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Max Provencher is a senior at Searsport District High School and currently serves as the treasurer for Future Business Leaders of America.
The past decade has ushered in revolutionary changes to the way individuals and businesses use, view, and interact with money. In just the past ten years developments like online payment platforms (PayPal), digital payment networks (Venmo), mobile payment options (Google Pay and Apple Pay), and buy now pay later companies (Affirm) have become commonplace in much of the developed global economy. Paying for groceries with your watch would have been ludicrous just 20 years ago, and today it’s a reality.
Many young people, including myself, view cryptocurrencies as the next evolution of money. They offer a simpler, easier, faster, and more technologically capable way to transact and interact with money. Cryptocurrencies offer an alternative universe for anybody to explore, develop, profit, and gain from. The possibilities are endless because the industry is being built from the ground up. However, the industry isn’t fully developed yet and cryptocurrencies need industry-partnered oversight, clearer regulation and compliance support from Congress to enable wider adoption.
Congress should adopt a regulatory framework empowering cryptocurrencies to gain wider adoption within the U.S. because the current framework limits involvement from traditional financial institutions, investors and high-volume businesses. Congress needs to address competing regulatory demands on cryptocurrency-based businesses and clarify tax and legal requirements imposed on each stakeholder. Failure to address these issues will limit U.S. participation in a key industry and technology of the future.
Perhaps the most important argument against the use of cryptocurrencies within the U.S. is that people struggle to define them, making regulation difficult. Cryptocurrencies also enable illicit activity, illegal purchases and money laundering. Critics see cryptocurrencies as too risky and volatile for wider adoption. Unlike the traditional banking system or stock market, most cryptocurrencies have no underlying security or collateral if values plummet to zero. Critics believe if more people within the U.S had access to them without regulation, it could cause widespread financial losses.
The cryptocurrency industry, however, is as vast as it is versatile. The same volatility, risk, and complexity critics cite as concerns are what creates so much value in a technology with the potential to disrupt the concept of money. The total cryptocurrency market is valued at approximately $2.5 trillion dollars — an immense amount of capital in an asset receiving relatively little attention from Congress.
A recent report from New York Digital Investment Group found “[more than 46 million] Americans own Bitcoin today. That’s more than 22 percent of adults over the age of 18.” Congress needs to address critical issues in the cryptocurrency space to help create a safer, stronger, and more developed industry. Many arguments against cryptocurrencies could be solved with greater regulatory clarity. Things like capital requirements, tax implications, reporting rules, anti-money laundering prevention rules and industry-partnered oversight would tackle many issues presented by critics.
Cryptocurrencies are based on advanced technology enabling the future of business with smart contracts and a blockchain-based transaction network. These developments are significant improvements to the current financial infrastructure. Despite concerns about volatility, many in the cryptocurrency industry, including Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Mike McGlone, believe volatility in leading cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin will fall as market depth and participation increases. Accounting firm PwC nicely encapsulates the importance of the inclusivity of cryptocurrencies: “Cryptocurrencies carry groundbreaking potential to allow consumers access to a global payment system — anywhere, anytime — in which participation is restricted only by access to technology.”
The most important reason Congress should develop a regulatory framework to allow cryptocurrencies to flourish in the U.S. is because cryptocurrencies will move elsewhere if we fail to take action. Then, the U.S. will miss out on economic opportunities the cryptocurrency industry has to offer. These include the creation of substantial high-wage jobs and the development of a new asset class that helps drive wealth creation for the next generation, especially for young people from rural areas who lack access to traditional financial institutions.
Since the role of government is to represent the interests of people, Congress needs to adopt regulations empowering wider adoption of cryptocurrencies while also ensuring the safety and stability of the market.