Just days after Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan’s CEO, said he is not going to talk about bitcoin anymore, he talked about bitcoin. Making his usual comments. Calling people that buy bitcoin “stupid” and calling his daughter “formerly smart” after she told him she bought two bitcoins. Dimon said:
“I could care less about bitcoin. I don’t know why I said anything about it. The blockchain is a technology which is a good technology. We actually use it. It will be useful in a lot of different things. God bless the blockchain.
Cryptocurrencies, digital currencies, I think are also fine. JPMorgan moves $6 trillion around the world every day, and we don’t do it in cash, it’s done digitally. If it can be done digitally with the blockchain, so be it. But it will still be a dollar cryptocurrency.
What I have an issue with is a non-fiat cryptocurrency. So crypto sterling, euro, yen, they are all fine. I don’t personally understand the value of something that has no actual value. You all can do whatever you want and I don’t care.”
He doesn’t quite say what gives the dollar any value, with the old banker so arguing against the Nobel Economist Hayek himself, who said private money is far better than state issued money.
Nor does he appear to understand what a crypto-dollar would actually mean for banks like his that move money digitally like scanned paperbook copies are “digital.” While bitcoin, and other digital currencies such as eth, are natively digital. They are in effect just code which can be programmed to do many things. But, we can’t quite expect the old banker to understand this new world. He says:
“I could care less what bitcoin trades for, how it trades, why it trades, who trades it. If you’re stupid enough to buy it, you’ll pay the price for it one day. I’ve also told people that it can trade at $100,000 before it trades to zero. Tulip bulbs traded for $75,000 or something like that.”
As bitcoin is so scarce, far scarcer than houses, a value of $100,000 might even be reached. That would give it a market cap of a trillion or so. And Dimon sort of gives a case for why it might actually reach it:
“Every day, you have CNBC, nonstop bitcoin — Who cares about bitcoin? The world economy’s so big, JPMorgan alone, $6 trillion, we move all this money, and bitcoin in total, all these currencies, $50 billion dollars, maybe a billion dollars trades a day.”
The numbers are slightly off. The total market cap is at near $175 billion. For bitcoin alone it’s at around $95 billion. BTC trading volumes are at around $2 billion, while global volumes are at $4-$7 billion.
But Dimon has been talking about bitcoin for so long he can be forgiven for using outdated number. Wouldn’t surprise us if he thinks it still trades at $400. And that’s because it appears he doesn’t quite understand the currency. He says:
“The other thing I’ve always [said] about bitcoin, governments — and this is not a technological statement — governments are going to crush it one day. Governments like to know where the money is, who has it and what you’re doing with it, in case you haven’t noticed. Right?
And governments like to control their currency, like to control their own economy. So China’s already put curbs on it. Japan, they say Japan accepted bitcoin. No they didn’t. What I gather Japan did was they call it J-coin. It’s a yen cryptocurrency. It’s not a non-fiat [digital currency].”
Japan has actually declared digital currencies, like bitcoin, as legal tender. But his point about governments is in many ways one of the reason why digital currencies are so popular.
The old banker is using an authoritarian government as an example, and is suggesting the free world might “crush” this generation’s innovation.
But in the free world, we are the government. And whether he likes it or not, politicians are backing this space, because presumably unlike Dimon they have read their Hayek. And unlike Dimon, they might not be very fond of mega banks that bankrupted countries.
But Dimon says that bitcoin might actually have some value afterall because central banks can misuse their powers. To that we’d add banks in general. Dimon says:
“And a central bank — of course they can misuse it. The central bank [can also] inflate it. So there is a use case for bitcoin. If you live in Venezuela, North Korea, if you’re a criminal, great product. I mean that. It’s better than cash or deposits in that country. Cuba.”
North Korea is starving. You need this thing called technology to use bitcoin Dimon. That means a computer or a smartphone as well as internet. Doubt North Koreans have any of it.
As for criminals, they can do and use many things, but one interesting aspect of criminals is that usually they are unable to not slip up in a small way and so get caught.
Those two groups, including Venezuela and Cuba, are far too small for a $170 billion market. North Korea’s yearly GDP is just $6 billion.
No, it was far bigger and richer countries that mismanaged their money. Including China, including India, and in a way including the European Central Bank which keeps money printing.
In a more holistic way it also includes all banks, which went bust nearly a decade ago, because they in effect printed far too much money, creating a huge bubble, with everyone picking the tap in bailing them out.
Well, bitcoin is the people’s bailout. And that includes everyone, not just ordinary citizens but also young bankers. Dimon says:
“When I made that ‘stupid statement’ [calling bitcoin a] fraud, my daughter sent me an email saying, ‘Dad, I own two bitcoins.’ My formerly smart daughter.”
That daughter being Julia Dimon, a Harvard graduate who has been working for the past six years in Capital Markets at Allen & Company, a boutique investment bank of sort.
So being a millennial, she clearly sees the value in this new technology which promises to bring equity to the foundations of economies, money itself. However the old banker doesn’t. He says:
“But this is the last time I’m ever going to answer questions about bitcoin because I really don’t care.”
For realz this time. Pinky promise.