Bitcoin (BTC) has spent much of 2018 in middling territory, at least compared with its thunderous highs late in 2017. While a price between $6,000 and $7,000 is certainly nothing to write off completely, it remains far below the leading digital currency's high point of close to $20,000 just before the start of the year.
Some analysts have speculated that a bubble has burst while others suggest that the dwindling value is a result of fading interest among investors. Regardless, most of the year has seen BTC on the decline, even in spite of short bursts of activity above the $8,000 threshold.
Still, for many investors, there remains a sense of hope that the cryptocurrency could once again rise to or even exceed its former levels of prominence. For every bitcoin and cryptocurrency pessimist, it seems that there is someone else calling for a price of $100,000, $200,000 or even $1,000,000. There are reasons to be skeptical of some of these predictions, certainly, but they nonetheless help to buoy investor opinion of BTC. Some industry veterans, though, believe that bitcoin will never again skyrocket in value as it has in the past. Below, we explore some of the reasons for this argument.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon has not kept his distaste for bitcoin a secret. Indeed, the banking leader has suggested that the cryptocurrency is a "fraud," although his company has since ventured into the digital currency arena. Still, for Dimon and many others, there remains a cloud over cryptocurrency that will prevent them from ever seeing stratospheric heights again in the future: the government. Governmental regulation of the cryptocurrency space is changing all the time, with some countries taking strict approaches and others more lax ones. In the U.S., Dimon believes that the government may either step in to shut down cryptocurrencies if they deem it necessary, or the government may launch its own cryptocurrency to abrogate the need for regulatory measures over decentralized tokens.
Datatrek Research co-founder Nicholas Colas believes that a diminishing level of hype may prevent bitcoin in particular from achieving thrilling high prices again. A report by CryptoDaily indicates that Colas has used dramatic declines in Google searches for terms related to BTC since last year as one reason for this belief: Searches for some terms have fallen by 85% to 95%, he suggests. At the same time, Colas believes that a lack of interest among investors could prevent bitcoin from maximizing its potential. He says that, "like any new technology, you need new adopters to come in to make it more valuable." A slowdown in the creation of bitcoin wallets may also be evidence that interest in bitcoin is waning overall, according to the report.
Crypto and Illicit Activity
Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's long-term investment partner at Berkshire Hathaway, has also been vocal about his lack of confidence in bitcoin. He has likened the leading digital currency to "worthless artificial gold." For Munger, the bigger that cryptocurrencies become, the more likely they are to "facilitate a lot of illicit activity." He adds that, "the fact that it's clever computer science doesn't mean that it should be widely used and that respectable people should encourage other people to speculate on it."
This gets at the heart of what many investors see as a fundamental flaw with digital currencies. With a complex, decentralized infrastructure, these tokens are prone to speculation by investors. Cryptocurrency skeptics also point to the preponderance of criminal activity making use of these tokens as a major concern about the digital currency space going forward, as well as a partial explanation for why prices have dwindled.
Allianz Chief Economic Advisor Mohamed El-Erian distinguishes between his belief that bitcoin is overhyped and unlikely to hit new highs again and his confidence in blockchain technology to truly innovate. "I suspect that if you look 10 to 15 years down the road, we will have digital currencies, but the public sector will have involvement in them," he says. "It won't be pure bitcoin ... but the blockchain technology, take that seriously." Perhaps the greatest legacy of bitcoin will not be the coin itself, but rather the underlying technology that it helped to introduce into the world.