I'm not very knowledgeable about cryptocurrencies and one of my units in my degree is about the ethical implications of 'Emerging Tech in finance' the first thing I thought about was Cryptocurrencies...

I'm wondering if anyone knows of some ethical debates I could talk about. I'm currently looking at:

  • The un-traceability/anonymity of Bitcoin for example. As It's being used of black markets for purchasing illegal activities/items.
  • The effect cryptocurrencies have on the financial markets.
  • The difference between a virtual currency and a conventional currency.
  • The anarcho-capitalism effects it could have.

Other views and opinions are welcome! Much appreciated!

  • 4
    Flagged as Too Broad, because it's 4 in 1 question, and 2nd and 3rd belongs to Economics SE, and 4th to Politics SE.
    – user28434
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 12:50
  • They were not questions if you read it properly. The question was asking if there are ethical debates regarding cryptocurrencies. The others were merely saying what I've been looking at. Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 14:27
  • 2
    Environmental concerns are also a huge problem with blockchain based technologies, like cryptocurrency or NFTs. The power and resource used to make the computation necessary to register a simple transaction is tremendous, and growing with the number of users and with time (the whole history of passed transactions is reprocessed at each new transaction). Even if cryptocurrency were as useful as they are said to be, I would refrain from using them out of ethical concern for the environment.
    – armand
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 0:28
  • Duplicates philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/43090 ?
    – user64125
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 0:48

4 Answers 4


You might look at :


Chapter Title: Can Virtual Currencies Increase Political Power?
Book Title: National Security Implications of Virtual Currency Book Subtitle: Examining the Potential for Non-state Actor Deployment
Book Author(s): Joshua Baron, Angela O’Mahony, David Manheim and Cynthia Dion Schwarz
Published by: RAND Corporation. (2015)
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt19rmd78.9

Political power always has ethical implications.


Chapter Title: Characteristics of the Black Market
Book Title: Markets for Cybercrime Tools and Stolen Data Book Subtitle: Hackers' Bazaar
Book Author(s): Lillian Ablon, Martin C. Libicki and Andrea A. Golay
Published by: RAND Corporation. (2014)
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt6wq7z6.9

There does not appear to be a great deal of material for your purpose. This is awkward in a way, because it means starting from near-zero. But it has the advantage that any idea you hit on is unlikely to have been developed by anyone else.

The two chapters might just stimulate your thinking.


A virtual currency is very like cash. Cash is -largely-untraceable and anonymous, can cross borders, be used in black markets, all that. It is not the new-new it is made out to be, economically.

Have a listen to A History Of Debt: The First 5,000 Years https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b054zdp6/episodes/player Or I am sure the book is legally available free online. This really sets the swings between trading debt, and trading materials, in context.

  • I still use cash for small purchases. The current system of leaving a trail of debit and credit card transactions doesn't seem smart or good for me. I hope someone (the US government) develops (or at least endorses) a cash alternative. If it used a physical card and was limited to say, $100 as most store transactions are, I think it would not be used in illegal activity. But, I'm dreaming, right? Not going to happen.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 11:32
  • @ScottRowe: You can get cards that use cryptocurrencies to anonymise payments
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 3:57
  • I can? Where? Do they work everywhere, even in those little "Square" readers some shops have? Why have I not heard of that?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 11:48
  • 1
    @ScottRowe: I am no expert on these issues, some really go deep on crypto but I've only followed it's developments a little. But they sound interesting: forbes.com/sites/lawrencewintermeyer/2021/12/26/… I'm not sure how well they deal with anonymity.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 17:10

This is a broad answer, but you could look at the issues of power distribution brought on by capital. Look back to the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, protesting the “1%”. Now that bitcoin has made some very normal and average citizens into millionaires (in some cases) overnight, how might that power shift change global politics?


I think you are looking for an exchange of ideas on how to make cryptocurrency ethical.

This is a crucial time for such a discussion, before the least ethical cryptocurrency becomes the mainstay.

I do not consider Bitcoin ethical at all. Those that have the money to build mining operations will become wealthy for nothing other than making money.

Ethereum added a concept that I like a lot. The non-fungible token (NFT). Which makes for a value proposition other than mining. It still seems, though, that those that "mine" get a huge over-valued position. I'm okay, I guess, with the idea that miners get paid for producing blocks of Ether and transaction fees. I guess it all comes down to how much the miners are paid for each.

Well, anyways, I'm not going to study cryptocurrency further unless I can find someone that would like to explore the ethics of it with me.

I realize this post is old so I'm a bit concerned but it seemed the best place to start.

  • 2
    Is that different from, actual mining? The environmental impacts of the energy use of mining are a major concern, which recently prompted Tesla to stop accepting Bitcoin. But using up surplus unstorable energy from renewables could support them, though also undermine incentives towards developing storage. Proof-of-work is fundamental, but there's talk of applying it to useful problems like protein folding
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 15:41
  • No, actually, I am looking to cryptocurrency to level the wealth playing field. For instance (and this is nothing but off-the-cuff speculation), I started considering the idea of using that "Not a robot"protocol to accrue currency and a simple algorithm (or, maybe, almost like a lottery) to select who gets the next block. Believe me, this isn't thought through at all. One would definitely need to have a computer dedicated to the journaling and transactions (if I understand crypto at all). In this way, anyone could accrue currency (see caveats above). by just spending the time.
    – Mike
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 23:07
  • I'm a little concerned that "not a robot" may not be descriptive enough. What I mean is it isn't down to compute power but a person hitting buttons (not a robot) to get a unit of cryptocurrency. Maybe one is still paid for storing transactions and that would almost certainly have to be automated. Anyways, one of the ideas of crypto is def to level the playing field. It just doesn't seem that number crunching to create new units does that. I'm sure I'm missing something. I'd love to take this discussion over to a crypto board but there isn't any. Not sure they care, either.
    – Mike
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 23:17
  • 1
    I think you are looking at the wrong tool, hoping for currency choice to do what only social policy can
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 1:43
  • That could be true but I still think it is worth exploring. There is no doubt in my mind that a cryptocurrency can be built (e.g. Bitcoin) that favors the wealthy. Why not the opposite? Why not a cryptocurrency that favors a level playing field and, more than that, creates such?
    – Mike
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 15:29

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