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Bitcoin: A Hedge Against the Dystopian Present

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When asked about the potential of Bitcoin in a recent interview with Bloomberg, Kenneth Rogoff, an economist and Harvard faculty member, conceded that the cryptocurrency has a future – but only if the future is “dystopian” in nature.

What if the dystopian future is already here? Without wishing to engage in linguistic inflation, let us start off by defining the term “dystopia.”

dystopia is simply “a community or society that is undesirable or frightening.” One needn’t be living in a Mad Max nightmare to find modern-day existence both undesirable and frightening. Unlike utopias, which are both idealistic and unattainable, dystopias are both brutal and entirely attainable.

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From Resident Evil to RoboCop, truly dystopian societies are violent, often brutally so. However, one needn’t escape into the world of fiction to find volatile societies. With rates of violence reaching dangerous new highs in major cities like New York and Ontario, for example, acts of brutality are alarmingly common.

As Cormac McCarthy’s magnum opus taught us, dystopian societies are also mired in poverty. Considering 45% of Americans have absolutely nothing in savings, it’s safe to say that daily existence is a dystopia for a sizable portion of the United States. In the UK, things aren’t much better, with 1 in 10 people having no access to savings. When it comes to emotions, despair is very much the flavor of the month.

For millions of people around the world, without access to savings, the threat of homelessness is never far away. From Catalonia to Caracas, that threat is very much a reality.

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Meanwhile, governments across the world are drowning in a sea of debt. Last year, we saw global debt hit new historic highs. Expect new historic highs to be reached this year as well.

How do governments continue to finance their debt? By printing money, of course. Meanwhile, unemployment rates are dangerously high, economies continue to shrink, and suicide rates continue to rise. Gordon Brown thinks the UK is close to becoming a failed state.

Dystopian enough for you, Professor Rogoff?

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In his 2004 book, In Praise of Empires, Deepak Lal wrote,

“Empires have been natural throughout human history. Most people have lived in empires. Empires and the process of globalization associated with them have provided the order necessary for social and economic life to flourish. By linking previously autarkic states into a common economic space, empires have promoted the mutual gains from trade adumbrated by Adam Smith. Therefore, despite their current bad name, empires have promoted peace and prosperity.”

When examining the American system, one should ask, who has prospered from the promotion more – the masses or the empirical elites?

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In The Sleeper Awakes, one of the greatest dystopian novels of the 19th century, H. G. Wells depicted the governing class as decadent in the extreme, superficial, callous and devoid of any compunction. Over 120 years later, in the age of corporate socialism and Cantillion principles, little has changed.

Noam Chomsky once wrote, “For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” In California, for example, it’s perfectly fine for the governor to ignore lockdown regulations. If someone in a less powerful position behaves in a similar manner, however, they end up losing their ability to make a living.

Estonia has taught us that the best governments are the ones that govern the least. In dystopias, though, governments hold a vice-like grip over society. Language is weaponized, newspeak reigns supreme and a term like “stakeholder capitalism” is actually code for economic fascism.

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Technological control is another theme of dystopias, where the rulers of society control the masses in both the most implicit and explicit of ways. Bentham’s panopticon is a global one. Privacy is no longer an option.

As Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have shown the world, if you expose this very fact, you are deemed a dangerous actor. This is the age of phone tapping and indiscriminate sharing of data, a dystopian age ruled by men named Dorsey and Zuckerberg.

Should we be worried? Considering Facebook supposedly feeds users’ private messages to the FBI, I think so. From 1984 to Black Mirror, dystopian offerings are known for darkness, both thematically and visually. Ever since the abolishment of the gold standard some 50 years ago, the shadows of inflation, fiduciary negligence and technocratic governance have dimmed the lights on democracy.

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If Bitcoin is a technology that is only viable in dystopian times, then, dear readers, that time is now.

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This ransomware gang moved $6.8 million in Bitcoin amid regulatory overhaul

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Ransomware groups, Darkside and BlackMatter recently moved multi-million dollars worth of Bitcoin upon getting the news of REvil’s servers getting hacked by a global coalition of law enforcement agencies. According to the authorities, 107 BTC, which amounts to $6.8 million were moved earlier today by splitting the amount into several different wallets.

Furthermore, officials revealed that the gangs were already aware of regulators’ oversight and therefore had prepared the mentioned balance to be laundered or cashed out. According to The Record, officials noted that the breakdown of funds into smaller portions is usually used for money laundering operations as the regulators directly transfer the entire amount of confiscated funds instead of splitting them up.

“Basically, since 2AM UTC whoever controlled the wallet started to break the BTC into small chunks… At the time of this writing, the attackers split the funds into 7 wallets of 7-8 BTC and the rest (38BTC) is stored in the following wallet: bc1q9jy4pq5su9slh56gryydwkk0qjnqxvfwzm7xl6”, Omri Segev Moyal, CEO and co-founder of security firm Profero shared this data with The Record.

It is obvious that the Darkside and BlackMatter were next on the regulatory hitlist as Darkside was the ransomware strain developed by REvil associates that were used earlier this year in the infamous Colonial Pipeline incident of May. This attack indirectly led to fuel supply outages across the US East Coast.

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REvil ransomware group’s website went offline

Yesterday, the Reuters’ report about REvil’s servers being hijacked by the regulators went viral and threw other ransomware groups in a fit of panic. A multi-nation operation against cybercrime group, REvil was implemented and took down the group’s “Happy Blog” website, which was formerly used to leak victim data and extort companies.

“The FBI, in conjunction with Cyber Command, the Secret Service and like-minded countries, have truly engaged in significant disruptive actions against these groups,” said Tom Kellermann, an adviser to the U.S. Secret Service on cybercrime investigations and VMWare head of cybersecurity strategy. “REvil was top of the list.”, he added.

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First Bitcoin ETF in Immediate Danger of Hitting Cap on Contracts Held

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The first bitcoin (BTC) futures-backed exchange-traded fund (ETF), ProShares’ BITO, is reportedly already in danger of breaching a limit on the number of futures contracts it is allowed to hold under current Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) rules.

BITO already owns nearly 1,900 bitcoin futures contracts expiring in October, according to Bloomberg data. The number is close to CME’s current rule that a single entity cannot own more than 2,000 front-month futures contracts, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, when BITO had only been live for two full days. 

To get around the limit, the ETF has reportedly started buying futures contracts expiring in November in addition to the October contracts it holds, with 1,400 November contracts amassed so far. At the current pace, however, the fund could also soon reach CME’s cap on holdings for next-month contracts of 5,000 contracts, per the report.

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And while the CME has already said it will increase the limits to 4,000 front-month contracts starting in November, this is also likely to be reached soon by BITO, which already has more than USD 1bn under management.

A major issue faced by ProShares’ ETF is that futures contracts tend to trade at a higher premium over spot prices the further away their expiry date is – a phenomenon known as contango in the futures market.

As such, choosing to get around the maximum limits by buying longer-dated contracts will mean the ETF has to get its bitcoin exposure at prices that are increasingly higher than spot. This could result in high costs when contracts are rolled over at expiry that will eventually be paid by the ETFs investors in the form of lower returns.

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According to Bloomberg’s own ETF expert, Eric Balchunas, some of the pressure on the first ETF to be launched could be alleviated by competing ETFs coming to the market over the next few days and weeks. However, the first-mover advantage that BITO has gotten will still be difficult to challenge, he said.

“The unprecedented early volume in BITO makes it like a snowball rolling downhill, as liquidity and assets begets more liquidity and assets,” Balchunas said, adding that it will be “nearly impossible” for other ETFs to steal significant volume from BITO in the short or medium-term.

Commenting on the possibility of the ETF running into the ceiling, some speculated that the extreme popularity of the futures ETF could eventually pressure the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to allow a “physically” backed spot bitcoin to launch. 

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That scenario was suggested by Zhu Su, CEO of crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, saying that it could lead to the ETF rising to a “hilarious premium,” leading the SEC to “approve a spot ETF because of public outrage.” 

In a tweet, he also shared a comment from Max Boonen, Founder of electronic market maker B2C2, saying that it is “doubtful” that clearing houses will be comfortable with a single entity holding more than 4,000 front-month contracts.

“What happens when BITO surpasses 4k [contracts] as it surely will?”, Boonen asked.

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A similar idea was also suggested by Eric Balchunas, saying in the Bloomberg report that BITO hitting the limits on how many futures contracts it is allowed to hold could pressure the SEC to allow a spot-based bitcoin ETF.

“That certainly would do the trick in slowing down BITO and providing a release valve for futures demand,” the senior ETF analyst said.

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Meanwhile, the second bitcoin ETF to be approved by the SEC, the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF with the ticker BTF, is scheduled to go live on the market today, October 22. BTF will also be backed by bitcoin futures contracts traded on the CME rather than by “physical” bitcoins.

BTF should go live on the Nasdaq exchange when the market opens at 09:30 ET (13:30 UTC).

Following the launch of Valkyrie’s fund today, a third bitcoin futures ETF, the VanEck Bitcoin Strategy ETF (XBTF), is set to go live on Monday on the Cboe BZX Exchange, according to a recent SEC filing.

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Second US Bitcoin Futures ETF Launching Today – Here Are the Details

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A new Bitcoin (BTC) futures exchange-traded fund (ETFs) rolls out today.

Valkyrie Investments, an alternative asset management firm, is launching the country’s second Bitcoin futures ETF, according to CEO Leah Wald.

The new product is called the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF and will trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol BTF.

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The launch comes on the heels of ProShares’ Bitcoin futures exchange-traded fund, which exploded onto the market on Tuesday with the second-biggest ETF launch of all time.

Like ProShares’ Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO), the Valkyrie ETF doesn’t invest directly in BTC but provides price exposure to Bitcoin futures contracts.

Per the ETF’s prospectus,

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“Under normal circumstances, the fund will seek to purchase a number of Bitcoin futures contracts so that the total notional value… of the Bitcoin underlying the futures contracts held by the fund is as close to 100% of the net assets of the fund as possible.”

Bitcoin is trading at $62,793, up nearly 10% on the week but down from its Wednesday all-time high of $67,276, according to CoinGecko.

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