‘Why Stop at Bitcoin?’ Congressman Asks; ‘Let’s Ban Cash’ (March 10, 2014)
With Bitcoin and other digital currencies continuing to stir controversy, one of the main arguments of critics calling for tightly regulating—or even banning—such forms of tender is that the currencies’ anonymous nature makes them conducive to use in illicit activities and transactions. But as a U.S. Congressman points out in a letter to federal regulators, paper money also can be used anonymously for illicit ends—and thus, the tongue-in-cheek missive claims, regulators should turn their attention to banning cold, hard cash too.
Penned by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and addressed to federal officials, including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen, the letter mimics a note circulated late last month from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), calling for an outright ban on Bitcoin. Manchin’s letter said Bitcoin “has allowed users to participate in illicit activity, while also being highly unstable and disruptive to our economy.”
In his response, Polis points out that cash has many of the same properties; “Printed pieces of paper can fit in a person’s pocket and can be given to another person without any government oversight,” writes Polis. “The clear use of dollar bills for transacting in illegal goods, anonymous transactions, tax fraud, and services or speculative gambling make me wary of their use … I urge the regulators to work together, act quickly and prohibit this dangerous currency from harming hard-working Americans.”
Meanwhile, digital currencies remain a hot topic for regulators around the globe. The European Banking Authority has announced plans to assemble a task force this year to determine whether such currencies should be regulated. In its notice, the EU regulator said that “the anonymous nature of virtual currencies is conducive to [illegal] activity.” In addition, the Japanese government has officially said Bitcoin is not a currency, and will instead be treated as a good, with commercial sales of bitcoins themselves and Bitcoin-based transactions subject to taxation.