ARE CRYPTOCURRENCIES A SCAM AND A BUBBLE, OR ARE THEY THE FUTURE? Cynicism About Banks and Other Financial Institutions During the financial crisis, banks are widely perceived as having benefitted from originating and selling mortgages they knew were destined to fail. Bankers made huge amounts of money, and the world financial system came very close to collapsing. The public purse (taxpayers) had to bail out the entire banking system, and yet no bank executive was ever really punished. All of this is wellknown and is resented a great deal by the average American, who makes a fraction of what bank executives get paid. One could argue that Donald Trump’s election was as much as anything a protest against elites who protected and coddled Wall Street and big banks, which banks in turn paid political elites large sums of money in the form of campaign contributions and speech fees. While cynicism about banks and Wall Street has existed for a long time, we may have reached a tipping point. A recent Gallup poll noted American’s confidence in banks had dropped 22 percentage points in 10 years, from 49% in 2006 to only 27% in 2016. Conclusion So what are we to make of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies? Are Jamie Dimon and Howard Marks right to question their legitimacy? Or is Silicon Valley right to say, as one company CEO said recently, that the blockchain technology behind cryptocurrencies is the single most important innovation since the Internet? It may be that both groups are right. The value of Bitcoin and Etherium may drop dramatically or even go to near zero. True, there is nothing behind these currenciesnothing “real”other than an agreement and trust among a group of investors that they should have value.