Why Scott Alexander does not hate crypto

Businessman reading the daily news
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Vietnam uses crypto because it’s terrible at banks. 69% of Vietnamese have no bank access, the second highest in the world. I’m not sure why; articles play up rural poverty, but many nations have more rural poor than Vietnam. There’s a history of the government forcing banks to make terrible loans, and then those banks collapsing; maybe this destroyed public trust? In any case, between banklessness and remittances (eg from Vietnamese-Americans), Vietnam leads the world in crypto use.

Ukraine has always been among the top crypto countries: in 2021, NYT called it “the crypto capital of the world”. Again, this owes a lot to its terrible banking system. NYT describes its banks as “so sclerotic that sending or receiving even small amounts of money from another country requires an exasperating obstacle course of paperwork”, and this guy says that if you deposit more than $100,000 in a Ukrainian bank, “the chance that you get it back is very slim”. When Russia invaded, the Ukrainian government doubled down on crypto as a way for friendly Westerners to send donations to support the war effort – $70 million as of March. It proved so helpful that during the first month of the war, in between dodging Russian artillery shells President Zelenskyy found time to pass a law legalizing crypto and strengthening its regulatory framework.

Venezuela’s economy has been in slow motion collapse for the past decade. The inflation is currently in the triple digits (remember, people thought the Democrats would lose the midterms because of a US inflation rate of 8%). If your country has a triple-digit inflation rate, you might prefer to use an alternative currency, which Venezuela’s authoritarian government tries to prevent people from doing. Cryptocurrency provides a hard-to-ban alternative which has caught on among Venezuelan hustlers and small businessmen.

And consider this picture:

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