The price of Dogecoin (DOGE), the ultimate memecoin and the personification of everything “real” investors hate about crypto, went up 118% this week.
On cue, crypto bros hollered “the bull market’s back!” while crypto critics rolled their eyes.
What do you meme?
Some people might shrug off the latest pump as typical crypto shenanigans, but when most government currencies trade like shitcoins and most governments have no feasible way to pay off the debts they’ve accrued, it’s hard to tell which investment is the risky one.
Our legacy financial system has turned money into a meme. People believe in it because everybody else believes in it.
Yet, most countries don’t produce enough “stuff” to justify the market prices of their currencies. You can see this in the collapse of almost every currency against the US dollar in 2022.
Your money is a mirage, the product of financial engineering, propped up by government decrees and collective nostalgia.
Do you ever feel like cryptocurrency is a meme, too?
So do I.
During a recent client-only briefing from an investment advisory service, one of the presenters called cryptocurrency “Disneyland, the stock market, and a casino combined.”
Sounds about right.
Modern investing is filled with memes.
The stock market always goes up over time. Bonds are safe. Fed pivot. Shares of artwork. SPACs. Precious metals. Index funds.
Something to buy into
My favorite is renewable energy. Very ESG, very woke.
Renewable energy uses copious amounts of plastics and heavy metals:
- Lithium, cobalt, cadmium, lead, and other harmful metals that destroy the environment when extracted and seep into groundwater when disposed of.
- Plastics that boost fossil fuel production, generate a lot of pollution, and probably cause an array of health problems.
These inputs are often sourced from China and low-income countries that don’t care about human rights or worker protections. In the US, they’re often mined in areas near or on Native American lands, sometimes under false pretenses, possibly because these areas are either too often neglected by the larger American body politic or so poor that they’ll take whatever business they can get.
Several native American tribes sued mining companies that promised “safe, clean” operations but delivered the opposite.
As California’s solar panels reach their end-of-life, they’re piling up in landfills, leaking toxic chemicals, and local leaders can’t agree on what to do about it.
Many ESG companies spend millions of dollars lobbying governments to craft laws for their benefit at your expense. Some hide toxic workplaces, shady business practices, and scandalous behavior among executives. Others do business with dictators and criminal syndicates.
So what? It’s not like non-ESG companies are any better.
People invest in ESG because they feel good about the idea of clean energy. Feelings have value, too.
When you have a whole social and economic movement rooted in a meme concept, backed by billions of dollars in capital, isn’t it possible that the movement gets so big that you can’t stop it?
Can’t the power of that movement get so strong that governments and businesses have to accept it? Or even more, embrace it?
Sometimes, memes go far further than their fundamentals suggest. Sometimes, fundamentals aren’t as important as you might think.
Few things are more powerful than an idea whose time has come.
Behodl the meme of memes
Does that mean crypto is an idea whose time has come?
Cryptocurrency is an expression of a bigger idea: that everybody can have financial prosperity no matter who you are, where you live, what you look like, who runs your government, or how much money you make.
That’s a meme, for sure, but it’s also a reaction to a legacy financial system that fails too many, too often.
Fertile ground for those who promise they can turn $1,000 into $1 million, generate 1,000% yields from smart contracts, and trade altcoins for riches.
Also fertile ground for those who envision a fairer, cheaper, better way to create, distribute, monetize, and govern “things.”
That same great meme feeds both idealists and scammers.
You get to pick your meme.
Is the crypto industry a playground for grift, greed, and instant gratification? Or is it the technological foundation for the financial networks of the future?
Are cryptocurrencies get-rich-quick schemes? Or are they free, open, secure, and accessible financial systems?
You get to decide.
Choose well. Your financial future may depend on it.
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Mark Helfman publishes the Crypto is Easy newsletter. He is also the author of three books and a top bitcoin writer on Medium and Hacker Noon. Learn more about him in his bio.