I've tried to read technical information on bitcoin over and over again. And I still don't fully grasp it. Somehow the coins are mined, not minted? There is an ever growing database called a block chain that records every transaction!? Somehow, they go in wallets that are completely secure so long as you have a private key, except that there was a huge bitcoin theft from Mt. Gox a few years ago. Super-technical questions aside, here are some of the issues I can't seem to resolve.
1.) Why is there only one? What's to stop a competitor from creating a competing crypto-currency. As far as I know, bitcoin has no exclusive right. And if there can be two, then why not 1000+ competing currencies. With precious metals there are only a handful of elements. With fiat currency there are a limited number of sovereigns, and a limited number worth owning.
2.) Acceptance is purely optional. No one can be forced to accept bitcoin. The true value of a fiat currency is that a sovereign can force a private individual within it's jurisdiction to settle a debt in it, and that the sovereign will accept it to settle a public tax debt. Hence "Legal tender for all debts, public and private" written on U.S. paper currency. The effect is that the fiat currency can be used to stop the legal process that would otherwise result in the confiscation of real assets. But, no one can force anyone to supply a bitcoin to stop such a legal proceeding (with the exception of contracting ahead of time, but not all debts are contract debts).
3.) It's secure... But for how long? Taking into account the ever increasing computing power, at what point will it be simple to brute-force into bitcoin wallets. The blockchain is a public ledger so I assume someone could download the whole thing and set a stable of computers against determining the private key for high value bitcoin wallets until they are cracked. With the exponential advance of computing power, i.e. Moore's Law, how far away are we really?
4.)It's anonymous...But for how long? There is an ever increasing collection of specific and personal info on the web. I assume if a bitcoin wallet is never used no one would know who owns it. But, once someone figures out who owns enough bitcoin wallets they cross check it against the block-chain, and could reconstruct every transaction that a person has ever made. At least with physical cash, it can be negotiated solely in meat-space, with little durable record of the transaction.
Does anyone have any answers to these questions? Do you have any philosophical or technical questions of bitcoin yourself?