Bitcoin, Ethereum, Cryptocurrencies and Decentralised Finance (DeFi) revolutionized the way we own assets and introduced the idea that now everyone can be a bank. However there are a number of arguments against digital coins and so many negative aspects of Bitcoin Ethereum and decentralized finance tokens. The arguments against Bitcoin Ethereum and the decentralised finance can be summarized as the myths of anonymity, safety and efficiency. While in the short term BTC, ETH and all the other crypto currencies may bring more returns than the stock market, in the long run they are likely to lose their current values.
Quick recap: Bitcoin is the money unit of the bitcoin blockchain which introduced 3 different innovations: a) peer2peer digital money exchange with digital wallets without any intermediaries b) a special way of checking for double-spending as all the money exchanges are publicly recorded and validated c) a special way of encrypting the information so that the identities of the parties are not disclosed to everyone. Ethereum is another innovative blockchain protocol similar to bitcoin that established a) programmable money exchanges also known as smart contracts (e.g. the money between x and y are automatically exchanged if the z condition happens) and b) proof of ownership of unique digital assets (NFTs) that can be bought and sold. Decentralized Finance (DeFi) platforms are sub protocols that usually run on the Ethereum protocol are community-governed platforms which developed stablecoins: digital nonfluctuating currencies pegged to actual currencies such as USD.
Did you know? Currently the digital currencies market is estimated to be around 1.5 trillion dollars compared to $47 trillion stock market, $41 trillion real estate market, $21 trillion treasury market (source).
The blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies have so many advantages over the existing financial systems but they also have some downsides as follow:
1- Decentralized systems and entropy. There are so many successful semi-decentralized nonprofit organizations (Wikipedia, Github, Reddit, Linux, etc.); however there is no single example of successful for-profit decentralized organization in human history. Blockchains aim to be the first by employing automatic community-check mechanisms that reward hard work and and logical behavior with the Proof-of-Work algorithms and punish unethical and illogical behavior with the Proof-of-Stake algorithms. Since there are so many people in the system, those who may try to game the network are automatically detected and lose their stake. Additionally, the blockchain protocols can run without a central server or a leader because everyone in the system acts as a database and also a monitor that can automatically nullify malicious attempt to tamper data.
But does it really work? Let’s take a step back and see why people join blockchains or self-governing networks. People (nodes) usually join decentralized systems for 2 major motivating factors: a) labor compensation and b) voluntary community service. But we have to remember these organizations can be either a) flat meaning there is no owner and no hierarchy or b) hierarchical meaning there may be a leader and unevenly distributed risk.
Wikipedia is a Nonprofit organization but it is run by managers who get paid around 400,000 USD. Programmers usually don’t get paid for writing a code for Github but it is run by Microsoft, one of the world’s largest corporations. At the same time almost all non-profit open code projects are either hacked or turned into for-profit projects because these systems lack speed, efficiency and practicality. Blockchains address these problems by changing the power distribution among members, but then plutocracy becomes a problem as those who have many tokens may tweak the algorithm for their own benefit or the system may face risks such as the 51% attack.
Counterargument: How about worker owned co-ops? How about the internet or bittorrent which are not owned by anyone but work just fine? The fact is worker-owned co-ops are not flat organizations: they have salaried managers who get paid up to 10 times more than low level employees. The internet works OK but we have to remember that there are hundreds if not thousands of laws on cybersecurity enforced by central governments and the internet protocol developers do not issue currencies that have some monetary value.
Did you know? The internet (ARPA-net, 1969) started as a flat decentralized protocol but gradually became centralized after the commercialization, especially after Microsoft introduced and promoted IE for all Windows computers (see the link above).
2- Is decentralized finance even possible? First of all, decentralization is a continuum not a state. Perfectly decentralized systems can be created in a lab or computer program but do not exist in nature (source). A typical centralized system can be likened to a communist country where the central government owns and rules everything and a truly decentralized state may refer to an anarchist society where companies, hierarchies and rules simply do not exist. In traditional networks, there is a natural move from decentralized to centralized since there is a higher cost of coordination and transaction in big networks, but, when there is too much centralization there would be monopoly and the systems move back to less decentralized forms.
So let’s see how decentralized and well distributed these blockchains are. Satoshi Nakamoto owns around 1 million bitcoins (around 50 billion USD) that he could dump any time s/he wants. Chinese control 65% mining and the hashrate which dramatically impact the value of bitcoin. One person, allegedly Elon Musk, owns one third of all Doge coins in circulation and his single tweet can create a 20-billion USD worth of market movement. Vitalik Buterin owns a billion dollar worth of Ethereum whose actions can create billions of dollars of worth market fluctuation (Source). Additionally, 70% of Ethereum are owned by institutional investors also known as whales.
The initial Coin offerings , which are unregulated, also seem to cause clear imbalances as a significant chunk of coins tends to be offered to the system developers or investors close to them. Ripple, one of the few public-and-private-mix protocols is known to have issued 9 billion XRP coins for its creator Jed McCaleb (source). The builder of Cardano, IOHK, owns 6% of all the ADA coins (source) and was recently blamed for wasting community members’ money for third party code checks (source). The Sushiswap founder Chef Nomi was accused of using 14 millions of dollars of money from the platform’s “treasury.”Source Although the developers are not the central decision making mechanisms, and must list the amount of coins they hold in their white papers, the practice clearly goes against the argument that these protocols are decentralized and all participants have equal power.
3- Is rich getting richer or the opposite? Let’s take a step back and talk about how blockchains reach masses. Nick Szabo, who is credited as the creator of bitgold and smart contracts, openly states that it is absolutely impossible to scale layer 1 public blockchains such as Bitocin and Ethereum mostly because of issues related to scalability, data storage and transaction fees. While credit cards can process 65,000 transactions per second (source) Bitcoin can process fewer than 10 and Ethereum 2.0 can process around 3000 (source). Vitalik Butherin who is the developer of Ethereum proposes that decentralized layer 2 networks with sharding is the only way for scalability without sacrificing security (source).
Then what are layer 1 and layer 2 protocols? Layer 1 protocols usually refer to systems where everyone has an equal chance and right of validating transactions and gets a reward for mining new coins. Layer 2 networks are the subsystems of Layer 1 which usually follow the point of stake algorithm and reward only a certain number of people for validating transactions. Since people who stake their money (lock their money in the system) more have a higher chance of getting rewards for transactions and higher power of decision making, the rich who have more money to stake have more power in the system and by time get more richer. Even if this could be controlled by giving less rewards for multiple staking, these anonymous systems cannot control whether a rich person has 1 account or 1000 accounts.
4- Intermediaries, culture and human psychology. The presumption that customers always demand no intermediaries is a libertarian, agentic and Western point of view. It is not a coincidence that most Ethereum programmers are males who live in Western countries. Most cryptocurrency wallets are also predominantly in the Western countries.
In marketing terms, if intermediaries lower the cost of information search and provide value, convenience and risk mitigation, consumers naturally prefer intermediaries over direct transactions. People of course would not want any records when paying for pornography or acting as a whistleblower, but, may demand an intermediary or a sort of government record when it comes to buying a land, getting married or defending themselves at the court.
Most decentralized finance community members are white males in their 20’s that goes against the rule of diversity in distributed networks.
5- Governments’ right to monitor. Governments are interested in auditing certain transactions among their citizens to maximize their revenues and minimize threats to their existence. While the way governments do this is questionable, they may not want to give up their rights just because of a new technology that can be easily banned or regulated. “The theory of an implicit social contract holds that by remaining in the territory controlled by some society, which usually has a government, people give consent to join that society and be governed by its government if any.”
Did you know? In some countries it is not illegal to form pump-and-dump-scheme blockchain trading groups and researchers identified about half a million strong pump and dump groups on Telegram and Discord (source). Perhaps never in history half a million strangers came together to commit a crime by cheating others and take their money…
6- Desire for anonymity is a cultural aspect of financial systems which varies widely across cultures. What may not vary across cultures is the problem with not being anonymous to people after a money exchange as public keys must be shared for any transaction. In other words, people who knows your public key can see what you buy and sell which is extremely intrusive. There are services that give you the option of creating multiple public keys and sub-keys, like monero , but the system is controlled by developers and SEC does not allow the currency to be exchanged.
One of the overlooked problems with anonymous transactions is how the system can be used for sexual harassment and bribing politicians with reduced risk when individuals can easily send funds unanimously. As these transactions are permissionless, there are many legal implications of unsolicited transactions.
7- There are philosophical and legal issues with relying more on algorithms and the community of strangers we don’t know. While humans can be subjective, dishonest and reckless, algorithms are designed by humans and subject to conditions that may not be foreseen. Even a simple grading algorithm caused huge problems in the UK. And a defi protocol crashed just a few days after raising 750 million USD because of a coding error (source). One can expect serious inefficiencies and problems at a DeFi pool run solely by algorithms or manipulation by superior algorithms and bots.
8- Are blockchains the future of the internet? Blockchains have been around for more than 10 years but most of the active projects for some reason tend to be about money lending. While the technology could be brilliantly used for so many different purposes from games to social networks and from video platforms to elections, most of the active blockchain projects apparently do not appeal to the majority of internet users despite the technology’s 10+ years history. Most projects have fewer than 100000+ MAU (or less than 0.0001% of the total internet activity) based on publicly available web traffic data.
9- Are cryptocurrency transactions expensive and dirty? The process of mining Bitcoin and Ether seemingly consumes more electricity than traditional transactions because of how Proof of Work mechanism are currently built. Although 39% of the crypto currencies are mined by using the clean energy (source) it was found that mining bitcoin is more expensive than mining actual gold Source and a single bitcoin transaction may consume a month-long energy consumption of a US household source.
The energy consumption can be reduced if the Proof of Work system is replaced by Proof of Stake but then the idea goes against the idea of decentralization. The only viable solution is asking the governments to rearrange the idle power grids which is an oxymoron as the whole blockchain system exists to decentralize the government decision making process.
It has also been documented that cryptocurrency exchanges are one of the most convenient ways of money laundering and supporting terrorist organizations which must be controlled for public safety. An emerging topic is the human right violations in the Xinjiang region of China where about 10% of all Bitcoins have been mined. Some investment companies only invest in clean-coins where they could track the location of the first block to confirm human right violations and environmental damage could be kept to minimum.
10- Blockchain protocol builders may have some influence on the system because so many VCs are pouring money to these community-governed systems. If VCs cannot get 5-10 times return on the money they put in, then obviously they cannot use their investors’ money to buy the so called “governance tokens.” If the investors are getting a huge majority of the tokens, it means these systems are not necessarily decentralized. When I read about some examples of the past failures of these community-governed platforms, the roles the protocol builders played during the system failures always looked a bit odd with so many red flags.
11- “There is no such thing like intrinsic value.” This statement may be misleading. Extrinsic and Intrinsic values come from liability and common sense. Central bank issued currencies have the liability of the central bank and the sovereign government it is issued by. Crypto currencies have extrinsic value because so many people think these intangible assets are a good hedge against inflation. However, consistent daily price fluctuations without universally recognized external market factors (e.g. interest rates, disasters, supply chain issues, etc.) even after 10 years of market introduction brings up the question of the real value of a cryptocurrency. While cryptocurrencies have no intrinsic values that are recognized by non-crypto holders, a crypto holder cannot deny the fact that, a possible crypto replacement, gold has “some” intrinsic value and can function as a door-stop, jewelry or a transistor.
12-Cheaper decentralized protocols (e.g. .0001% risk) vs. expensive insured centralized protocols (0% risk). There is a reason why people chose to pay higher premiums and select less risky insurance plans. There is a reason why people choose to buy new products from well known brands vs. nonprofits. In the future, big banks are likely to create their own private blockchains which are more efficient and trustable because they have the liability, insurance and best brains with more incentives. Also private blockchains are always more efficient than public blockchains when it comes to speed, energy use and information distribution.
Psychologically speaking closed intranet systems like Private blockchains, permissioned blockchains and consortium blockchains create the perception of higher sense of security and control. We must take a note that smart contracts, hailed for their frictionless transactions, mostly relate to derivatives trading. In real life 67% of derivatives trading, mostly among large financial institutions and even governments, are about interest rate swaps. While private blockchains require extra funds to be built, they can be achieved if limited to certain industries (e.g. blockchains used by airlines only, blockchains used by financial institutions only, etc.). It would be very difficult to believe that banks or credit unions will not build their private blockchains, but, instead use public blockchains created by people whose raison d’etre is destroying the current financial systems.
Ripple is a good example of a potentially effective private-public-mix blockchain but it was recently accused of illegally issuing and distributing 1.3 billion dollars of coins (source) and is subject to massive pump and dump schemes (source).
13- Byzantine General’s Fault algorithm presumes that there is no hierarchy among the generals (nodes) which once again goes against the law of nature. However, a bigger problem is Byzantine Fault Tolerance systems are not how we naturally make decisions in real life and what is worse they are not perfect. They become enormously slow when the network grows and if half of the nodes have a malicious intent the algorithm fails.
14- Decentralized finance may fail to bring banking to everyone. While it is true that 1.7 billion people do not have a bank account and 1 billion people do not have verifiable IDs, it is certainly more labor intensive and complicated to use a decentralized ledger instead of going to a bank and setting up an account as the first one requires owning a computer, internet access, a cold wallet hardware device in addition to advanced computer skills to produce and use the smart contracts. Today, anyone regardless of his/her education or computer knowledge can set up a bank account in a few minutes online or offline. On the other hand, I have a PhD and I am still clueless on how to get a cold wallet, set it up on my computer and securely connect it to trading platforms and securely getting my current money to the system.
15- Do consumers want irreversable transactions? We must note that transactions on blockchains are only one-way. Currently one cannot even return a product bought by cryptocurrencies if the seller doesn’t agree. Cryptocurrency exchanges are final unless there are multiple signatures by different parties. And if there are multiple entities involved, then, it goes against the rule of “anonymity.”
Some Common Issues and Myths with Cryptos, Bitcoin, Ether and DeFi
1- Bitcoin, Ethereum and Cryptocurrencies are anonymous: No they are not. Each cryptocurrency has a public ledger and in the past many criminals were easily caught by analyzing the patterns in the crypto exchanges. Source
2- Bitcoin, Ethereum and Cryptocurrencies are safe against fraud and other risks. No they are not. Despite their extremely limited use, there have been so many cases of bitcoins and cryptocurrencies being stolen, lost or manipulated by third party agents. Source The bigger problem is, if a credit card is stolen, victims are often compensated as the accounts are insured, while there is no such insurance for cryptocurrencies. Once they are gone, they are gone.
3- Bitcoin, Ethereum and Cryptocurrencies are a good hedge against inflation. No this is a myth. When the financial crisis hit after the Coronavirus Pandemic, BTC and ETH crashed more than NASDAQ and Gold Source. Even though the value increased afterwards, the sudden huge drop in the value shows that cryptocurrencies cannot be considered as a hedge against inflation or other external fluctuations.
4- The value of Bitcoin, Ethereum and cryptocurrencies are rising because they are the technologies of the future. No, it is not the reason. The main reason the values are going up is people presume cryptocurrencies do not lose their value unlike fiat currencies. While the value of a fiat currency is usually determined by the strength of the government it is issued by which uses it to regulate inflation and interest rates, the value of bitcoin is driven by hypes and the belief that it will one day be the global currency with the limited supply of 21 million units.
5- Bitcoin, Ethereum and cryptocurrencies are more efficient for trading. No they are not. They are volatile and no merchant would want to do trade in a hyper volatile currency. The transaction speed is also thousands of times slower compared to the credit card system. While the volatility problem can be solved with stablecoins and by time the volatility is likely to decrease, it is a myth that crypto transactions cost zero!!! Currently the transaction fee of Ethereum is $13 and increasing; way more expensive than typical transaction fees charged by banks and credit card companies. Additionally, there is another cost of exchanging cryptocurrencies to fiat currencies. This additional cost depends on the type of token, protocol or the platform as eventually that money has to be exchanged back to the fiat money unless 100% of the global money is bitcoin or Ethereum which is technically impossible as some countries already banned it. Even a BTC investor Peter Thiel states that he doesn’t think BTC would ever be used for buying things.
6- Bitcoin, Ethereum and cryptocurrencies give more control to the owners. No they don’t. if one loses “private keys,” the Bitcoin is gone forever. While BTCs in hot wallets have the risk of being hacked (see #2 above) BTCs in cold wallets are not efficient for trading. Strangely, many of those who buy on crypto currency exchange platforms don’t even own the keys, meaning they don’t even technically own their money. Additionally, stealing millions of dollars of cryptocurrencies is way more easier than stealing the same amount of cash as currently there is no mechanism to check whether the transactions are initiated voluntarily or forced at a gun point.
7- Bitcoin, Ethereum and cryptocurrencies cannot be regulated. No, they are very much likely to be regulated because countries, including the US, are likely to regulate the platforms in order to a) audit tax on capital gains and arbitrage b) get tax from commercial exchanges c) not undervalue their currencies d) stop money laundering and terror financing e) compete against the major decentralized cryptocurrencies. There would be no incentive for countries to just give up their rights to collect tax from transactions and give up the control of money markets which is one of their biggest tools to influence their own economy. To propose that governments have no capacity to regulate cryptocurrencies is no different from claiming that governments have no capacity to track identity theft or childporn. Turkish government just declared its authority of auditing and overseeing crypto exchanges and issued clear guidelines on how the process will take place.
Some people also claim that countries cannot issue digital cryptocurrencies with limited amounts if they want to compete against limited cryptocurrencies such as BTC. This is also a myth as Ether does not have an issuance limit and countries can issue separate digital currencies from their existing currency which may be easier for the Eurozone countries.
8- Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will eliminate the hegemony of the US on the international markets. The proposition does not make much sense. More than half the bitcoins have been mined in Xinjiang China and Peter Thiel recently claimed that it was done to reduce the value of USD. However, if it is so, then it means once again another country (China) has more influence on the global markets. It was recently reported that the 10% decrease on April 18th was because China shut down the electricity in the Xinjiang area where about 8% of all bitcoins have been mined.
9- Bitcoin, Ethereum and cryptocurrencies are interoperable. No, they are not. They are separate blockchain protocols independent from each other. The platforms cannot communicate with each other or transact from one another.
10- Smart contracts are more cost efficient for businesses compared to traditional insurance companies, banks or courts. No they are not. Decentralized Finance (DeFi) is a system built on Ethereum that allows buyers and sellers to exchange goods and services where the transaction may be programmed depending on many factors (e.g. the x percentage of the money will be allocated to y every week and then sent to Z after 6 months if the conditions of a,b,c are met). While the idea of smart contacts and programmable digital money sound great, this system has so many caveats including but not limited to the problems of using codes instead of lawyers, problems of verifying the authenticity of the services and the huge cost of adhoc programming of each contract.
Smart contracts also have other issues such as reliance on the Ether protocol (if the platform is attacked or underperforming, all smart contracts would be impacted), lackness of insurance and reliance on technical staff who may be outsourced to 3rd parties which once again goes against the idea of “no intermediaries.”
Meegan and Koens explain such issues in their paper titled “Lessons Learned from Decentralized Finance (DeFi)”
“Smart contracts allow for the automation of business processes . As business processes are automated, executing these business processes becomes more cost-efficient, as argued by Popescu . Once a smart contract is created, two parties can do business with each other without the need for an external authority , which leads to an increase of autonomy. However, the two parties that aim to do business with each other are dependent on the creator of the smart contract, which implies that an external authority (i.e. the coder of the contract) must be present. Furthermore, if the smart contract does not function as expected, see for example , then
three questions arise:
(a) Who is liable for the correct functioning of the smart contract?
(b) How can the transaction be reversed in an immutable blockchain? 
(c) How can the two parties ensure that the next smart contract does function according to expectations?
To mitigate the risks attached to the use of a smart contract additional measures must be put in place. Such measures will increase the cost of doing business through a smart contract. Whether or not these costs exceed the cost of a centralised party is an open question. In contrast to Popescu  who argues that DeFi is more cost-efficcient, Chen  argues that centralised parties may reduce cost. Clearly, it is an open debate on whether or not DeFi truly is more cost-efficient than a centralised institution.“
11- Bitcoin, Ethereum and DeFi solve problems that don’t exist such as permissionless transactions. Yes this is true. For instance it is often proposed that in the centralized finance system individuals or institutions always need permission to conduct their financial activities or merchants always have to wait to receive their payments from credit cards. However, it is arguable that these are real pain points generated by the centralized finance systems. For instance, I don’t remember any time when I wanted to make a payment online or transfer money but I could not do it because I needed permission from my bank. This only existed when I wanted to transfer money overseas, but, as I explained above, the same thing is likely to happen on DeFi as no protocol wants to be be the hotbed of terrorists and drug sellers. Also any normal business would need about 3~6 months of their monthly revenues in the bank to keep their operations running. In the past, credit card companies used to reimburse merchants 90 days after the transactions, then it went down to 2 months, then 30 days then 2 weeks and currently some intermediaries do it after a few business days. Obviously a-few-days of delay of the reimbursements is either not a problem or a problem that can be solved without DeFi.
Will Bitcoin’s value go up? Is Ethereum going to go up? Is DeFi the future of finance? Their value Bitcoin and Ether are likely to increase until the US government clearly declares the types of regulations. The reason can be explained with the quantitative easing that is currently prevalent in different parts of the world.
I certainly am not a financial expert, however, there is a possibility that Bitcoin may still keep half of its value regardless because so many financial institutions who officially donated to both Democratic and Republican parties own cryptocurrencies and they may pressure their senators to not to issue a significant regulation that would dramatically devalue these intangible assets. Ethereum may also preserve its value as some centralized finance institutions may start experimenting with the mixed services.
Please note that there are so many different types of digital tokens such as Bitcoin (limited supply, slow transaction speed), Ethereum (smart contract platform coin faster than the BTC protocol but high gas fees), stable coins such as Tether, DAI or UST (coins pegged to the USD but the transparency of the community may be an issue) and digital currencies of the governments. I think blockchain technology is here to stay and most governments will issue their fiat digital tokens sooner rather than later; however, the fluctuation of the cryptocurrencies is likely to be around for a while.
PS: Recently Bob Seeman and roger Swenson wrote a book about Bitcoin which address some other problems in Bitcoin as follow:
“The bitcoin scam is promoted saying “a maximum 21 million bitcoin will ever be issued.”
– It is trivial to create artificial scarcity of something. The question is what is the value of that something.
– Bitcoin is not backed by anything and, thus, of no value. Every person who has ever bought bitcoin has simply paid a person who bought that bitcoin before. None of that money has ever been put to use to create value other than the means (the bitcoin network) to sucker in people to take the bitcoin off the hands of the current owners. In fact, the bitcoin network destroys value since, according to Cambridge University, operating the bitcoin network uses 0.5% of the world’s electricity, the same amount as all the fridges in the USA. Bitcoin is a system to transfer wealth from suckers to the 1/100 of 1% of bitcoin holders who own 27% of all the bitcoin (Makarov, Schoar, 2021).
– 21 million X No Value = 1 Trillion X No Value = No Value.
– The 21 million limit can be easily removed by changing one number in the bitcoin code. The bitcoin code is changed all the time and some have already proposed increasing the limit. The organizations who operate the bitcoin network (the “miners”) and receive the newly issued bitcoin every 10 minutes decide how the code should be changed. As the limit approaches, less and less bitcoin will be issued. Therefore, miners may a) exit operating the bitcoin network due to insufficient reward and the bitcoin network may fail, or b) will decide to increase the limit.
– When miners do not agree on a code change at any time, bitcoin can “split” (fork). It can be like splitting a hand of blackjack, the owner of one bitcoin can get a free second coin. It has happened many times, a popular fork being “bitcoin cash”. The total supply of “bitcoin” can instantly double with no limit on the new crypto.
– An alternative crypto, Ether, may soon overtake bitcoin in popularity. Ether has no limit. The price of Ether is highly correlated to bitcoin. Therefore, buyers of Ether consider it interchangeable with bitcoin. Therefore, the bitcoin limit is irrelevant.
– New coins arrive all the time. Dogecoin is one of the most popular coins. It was created as a joke.
– You, too, can may create you own crypto for almost nothing after watching a short YouTube video, including: https://lnkd.in/gEBKs3zi by Roger Ver (https://lnkd.in/gQbpt99n)
I do not recommend doing it.
Roger Svensson and I have written a book about the truth about bitcoin which answers all the key questions in a structured, easy-to-read, and detailed way. We wrote the book since there are many questions and pro-bitcoin arguments that people make, too many to comprehensively answer or refute on each LinkedIn post. The book is free on KindleUnlimited which has a free one month trial. “Bitcoin: Unlicensed Gambling”
From Mr. Seeman’s LinkedIn post.