Facebook took a hammering this week, with the proposed Libra currency taking fire from blockchain skeptics and decentralization advocates alike. But there is one silver lining to come from this weeks’ hearings: the prospect of a global, corporate digital cryptocurrency appears to have spurred Congress into action.
Over a hundred representatives of blockchain businesses are in Washington D.C. today to meet with members of Congress and their staffs for Blockchain Education Day. This will be the third Education Day hosted by the Chamber of Digital Commerce, the largest advocacy group for the distributed ledger industry.
While Libra received a frosty reception at this week’s House hearings, several Representatives lent their encouragement to the Chamber’s blockchain businesses while highlighting some of the sticking-points for their colleagues in the legislature.
Swinging A Double-Edged Sword
“Whenever there is a new technology, it’s almost always a double edged sword,” said Representative Bill Foster (D) of Illinois, a co-chair of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus. “In my district, the first view of [Blockchain] technology was when a small township was victim to ransomware.”
While new technologies tend to be greeted with fear, Foster said, their potential benefits may be harder to appreciate. “There has been a prohibition for the last 21 years on having an electronic health record system with unique patient identifiers,” he noted. “This [prohibition] was killing and continues today to kill tens of thousands of Americans, simply from having incorrect or fragmented electronic health records.”
While most consumers might worry about the dystopian potential for unified records, Foster said, the measurable benefits are often overlooked.
Fear And Loathing On Capitol Hill
While most in Congress still harbor reservations, they now appear to realize the urgency of acting on crypto technology to stay ahead of the competition. “There is fear” in Congress, said Rep. Darren Soto (D) of Florida; the latest Facebook hearings highlighted the dangers of a digital currencies under private or foreign control.
“I worry about governments that don’t share the same values that we have dominating the same space in the future,” Soto said. “Governments that may profile their citizens, that don’t have a free press, that don’t believe in capitalism, that don’t believe in equal rights for everybody….that’s one of the reasons that we have to prevail in these areas.”
While past sessions of Congress have been slow to act, there are now several measures under consideration to provide a more crypto-friendly regulatory environment. The House appropriations bill includes six measures relating to blockchain technology, from funding blockchain research by the FDA and defense departments to clarifying IRS regulations.
Meanwhile, the ranks of blockchain advocates are also growing. eToro, the billion dollar investment platform, and crypto exchange ErisX both announced that they were joining the Chamber for Digital Commerce, in order to advocate for comprehensive regulation and legislation.
At least some lawmakers are listening. As blockchain entrepreneurs prepared for their closed-door meetings with members of Congress, Arizona Rep. David Schweikert (D) offered a few words of encouragement.
“This is the revolution,” Schweikert said. “We just have to sell it.”