ANALYSIS – This virtual currency, freed from public or state intervention, does not have all the attributes of a real currency.
It was worth 1 cent in 2010, 5000 dollars two months ago, over $10.000 today. The curve in the form of a vertical rise in the value of bitcoin, the now famous virtual currency, is beautiful to observe like the satellite image of a tropical storm in formation. Fascinating and disturbing at the same time. Frustrating too: everyone looks at it wondering why he didn't buy a little when it was worth nothing! The temptation of easy somersault is moreover winning over the general public. Which perhaps explains the recent offensive by the most respected voices in the economic and financial world against bitcoin.
It is "a scam", according to the boss of the first American bank Jamie Dimon, "a threat to financial stability", according to Randall Quarles, vice-president of the Fed. Two Nobel Prize winners in economics as different as the American Joseph Stieglitz and the Frenchman Jean Tirole also sounded the alarm. For the first, bitcoin is a “bubble”, and it “should be banned”. For the second, it has neither "intrinsic value" nor "economic reality". And on Friday, it was Banque de France Governor François Villeroy de Galhau who warned: “Those who invest in bitcoin do so at their own risk.”
“There should be no ambiguity: bitcoin is in no way a currency,” asserted the central banker. This position is at the heart of the debate. Can bitcoin claim to be a currency, like euro, dollar and other currencies?
Bitcoin has no coins or notes. But this lack of physical support is not enough to exclude it from the circle of currencies. After all, most transactions in dollars or euros are done (in volume) in a dematerialized way. And it is now possible to live, especially in Scandinavia, completely without cash. Bitcoin does not have a built-up store of value either. But then again, that doesn't necessarily make it different from major currencies. Central banks have long ceased to make their stock of gold the counterpart of the currency they issue.
The essence of money lies in its function of exchange: the buyer and the seller recognize the same value in it and accept it without reservation to settle their transactions. Since bitcoin has created its ecosystem, in which users actually use it as a currency, it could be considered as a currency.
But a monetary system, whatever it is, is based on trust: that of the seller, who is certain that a value is attached to the payment he collects; that of the buyer, who has the certainty that his interlocutor accepts his means of payment. To date, no better way to install this two-way certainty, on a national and international scale, than to recognize as guarantors the central banks and, behind them, the States (or the monetary unions of 'state as the euro). Does money inevitably come from public power? Old debate. Pure liberalism does not necessarily recognize the privilege of issue as a sovereign function of the State in the same way as security and justice.
Bitcoin, on the other hand, is freed from public or state intervention. The system would have the algorithm as guarantor, and as trusted third party not an institution, but the mass of users who, thanks to “blockchain” technology, are each the custodian of its effectiveness. Can it, therefore, become a currency which, emancipated from the State and central banks which make their power of issue an instrument for steering the economy, would be an expression of a form of liberal ideal or even libertarian? Even.
Because there are fundamental contradictions between the design of bitcoin and the possibility of making it a currency, at least on a large scale. First, bitcoin is by nature an opaque system, based on an algorithm whose creator is unknown and whose key was thrown down the drain after its conception. This creates mystique, but hardly encourages trust... Then, the system is asymmetrical: only those who have the computing capacity (and a taste for matter!) to create bitcoins are able to create bitcoins. TO DO. Finally, bitcoin is a finite system: the algorithm ends after 21 million units are created. This point also partly explains the current speculative fever, fueled by the anticipation of scarcity.
If Churchill was right about democracy, "the worst regime except for all the others", perhaps the same is true of our current monetary organization. The bursting of the bitcoin bubble, if it occurs as many predict, will perhaps restore value to the confidence that public authorities have been able to create over the centuries and not without adventures in the use of their national currencies.
- Bitcoin: should we be afraid of virtual currencies?
- Bitcoin sets out to conquer the real world
- Chicago Stock Exchange launches Bitcoin futures contract
- Record after record, how far will bitcoin go?
- Bitcoin at the heart of wild speculation
Source: © Bitcoin is very far from being a real currency