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in category Economics

Is there a fundamental problem with Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies?

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The problem with cryptocurrencies

Money has historically been used in value exchanges due to various benefits that are well documented. A fundamental expectation and requirement has always been that 'value is exchanged for value' - otherwise one side is 'donating' something of value if there is no value in return or being shortchanged rather than 'fairly transacting'.

Historically this expectation satisfied by money comprising a commodity or backed by a commodity (if it was tokenised as promissory notes, paper money etc). Fiat money broke that link permanently in 1971 resulting in value now being exchanged for valueless - a highly undesirable situation. The system is able to continue as states oblige taxes in fiat payments, society continuing with historic norms and traditions and the illusion of confidence based on the assumption others will accept fiat in transactions. This is all very shaky and unstable and can collapse quite quickly/easily as well as being open to abuse by states misappropriating trust by overprinting fiat. This fundamental imbalance and uncertainty means those with serious wealth always convert fiat money into assets like real estate, gold, business shares etc holding at best minor cash amounts. The poor, gullible, ignorant and uneducated etc are the poor sods who usually hold cash and are exploited when states print fiat or the losers in any currency crash.

Bitcoin adds nothing substantive to all this; it simply takes fiat into the digital world marginalising state authority whilst relying on coded limits and solving  mathematical problems for issuance. It is 'priced' based on a bubble-based speculation that relies on the logic of others will pay more for it rather than on the logic of its inherent value as it has none.

States will digitise their currencies with time as we are seeing in China to facilitate benefits the web allows for. However the problem will remain the same. Absence of inherent value.

To solve this problem money should be backed with something of value like gold or silver. These impose a hard limit to create scarcity as there is only a finite quantity on the planet. They have beneficial properties and characteristics resulting in utility across industries which give them a value.

This then is the root and systemic problem we face today with money. Until it is addressed there is no serious future for fiat or cryptocurrencies as they are valueless, resulting in fear and uncertainty to holders which will always remain and the coins remain open to abuse through overproduction/overprinting as there is no hard limit or any limit other than a subjective self-imposed one.

Look forward to your thoughts.

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