Earlier this week, I chaired the first ever Congressional hearing on virtual currencies, like Bitcoin. Like many of you, I had never heard of Bitcoin until a few months ago. To this day, I won’t profess to be an expert, but I am trying to learn as much as I can.
At Monday’s hearing I learned that this technology has, at times, been co-opted by some criminals as a way to finance illegal activities online. I also gathered, though, that this new technology has a tremendous amount of potential.
Click to watch Senator Carper’s Opening statements at the virtual currencies hearing.
One way I like to think of the current state of virtual currencies is to think of the internet itself. At the beginning, many people were concerned that the internet would be nothing more than a meeting place for tech savvy criminals. Since then, though, it has proven to be so much more. The internet has become a hub of innovation and ingenuity, it has made our everyday lives simpler, it has grown our economy and served as an equalizer to those with access. On Monday, I learned that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies may have that same user-driven value that should be cultivated, not feared.
Monday’s hearing taught me that we have to approach digital currencies with a level head. We need to make sure that our government does not overreact and harm this potentially revolutionary technology. At the same time, though, it is critical that we make sure Bitcoin and other digital currencies are being used responsibly and within the framework of the law. By bringing Bitcoin out of the shadows, we can help it to grow responsibly. Monday’s hearing was a great first step.
This is a formative time for this technology; how the government, and Congress, react now may affect whether Bitcoin, and the economic benefits that may come along with it, thrive here in the United States.
For now, I think we all need to learn more and see what the future has in store.