Economist and noted cryptocurrency skeptic Nouriel Roubini recently took on BitMEX CEO Arthur Hayes in a debate on the merits of blockchain and cryptocurrency in Taipei two weeks ago, a debate that BitMEX published to YouTube last week. BitStarz News offers our views on the Tangle in Taipei and who came off the best.
Roubini unsurprisingly came out fighting, attacking from the off and trotting out the much-publicized arguments he continues to be paid to repeat through various outlets. Bemoaning the presence of “con men, criminals, snake oil salesman” within the industry, he attacked Hayes and his BitMEX platform especially for offering 100x leverage, referring to Hayes as a “drug pusher” and stating that the BitMEX business model typified the “sick and rotten” nature of the crypto industry where “retail suckers” were preyed upon.
He reserved particular ire for the “cesspool of stinking shitcoins” that only exist to scam investors and claimed that the 2017 bubble was caused funded solely by Tether pumping millions of dollars of unbacked money into the ecosystem.
Hysteria Undermines Arguments
While Roubini actually made some salient points and raised some uncomfortable truths that even the most pro-crypto advocate could not argue with, it was undone to some degree by his hysterical behavior and profanity-laden language. On several occasions, moderator Andrew Neil had to tell Roubini to be quiet after his time had elapsed, scolding him like a teacher scolding an out of control child when Roubini reached screeching level as he repeated the same things over and over again.
Coupled with the fact that he rarely had the decency to look Hayes in the eye, preferring to act like a petulant kid being dragged out by his parents when he wasn’t talking, Roubini frequently undermined the validity of his points and at times made himself look unhinged.
Hayes pinned his entire argument for cryptocurrencies on giving consumers another way to run their finances, with digital assets offering them “a choice for a different way to govern financial transactions”. When challenged on Bitcoin’s use case and scalability, Hayes typically responded by talking about the potential of cryptocurrencies rather than what they offered right now, stating that “we need to wake up and see that we want financial privacy.”
Citing countries where governments either have oppressive amounts of control over citizens or where they have pushed fiat currencies to the brink of collapse, Hayes suggested that perhaps the western world needs to experience another such cataclysmic event before they find an alternative attractive, by which point “maybe this experiment called Bitcoin will look a lot different…”.
Hayes at times seemed baffled by Roubini’s hysterical tirades against cryptocurrency and Hayes’ business model when really he should have been prepared for it. His counter punches were rarely hard enough to bother Roubini, and he missed chances to pin the economist down on key points. When Roubini was discussing accredited investors for example, Hayes could have questioned him on why only people of certain levels of wealth should have a chance of financial freedom, but he failed to do so.
The Verdict – a Draw
Roubini was blunt, direct and made his thoughts extremely clear. Hayes however sometimes made jokes to cover uncomfortable truths of cryptocurrency and in particular his company, BitMEX, which didn’t do him any favors. Hayes likely won over more of the crowd with his personable, smiling demeanor, while Roubini’s shrieking hysteria undermined many of the points he was making. If Rounini had Hayes’ charm or Hayes had employed Roubini’s directness and strength of argument, there would have been a clear winner. As it was, a draw is a fair result.
You can judge for yourself by watching the full debate below, and let us know in the comments if you agree or disagree with our assessment: