Estonian central bank: Bitcoin could just be a Ponzi scheme

A representative from the Estonian central bank referred to Bitcoin this week as “a problematic scheme” and warned Estonians about getting involved with the currency.

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Estonian central bank: Bitcoin could just be a Ponzi scheme

A representative from the Estonian central bank referred to Bitcoin this week as “a problematic scheme” and warned Estonians about getting involved with the currency.

Mihkel Nommela, head of the central bank’s payment and settlement systems department, is worried that users assume all of the risks when using Bitcoin. “All in all, virtual currency schemes are an innovation that deserves some caution, given the lack of any guarantees and responsible parties to back them in the longer term or evidence that this isn’t just a Ponzi scheme,” he told Bloomberg.

Banks in the region such as SEB and Nordea are already steering customers away or outright rejecting customers who want to set up accounts for Bitcoin management. However, it seems slightly odd that a country so mindful of its reputation as a tech early adopter (Skype was born in Estonia, and the government has promoted paperless communications for a few years) would be so wary of Bitcoin.

Nommela notes, too, that a Bitcoin user “can quickly lose [Bitcoins] if for example his or her computer lacks the necessary anti-virus software or recovery options.”

The Bloomberg article leaves open the possibility that Nommela may have simply misunderstood what a Ponzi scheme is. Fortunately, the Bitcoin wiki covers this misconception:

“In a Ponzi scheme, the founders persuade investors that they’ll profit. Bitcoin does not make such a guarantee. There is no central entity, just individuals building an economy.

“A Ponzi scheme is a zero sum game. In a Ponzi scheme, early adopters can only profit at the expense of late adopters, and the late adopters always lose. Bitcoin has an expected win-win outcome. Early and present adopters profit from the rise in value as Bitcoins become better understood and in turn demanded by the public at large. All adopters benefit from the usefulness of a reliable and widely-accepted decentralized peer-to-peer currency.”

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