Starting a debate by calling nearly everyone in the room “economically illiterate” doesn’t usually end well for someone attempting to persuade an audience, but that’s just what American economist Nouriel Roubini did on Tuesday, in his debate with Bitcoin.com Executive Chairman Roger Ver. The 40-minute, high-energy volley of arguments and ad homs is as entertaining to watch as it is enlightening.
The Fate of Crypto
The debate, which took place at London’s CC Forum, was an informal style back and forth with loose moderation provided by Eric Van der Kleij, entitled “Will Cryptocurrencies Fail or Succeed?” From the starting gun the discourse takes on a life of its own, with American economist and professor Nouriel Roubini refusing Ver’s offer to receive some free BCH, saying “These are not currencies, so I don’t accept them.” He then notes:
Most people in this space don’t know anything about money, about monetary policy, about banking, about central banking, about finance, about financial institutions. There’s a massive amount of financial illiteracy.
Roubini argues that cryptocurrencies are not true currencies, claiming “bitcoin or any other shit coin” is “absolutely not” a unit of account or means of payment. He cites the relatively small amount of users worldwide and volatile prices. Ver counters what will become Roubini’s mantra throughout the event, that cryptocurrencies have lost most of their value (when looking at peak prices), by producing a ¥10,000 note and detailing the inflation that has already decimated fiat currencies around the globe.
This piece of paper in my hand that’s today worth around $90 … used to be worth over $200,000 not all that long ago. How is that a stable store of value?
Roubini rises to the defense of central bankers, claiming “there is low inflation in all advanced economies,” and adding “the idea that central banks are debasing money with high inflation may have been the story for Venezuela or a couple other countries, but it’s not the story for most advanced economies.”
Terrorists, Tax Evaders and Criminals
Things really kick off around the 11:47 mark of the debate video, when Roubini raises his voice and proclaims in southern baptist preacher-like cadence:
No government in the world can allow criminals, terrorists, tax evaders, crooks to move money … without AML and without KYC … you don’t give a shit about them, but they’re gonna crack down on you.
For all his logical flaws throughout the discourse, Roubini does finally manage to ask (or at least to imply) a pertinent question as to how regulation of violent crime could be managed in the context of the financial freedom advocated by Ver, but fails to address Ver’s question about his own personal preference. As the Bitcoin evangelist repeatedly tries to ask Roubini if he personally prefers control over his own funds, and the ability to freely send them, the New York professor shouts him down each time.
Ad Homs and Good Questions
The rest of the debate plays similar, with Roubini falling back on the mantra of bitcoin cash’s loss of value since “the peak” and the presupposition in a room full of crypto users that “nobody uses it.” That notwithstanding, the preponderance of engaging moments and quotable gems makes this debate worth watching all the way through. Ver’s promotion of “a level playing field” for all humans inspires regardless of one’s philosophical biases. Roubini’s uncompromising stance on regulation is thought-provoking.
For all the ad hominem assertions that all of crypto is a shitcoin, and Roubini refusing to yield the floor when he’s hammering a point home, a real highlight occurs during the Q & A period, when a veteran of asset management poses a question. The audience member addresses Roubini, saying:
“Professor, I’m just amazed, having been in the asset management industry for nearly 30 years, the continual lies that I hear from people like you. The $320 billion that so-called safe banks have been fined in the last 10 years because of money laundering … I’m off to California in two days’ time, I’ll go to an ATM. I’ll pull out some U.S. dollars, 90% of which have trace cocaine. Does that make me a money laundering drug dealer?”
After asking why criminals would want to leave a digital footprint and choose crypto over dollars, he goes on to implore the American economist to be a bit more open-minded about the future of finance.
A Thought-Provoking Exchange
The debate ends no less amusingly, the two contenders ramping up the battle in a close-to-the-net series of attempted game-winning spikes, as someone shouts from the audience: “willful ignorance.” The small pandemonium inspires the moderator to call it, and Ver implores sharply over the din of Roubini’s wooden, anti-crypto monologue, “Why are you afraid to try it?” Whatever one’s view of the contenders, or of BCH as a currency, the debate can be seen as a thought-provoking resource for learning why some people may be hesitant to use crypto, and understanding why so many are becoming excited about this new permissionless money that is borderless, decentralized, and censorship-resistant.
What are your thoughts on the debate? Let us know in the comments section below.
Image credits: Shutterstock, fair use.
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