2

I can not stop asking myself the question, what problem does bitcoin actually solve? Before you accuse me of being lazy and not doing any research, here is my thought process:

You want to have a

  • decentral
  • stable

currency, (where trust is not needed).

From an economic perspective (without much knowledge about cryptography), these axioms already seem contradictory. Why? Well if you want to be decentral, no one can be allowed to change the money volume. But if you can not change the total volume of the money, you can not get a stable currency. Since the velocity of money is determined by exogenous factors such as payment cycles (e.g. monthly bills, wages, etc.), it is often assumed to be constant in economic models. But then the total amount of money which exchanges hands (i.e. the nominal GDP) is the total volume of money multiplied by its velocity (i.e. Y =MV).

Which means that a constant volume of money results in a constant nominal GDP. Which means that (assuming your economy grows) this will cause deflation. Of course you might hard-code some rule into your system, that the amount of money increases over time. But since you can hardly guess the GDP growth over the next decades, you will grossly under and overestimate growth and thus cause inflation or deflation whenever you under- or overshoot.

In other words: For any stable currency, there needs to be a way to adjust the volume of money. But since that adjustment needs to be made on the basis on activities in the real world, you need some form of input to your computer system. And whoever decides that input effectively decides the money quantity. So you end up with someone having power over the system. Of course this someone could be a committee. Maybe you could even implement some voting system, but since votes need to be allocated somehow this would likely result in votes proportional to wealth.

EDIT: Additionally the question is, who gets awarded the generated funds? In the current system the central bank has a monopoly. It can generate new funds and use that for things like economic relief programs (e.g. business loans in the current corona crisis). If no one has such a monopoly on the generated funds, and everyone can get them, then there needs to be some cost associated to obtaining them. Otherwise everyone would just print money. But you only stop people from printing, if the cost is roughly equal to the benefit. In other words: In a decentral currency, the cost of generating money must necessarily be so high, that it eats up the entire value of the money generated. This means crypto currencies with inflation necessarily have to be economically inefficient. I.e. people must waste resources like computing power in order to generate funds. Which means that the generated funds do not contribute to anyones well being, and can especially not be used for economic relief programms.

So not only is it difficult to implement a form of inflation which keeps step with real GDP growth, the distribution issue will cause a lot of unnecessary waste.

/endEdit

Compare that to a central bank in a functioning democracy, which would be governed by all people regardless of wealth. That sounds hard to beat.

This is why I doubt that crypto currencies could ever replace centrally issued money at all. And this fundamental issue does not even encompass the problems with current implementation. Proof of work causes transactions to be extremely expensive, and proof of stake appears to be just as problematic.

Okay so if the target audience is not functioning democracies, maybe you could target failed systems? Hm, so I doubt that the dictators in such countries are interested in giving away power over money. So any crypto currency would be unofficial. Then the question is what benefits does crypto currency provide over any other foreign currency? Failed systems are usually not known for their highly educated population, so it is unlikely [many] (edited) would actually understand how crypto currencies work (even spoiled by a good education system and a university education I do not understand it - I mean I probably could if I would start to read, but I am still wondering why I would even want to). So any crypto currency based service would have to run through some form of user friendly system. Who would design such a system? And if you trust them, you already trusted some company. Why can you not just trust a bank then? Which would enable you to have an account and posses all sorts of stable foreign currencies.

So neither democracies nor failed states seem to be the target audience. I mean not even criminals can really use this system since it is an open ledger and I heard stories about transactions being traced, completely ignoring the fact, that this would be a strange target audience to say the least.

So who in the world is the target audience? (Except for enthusiasts/idealists and speculators of course) Or are any assumptions in my reasoning wrong? I mean people seem to be enthusiastic about it, and I would have thought the hype should have died off a long time ago. Yet for some reason this thing still exists.

  • Hi Felix, thanks for your interesting query. I'm not sure I follow what exactly you mean to cover with the term "stable". Do you mean to encompass stability of the system, stability of the purchasing power, reliability for wealth preservation, or something else entirely? – Murch Apr 23 at 23:23
  • 1
  • @Murch stability of purchasing power (stability against in-/deflation) – Felix B. Apr 24 at 8:51
  • 1
    I see that you edited your question to add an additional question. This significantly changes the scope of your original question (already fairly long question!) after it has already received two answers. It would be better to post your follow-up question as a new topic. – Murch Apr 25 at 22:00
2

This is probably going to be closed as a question of opinion, but here is an answer nonetheless:

But if you can not change the total volume of the money, you can not get a stable currency... In other words: For any stable currency, there needs to be a way to adjust the volume of money.

Your assumption is that a form of money that is manipulatable will be stable, and that this stability will be a better outcome (than using a form of money that is not manipulatable, but less stable). So one answer to your question would be:

"People that think the benefits of no potential for monetary manipulation will outweigh the benefits of a relatively stable currency".

Another answer to your question would be:

"People that disagree with the premise that stability is an absolute requirement for a currency, or that disagree with the premise that our current system provides this stability in the first place".

These are largely matters of opinion, so I don't mean to infer that these opinions are correct, I'm just pointing out that it could be a valid opinion to have.


Then the question is what benefits does crypto currency provide over any other foreign currency? Failed systems are usually not known for their highly educated population, so it is unlikely anyone there would actually understand how crypto currencies work

There is likely nobody in the world that is better suited to understand the monetary properties of Bitcoin, than someone who has endured the collapse of a monetary system first-hand. It is those people who have been forced to confront ideas about what gives a system of money its value, which is not to say they will love bitcoin by default, but nonetheless they may have more experience and insight into this topic than the average person from a developed nation, whom has never had to worry about the meta of their money.

So it is extremely presumptuous to believe that 'nobody from a developing nation is smart enough to understand bitcoin'.

So who in the world is the target audience?

Anybody that opts in. Simple as that.


But all of that just addresses economic considerations, there is also a purely technical/social consideration:

Bitcoin is the only permission-less, borderless, internet-connected form of money available. With increased adoption there will be increased utility (more people and places that accept btc as payment), and so we might expect that humanity will converge onto using bitcoin as a schelling point, as it will be the most universally accessible form of payment for an internet culture. Bitcoin allows any person in the world to create a service or business online, and accept payments from anyone else. No other system of money allows for this, it is a very important phenomenon.

The internet gave us freedom of information, bitcoin builds on that by allowing freedom of economy.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Nice answer to a highly opinionated question. I think one other point may be that stability is not a single dimension. For a currency that payments are denominated in, short term stability is certainly desirable, but that can likely be accomplished by just having a larger internal Bitcoin economy. Long term stability is likely inherently incompatible with vanishing inflation, but it could be argued that's exactly a goal on itself: Bitcoin as investment that can withstand excessive monetary inflation in other currencies (while more liquid than other assets). – Pieter Wuille Apr 22 at 2:31
  • "Your assumption is that a form of money that is manipulatable will be stable". No I just argue that it is necessary to be manipulatable in order to be stable, not that it is sufficient. And if you really think that "no potential for monetary manipulation" outweighs the loss of stability... sure. And I agree that I phrased this badly: I do not assume that no one will understand it in a developing nation, just that the amount of people will be negligible. And you can not really use a different kind of money than everyone around you. Money is subject to the networking effect. – Felix B. Apr 22 at 14:26
  • @PieterWuille You end up with roughly 3% deflation if growth rates continue as they are like today. And deflation is not really desirable. And an investment is buying assets in order to increase productivity. So this is desirable from societies standpoint. Hording commodities (e.g. paintings, bitcoin, gold) is not desirable and not really an investment. Since the only way they increase in value is, by other people paying you more. So that is basically a ponzi scheme benefitting those who already have money (the rich). Not a society I want to live in – Felix B. Apr 22 at 14:38
  • @FelixB. Questions of opinion are off-topic, and so debating opinions in the comments isn’t really appropriate for this site. If you post to btctalk, reddit, Twitter, etc, you’ll likely find people to engage with. All of that said, don’t forget to consider the last part of my answer: the utility provided by owning btc may allow it to succeed, in spite of the fixed supply. Bitcoin can do things no other currency can, and that is an important point. – chytrik Apr 22 at 23:37
  • @chytrik I did not think that a fixed supply currency was ever up for debate. I did not think that many people would want to go back to a fixed supply currency like the gold standard. There is a reason everyone stopped backing their currencies in gold. So I did not think that "this opinion" would be controversial. I just wondered whether my assumption that crypto implies a fixed supply was correct. And you not addressing this assumption implies to me that it is. Which is close enough to an answer I guess – Felix B. Apr 23 at 11:52
0

are any assumptions in my reasoning wrong?

Trying not to be opinionated, your reasoning is about answering a question why economics can live without some new technology called cryptocurrency.

In other words: For any stable currency, there needs to be a way to adjust the volume of money.

Bitcoin is not pretended to be stable, it is pretended to be working as MVP. Any "stability" features not interfering with the core are yet to be possible. Anybody having proposals of how to make a stable cryptocurrency is welcome.

even spoiled by a good education system and a university education I do not understand it - I mean I probably could if I would start to read, but I am still wondering why I would even want to

Bitcoin EULA may be found at bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf . This free and open-source software has appeared not because of anybody's wanting, but as a byproduct of state-of-the-art in cryptographic science. You may have been less like uncertain after you'll read this for several times.

So any crypto currency based service would have to run through some form of user friendly system. Who would design such a system? And if you trust them, you already trusted some company. Why can you not just trust a bank then?

Everybody trusts his bank, but you may have been satisfied of unconditional access to your bitcoin account if all your bank accounts being frozen and connections to outer world are both limited and read. If Alice writes a message to Bitcoin miner's network just on paper, and gives it to Bob with Internet access, then Bob can emit the message which will make the transaction commited, and Eva who has read the paper still can not have an access to Alice's funds.

So who in the world is the target audience?

Knowing by heart the private key from Bitcoin adress with positive amount of bitcoins on it will allow you to produce transactions, computing them on paper without any computers or software. Please note, if you are not a human but an Artificial Intelligence then you shall not be trusted from any bank. Bitcoin is the most user-friendly system for that kind of entity.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.