Screengrabs: YouTube/CSPAN, charts.bogged.finance
On Wednesday, a panel of cryptocurrency industry executives appeared before the House Financial Services Committee to paint a picture of a stable, secure, and generally well-behaved $3 trillion industry while largely warding off lawmakers’ concerns about speculation, money laundering, and value inflation.
Understandably, some lawmakers bristled at this framing. After all, cryptocurrencies are at this point synonymous with volatility and speculative trading. A recent study published in Nature analyzed 6.1 million NFT trades and found a market dominated by deep-pocketed players, or “whales”: ten percent of traders performed 85 percent of all transactions and traded at least once 97 percent of all assets, according to the study.
In a moment that spread across the internet, Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) asked: “Bitcoin could be displaced by Ether, which could be displaced by Doge, which would be replaced by a HamsterCoin. And then there’s CobraCoin, and what could MongooseCoin do to CryptoCoin?”
Shortly after, Sherman asks again if “MongooseCoin will always have a value? I don’t know. I just made it up, it’s a joke—although I said that about HamsterCoin and found out there really was a HamsterCoin.”
While Sherman was surprised to learn that HamsterCoin already existed, HamsterCoin holders were beyond elated. Before Sherman’s comments, HamsterCoin was hovering around $0.000000014 before nearly doubling and hitting to $0.000000026 at 4PM on Wednesday, according to CoinMarketCap. It has since begun its inevitable dump after the pump and now hovers around $0.00000002. HamsterCoin enjoyed another price jump earlier this year thanks again to Sherman, albeit indirectly, when he said in a hearing that Dogecoin was the biggest threat to Ethereum. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey quote-tweeted him to say “HamsterCoin 🐹 >”
“Bro gettin rich,” said one Twitter user after the hearing, captioning a screenshot of the HamsterCoin price chart skyrocketing.
Decrypt reported that, after the hearing, multiple Mongoose coins were created on several platforms including Ethereum, Polygon (an Ethereum layer-2), Avalanche, and Binance Smart Chain (BSC).
By the next day, the BSC-based Mongoose Coin saw a 61,000 percent spike in value. “Named after the legendary comment of Congressman Brad Sherman, MONGOOSE coin’s goal is to donate enough funds to Congressman Brad Sherman’s reelection that he has a change of heart 😉 and goes from being a crypto ENEMY to a huge crypto ALLY,” reads a Reddit post announcing its creation. “”Prove the hypocrisy of politicians and earn huge profits at the same time. Join us in proving that Crypto will not be bullied.”
That particular Mongoose Coin reached its peak at 10 AM on Thursday at $0.00000056 and is now sitting around $0.000000045, shedding 91 percent of its total value.
Some crypto boosters may insist this is a diversion and that the subject of the hearing—so-called “stablecoins” and the risk or opportunity they pose to the entrenched U.S. financial system—was not only more interesting but more productive. Maybe, but it’s impossible to ignore how the HamsterCoin and MongooseCoin examples aren’t at least as instructive.
In an essay penned after the hearing, economist Matt Stoller pointed out that while talk of regulation is necessary and useful given the sums of cash involved, “such traditional financial reform chatter obscures the far more interesting political debate that crypto has brought to the surface of our society about finance, monopoly, and the state itself.”
A lawmaker’s comments being used to create a speculative coin more or less confirms Stoller’s summation of the position of many cryptocurrency skeptics: “that cryptocurrencies are easily manipulated mechanisms to launder money, commit fraud, evade sanctions, empower dictators, engage in heavily leveraged speculation prone to collapse, and ultimately break the state itself.”
Of course, as Stoller notes, fiat currencies and cash can do all of those things, too. But anyone who listened to the hearing might ask themselves: didn’t the cryptocurrency industry executives just spend hours telling Congress they were fundamentally different from the existing order in a litany of positive ways, and that this, coupled with vague slogans about the “democratization of access” meant, crypto’s future would be brighter than fiat’s?