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Bitcoin as money?

Author

Listed:
  • Stephanie Lo
  • J. Christina Wang

Abstract

The spectacular rise late last year in the price of Bitcoin, the dominant virtual currency, has attracted much public attention as well as scholarly interest. This policy brief discusses how some features of Bitcoin, as designed and executed to date, have hampered its ability to perform the functions required of a fiat money??as a medium of exchange, unit of account, and store of value. Furthermore, we document how various forms of intermediaries have emerged and evolved within the Bitcoin network, particularly noting the convergence toward concentrated processing, both on and off the blockchain. We argue that much of this process would have been predicted by established theories of financial intermediation, and we consider the theories? implication for the future evolution of intermediaries serving users of Bitcoin or alternative virtual currencies. We then compare Bitcoin with other innovations to facilitate payment services, from competing alternative digital currencies to electronic payment protocols. We conclude with a broad consideration of the major factors that will likely shape the future development of Bitcoin versus other alternative payment systems. We predict that Bitcoin?s lasting legacy will be the innovations it has spurred to payment technology, although the payment system will remain dominated by large processors because of economies of scale.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephanie Lo & J. Christina Wang, 2014. "Bitcoin as money?," Current Policy Perspectives 14-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbcq:2014_004
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Joshua S. Gans & Hanna Halaburda, 2015. "Some Economics of Private Digital Currency," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Analysis of the Digital Economy, pages 257-276, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Mark Bils & Peter J. Klenow, 2004. "Some Evidence on the Importance of Sticky Prices," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(5), pages 947-985, October.
    3. Eli Ofek & Matthew Richardson, 2003. "DotCom Mania: The Rise and Fall of Internet Stock Prices," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(3), pages 1113-1138, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Malavika Nair & Nicolás Cachanosky, 2017. "Bitcoin and entrepreneurship: breaking the network effect," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 30(3), pages 263-275, September.
    2. Pieters, Gina & Vivanco, Sofia, 2017. "Financial regulations and price inconsistencies across Bitcoin markets," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 1-14.
    3. Claire Greene & Scott Schuh & Joanna Stavins, 2016. "The 2014 survey of consumer payment choice: summary results," Research Data Report 16-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    4. A. Stevens, 2017. "Digital currencies : Threats and opportunities for monetary policy," Economic Review, National Bank of Belgium, issue i, pages 79-92, June.
    5. Anton Badev & Matthew Chen, 2014. "Bitcoin: Technical Background and Data Analysis," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2014-104, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), revised 07 Oct 2014.
    6. Luther, William J. & Salter, Alexander W., 2017. "Bitcoin and the bailout," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 50-56.
    7. Jaroslav Bukovina & Matus Marticek, 2016. "Sentiment and Bitcoin Volatility," MENDELU Working Papers in Business and Economics 2016-58, Mendel University in Brno, Faculty of Business and Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    medium of exchange; liquidity; money; speculative bubble;

    JEL classification:

    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • E41 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Demand for Money
    • E51 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Money Supply; Credit; Money Multipliers
    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages

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