The United States is currently being rocked by one of the most divisive election cycles in the nation’s history. The election follows years of increasingly deep lines being carved between political parties, differences that have resulted in political deadlocks, exploitative political manoeuvres, and a heightened level of vitriol in the United States’ political discourse.
However, while the divide between parties has grown deeper than ever, there is one organization that is working to reach across party lines for its vision of the greater good: the Chamber of Digital Commerce (CoDC).
The CoDC describes itself as “the world’s leading trade association representing the digital asset and blockchain industry”: the non-profit association’s goal is “to develop an environment that fosters innovation, jobs and investment” in the digital currency sector “through education, advocacy and working closely with policymakers, regulatory agencies and industry [leaders].”
Recently, Finance Magnates sat down with Perianne Boring, the founder and president of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, to speak about the Chamber’s goals as the election draws to a close.
Policymakers Need “Access to Accurate and High-Quality, High-Integrity Information.”
Perianne explained that “we established the chamber just over six years ago with a launch in July of 2014. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to work with the policy community for a number of years on the issues impacting the growth of the digital asset and blockchain technology ecosystem.”
Perianne’s personal history with Bitcoin began in the ‘early days’ of the technology when she was serving as an advisor to members of Congress on economic policy matters.
“When I first discovered this virtual currency that was very, very different to anything I had ever seen before with fiat money, run on a system that is not established or controlled by a government or group of people or corporation, that idea was very interesting to me, as someone working in economic policy,” she said.
“So, I became very excited about what the promise of blockchain technology could be.”
However, Perianne says that she and some of her colleagues recognized early on that “this ecosystem is going to face a number of challenges and considerations.
“So, we established the Chamber to be a dedicated resource for the blockchain industry to ensure that our policy makers have access to accurate and high-quality, high-integrity information about what this technology is so that they can make decisions from a place of information as opposed to the fear of the unknown.”
Perianne said that six years after the CoDC was established, the ‘fear of the unknown’ is still an issue that still plays a role in policymakers’ decision making. “We still have some issues with that,” she said, but “that was certainly the case in the earliest days of the crypto ecosystem.”
Now, though, “we’re really excited about the future of this industry, and we want to make sure that our policymakers are just as excited about it as we are.”
Regulators First Turned Their Attention to the Crypto Space in 2013 – for Better or for Worse
While it seems that many governments around the world have only started making significant moves toward creating policies that are relevant for the crypto ecosystem within the last two to three years, Perianne said that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies started to grab policymakers’ attention in 2013.
“2013 was really a big year for Bitcoin,” Perianne said. “That was the year that Bitcoin started the year at maybe $100 and went all the way up to $1300, so you had this big bull market.”
On top of that, “there were a number of things that happened in the industry: Cyprus went through its European Union bailout, and there was international news of Cypriots buying Bitcoin because of the economic uncertainty at that time. That was a really interesting moment for Bitcoin.”
However, not everything was positive for crypto that year: “we had some not-so-great things happen as well: there was Silk Road, and the Mt Gox exchange collapse. That caused a big black eye,” Perianne said.
These negative incidents caused damage to Bitcoin’s reputation that BTC is still recovering from to this day: “many peoples’ first impression of Bitcoin was what they were reading in the news at that time, which was that criminals were using it to buy illegal things online.”
Additionally, it was these negative incidents that caused “regulators to ramp up their activities to start trying to mitigate against criminals using this technology.
“Because of that, there’s been a lack of balance in the conversation about blockchain across most policymakers; we’re afraid of it because we’ve seen that it’s been used for criminal purposes, but we don’t understand it enough to really know how its benefits can be used in a positive way.”
Therefore, a lot of the policy-making that has happened up to this point has been for the purpose of “mitigating against the negative applications or illicit use cases,” rather than supporting innovation and financial evolution that could benefit society at large.
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“That’s really where our work was born out of,” Perianne said.
“This Technology Is a Greater Tool for Law Enforcement Than It Is for Criminals.”
Indeed, “our mission at the Chamber is to promote the acceptance and use of digital assets and blockchain-based technologies,” Perianne explained.
Education is perhaps moving the regulatory trend from ‘mitigating against’ the growth of the ecosystem to a more collaborative, supportive regulatory course.
The members of the US Congress and Senate “are people that have to be experts in many different areas of policy across our entire economy,” Perianne said. “Not a lot of them have a strong understanding of what blockchain technology is, or what Bitcoin is, or what the other 3,000 cryptocurrencies are; what their purpose is or what their potential is.”
For example, Perianne said that when it comes to concerns about cryptocurrency being used in illicit transactions, the thing that many lawmakers do not know is that “this technology is a greater tool for law enforcement than it is for criminals.”
“There’s an amazing industry of innovators, technologists, engineers, and business experts that are leveraging this technology to build something incredibly important,” she said.
The US May Lose Its Technological Pre-eminence If It Does Not Embrace Blockchain
At the same time, “there are many other nations that do understand the role that blockchain technology is going to play in the global digital economy for many generations to come.”
Perhaps the most famous example of this is China, which has been working on launching a central bank digital currency (CBDC) for several years. Chinese president, Xi Jinping has also publicly commented on the importance of blockchain technology in the country’s future.
Moreover, the EU has taken some recent public steps toward embracing blockchain technology. In early October, a report by the European Central Bank (ECB) says that it could begin serious study and exploration of a ‘digital euro’ by the middle of 2021.
Perianne said that these nations “want to be leaders in developing this technology.” However, in the United States, “we’re just afraid of what we don’t understand.”
”Everything Is at Stake”
The Chamber of Digital Commerce believes that this could have serious consequences over the long term: “we think that a lot is at risk if we’re ceding this technology to other nations, [foregoing] the United States’ opportunity to benefit from that economic growth,” Perianne said.
“If you look at what happened with the internet in the early 1990s, policymakers in Washington saw the potential for the internet, as well as for broadband and mobile technologies, and set policies to allow for innovation and competition that have developed the world that we live in today.”
“Today, policymakers need to understand the emerging innovations in blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, and set policies that nurture these technologies and keep the United States in an innovative leadership position.”
“If we don’t, I think everything is at stake,” she said.
‘Crypto for Congress’ Initiative Aims to Provide Each Congressperson with a Direct Experience of Cryptocurrency
While the United States government has taken some regulatory actions toward creating healthy regulations for the cryptosphere, blockchain and cryptocurrencies may have been ‘washed out’ of the conversation by some of the other goings-on on Capitol Hill, in particular, the United States Presidential Election.
Therefore, part of the work that the Chamber of Digital Commerce does is to ensure that digital assets remain a part of the conversation. One of the most recent examples of this work is an initiative called ‘Crypto for Congress’.
Perianne said that the project is “an educational initiative of the Chamber of Digital Commerce that seeks to provide our most senior government officials, regardless of party, with a hands-on experience with blockchain technology.”
Essentially, “the purpose of Crypto for Congress is to raise awareness of and expand access to blockchain technology throughout the congressional community.
“As part of Crypto for Congress, the Chamber’s political action committee made a small contribution in Bitcoin to the campaign of every single member of Congress.”
“A Simple but Important Question”
The initiative is intended to give each member of Congress a hands-on experience with blockchain technology. “Our hope is that members will start to have a better understanding of the critical importance blockchain technology is going to have in the global economy for many years to come.”
Perianne said that because of the initiative, Congressional campaigns have to answer a “simple but important question to consider: are they going to accept it or not?”
For many candidates, the answer has been yes: “we’ve been hearing from campaigns that are accepting Bitcoin for the first time” through Crypto for Congress.
Of course, “for members who are not quite ready to accept cryptocurrencies today, we understand. It’s a learning curve; we don’t expect every single member to take that jump with us today. But what we’re asking them to do is instead of returning the Bitcoin to our political action committee, we’re asking them to donate it to charity.”