The Death of
Innovation, more often than not, comes from the bottom. A want arises in the community and against all institutionalized pressures to the contrary, said want eventually makes its way into government because of mounting pressure from below. For evidence of this phenomenon, you need not look further than political issues such as gay marriage or the beginning of the drug war (or its coming end). Up until a year ago, the fledgling bitcoin community in Ukraine wanted to work hand and hand with the Ukranian government to create a safe place for Bitcoin companies to innovate using this bleeding edge technology. This charge was led by Michael Chobanian, the founder of the KUNA Bitcoin Agency which is itself a founder of the Ukranian Bitcoin Foundation. Last year, Chobanian and the Ukranian Bitcoin Foundation started working with the National Bank of Ukraine to educate the government’s various agencies on Bitcoin and blockchain technology. In May of 2015, a well-received draft of a Ukranian BitLicense was released to the public view and Chobanian stepped into the world of Ukranian politics to hammer out a version that would actually make it through Ukraine’s Parliament. After a few months of working with government agencies, Chobanian was cautiously hopeful that Ukraine would be able to pass a Bitcoin License program that would encourage existing and new companies to move to Ukraine. He told media that:
“There is understanding that this technology is here to stay and it is the future. There is no point controlling it and they can only create conditions where businesses can develop. And this is exactly why we are pushing for Bitcoin License Ukraine initiative.”
The reality with Bitcoin Licenses is much different than the government’s dream, though. The early 2015 institution of New York’s BitLicense caused a host of established digital currency companies to add the state of New York to their banned jurisdictions list – right next to Iran and North Korea. Even now, almost a year after the BitLicense went into effect, only one BitLicense has been granted. Chobanian entered negotiations with the Ukranian bank and government with clear intentions to avoid that exact situation, but it seems he was not met in kind. It’s likely that Chobanian gave up his negotiations with the Ukranian government because he realized that the community he represented had everything to lose and nothing to gain. Last week, Chobanian announced that he was abandoning the draft Bitcoin License legislation. He explained that Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies like it are already regulated enough:
“Crypto is totally legal. You can use it by all means. As for legal entities, there’s not much sense in doing anything for them. Even if we pass the most liberal laws on virtual currencies, I seriously doubt anyone would open companies in Ukraine. Other 147 taxes and currency regulation are still here, let alone the mayhem caused by law enforcement agencies (the Ministry of the interior, State Fiscal Service, the Security Service of Ukraine, the General Prosecutor’s office, courts, etc). I’d rather leave it as it is. It’s a perfect format for a time like this,”
After all that, the creator of the Ukranian Bitcoin License decided that such legislation wasn’t wanted. The prevailing sentiment from the world’s rational governments is that existing currency, taxation, and anti money laundering laws (of which there are already exceedingly many) are enough to prosecute the malicious uses of Bitcoin as money that have and continue to crop up. It doesn’t matter what the future Bitcoin Licenses eventually looks like – technology has already advanced beyond caring. Currently, there are cypherpunks working on projects that truly aren’t based in any country. Whether or not these projects, often called Decentralized Autonomous Corporations (DAOs), end up being beholden to any country’s laws remains to be seen.