One of the main criticisms thrown bitcoin’s way on a regular basis is that governments will probably end up banning the digital money due to its use in illegal transactions. In fact, this is the argument JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon recently made when ask about bitcoin at the Fortune Global Forum.
[Read More: Barry Silbert on Why Jamie Dimon is Wrong on Bitcoin]
While governments could definitely attempt to ban the use of bitcoin within their borders (and some have), these sorts of bans may not be all that effective. That’s the position taken by Mycelium’s Dmitry “Rassah” Murashchik, who explained his stance on the issue during a panel discussion at the recent Bitcoin Investor Conference.
Bitcoin is a Language
At the core of Murashchik’s argument is the fact that Bitcoin is nothing more than a language. He expanded on this idea by pointing out examples of how anyone could still use Bitcoin in a situation where the technology had been banned by a local government:
“Bitcoin is just a list of accounts and their balances, and when you send Bitcoin transactions, effectively all you’re doing is sending a message that a computer can parse that says from account A to account B send so much money. Essentially, Bitcoin, at its very core, is simply a language, so anybody can meet somebody else over the phone or in person and say, ‘Here. Write down this 250 character gibberish sentence [or] whatever, and I sent you a bitcoin. In order for governments to actually, effectively ban Bitcoin, they would basically have to ban all forms of communication and language, which is kind of impossible.”
Communication Bans in the USSR
Murashchik is also aware that some governments will try to ban Bitcoin no matter how difficult a proposition it may be. He described how the Soviet Union attempted to completely control all forms of communication before it was dissolved:
“I’m from USSR. We had very strict regulations on any kind of speech. Typewriters were all registered, and if you wanted to get a typewriter, you had to specifically register with the government because they didn’t want you printing anything that would be against them. So it was very, very tight controls on everything, including all the phone lines were being listened to and stuff.”
Totalitarian regimes will do whatever they can to limit economic freedom for their citizens, and Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson made the point that restrictions on Bitcoin are more about freedom than anything else during hearings on Bitcoin in the State of New York back in early 2014. He noted:
“The US allows Google to operate here, allows Twitter to operate here, allows Bitcoin to operate here, [and] allows Facebook to operate here. The Chinese Government doesn’t allow any of those companies to operate the way they operate in this country — or at all. This is about freedom, ultimately — whether you want to live in a society that embraces innovation, free speech, and freedom or not. I’m certainly glad to live in a country that does that.”
The measures required to ban Bitcoin in a free society may be seen as too intrusive and unacceptable by the citizenry. A complete ban on Bitcoin may be off the table for most modern democracies.
Language is Hard to Kill
Murashchik’s final point on this topic had to do with the challenges associated with banning communication and language. He explained:
“We had a whole lot of illegally books, illegally printed newsletters, [and] news would still go around [in the Soviet Union]. Language is really, really hard to kill because, at the very last resort, we still have vibrations through the air to send it by.”
Although regulations and bans on Bitcoin can undoubtedly have a negative impact on it’s popularity and proliferation among the general public, the point made by Murashchik is that the idea cannot be banned out of existence. As long as there are some people who are willing to go the extra mile to protect bitcoin as a currency, it can never be completely abolished.
Featured image via Mustafa and Aziza.
Kyle Torpey is a freelance journalist who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured on VICE Motherboard, Business Insider, RT’s Keiser Report, and many other media outlets. You can follow @kyletorpey on Twitter.