As Adam Ozimek points out Bitcoin has so far largely been greeted with eye-rolling by professional economists.
One reason is that the cryptocurrency’s most enthusiastic advocates tend to subscribe to a hard-money, end-the-Fed worldview that is unpopular among elites. That has caused the latter to reflexively take the opposite view, treating Bitcoin as primarily a monetary policy experiment and predicting its doom.
My sympathies are with the pros here. Fiat currency isn’t perfect, but I think alternatives like the gold standard would be worse. But Bitcoin is a more than a gold standard for the Internet age. It’s the world’s first fully decentralized payment system, combining the irreversibility of cash with the convenience of electronic payment. There’s never been anything quite like it before, and as a result it poses a number of interesting intellectual puzzles. Here are four examples.
What gives money its value? One popular theory says that modern fiat currencies get their value by “government fiat”: the government declares a currency to be the official one, requires that currency be used to compute and pay taxes, and thereby confers value on what would otherwise be worthless slips of paper.
Bitcoin is a clear challenge to that view. It has no “backing” from any government or other large institution, yet the stock of outstanding bitcoins is now worth more than $1 billion.
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