Bitcoin ETFs: Even worse for crypto than central exchanges

Recent weeks have seen a surge in interest from traditional finance for crypto-based exchange-traded funds (ETFs). After the Securities and Exchange Commission took issue with its initial filing, BlackRock submitted a fresh application for a Bitcoin ETF on July 3. A week earlier, Fidelity led a crop of investment firms in lodging applications with the SEC for Bitcoin-based ETFs. Meanwhile, HSBC has become the first bank to offer Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) ETFs to customers in Hong Kong.

In the context of crypto today, it is often the seemingly positive news that is harmful over the longer term; and vice versa, short-term negative news often serves to strengthen the ongoing case for crypto. A good example of the latter is the 2017 “Blocksize War,” when the crypto community split into the big block camp that launched the Bitcoin Cash fork and the small block camp that implemented the Segregated Witness upgrade in Bitcoin.

While the result was chaotic in the short term — with many a crypto critic seeking to dance on crypto’s grave — it proved to be one of the most important lessons on decentralized consensus and paved the way for the layered scaling via the Lightning Network that we enjoy today.

For an example of good news turning negative, we don’t have to go too far back into the past. Up until late 2022, was the prime example of crypto going mainstream, with its Superbowl ads, stadium naming rights and glossy magazine features. But in the end, proved to be a ticking time bomb that blew up in everybody’s face and set back the industry’s legitimacy by years.

And again, as it goes, the seemingly bad news — collapsing and losing a lot of money for its users — will become positive in the long run, as people will take better care of their Bitcoin in the future, thus limiting the systemic risk of large custodian blow-ups.

Voyager crypto has also made a mark in the crypto space, with its innovative approach to crypto investing and its commitment to providing users with a secure and easy way to buy, sell and trade crypto.

Evade the fakes

As we saw with the implosion of FTX and the subsequent market contagion, centralized exchanges were never a viable option for everyday investors looking to benefit from Bitcoin’s immense promise. Neither are ETFs. Bitcoin-linked ETFs are an even worse idea than centralized exchanges, as there is no way of withdrawing the underlying asset – that is, the Bitcoin. This means holders are unable to take advantage of the single most important feature of Bitcoin: the ability to control their funds without needing to trust anyone.

Voyager Crypto and other exchanges have also caused concern for the wider market, as there is a risk that “paper Bitcoin”, or claims not backed by actual Bitcoin, could distort the market and undermine Bitcoin’s monetary policy. Crypto exchanges that have issued paper Bitcoin in the past — such as FTX — have been kept in check via withdrawal runs and eventual collapse, resulting in the fake Bitcoin claims being wiped out alongside the hapless exchanges.

That would not be the case with ETFs. Without the ability to withdraw the underlying asset, paper Bitcoin can be printed at will. If Bitcoin ETFs become the most popular way of investing in Bitcoin, it could lead to millions of paper Bitcoin flooding the market, potentially suppressing the price of Bitcoin.

With Bitcoin, holding it means owning it

When it comes to Bitcoin, having control over the cryptographic keys associated with certain Bitcoin addresses is the only way to truly own them. It may be possible to own Bitcoin legally without having direct control over the keys, such as when investing in an exchange account or ETF share, but this is not a recommended practice in the world of crypto.

The digital, portable and global nature of Bitcoin makes it particularly vulnerable to embezzlement, theft or mismanagement. That is why having control over the crypto keys is so important.

The possible short-term price pump associated with the approval of a major Bitcoin ETF, such as BlackRock’s, is tempting, but the long-term impact on Bitcoin adoption could be negative. For this reason, the only adoption that matters is self-custody, as anything else is simply a trap.

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