Explaining the appeal of bitcoin to the average American isn’t easy. Here in the US, it’s not terribly hard to save, spend, and send money. Most people have bank accounts and credit cards, and when they need to send money to a friend, relative, or acquaintance, they can use any number of online services, from PayPal and Square to SnapChat and Facebook. For most people, bitcoin and other digital currencies looks like a solution in need of a problem—a technological end-run around big banks and big government that interests only geeks, drug dealers, and crazed libertarians.
Indeed, the number of people who use bitcoin as a currency—as opposed to an investment, a bet that its value will rise in time—remains relatively small. The big-name online retailer Overstock.com started accepting bitcoin payments in early 2014, and two years later, the digital currency accounts for no more than 0.1 percent of sales.
Explaining the appeal of bitcoin to the average American isn’t easy.
But the calculus changes as you look beyond the US. Bitcoin and other digital currencies like litecoin and dogecoin provide a way of inexpensively moving money across borders, an important