The new bitcoin ETFs are close to the Platonic ideal of two things at the heart of the financial industry, arbitrage and gambling. And a third thing: Without the distortions the financial industry created in the first place, they would have no reason to exist.
The whole concept of a bitcoin ETF is odd. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency; it’s easy to buy and, for individuals who want to speculate on its future value, easy to hold. All you have to do is download some software, pick a secure password, sign up to a crypto broker, transfer the bitcoin into your blockchain wallet and you’re done. If you wanted a traditional currency you wouldn’t pay a 0.95% annual fee, plus hefty futures costs, to get something that roughly tracks the value of a dollar—you’d just hold some dollars.