Blockchain's Struggle to Deliver Impersonal Exchange

53 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2017 Last revised: 19 Jan 2018

See all articles by Benito Arruñada

Benito Arruñada

Pompeu Fabra University - Department of Economics and Business; Barcelona GSE

Date Written: January 18, 2017


The paper identifies what value blockchain adds to the contractual and property processes, exploring its potential and analyzing the main difficulties it is facing. It argues that, contrary to naive conceptions that proclaim the end of intermediaries and state involvement, blockchain applications will rely on a variety of interface, completion and enforcement specialists, including standard public interventions, especially for property transactions. Without these interventions, blockchain applications will at most enable trade in in personam claims—instead of in rem rights—, therefore facilitating personal instead of truly impersonal—that is, asset-based—transactions.

Keywords: property rights, enforcement, transaction costs, impersonal exchange, blockchain, distributed ledgers

JEL Classification: D23, K11, K12, L85, G38, H41, O17, P48

Suggested Citation

Arruñada, Benito, Blockchain's Struggle to Deliver Impersonal Exchange (January 18, 2017). Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, 2018, 19, 55-105, Available at SSRN: or

Benito Arruñada (Contact Author)

Pompeu Fabra University - Department of Economics and Business ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27
Department of Economics and Business
Barcelona, 08005
+34 93 542 25 72 (Phone)
+34 93 542 17 46 (Fax)


Barcelona GSE ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, Barcelona 08005

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