Bitcoin is a new currency that was created in 2009 by an unknown person using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. Transactions are made with no middle men – meaning, no banks! Bitcoin can be used to. Bitcoin Bank was made to get your money and give it to scammers. As we have explained, it will use a fake demo to trick you into thinking that it really can make you money. When you want it to trade with real money for real profits, they will force you to deposit money with an unregulated and shady broker. Is Bitcoin Real Money? Currently, Bitcoin is the most viable alternative to conventional currency. However, it is still so far away from acquiring the ubiquity, convenience, and speed of cash that is backed by traditional financial institutions.
- Is Bitcoin Real Currency
- Does Bitcoin Turn Into Real Money
- Is Bitcoin Considered Money
- Is Bitcoin Actual Money
Bitcoin is a new currency that was created in 2009 by an unknown person using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. Transactions are made with no middle men – meaning, no banks! Bitcoin can be used to book hotels on Expedia, shop for furniture on Overstock and buy Xbox games. But much of the hype is about getting rich by trading it. The price of bitcoin skyrocketed into the thousands in 2017.
Bitcoins can be used to buy merchandise anonymously. In addition, international payments are easy and cheap because bitcoins are not tied to any country or subject to regulation. Small businesses may like them because there are no credit card fees. Some people just buy bitcoins as an investment, hoping that they’ll go up in value.
Buy on an Exchange
Many marketplaces called “bitcoin exchanges” allow people to buy or sell bitcoins using different currencies. Coinbase is a leading exchange, along with Bitstamp and Bitfinex. But security can be a concern: bitcoins worth tens of millions of dollars were stolen from Bitfinex when it was hacked in 2016.
People can send bitcoins to each other using mobile apps or their computers. It’s similar to sending cash digitally.
People compete to “mine” bitcoins using computers to solve complex math puzzles. This is how bitcoins are created. Currently, a winner is rewarded with 12.5 bitcoins roughly every 10 minutes.
Bitcoins are stored in a “digital wallet,” which exists either in the cloud or on a user’s computer. The wallet is a kind of virtual bank account that allows users to send or receive bitcoins, pay for goods or save their money. Unlike bank accounts, bitcoin wallets are not insured by the FDIC.
Wallet in cloud: Servers have been hacked. Companies have fled with clients’ bitcoins.
Wallet on computer: You can accidentally delete them. Viruses could destroy them.
The anonymity of bitcoin
Though each bitcoin transaction is recorded in a public log, names of buyers and sellers are never revealed – only their wallet IDs. While that keeps bitcoin users’ transactions private, it also lets them buy or sell anything without easily tracing it back to them. That’s why it has become the currency of choice for people online buying drugs or other illicit activities.
Bitcoin’s future in question
No one knows what will become of bitcoin. It is mostly unregulated, but some countries like Japan, China and Australia have begun weighing regulations. Governments are concerned about taxation and their lack of control over the currency.
Contrary to popular belief, bitcoin is in fact backed by something. It is backed by the only thing that backs any form of money: the credibility of its monetary properties. Money is not a collective hallucination nor merely a belief system. Over the course of history, various mediums have emerged as money, and each time, it has not just been by coincidence. Goods that emerge as money possess unique properties that differentiate them from other market goods. While The Bitcoin Standard provides a more full discussion, monetary goods possess unique properties that make them particularly useful as a means of exchange; these properties include scarcity, durability, divisibility, fungibility and portability, among others. With each emergent money, inherent properties of one medium improve upon and obsolete the monetary properties inherent in a pre-existing form of money, and every time a good has monetized, another has demonetized. Essentially, the relative strengths of one monetary medium out-compete that of another, and bitcoin is no different. It represents a technological advancement in the global competition for money; it is the superior successor to gold and the fiat money systems that leveraged gold’s monetary properties.
Is Bitcoin Real Currency
Bitcoin is out-competing its analog predecessors on the basis of its monetary properties. Bitcoin is finitely scarce, and it is more easily divisible and more easily transferable than its incumbent competitors. It is also more decentralized, and as a derivative, more resistant to censorship or corruption. There will only ever be 21 million bitcoin, and each bitcoin is divisible to eight decimal points (1 one-hundred millionth). Value can be transferred to anyone and anywhere in the world on a permissionless basis, and final settlement does not rely on any third-party. In aggregate, its monetary properties are vastly superior to any other form of money used today. And, these properties do not exist by chance, nor do they exist in a vacuum. The emergent monetary properties in bitcoin are secured and reinforced through a combination of cryptography, a network of decentralized nodes enforcing a common set of consensus rules, and a robust mining network ensuring the integrity and immutability of bitcoin’s transaction ledger. The currency itself is the keystone which binds the system together, creating economic incentives that allow the security columns to function as a whole. But even still, bitcoin’s monetary properties are not absolute; instead, these properties are evaluated by the market relative to the properties inherent in other monetary systems.
Coinbase Pro: bitcoin exchange rate for dollars over the last six months (as of September 27, 2019).
Recognize that every time a dollar is sold for bitcoin, the exact same number of dollars and bitcoin exist in the world. All that changes is the relative preference of holding one currency versus another. As the value of bitcoin rises, it is an indication that market participants increasingly prefer holding bitcoin over dollars. A higher price of bitcoin (in dollar terms) means more dollars must be sold to acquire an equivalent amount of bitcoin. In aggregate, it is an evaluation by the market of the relative strength of monetary properties. Price is the output. Monetary properties are the input. As individuals evaluate the monetary properties of bitcoin, the natural question becomes: which possesses more credible monetary properties? Bitcoin or the dollar? Well, what backs the dollar (or euro or yen, etc.) in the first place? When attempting to answer this question, the retort is most often that the dollar is backed by the government, the military (guys with guns), or taxes. However, the dollar is backed by none of these. Not the government, not the military and not taxes. Governments tax what is valuable; a good is not valuable because it is taxed. Similarly, militaries secure what is valuable, not the other way around. And a government cannot dictate the value of its currency; it can only dictate the supply of its currency.
Venezuela, Argentina, and Turkey all have governments, militaries and the authority to tax, yet the currencies of each have deteriorated significantly over the past five years. While it’s not sufficient to prove the counterfactual, each is an example that contradicts the idea that a currency derives its value as a function of government. Each and every episode of hyperinflation should be evidence enough of the inherent flaws in fiat monetary systems, but unfortunately it is not. Rather than understanding hyperinflation as the logical end game of all fiat systems, most simply believe hyperinflation to be evidence of monetary mismanagement. This simplistic view ignores first principles, as well as the dynamics which ensure monetary debasement in fiat systems. While the dollar is structurally more resilient as the global reserve currency, the underpinning of all fiat money is functionally the same, and the dollar is merely the strongest of a weak lot. Once the mechanism(s) that back the dollar (and all fiat systems) is better understood, it provides a baseline to then evaluate the mechanisms that back bitcoin.
Why does the dollar have value?
The value of the dollar did not emerge on the free market. Instead, it emerged as a fractional representation of gold (and silver initially). Essentially, the dollar was a solution to the inherent limitations in the convertibility and transferability of gold; its inception was dependent on the monetary properties of base metals, rather than properties inherent in the dollar itself. It was also initially a system based on trust: accept dollars and trust that it could be converted back to gold at a fixed amount in the future. Gold’s limitation and ultimate failure as money is the dollar system, and without gold, the dollar would have never existed in its current construct. For a quick review of the dollar’s history with gold:
|1900||Gold Standard Act of 1900 established that gold was the only metal convertible to the dollar; gold convertible to dollars at $20.67/oz.|
|1913||The Federal Reserve was created as part of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.|
|1933||President Roosevelt banned the hoarding (saving) of gold via Executive Order 6102, requiring citizens to convert gold to dollars at $20.67 per ounce or face a penalty in the form of a fine up to $10,000 and/or up to 5 to 10 years imprisonment.|
|1934||President Roosevelt signed the Gold Reserve Act, devaluing the dollar by approximately 40% to $35 per ounce of gold.|
|1944||Bretton Woods agreement formalized ability of foreign governments and central banks to convert gold to dollars (and vice versa) at $35/oz and established fixed exchange ratios between dollars and other foreign currencies.|
|1971||President Nixon officially ended all convertibility of dollars to gold, effectively ending the Bretton Woods system. The value of dollar was changed to $38/oz of gold.|
|1973||The U.S. government repriced gold to $42 per ounce.|
|1976||The U.S. government then decoupled the value of the dollar from gold altogether in 1976.|
Over the course of the twentieth century, the dollar transitioned from a reserve-backed currency to a debt-backed currency. While most people never stop to consider why the dollar has value in the post gold era, the most common explanation remains that it is either a collective hallucination (i.e. the dollar has value simply because we all believe it does), or that it is a function of the government, the military, and taxes. Neither explanation has any basis in first principles, nor is it the fundamental reason why the dollar retains value. Instead, today, the dollar maintains its value as a function of debt and the relative scarcity of dollars to dollar-denominated debt. In the dollar world, everything is a function of the credit system. Nominal GDP is functionally dependent on the size, and growth of the credit system, and taxes are a derivative of nominal GDP. The mechanisms that fund the government (taxes and deficit spending) are both dependent on the credit system, and it is the credit system that allows the dollar to function in its current construct.
The size of the credit system is several times larger than nominal GDP. Because the credit system is also orders of magnitude larger than the base money supply, economic activity is largely coordinated by the allocation and expansion of credit. However, the growth of the credit system has far outpaced the growth of GDP over the course of the last three decades. The chart below indexes the rate of change of the credit system compared to the rate of change of both nominal GDP and federal tax receipts (from 1987 to today). In the Fed’s system, credit expansion drives nominal GDP which ultimately dictates the nominal level of federal tax receipts.
Today, there is $73 trillion of debt (fixed maturity / fixed liability) in the U.S. credit system according to the Federal Reserve (z.1 report), but there are only $1.6 trillion actual dollars in the banking system. This is how the Fed manages the relative stability of the dollar. Debt creates future demand for dollars. In the Fed’s system, each dollar is leveraged approximately 40:1. If you borrow dollars today, you need to acquire dollars in the future to repay that debt, and currently, each dollar in the banking system is owed 40 times over. The relationship between the size of the credit system relative to the amount of dollars gives the dollar relative scarcity and stability. In aggregate, everyone needs dollars to repay dollar denominated credit.
The system as a whole owes far more dollars than exist, creating an environment where on net there is a very high present demand for dollars. If consumers did not pay debt, their homes would be foreclosed upon, or their cars would be repossessed. If a corporation did not pay debt, company assets would be forfeited to creditors via a bankruptcy process, and equity could be entirely wiped out. If a government did not pay debt, basic government functions would be shut down due to lack of funding. In most cases, the consequence of not securing the future dollars necessary to repay debt means losing the shirt on your back. Debt creates the ultimate incentive to demand dollars. So long as dollars are scarce relative to the amount of outstanding debt, the dollar remains relatively stable. This is how the Fed’s economy works, incentivize credit creation and you create the source of future demand for the underlying currency. In a sense, it’s kind of like a drug dealer. Get an addict hooked on your drug and he will keep coming back for more. In this case, the drug is debt, and it forces everyone, on net, to stay on the dollar hamster wheel.
The problem for the Fed’s economy (and the dollar) is that it depends on the functioning of a highly leveraged credit system. And in order to sustain it, the Fed must increase the amount of base dollars. This is what quantitative easing is and why it exists. In order to sustain the amount of debt in the system, the Fed has to systematically increase the supply of actual dollars, otherwise the credit system would collapse. Increasing the amount of base dollars has the immediate effect of deleveraging the credit system, but it has the longer-term effect of inducing more credit. It also has the effect of devaluing the dollar gradually over time. This is all by design. Credit is ultimately what backs the dollar because what the credit actually represents is claims on real assets, and consequently, people’s livelihoods. Come with dollars in the future or risk losing your house is an incredible incentive to work for dollars.
The relationship between dollars and dollar credit keeps the Fed’s game in play, and central bankers believe this can go on forever. Create more dollars; create more debt. Too much debt? Create more dollars, and so on. Ultimately, in the Fed’s (or any central bank’s) system, the currency is the release valve. Because there is $73 trillion of debt and only $1.6 trillion dollars in the U.S. banking system, more dollars will have to be added to the system to support the debt. The scarcity of dollars relative to the demand for dollars is what gives the dollar its value. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing else backs the dollar. And while the dynamics of the credit system create relative scarcity of the dollar, it is also what ensures dollars will become less and less scarce on an absolute basis.
Too much debt → Create more money → More debt → Too much debt
Does Bitcoin Turn Into Real Money
As is the case with any monetary asset, scarcity is the monetary property that backs the dollar, but the dollar is only scarce relative to the amount of dollar-denominated debt that exists. And it now has real competition in the form of bitcoin. The dollar system and its lack of inherent monetary properties provides a stark contrast to the monetary properties emergent and inherent in bitcoin. Dollar scarcity is relative; bitcoin scarcity is absolute. The dollar system is based on trust; bitcoin is not. The dollar’s supply is governed by a central bank, whereas bitcoin’s supply is governed by a consensus of market participants. The supply of dollars will always be wed to the size of its credit system, whereas the supply of bitcoin is entirely divorced from the function of credit. And, the cost to create dollars is marginally zero, whereas the cost to create bitcoin is tangible and ever increasing. Ultimately, bitcoin’s monetary properties are emergent and increasingly unmanipulatable, whereas the dollar is inherently and increasingly manipulable.
Money and digital scarcity
The hardest mental hurdle to overcome, when evaluating bitcoin as money, is often that it is digital. Bitcoin is not tangible, and on the surface, it is not intuitive. How could something entirely digital be money? While the dollar is mostly digital, it remains far more tangible than bitcoin in the mind of most. While the digital dollar emerged from its paper predecessor and physical dollars remain in circulation, bitcoin is natively digital. With the dollar, there is a physical representation that anchors our mental models in the tangible world; with bitcoin, there is not. While bitcoin possesses far more credible monetary properties than the dollar, the dollar has always been money (for most of us), and as a consequence, its digital representation is seemingly a more intuitive extension from the physical to the digital world. While the dollar’s basis as money is anchored in time and while its digital nature may seem more tangible, bitcoin represents finite scarcity. The supply of the dollar on the other hand has no limits.
Is Bitcoin Considered Money
Remember that the dollar does not have any inherent monetary properties. It leveraged the monetary properties of gold in its ascent to global reserve status, but in itself, there are no unique properties that ground the dollar as a stable form of money, other than its relative scarcity in the construct of its credit-linked monetary system. When evaluating bitcoin, the first principle question to consider is whether something digital could share the quintessential properties that made gold a store of value (and a form of money). Did gold emerge as money because it was physical or because it possessed transcendent properties beyond being physical? Of all the physical objects in the world, why gold? Gold emerged as money not because it was physical, but instead because its aggregate properties were unique. Most importantly, gold is scarce, fungible and highly durable. While gold possessed many properties which made it superior to any money that came before it, its fatal flaw was that it was difficult to transport and susceptible to centralization, which is ultimately why the dollar emerged as its transactional counterpart.
“As a thought experiment, imagine there was a base metal as scarce as gold but with the following properties:
– boring grey in colour
– not a good conductor of electricity
– not particularly strong, but not ductile or easily malleable either
– not useful for any practical or ornamental purpose
Is Bitcoin Actual Money
and one special, magical property:
– can be transported over a communications channel”