The idea of a ‘natural partner’ was a common one in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the princes played their game of Cabinet Wars. It described the situation in which different princedoms were destined to be partners because they shared certain interests – whether territorial, economic or religious. So let’s consider who constitutes the ‘natural’ userbase of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies. What groups share a motivation – economic or ideological – to make Bitcoin succeed and become a real currency used in a real economy?
One key aspect of Bitcoin is that transactions are more anonymous than those made via a bank account. As we know, they lack the complete anonymity of cash, but the pseudonymity of a Bitcoin address does a good deal to preserve privacy. Those interested in this feature are far from being a homogeneous group.
Criminals. This group includes everyone engaged in money-linked activities which don’t comply with their country’s laws. It may mean a classic criminal like a drug-dealer, someone who sells stolen goods or an extortionist, but it may also be a dissident or a whistleblower. The freedom provided by Bitcoin’s pseudonymity is used by criminals in democratic societies, but it is also used by those who are suppressed by an autocratic government..
Privacy-seekers. You don’t need to be a criminal to want to close your curtains. It’s an essential right of an open, democratic society not to be monitored by Big Brother and to decide for yourself who watches you and who does not. Germans didn’t fight against Google’s attempt to take pictures of every house because they are criminals. The NSA’s surveillance of the whole internet is not the subject of protests because everyone wants to do something illegal online. People just want to be private – just like they don’t want their neighbours to see them on the toilet. Now, since the Snowden Affair, we know that the secret services watch financial transactions closely. Everyone interested in financial privacy has a tool to preserve that privacy with Bitcoin..