36 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2013 Last revised: 22 Oct 2013
Date Written: May 8, 2013
This paper will discuss and evaluate the design features of Bitcoin in relation to the libertarian and metallist philosophies that have shaped the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin has failed to be perfectly decentralized or particularly anonymous. Furthermore, its hyperdeflationary design features have made Bitcoin a currency dependent on outside, more stable currencies (e.g., the U.S. dollar), which serve as units of account. Finally, despite the view of money taken by its creators, this supposedly stateless currency is far from apolitical in nature. Although its creators tend to espouse apolitical accounts of money, Bitcoin has been from the beginning a political project -- an evolving, distributed constitutional project, with many goals, visions, and factions. Furthermore, depending on the shape of these political goals, Bitcoin advocates may or may not have a vested interest in creating mechanisms to stabilize the currency and make it a viable unit of account.
This paper was written for Christine Desan's seminar, "The Constitutional Law of Money," at Harvard Law School.
Keywords: bitcoin, wikileaks, cryptocurrency, theory of money, state theory of money, sovereign theory of money, metallism, peer to peer, crypto anarchy
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