Janine Jackson interviewed Sohale Mortazavi about cryptocurrency for the February 4, 2022, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.
Janine Jackson: New York City Mayor Eric Adams apparently lost money on his trumpeted decision to take his first paychecks in cryptocurrency. Adams had proudly announced an intention to make New York “the center of cryptocurrency and other financial innovations.” But media reporting remains respectful, calling Adams’ move an “overture…to the business community,” though it has “sparked skepticism.”
The tone is not, in other words, as though a powerful elected official were losing money at the dog track or betting on fantasy football. This, evidently, is not silliness, but some kind of savvy, whether lowly readers understand it or not. If you’re trying to understand cryptocurrency, and the “crypto” in the name sort of discourages that, and its relation to real goods and services, you probably have deeper questions.
Our next guest encourages such questions. Sohale Mortazavi is a Chicago-based writer whose recent piece, “Cryptocurrency Is a Giant Ponzi Scheme,” appeared at Jacobinmag.com. He joins us now by phone from Chicago. Welcome to CounterSpin, Sohale Mortazavi.
Sohale Mortazavi: Hi, Janine.
JJ: Well, I’m not ashamed, I will ask you straight up: The stock market is somewhat opaque, but we understand that it’s ultimately linked to things that get made and sold and used. What relationship does cryptocurrency bear to stuff–to cars, to ovens, to sweaters? What is it?
SM: It’s a great question. I would probably start by saying despite the name, these are not really currencies. Bitcoin was kind of started that way, at least in intent. But they really are just financial assets, and they get traded on financial markets kind of in the way stocks would.
But the big difference is that stocks are like legal ownership in a company, whereas cryptocurrencies are basically nothing. They’re basically just digital cells on a spreadsheet that people trade …….