Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The classification and the future of Bitcoin (another Re: Patrik Korda)

A short while ago I wrote a post where I made some arguments regarding an earlier article about Bitcoin by Patrik Korda. Patrik and I had a long session in the comment section after the article and I'd thought I'd provide a followup. I hope I don't misrepresent his position, but I think I have a pretty good idea by now.

Patrik looks like a smart chap, he makes plenty of reasonably arguments, and it turns out that we actually agree on a very large proportion of arguments about economics and Bitcoin in specific. He can make on topic responses, which is not that common in internet debates. Nevertheless, in some important issues we disagree and I think these merit a closer assessment.

Classification of Bitcoin

Patrik argues that it is problematic to classify Bitcoin from Austrian perspective as a type of money, because it does not clearly fit into the decision tree presented by Ludwig von Mises in Theory of Money and Credit. So far, I agree with him. This is what I wrote in my thesis:
However, should it develop into money, it could present a problem. Bitcoin is not and never was a money substitute, never had a special legal status, nor was it a claim against anybody, nor was a commercial commodity. Therefore, it would not fit into any of the subcategories of the classification.
Now, merely because we cannot classify something, that does not really mean that there is an actual empirical problem. In Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb argues that the inability to formulate knowledge verbally is not a valid reason for ignoring this knowledge. I remember that during my studies I read something similar. Tacit knowledge still has an important role in our activities, and ignoring it decreases our ability to make sound decisions. It's funny that I agree with Taleb, because I'm usually pretty anal about getting the definitions right and I go mental when people cannot formulate coherently.

The issue here, however, is not some abstract classification for its own sake, so that I know what shelf to put books about Bitcoin into in a library. The purpose of the classification system provided by Mises is to assist in the economic analysis of trade, money supply, price building, liquidity and so on. From this perspective, if we insist that we must keep the number of categories the same that Mises used, the economically closest category of Bitcoin would be commodity money.

There are several reasons for this. First of all, Bitcoin never was a claim against anyone (credit) (or, if we use the second definition of money in the broader sense, it never was a nearly perfect substitute to any other money). Patrik claims that if Bitcoin trades against fiat money, it means it's a money substitute, and the issue of a exchange rate is irrelevant. However, the Austrian economists disagree:

Because, as he pointed out, bank demand deposits were not other goods and services, other assets exchangeable for cash; they were, instead, redeemable for cash at par on demand. Since they were so redeemable, they functioned, not as a good or service exchanging for cash, but rather as a warehouse receipt for cash, redeemable on demand at par as in the case of any other warehouse. Demand deposits were therefore "money-substitutes" and functioned as equivalent to money in the market. Instead of exchanging cash for a good, the owner of a demand deposit and the seller of the good would both treat the deposit as if it were cash, a surrogate for money.
... 

Bluechip stocks, for example, can be easily sold for money, yet no one would include such stocks as part of the money supply. The operative difference, then, is not whether an asset is liquid or not (since stocks are no more part of the money supply than, say, real estate) but whether the asset is redeemable at a fixed rate, at par, in money. Credit instruments, similarly to the case of shares of stock, are sold for money on the market at fluctuating rates. The current tendency of some economists to include assets as money purely because of their liquidity must be rejected; after all, in some cases, inventories of retail goods might be as liquid as stocks or bonds, and yet surely no one would list these inventories as part of the money supply. They are other goods sold for money on the market.
[emphasis added]

To paraphrase the Austrian masters, money substitutes are perfectly secure and IMMEDIATELY convertible, PAR VALUE claims to standard money which, by virtue of this immediate convertibility substitute FULLY for standard money in individual’s cash balances, and as such, are used by individuals as a surrogate for cash – namely, a thing that all other goods and services are traded for, the final payment for such goods and services on the market.
[emphasis added]

The special suitability for facilitating indirect exchanges possessed by absolutely secure and immediately payable claims to money, which we may briefly refer to as money substitutes, is further increased by their standing in law and commerce.
[emphasis added]

Admittedly, he does not use the term "par value" here, but later, he points out to the difference in price when differentiating between credit money and money substitutes:
A third category may be called credit money, this being that sort of money which constitutes a claim against any physical or legal person. But these claims must not be both payable on demand and absolutely secure [i.e. the criteria that Mises uses to define money substitutes, ed]; if they were, there could be no difference between their value and that of the sum of money to which they referred, and they could not be subjected to an independent process of valuation on the part of those who dealt with them.
 [emphasis added]



Bitcoin is not a claim, nor is it treated at par with anything else. It is, to use Mises' terms, subjected to an independent process of valuation. It therefore cannot be a money substitute according to Mises. The issue is exacerbated because Patrik refuses to answer the question who is Bitcoin a claim against, i.e. who is obligated to redeem it (I'm sticking to Misesian terminology here, I disagree with the Austrians that money substitute must be a claim, but that just means I put more relaxed restrictions on Patrik than Mises would).

This eliminates the option of classifying Bitcoin as a money substitute, but also credit and fiat money (as according to my interpretation of the regression theorem, these have to begin as money substitutes), and the only option remaining is commodity money. Another reason for classifying Bitcoin as commodity money is the inelasticity of supply. Detlev Schlichter made the same argument, and the paper of George Selgin can probably also be interpreted from this perspective. Yet another alternative approach is that with commodity money, the marginal production costs and the market price tend to be close to each other (and Bitcoin fits here too).

If we insist on the Misesian definition, then we're stuck with the controversial question of whether Bitcoin is, or was, a commodity. I don't want to get into that. The alternatives that I provide might or might not mean it's a commodity, but I think it gets the economic fundament of both gold and Bitcoin more accurately. But we should at least be able to say that Bitcoin is a quasi-commodity, or that it's a commoditised service, if we insist on using "commodity".

Bitcoin is not the only medium of exchange that shows the Misesian definitions inadequate. For example, the old Somali Shillings still work as money. They do not have a special legal status anymore, they just used to have one in the past (that is how they obtained their initial value). So they used to be fiat money, but they evolved into something which a strict Misesian can't classify (quasi-commodity money, as Selgin suggests). The old Somali Shillings have been counterfeited so much that their production price is close to their market value. During the inflation the supply was elastic but now that the market price has dropped it's not elastic anymore. We see on this example that the removal of the legal status causes them to eventually gain features similar to the "real" commodity money. Another example of insufficient classification system are various complementary currencies, mutual credit, LETS, or privately issued scrip like Ithaca Hours or BerkShares. Now, these are technically not money yet, merely media of exchange (same situation as Bitcoin), but if they ever developed into money, the question of classification would arise (I use a bit more relaxed definition than Mises, so to me, they would then count as money substitutes).

I think that rather than insisting on a particular umbrella classification system, the classification should be done from the perspective which is most relevant for a particular context. In most economic debates, I tend to agree with Schlichter and Selgin that the elasticity of supply is the most relevant criterion. But I presented several other options too, they might be more suitable for different situations.

The future of Bitcoin

The question of classification of Bitcoin might be a bit boring. The question of the future of Bitcoin is probably much more interesting.

Patrik makes two separate arguments. The first one is that the latest price developments of Bitcoin are a bubble. I have absolutely no problem with this argument. I've been hesitant to make predictions about price myself, I don't think that that fits into the economic category. He could very well be right in this point. This is what I wrote on March 5th, around the same time that Patrik wrote his article:
BTW I would be caution of not calling the increased price a bubble. The relevant factor for monetisation is liquidity and I haven't seen an improvement of liquidity (measured as bid/ask elasticity of Mt. Gox as laid out in my thesis), however I didn't analyse data after beginning of January (I don't have the full data set yet), so I am not making a final statement.
This post is not publicly available but I'm sure people who have access to it can confirm that I'm not making this up.

However, Patrik makes a second argument too. He claims that this is relevant for the future of Bitcoin. And here is where we disagree. In the previous article, I argued that due to the network effect, I expect a small number of dominant cryptocurrencies to emerge, even if their relative market share and composition changes. Patrik however seems to have a more fundamental argument, in that the market shares will change quickly and unpredictably. This I also do not hold realistic, and will attempt to address it in this section.

This section will be a bit more loose than normally. I'm not going to make a "hard" argument, merely point out to factors Patrik missed and that might be relevant. First I will formulate a "rule of thumb" for how I think the network effect behaves under competition, and then I'll explain it on the examples presented by Patrik, and some of my own.

  1. If a protocol is technologically better suited to fulfill the requirements of the users, it will take the leading role
  2. Friction could prevent a change in the market share if the advantage is not sufficient
  3. If protocols are technologically too similar to provide advantages vis-a-vis each other, a lagging one won't overtake the leading one (path dependence)
  4. State interference can count as technological advantage
  5. Multihoming (using of more than one standard simultaneously) is only possible to a certain extent, and can't affect the fundamental issues long term
The example Patrik uses are P2P protocols. Let's take a look at the history of the leaders (I'm approximating):
  1. 1999-2001: Napster. First mover advantage.
  2. 2001-2004: Kazzaa (FastTrack protocol). Won over Napster because Napster shut down.
  3. 2004-2007: eDonkey. I think it won because it was less centralised and Kazzaa was hostile against third party clients.
  4. 2007+ BitTorrent. I think it won because it is less centralised, and open source. BitTorrent is the only one that actually gained wider industry acceptance (e.g. Blizzard downloader uses it).
There is nothing unusual here. All this is perfectly reasonable in hindsight. Purists might argue that Napster shut down because it lost a trial and that's not an endogenous failure, but clearly if a leader wants to keep its leading position, it needs to be able to resists the law, i.e. the resistance, or lack of it, is an endogenous property. We can also note that the newer leaders were increasingly less centralised and more resistant to legal action: while Napster was shut down with a single lawsuit, BitTorrent has several unrelated trackers, and also DHT, so a shutdown of one company has little effect on all users.

Furthermore, as the old leaders do not provide an technological advantage against Bittorrent, they are unlikely to take leading position again. What would take a leading position is something with a significant technological advantage over BitTorrent. At the moment there is no visible challenger. We could say that the technology matured.

Let's take at other examples. Some of the reasons below are subjective, if you think you have a better explanation, I can adapt it.

Browsers. Internet Explorer was the market leader. Then Microsoft stopped spending development resources on it because they didn't appreciate upcoming technological challenges. Eventually, Chrome took the lead, and I think it's because it's technologically superiour.

The internet took over IPX, NetBeui and other stuff because it's technologically superiour. There is no visible challenger at the moment (at best, IPv6 is a challenger to IPv4). VHS took over Betamax becuase it provided longer recording time.

Then we have examples of standards that are too similar. The metric system versus the imperial system only switch due to state interference. BluRay was too similar to HD-DVD and they also had similar market shares, but BluRay eventually got a majority of industry support and HD-DVD discontinued.

Now, how do we apply that to Bitcoin? The various altchains are, in my opinion, too similar to Bitcoin. None of them provides a meaningful technological superiourity. Therefore, I expect Bitcoin to remain the leader. If something challenges Bitcoin, it would be something with meaningful technological superiourity. Furthermore, the relevant factor that approximates "market share" isn't really the market capitalisation. Rather, it's liquidity. Even if one of the cryptocurrencies bubbles up and overtakes, unit per unit, the price of Bitcoin, it still won't overtake Bitcoin unless it also overtakes its liquidity. And that takes much longer to build up than just one bubble.

Furthermore, while people might multihome different cryptocurrencies (i.e. to use them in parallel, the costs are relatively low, so it's not a big problem), in the end they still use one standard for economic calculation. Nowadays this is typically their national fiat money. Even if then every cryptocurrency user would multihome, as their industry sector moves from fiat to cryptocurrency, they would choose one of them to do economic calculation, and then there would be a convergence on this level, and this would play out as the network effect. Rothbard makes the converse argument than me, in The Case for a Genuine Gold Dollar. He argues that merely because competition in media of exchange is allowed (as per Hayek), that does not mean that people would switch their unit of account (and without it the network effect can't kick in). That's essentially the point (3) from above. He however misses the possibility of capturing market share through technological improvement (Hayek missed it too, so I'm not really blaming Rothbard). He implies that the Hayekian private media of exchange would have the same transaction costs as coins or money substitutes that people use otherwise.

Summary

The classification of Bitcoin is problematic, but it's not an unsolvable problem. Bitcoin is not the only thing that challenges the Misesian definitions though. I recommend analysing economic fundamentals and context.

Competition under the network effect does not behave erratically, even if the people involved might. While switches in the leading position can occur, they are, within reasonable limits, predictable. More precisely, we can reasonably predict what won't happen. Altchains are unlikely to displace Bitcoin, due to path dependence.

I'm too lazy to check the whole post thoroughly, if you find any errors please let me know and I'll fix them.

20 comments:

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful analysis. The comparison with BitTorrent I think is especially relevant.

    Another example you could use is cell phone standards. In the US we use both GSM and CDMA, but GSM is gaining in share, primarily due to its international roaming feature and lack of carrier lock. Also being the biggest standard means new phones often support GSM first.

    PS> Shouldn't "superiourity" be spelled "superiority" ? Perhaps it's just a US vs. EU difference.

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    1. I'm not familiar with the mobile network standards so I can't comment on that. I worked with P2P data transfers as a user, developer and network administrator, so I'm much more familiar with those.

      The spelling is US vs. UK style, I've been using UK spelling for a long time (I spent 6 years in Ireland) and am sticking with that for consistency.

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  2. Peter, how would you classify casino tokens? I think BitCoins have the most similarity to those, in that they are not money per se, but can be exchanged for money (direct exchange). With wide enough circulation, they can eventually bootstrap into money, aka indirect exchange.

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    1. I would classify them as secondary media of exchange. In January I gave a closely related question to professor Salerno (whether casino chips are a part of the money supply) and he said they weren't. I agree with his conclusion even though I do not 100% agree with his reasoning.

      Salerno made two arguments.

      The first one is that redemption is uncertain. Afterwards, I did a bit of research, and it's tricky. In Las Vegas, if a casino files for bankruptcy, they court often approves continuing redemption of the chips. However, in one episodes of Pawn Stars (s04e17 if my memory serves right) there was a bit of was additional info, Rick said that casinos from time to time switch the chip design and halt redemption of the old chips after a notice period. I suspect they do it to decrease potential fraud. How this all compares to money substitutes redeemable by banks is a question that I find too complex to untangle.

      The second argument Salerno made was that they are not sufficiently widely accepted at par. With this reason I agree. Also, in another episode of Pawn Stars the trivia question was again about casino chips and the pawn shop does not accept them (or not at par), which supports Salerno's argument.

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  3. Peter, good post - I agree thoroughly.

    There are a few things I've noticed about trends in general, and Litecoin in specific.

    Fundamentally, the basis is conceptually the same as Bitcoin - Litecoin swaps out the SHA256 hashing algorithm used in Bitcoin for Scrypt, which has a different trade-off in terms of computing requirements (processing speed vs. memory usage). AFAIK, the only other change is faster block creation rate. Instead of Bitcoin at 10 minutes, the Litecoin network generates a new block every 2.5 minutes.

    As an empirical proof-of-concept, Litecoin is great. It shows that different algorithms and rates of transaction validation do work as expected. And it provides a realm for GPU mining to remain productive - an interesting dynamic of its own.

    In regard to the general premise you made above regarding protocol similarity, overall I agree. At the same time, I think Litecoin actually benefits from being similar to Bitcoin in that the strength of reputation formed from the latter is largely applicable to the former.

    Ripple has hit headwinds from even the Bitcoin community because of how strange it seems, reflecting the kind of initial wariness seen in the gold investor community toward Bitcoin. Because Litecoin has only functionally swappable aspects changed, it works as Bitcoin users expect and has encountered less resistance. Part of that may be due to the ability to continue GPU mining as well.

    This will also provide a pool of wealth that can handle "spillover" from Bitcoin - formation of a bubble in Bitcoin may begin to leak over to Litecoin instead of flowing back into fiat (thereby stabilizing Bitcoin). There is a lot of risk involved with fiat as well, including frozen funds and periods of rapid depreciation due to uncontrollable elements. In that sense, remaining entirely within the cryptocurrency environment could be viewed as safer than trading out.

    Trading BTC/LTC could be viewed as the equivalent of trading gold for silver and vice versa.

    While Litecoin may eventually fade, it has a definable supporting purpose for at least the near future, so I don't see it going away soon. Aside from that and Ripple, other alt-currencies simply haven't hit a viable formula, which leads to another observation:

    Bitcoin may well be the end result - the maturation of digital money. If that is the case, Ripple appears poised to become to Bitcoin what Video-on-Demand distribution is to BitTorrent.

    Again, good post. You had it right with the Regression Theorem, and I'm looking forward to further insight.

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    1. I need to think about your comment.

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  4. I'm not an economist but far as I can see, money is like a doorstop - if you use something for a doorstop, it *is* a doorstop for as long as you choose to use it that way.

    Bitcoin, seashells, paper fiat, vodka, precious metals, cigarettes and anything else are all money whenever and wherever and for as long as people choose to use them that way.

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    1. In a way, you are right. Whether something is, or isn't, a medium of exchange, that's an empirical and not an aprioristic question. And according to the definition used by the Austrians, it is. The only one I know denying this is a guy who calls himself "Smiling Dave" on his blog and on the mises.org forums.

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Hi Peter,

    Sorry to cross post, but I decided to post my response to Patrik's blog post here as well, integrating my previous deleted post, since I personally think it does fit into the Regression Theorem as commodity money, albeit with virtual commodities.

    ================================================================

    "From an economic standpoint, there is no doubt that the various merchants who accept them treat them as such. In other words, there is no doubt that they take bitcoins solely because they know they can get dollars (fiat) for them. "

    How is this any different from gold today? Even though I think of gold as money, the fact remains you cannot actually treat is as pure money i.e. cash, due to legal tender laws.

    "With bitcoins, on the other hand, I first have to exchange actual money in order to acquire them, which entails a transaction cost, and then I have a limited choice of qualitatively and quantitatively inferior products to choose from."
    - You can mine bitcoins yourself
    - You can exchange them freely with fiat currencies with anyone; unlike cash, or gold (see below)
    - "qualitatively and quantitatively inferior products to choose from."
    I will avoid spamming this blog with links to all sorts of things you can buy with bitcoin, but that's a wrong assumption. Sheer quantity? Yes, there's less selection, but it's constantly growing. In fact, the amount has taken a huge leap recently with Bitpay's service for Amazon.

    Qualitatively? Quite the opposite. First, the quality of goods for the same types of items in fiat money markets remains the same. There are the same commercial, if not mundane, items: from food ( http://cupsandcakesbakery.com/ ), to electronics ( https://www.bitcoinstore.com/ )
    But there are certain goods and services available through bitcoin are qualitatively superior, when it takes advantage of bitcoins unique attributes. Online and electronic services where privacy matters e.g. secure web hosting and VPN. In addition, there are those whose point is moot, when payment processors decide to interfere. Erotic art or services? Controversial items? "Hate" speech? Guns? Drugs? Political leaks (e.g. wikileaks)? Online hosting/storage services? All have been and are *increasingly* subject to censorship by Papal, MC/Visa.

    " No one values bitcoins for their content as a commodity, which boils down to binary digits."

    This is not true at all. In fact, it's the opposite of why and how bitcoin became popular. Bitcoin IS commodity money AND fits into the regression theorem precisely because of its unique properties.

    A fitting commodity analogy of bitcoin are hammers--hammers of disintermediation i.e. special hammers used to break virtual barriers. Or more generally, commodity tools of crypto-anarchic utility. People trade these virtual hammers, using them as a medium of exchange in certain instances, precisely because of barriers that keep popping up.

    Paypal can come up with their own inelastic, scarce eCash equivalent, but it won't have the same commodity factor as bitcoin due to availability and utility: monopoly control of the paypal media and the media being highly vulnerable to interference by the state.

    I buy gold and silver. But gold and PMs are even much more problematic, as they've lost their "commodity" properties due to state interference in mining, state interference in exchanges. Don't like how the exchange rate/price of gold is determined on the futures market? Think the rules are unfair? Yeah, well too bad, you are at the complete mercy of COMEX/LBMA and their manipulators, you CANNOT set up your own exchange, else the CFTC will come shut you down.

    The more the state interferes, the more people want to disintermediate, the more privacy people want, the more bitcoin or cryptocurrencies gains status as money.

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    1. (cont'd)

      A study last year:
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2012/08/06/black-market-drug-site-silk-road-booming-22-million-in-annual-mostly-illegal-sales/
      "Black Market Drug Site 'Silk Road' Booming: $22 Million In Annual Sales"


      And more recently:
      http://bitcoinmagazine.com/mega-sidesteps-us-state-censorship-with-bitcoin/
      "Mega Sidesteps US State Censorship With Bitcoin"


      http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Letter-to-Editor.htm?EdNo=001&Info=0222644
      "Bank of America Holding AR-15 Manufacturer's Deposits"
      -- this is why Cody Wilson, in setting up http://www.defcad.com/ accepts bitcoins and encourages people to use bitcoins, after he was also the subject of various censorship/private sanctions.


      http://www.dragons.tl/index.php
      "Dragon's Tale is the first massively multiplayer role-playing casino."
      -- and all other pure bitcoin based gambling sites e.g. Satoshidice and Bitzino


      http://stripcoin.com/
      Self explanatory ;)


      http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/11/wordpress-now-accepting-payment-in-bitcoin/
      "WordPress now accepting payment in Bitcoin"
      " .... “PayPal alone blocks access from over 60 countries, and many credit card companies have similar restrictions,” wrote Andy Skelton, a WordPress developer, in a blog post. “Some are blocked for political reasons, some because of higher fraud rates, and some for other financial reasons. Whatever the reason, we don’t think an individual blogger from Haiti, Ethiopia, or Kenya should have diminished access to the blogosphere because of payment issues they can’t control. Our goal is to enable people, not block them.”


      http://www.sovereignman.com/offshore/argentines-escaping-currency-controls-with-bitcoins-11192/
      "Argentines escaping currency controls with Bitcoins"
      " .... My friend Sir Charles at PricedinGold.com wrote me this morning from Argentina’s Salta province (near Doug Casey’s lovely property in Cafayate) and told me that TEA Turismo, a local tour operator and rental car agency there has started accepting BITCOINS. "


      What other non-crypto, non-political medium of exchange could be used to accomplish the above, without interference?
      The more people see value in this, the more bitcoin and crypto-currencies in general become money

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    2. If I had to reformulate your post in a more abstract manner, I would just say that Bitcoin has a comparative advantage against other media of exchange, and this advantage probably isn't going away anytime soon. I agree with this.

      In fact, the comparative advantage of Bitcoin will probably grow in the foreseeable future. As we saw yesterday with the banking scam in Cyprus, the states and other supranational organisations are still attempting to leverage the dominant position of fiat money to their advantage. But they miss that this makes the fiat money a worse choice. Historically, the only thing that allowed this to work are barriers to entry. But Bitcoin shows, again, that barriers to entry are also just an empirical issue and not a fundamental feature of fiat money. The worse the states screw up, the more Bitcoin will grow.

      Thank you, EU, for shooting yourself in the foot and helping Bitcoin.

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  7. The more the banks and gov's restrict peoples' economic demand & supply the more that motivation will squeeze out the sides and find alternative routes.
    My BTC assessment: http://nopartyline.com/archives/95

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  8. What really prevents BitCoin from being swamped by competitors? Nothing, the way I see it. You can literally have hundreds of digital currencies of not thousands. It may not be possible to increase the supply of Bitcoins to infinity. But it is possible to increase the supply of Digital currencies to infinity or some large number that renders each unit of Digital currency cheaper.

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    1. I explain this in my thesis. If something is to overtake Bitcoin, it either has to do that on transaction costs in the narrower sense or liquidity. Other cryptocurrencies have it difficult in both areas, they can't (so far) provide a significant improvement in transaction costs, and their liquidity is much lower than that of Bitcoin. I'm not saying it's impossible, but as liquidity (in particular its softer aspects, such as market share) increase, beating Bitcoin in this area will become more and more difficult. It's the network effect issue I explain in one of my previous posts.

      It's like the internet. Nothing is preventing a different communication protocol from taking the market share from the internet, but they would have to have an incredible amount of push behind it to supplant the internet to a major extent.

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    2. Thanks Pete. I did some thinking about your reply and I can see eye to eye with you on this. I agree that for a competitor to muscle in on bitcoin he must either provide a significant improvement in some way or else a big flaw in bitcoin will have to be exposed. My thoughts on this topic are posted here

      http://masculineffort.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/bitcoin-is-inflation-of-digital-currency-systems-possible/

      I was exposed to your argument before from some other website, but for some reason I did not take it seriously then. When I tried to refute your argument, I did some more thinking, this time placing myself in the shoes of a business owner. Immediately, your argument made sense to me. It's amazing what a difference a shift in perspective can make

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  9. I raise some questions regarding the longterm viability of BitCoins in this blog post
    http://masculineffort.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/some-questions-about-bit-coins/

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  10. 1. Regarding the definition as per the 3 classes proposed by Misses I would define as a digital commodity because Bitcoins block chain recreates the constraint of phisical matter in the digital world. Before this invention any digital asset was only protected of replication by legal determinations. Now digital or informational assets are protected by the brute force of computers.

    2. It is like the 3 states of matter, they were gas, solid, and liquid. If this were rigid then plasma would not be either matter nor energy, it would be pending some revision of the scientific body of knowledge. IN the end it was defined as a new state of matter. Bitcoin is a digital commodity and Mises didn't live to see it!

    3. Like any product that is a standard the product is not only the tool (in this case Bitcoin), it is also a. the amount of people using it and b. the lock-in effect as it is used more and more. This last is normally personal information in a site like Facebook (the more photos, updates, and data we store the more we are unable to leave because we don't want to lose the history of data), how many 3rd parties know my location in the case of email addresses or telephone numbers, and in the case of Bitcoin how much value I have stored in the system. Themore valuable the market cap is the more lock-in there is in Bitcoin because nobody has any interest for that value to diminish.

    Bitcoin is: 21 million units + hundreds of thousands of people + thousands of merchants + thousands of traders + new startups and services + billons in value stored. I predict this will accelerate and reach significant share in all dimensions because my perception is that it has crossed the critical mass.

    For other forms of money to compete (even digital) they don't have only to be better technologically, but be able to tranfer the value stored in Bitcoin and also get wide adoption, so incremental differences in features will not make the cut in my opinion.

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  11. The classification of bitcoin whether it’s a commodity or currency still need to have “longer” debates. For bitcoin believers, it is a true currency due to its monetary properties. The only difference though is that it’s decentralized and not backed by anything. That’s why it is said to be the "magic Internet money."

    Philip Jones
    Betcoin™

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