Everyone has heard of the War on Drugs, but not everyone has heard of Bitcoins. Bitcoins are a digital currency—nothing more, nothing less. It is a number with an understood and accepted value. That is part of the problem.
To fully understand the problem, though, we have to look at our current system of cash, the dollar. Think about the cash in your pocket; how much is it worth? You might say $34 dollars, $6, $93, or any other number…but really, there is no value you in it. It does not help you survive. It is paper.
You can’t eat it, you can’t use it to protect yourself, you can’t use it for shelter…the only thing you can really do with it is burn it.
Yet, it has value because we as a society agree that it has a specific value assigned to it.
The same principle applies with Bitcoins, except there is no tangible representation of it. Which is good, I guess, if you’re into that whole saving the environment thing…
Here’s another problem, though: Bitcoins cannot be taxed, and are anonymous. That means the government doesn’t collect taxes on them, and we all know what happens when Uncle Sam doesn’t get his money.
Because of the anonymous nature of Bitcoins, everything from heroine to illegal arms can be purchased anonymously online. A poppy farmer in Pakistan can sell an ounce of opium through an eBay-like website, and—hey—why not an AK-47 on top to sweeten the deal?
This brings us to an issue that has been debated hotly for a number of years now: is the War on Drugs really worth it?
We spend billions of dollars every year in law enforcement, healthcare, education programs, and training to keep drugs out of this country, and yet, we still have a massive addiction epidemic.
In keeping with the Twelve Traditions, though, we really don’t have an opinion on this.
We know that when we were using and drinking, we would do anything to get what we wanted, and we knew there would be people that could get it for us. When you have a serious opiate addiction, dope-sickness doesn’t just say, “Oh, but you might get busted if you score.”
It says, “Get me more junk! Now! Preferably yesterday! No matter what!”
Where Bitcoins come in is they make it easier and safer for people to buy illegal substances. There is no going down to the street corner. There is no meeting “a guy my sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s roommate’s uncle’s friend met at a party one time.” There is no pocket full of cash that disappears with the pointing of a gun or a knife.
Hence, the double-edged sword: Bitcoins make doing illegal and dangerous things somewhat safer in the short term, but at what cost?
What are your thoughts? Have you ever used Bitcoins to buy anything of questionable legality? Was it really as easy as the media makes it seem?
Let us know in the comments about your Bitcoins experiences.