Humans, being only human, tend to hang on to their cherished beliefs — even in the face of overwhelming contradiction. That’s why recantations — that is, public acts of refuting a previously held opinion — are so rare. This year, however, has presented several notable changes of heart where Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies were concerned — abetted, perhaps, by BTC’s climb to record price levels. Here are eight of the year’s more memorable turnarounds.
Nouriel Roubini, economist
Crypto’s most ferocious critic recanted in 2020. Roubini, an NYU professor of economics who gained fame by predicting the 2007–2009 housing bubble, has in recent years heaped scorn on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology in general.
What he said in 2018: Part of Roubini’s testimony for the United States Senate went viral: “Crypto is the mother of all scams and (now busted) bubbles.” He also called blockchain “the most over-hyped technology ever, no better than a spreadsheet/database” — and this was just the title of his testimony.
In his Senate visit, Roubini compared Bitcoin “to other famous historical bubbles and scams — like Tulip-mania, the Mississippi Bubble, the South Sea Bubble.” He noted that Bitcoin’s price increases had been two or three times larger than that of previous bubbles, followed by “ensuing collapse and bust as fast and furious and deeper.” At the time, Bitcoin was somewhat in the doldrums, selling at about $6,300.
What he said recently: In a Nov. 6, 2020 interview, Roublini admitted that Bitcoin — selling at about $15,500 at the time — might qualify as a “partial store of value,” primarily because of its algorithm that limits supply to 21 million BTC. Of course, Roubini also declared that Bitcoin “is not scalable, it’s not secure, it’s not decentralized, it’s not a currency,” and that it would be made irrelevant or “crowded out” within three years by central bank digital currencies.
Still, everything is relative. The professor’s partial pullback prompted economic historian Niall Ferguson to comment: “If I were as fond of hyperbole as he [Roubini] is, I would call this the biggest conversion since St. Paul.”
Stanley Druckenmiller, investor
Investor and hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller — the man who “broke the Bank of England” along with George Soros in 1992 by betting against the British pound — appeared to abandon his previous crypto skepticism in 2020.
What he said then: “I look at Bitcoin as a solution in search of a problem,” Druckenmiller told the Economic Club of New York in June 2019. “I don’t understand why we need this thing. […] I wouldn’t be short it, I wouldn’t be long it. […] I don’t understand why it’s a store of value.”