Cryptocurrency-Based Law

66 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2015 Last revised: 29 Aug 2015

See all articles by Michael Abramowicz

Michael Abramowicz

George Washington University Law School

Date Written: August 28, 2015


Bitcoin is a protocol promoted as the first peer-to-peer institution, an alternative to a central bank. The decisions made through this protocol, however, involve no judgment. Could a peer-to-peer protocol underpin an institution that makes normative decisions? Indeed, an extension to the Bitcoin protocol could allow a cryptocurrency to make law. Tacit coordination games, in which players compete to identify consensus issue resolutions, would determine currency ownership. For example, an issue might be whether a cryptocurrency-based trust should disburse funds to a putative beneficiary, and the game’s outcome would resolve the question and result in gains or losses for coordination game participants. A cryptocurrency can also be used to generate rules or other written codes. Peer-to-peer law might be useful when official decisionmakers are corrupt or when agency or transactions costs are high. A modest starting point for cryptocurrency-based governance would be as a replacement for Bitcoin’s centralized system for changing its source code. A cryptocurrency incorporating tacit coordination games could serve as a foundation for other projects requiring peer-to-peer governance, ranging from arbitration to business associations, which would enjoy inherent limited liability and would lack designated management.

Keywords: Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, peer-to-peer, distributed consensus

Suggested Citation

Abramowicz, Michael B., Cryptocurrency-Based Law (August 28, 2015). GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper 2015-9; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-9. Available at SSRN: or

Michael B. Abramowicz (Contact Author)

George Washington University Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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