Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

Africa: Bitcoin Goes Mainstream-Ish - Internet Currency Comes of Age

analysis

Have a bit of cash socked away? Looking to invest it? Are your balls made of brass? Perfect. Bitcoin is for you. By RICHARD POPLAK.

What is money? This is a species of question a four-year-old asks, a variation on "what is sky?" or the dreaded "where do babies come from?" and no less unanswerable for the fact that the answer appears obvious. Money is something you buy stuff with.

Yes, but what is money?

For the Inca, labour was treated as currency. Civilisations have used cowrie shells, birds' feathers, teeth, scraps of paper, precious metals, gemstones and dozens of other objects, some "valuable" by today's standards, others less so. Ascribing value is often the result of cultural peccadilloes (birds' feathers) or technological advancement (the ability to mine gold), but it never properly makes sense. Rarely is the development of a financial system a completely rational endeavour. Running one's life according to the arbitrary value of an inanimate object is something that young children inherently understand as insane. More than anything, maturity is the process of suspending our incredulity - our abject terror - at the matchstick houses that are our financial institutions, and learning to insist that, "money is...

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