THE BLOG

In Breaking Bad, How Could Walter White Have Handled Things Differently if He Had Known About Bitcoin?

10/21/2013 01:38 pm ET | Updated Dec 21, 2013

This question originally appeared on Quora.
2013-10-21-jmixon2.jpeg
Answer by Jon Mixon,

The Internet, while playing a major role in modern society, played a rather minor role in Breaking Bad. Aside from Walter Jr.'s fundraising, perhaps Gus Fring's viewing of the lab (using what was probably a VPN), and several other minor uses, the Internet just wasn't a factor in the narrative.

Bitcoin is overrated.

It:

  1. Isn't particularly anonymous
  2. It doesn't seem to be too secure from government intrusion (as the recent arrest of "Dread Pirate Roberts" makes rather clear.)
  3. Most real world businesses don't take Bitcoin (While many still will take cash)
  4. You have to have Internet access to conduct Bitcoin transactions. And hope that access is secure. And that you haven't been "hacked." Or that the government (any government) doesn't have you under electronic surveillance.
  5. It would require someone to monitor your account and your transactions (see also #4 for why that could be an issue.)

Cash is an easier medium as it is fungible and accepted at almost every location. Walter White knew that and simply went for the method of payment which has/had the least resistance.

Frankly, Walt should have:

  1. Taken $10-15 million in cash and found a method and location to have concealed that from the Feds in case he was caught.
  2. Taken additional payments as either deposits to overseas accounts in tax haven nations or in the form of bearer securities.
  3. Received payment in gold coins ( Krugerrands or collectibles). This would have still been a sizable amount of gold; however it could be concealed far easier than barrels of cash.
  4. Received partial payment in the form of some type of art (with a provenance , of course) or some form of collectible. Again, like gold coins, easier to hide and it could be later resold for its original value or higher.

Bitcoin, in my opinion which is based upon the events of recent weeks (as of October 17,2013), is for people who want to perform minor online transactions with minimal scrutiny. It would be useless as a methods of either laundering the proceeds from drug sales or hiding those proceeds from tax collectors or law enforcement.

More questions on Breaking Bad (TV series):