Bitcoin and the Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning in an immigration case involving a Martha's Vineyard man who is facing deportation to Brazil.

Bitcoin and the Supreme Court

It is always a big deal when the government makes a statement about cryptocurrencies, especially when it’s the one and only supreme court. This statement was given on June 21st, appearing in theruling for the Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. United States case. This case decided whether employee stock options represent taxable compensation under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act of 1937, but it also ended up covering a bigger question: what exactly is money?

The ruling of the case ended up being 5-4 majority in favor of not taxing the stock options of employees, since stock options do not guarantee profit. The mention of Bitcoin, however, appeared in the dissenting opinion of Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote, “Moreover, what we view as money has changed over time. Cowrie shells once were such a medium but no longer are … our currency originally included gold coins and bullion, but, after 1934, gold could not be used as a medium of exchange… perhaps one day employees will be paid in bitcoin or some other type of cryptocurrency.”

What does this mean? Well, the fact that Breyer not only sees Bitcoin as a form of money, but also implies that it could be a common payment method for employees is a significant point. This shows us that some members of the supreme court are open to the changing nature of money and are willing to entertain the idea of widely-used Bitcoin in the future.

This was the first time that Bitcoin was ever mentioned in a Supreme Court hearing, but I am certain it won’t be the last. Ross Ulbricht, the creator of the former black market exchange Silk Road, is hoping to land a hearing with the supreme court, which would certainly involve more in-depth discussions on cryptocurrencies. The supreme court is one of the most influential aspects of US government, so any exposure that Bitcoin gets in there is something to be excited about.

Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. United States case documents can be viewed HERE

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