Remember Bitcoin? It was all the rage as recently as 2013. Then its price plummeted. And of course, the well-publicized hacking of the largest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, caused a crisis of confidence in the Internet currency.
Although the value of Bitcoin has significantly rebounded since it reached the bottom, many Americans still think of it as little more than a curiosity that fascinates libertarians. Not so in Latin America. Oppressive levels of inflation (as in Venezuela), restrictive trade policy (as in Brazil) and corruption (Honduras is mentioned as an example) are creating vacuums that the computer currency is uniquely capable of filling. This isn't about using your computer to get rich — it's about how, in places where the government is truly unreliable, Bitcoin can provide levels of certainty that Americans already enjoy.
Reason TV is up with an interesting video on this topic, and on how the digital architecture behind the currency could even be adapted to new uses, such as recording official documents, in places where the government is not trusted or crushing bureaucracy pushes people into the informal economy.
The video accompanies this piece on the increasingly popular and dangerous practice of Bitcoin mining in Venezuela. A scarcity of everyday goods, combined with government price controls on electricity, have made it both uniquely profitable and one of the few ways Venezuelans can preserve the value of their money from day to day.