I had not heard of Bitcoin until two weeks ago, so I assume an explanation is necessary. To make it easier on me, I will let the promoters tell you about it:
Here is how the Acton Institute’s Joe Carter defines Bitcoin in this helpful, 23-page PDF:
Bitcoin is network-based digital currency that is created and exchanged electronically. Although the currency exists entirely online, it can be used to purchase non-virtual goods and services. Because it is a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash, Bitcoin allows online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.
Bitcoin was started in 2009 by a mysterious computer programmer going under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Since then, it has become “the world’s most successful cryptocurrency” (you can find out why it is so popular with some groups in the PDF).
The value of Bitcoin has varied wildly. To quote the same PDF again, “The rate had dropped in 2012 and at the end of last year a Bitcoin was worth only $13.51. Last week, though, Bitcoins were trading as high as $266 before plummeting to less than $100.”
I encourage you to read the whole document here.
Some other pages to visit:
- “What Bitcoin Is Teaching Us” on Laissez-Faire Today, a positive article about the currency
- “I’m Not Buying Bitcoin,” another article from the Acton Institute
- “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System,” Nakamoto’s original article – Alert: Demonstrated to give the current writer (ie, me) a headache.
Please feel free to think aloud in the comments. That would be good warm-up for the discussion.