Who is Causally Responsible for a Cryptocurrency?

15 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2019 Last revised: 29 Mar 2019

Date Written: February 21, 2019


Cryptocurrencies have entered the economy as alternative money, speculation objects, and as utility tokens for digital platforms. Cryptocurrencies are based on cryptography-based asset disposals broadcasted peer-to-peer to be validated in a decentralized way according to consented protocols. The organization and governance of cryptocurrencies disrupts the way things have been done by centralized institutions. This has consequences for responsibility. A centralized institution can be held responsible for its actions; however, in a cryptocurrency scheme, those actions are taken by a crowd of distributed participants not individually necessary for the outcome. This paper explores the participants' causal links to harm produced by a cryptocurrency scheme, and discusses how these causal links translate into responsibility. It is found that despite the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies, participants cannot conceptually, legally, or morally use lack of causal links as a justification to evade responsibility.

Keywords: Algorithms, Blockchain, Causality, Cryptocurrencies, Liability, Responsibility

JEL Classification: E42, G28, K24

Suggested Citation

Østbye, Peder, Who is Causally Responsible for a Cryptocurrency? (February 21, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3339537 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3339537

Peder Østbye (Contact Author)

Norges Bank ( email )

P.O. Box 1179
Oslo, N-0107

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