From the beginning, the concept has been alluring if not utopian. Imagine a currency that is not tied to the whims of politicians, the foibles of central bankers, or the fortunes of a particular country. Rather than relying on a government to mint a currency, users could “mine” their own bitcoin by running software — contributing their own computing power to verify other bitcoin transactions. Or they could simply buy bitcoin on one of several online exchanges, investing in it like any other currency. To many, it seemed like a good bet.
By the fall of 2013, with the U.S. government locked in yet another showdown over raising the debt ceiling and facing the specter of an unprecedented default, interest in virtual currencies like bitcoin peaked. The price of a single bitcoin reached a high of $1,108.80 according to Coinbase, the first licensed U.S. bitcoin exchange.
But the frenzy would be short-lived.
Around the time prices were reaching their high, U.S. authorities were exposing what they considered the dark side of bitcoin, busting what the FBI called “a black market bazaar for drugs and illegal services” — an underground web site known as Silk Road. In