow towards using this so that you’re not surveyed and you’re not spied on so they know where your simple consumption dollars had gone?

But, like you’re saying, we just haven’t seen that kind of use.

So we’ve seen this sort of cheap money around the world for a long time, and it looks like even from high risk tolerance from the VC side of things, because money, it’s just available and it looks like every idea out there is funded and the risk tolerance has grown to a certain extent here.

Now, if that changes, if a recession does cause some kind of liquidity crunch, or some inability to get access to this cheap money again, how do you think bitcoin behaves.

In the last six months though, what have you seen that’s changed, or if anything, is it just the same old story.

I think the price of bitcoin at that time was $15,000 or $16,000, and my message to that audience at that time was, “calm down.” It’s okay to feel like you’re missing out.

Maybe now we’re in the polar opposite situation, where instead of fear of missing out, there’s this just incredible amount of pessimism that everything that people thought would be true about digital currencies, and cryptography, and blockchain is now like a joke in the mainstream financial media, or at least it’s being derided on a daily basis.

And the only other example of this kind of thing that I could think of for my own career and experience, I remember my formative years in the industry we were doing the dot com bubble, and everything came apart relatively quickly.

It only took from March of 2000 to, let’s say, the end of 2001 for people to just be completely wiped out, not just in financial terms, although they were, but emotionally, and mentally.

I don’t think anyone would deny that it was insane just as the internet mania, but the thing is all of the predictions that were made about the transformative power of the internet actually ended up coming true.

It just took longer than what people expected, and the companies involved were very different.

So if I could maybe flip the script and this year offer that, I know it’s not that hopeful, but it’s somewhat hopeful to the audience.

You know, this predates what I just talked about.

And what they’re building to connect … I was just down in Orlando, and I saw all the facilities that they’ve built for the bullet train that’s going to take people from Miami to Orlando in 15 minutes.

So I know people don’t have that much patience to wait 160 years to see their dreams come true, but I’m just pointing out, after the railroad bubble, there were probably a lot of people running around saying, “You see, it’s all stupid.” No, it wasn’t all stupid.

So it’s possible that the crypto investments people made in 2017 were stupid, but that they had the right idea.

And I know that’s Tyler and Cameron [Winklevoss] and I would imagine they spent a ton of money on this, but everyone riding that train car was surrounded by posters for this new monetary exchange or brokerage or whatever you want to call it.

And most of the people looking at this poster were like, “What the hell does that mean?” But some people know.

And I just find it interesting that there were still people willing to invest, and advertise, and market new products.

And as long as that continues, maybe there is a future that’s more in the near term than what I think now for these types of technologies.

Well, look, I think we could separate what we think the price of the thing does versus what we think the utility will be.

It just won’t involve people waving flags and storming the barriers.

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