Monopoly Without a Monopolist: An Economic Analysis of the Bitcoin Payment System

55 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2017

See all articles by Gur Huberman

Gur Huberman

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics

Jacob Leshno

Chicago Booth

Ciamac C. Moallemi

Columbia Business School - Decision Risk and Operations

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2017

Abstract

Owned by nobody and controlled by an almost immutable protocol the Bitcoin payment system is a platform with two main constituencies: users and profit seeking miners who maintain the system's infrastructure. The paper seeks to understand the economics of the system: How does the system raise revenue to pay for its infrastructure? How are usage fees determined? How much infrastructure is deployed? What are the implications of changing parameters in the protocol?

A simplified economic model that captures the system's properties answers these questions. Transaction fees and infrastructure level are determined in an equilibrium of a congestion queueing game derived from the system's limited throughput. The system eliminates dead-weight loss from monopoly, but introduces other inefficiencies and requires congestion to raise revenue and fund infrastructure. We explore the future potential of such systems and provide design suggestions.

Keywords: Bitcoin, blockchain, cryptocurrency, market design, queueing, Two-sided markets

JEL Classification: D20, D40, L10, L50

Suggested Citation

Huberman, Gur and Leshno, Jacob and Moallemi, Ciamac C., Monopoly Without a Monopolist: An Economic Analysis of the Bitcoin Payment System (September 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12322. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3042635

Gur Huberman (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States
(212) 854-5553 (Phone)

Jacob Leshno

Chicago Booth ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60610
United States

Ciamac C. Moallemi

Columbia Business School - Decision Risk and Operations ( email )

New York, NY
United States

HOME PAGE: http://moallemi.com/ciamac

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