The Demand for Programmable Payments

67 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2022 Last revised: 8 Jul 2023

See all articles by Charles Kahn

Charles Kahn

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Maarten R.C. van Oordt

VU University Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute

Date Written: September 14, 2022


This paper studies the desirability of programmable payments where transfers are automatically executed conditional upon preset objective criteria. We do so by studying optimal payment arrangements in a framework that captures a wide range of economic relationships between two parties. The results show that the optimal payment arrangements for long-term economic relationships consist predominantly of simple direct payments. Direct payments increase the surplus by avoiding the liquidity cost of locking-up funds from the moment where the payer commits the funds in a programmable payment until the moment where the conditions are satisfied to release those funds to the payee. Programmable payments will be desirable, and may in fact be the only viable payment arrangement, in situations where economic relationships are of a short duration. Our results identify a limit to the growth in the demand for payments as their cost decreases: While the number of feasible trading relationships will increase, existing trading relationships will optimally rely on fewer payments.

Keywords: Blockchain, CBDC, Digital Currency, Smart Contracts, Payment Economics

JEL Classification: E40, E42, E58

Suggested Citation

Kahn, Charles and van Oordt, Maarten R.C. and van Oordt, Maarten R.C., The Demand for Programmable Payments (September 14, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Charles Kahn

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

601 E John St
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

Maarten R.C. Van Oordt (Contact Author)

VU University Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081HV

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA

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