My Paper “Fiat Money, Cryptocurrencies and the Pure Theory of Money” is now available on SSRN

I have just posted a draft of a paper that will appear in a forthcoming volume, Edward Elgar Handbook of Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies. The paper draws on a number of my earlier posts on fiat currencies, bitcoins and cryptocurrencies, such as this, this, this and this.

Here is the abstract of my paper.

This paper attempts to account for the rising value of cryptocurrencies using basic concepts of monetary theory. A positive value of fiat money is itself problematic inasmuch as that value apparently depends entirely on its expected resale value. A current value entirely dependent on expected future resale value seems inconsistent with backward induction. While fiat money can avoid the backward-induction problem if it is made acceptable in payment of taxes, acceptability for tax payments is unavailable to cryptocurrencies. Is the rising value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies a bubble? The paper argues that network effects may be an alternative mechanism for avoiding the logic of backward induction. Because users of any good subject to substantial network effects incur costs by switching to an incompatible alternative to the good currently used, users of a bitcoin for certain transactions may be locked into continued use of bitcoin despite an expectation that its future value will eventually go to zero. Thus, even if bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are bubble phenomena, network effects may lock existing users of bitcoin into continued use of bitcoin for those transactions for which bitcoins provide superior transactional services to those provided by conventional currencies. Nevertheless, the prospects for bitcoin’s expansion beyond its current niche uses are dim, because its architecture implies that a significant expansion in the demand for its transactional services would lead to rapid appreciation that is incompatible with service as a medium of exchange.

1 Response to “My Paper “Fiat Money, Cryptocurrencies and the Pure Theory of Money” is now available on SSRN”


  1. 1 Benjamin Cole November 3, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Interesting insights.

    Still… the value of gold is determined by what people think it will sell for in the future. (Gold does have some value as a form of jewelry or in some industrial applications, where Bitcoin has none.)

    Perhaps the demand for Bitcoin is held up by the need for secret transactions.

    My analogy is this. I believe in gravity and everything will be pulled back down to earth. On the other hand a tree can grow and move further away from the planet for hundreds of years. I still believe in gravity but there are exceptions and they can persist longer than a man can live.


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About Me

David Glasner
Washington, DC

I am an economist in the Washington DC area. My research and writing has been mostly on monetary economics and policy and the history of economics. In my book Free Banking and Monetary Reform, I argued for a non-Monetarist non-Keynesian approach to monetary policy, based on a theory of a competitive supply of money. Over the years, I have become increasingly impressed by the similarities between my approach and that of R. G. Hawtrey and hope to bring Hawtrey's unduly neglected contributions to the attention of a wider audience.

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