Is Bitcoin a Real Currency? An Economic Appraisal

23 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2013 Last revised: 2 Nov 2014

David Yermack

New York University (NYU) - Stern School of Business

Date Written: April 1, 2014

Abstract

A bona fide currency functions as a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account, but bitcoin largely fails to satisfy these criteria. Bitcoin has achieved only scant consumer transaction volume, with an average well below one daily transaction for the few merchants who accept it. Its volatility is greatly higher than the volatilities of widely used currencies, imposing large short-term risk upon users. Bitcoin’s daily exchange rates exhibit virtually zero correlation with widely used currencies and with gold, making bitcoin useless for risk management and exceedingly difficult for its owners to hedge. Bitcoin prices of consumer goods require many decimal places with leading zeros, which is disconcerting to retail market participants. Bitcoin faces daily hacking and theft risks, lacks access to a banking system with deposit insurance, and it is not used to denominate consumer credit or loan contracts. Bitcoin appears to behave more like a speculative investment than a currency.

Keywords: Bitcoin

JEL Classification: E42

Suggested Citation

Yermack, David, Is Bitcoin a Real Currency? An Economic Appraisal (April 1, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2361599 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2361599

David Yermack (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Stern School of Business ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~dyermack

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