Bitcoin, the world's first and largest cryptocurrency, and the blockchain, which is its underlying technology, have the potential to change everything from record keeping to the global financial system.
The blockchain is a decentralized database that allows individuals to trade directly without the need for a third-party intermediary. Bitcoin is free-market money that runs on the internet, and it isn't controlled by a political entity or central bank.
It's easy to see bitcoin and the blockchain as logical extensions of the internet, with the potential to shift power from governments to individuals. It's also not clear how a fully decentralized money and public-ledger system are going to be implemented and brought to bear on everyday life.
Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Caitlin Long, one of Inc. magazine's "10 business leaders changing the world through tech," a former managing director at Morgan Stanley, and the current president of Symbiont, which is bringing blockchain technology to Wall Street.
Interview edited by Mark McDaniel. Introduction edited by Jim Epstein. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Sarah Siskind.
"Modum" by Kai Engel is licensed under Creative Commons.
This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.
Nick Gillespie: You became interested in the Austrian School of economics in 2008 during the financial crisis.
Caitlin Long: Yes.
Gillespie: Why did it take the financial crisis to make you interested in the Austrian School, and what are its essential insights into kind of Bitcoin or blockchain technology?
Long: Sure. I was in the industry for 16 years before the financial crisis happened, and the system worked pretty well. Even today, it still does, but that hiccup, I knew there was a bigger story than what we were reading in the mainstream press, and it was, ironically, Tim Geithner's interviews that he gave very close together, in the first one of which he said interest [rates] were too low, and that's why the mortgage market imploded. The second one, he said we should lower interest rates even more, and that-
Gillespie: So you had somebody who clearly was talking out of both sides of his mouth-
Gillespie: ... or didn't understand from minute to minute what was going on.