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Bitcoin Is Not a New Type of Money

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  • Michael Junho Lee
  • Antoine Martin

Abstract

Bitcoin, and more generally, cryptocurrencies, are often described as a new type of money. In this post, we argue that this is a misconception. Bitcoin may be money, but it is not a new type of money. To see what is truly new about Bitcoin, it is useful to make a distinction between “money,” the asset that is being exchanged, and the “exchange mechanism,” that is, the method or process through which the asset is transferred. Doing so reveals that monies with properties similar to Bitcoin have existed for centuries. However, the ability to make electronic exchanges without a trusted party—a defining characteristic of Bitcoin—is radically new. Bitcoin is not a new class of money, it is a new type of exchange mechanism, and this type of exchange mechanism can support a variety of forms of money as well as other types of assets.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Junho Lee & Antoine Martin, 2020. "Bitcoin Is Not a New Type of Money," Liberty Street Economics 20200618, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fednls:88190
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    crypto assets; cryptocurrencies; classification; bitcoin; money; exchange mechanism; payments;

    JEL classification:

    • E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
    • 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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