Billionaire investor Ray Dalio, the founder of the $150 billion hedge fund Bridgewater Associates — the world’s largest — made a case that there’s a “good probability” bitcoin could be outlawed, similar to when the U.S. government made it illegal to privately own gold.
As Dalio points out in his upcoming book “The Changing World Order,” the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 made it illegal for individuals to own gold “because government leaders didn’t want gold to compete with money and credit as a storehold of wealth.” Something similar could happen with bitcoin, which has surged against a backdrop of high levels of debt, low interest rates, a lot of liquidity and stimulus, and investors seeking alternatives to bonds and currencies. At the time of this writing, bitcoin’s price was near $56,559.98, spiking after Elon Musk tweeted that you can use it to buy Teslas (TSLA).
“Every country treasures its monopoly on controlling the supply and demand. They don’t want other monies to be operating or competing, because things can get out of control. So I think that it would be very likely that you will have it under a certain set of circumstances outlawed the way gold was outlawed,” Dalio told Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
Dalio pointed out that India’s government is currently exploring outlawing bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies altogether.
“[We] have to see what that means,” the investor added.
A government ban could likely cause demand to plummet. While emphasizing he’s not an expert, Dalio also cast doubt that bitcoin's privacy could be protected.
“Now, can they do it? Yeah. Now we get into the particulars. My understanding from people who are sort of in government surveillance is yes, they can understand they can track it. They can know who’s dealing with it. I don’t know, like, I’m not an expert on that. But, you know, there’s a whole way, is it private wallets? Is it not private wallets? How do you do this, this, and the other thing? I would suspect it would be very hard to hold up against that kind of action.”
To be sure, Dalio highlighted many of the merits of bitcoin as it's stood the test of time for a decade.
“Bitcoin has proven itself over the last 10 years,” Dalio said, adding. “It hasn’t been hacked. It’s by and large, therefore, worked on an operational basis. It has built a significant following. It is an alternative, in a sense, storehold of wealth. It’s like a digital cash. And those are the pluses.”
Julia La Roche is a correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.