How and why Bitcoin will plummet in price

30 December 2013 | By Tyler Cowen |

rsz_bitcoin-stacksMy post from yesterday was perhaps not specific enough, so let me outline one possible scenario in which the value of Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) would fall apart. For purposes of argument, let’s say that a year from now Bitcoin is priced at $500. Then you want some Bitcoin, let’s say to buy some drugs. And you find someone willing to sell you Bitcoin for about $500.

But then the QuitCoin company comes along, with its algorithm, offering to sell you QuitCoin for $400. Will you ever accept such an offer? Well, QuitCoin is “cheaper,” but of course it may buy you less on the other side of the transaction as well. The QuitCoin merchants realize this, and so they have built deflationary pressures into the algorithm, so you expect QuitCoin to rise in value over time, enough to make you want to hold it. So you buy some newly minted QuitCoin for $400, and its price springs up pretty quickly, at which point you buy the drugs with it. (Note that the cryptocurrency creators will, for reasons of profit maximization, exempt themselves from upfront mining costs and thus reap initial seigniorage, which will be some fraction of the total new value they create, and make a market by sharing some of that seigniorage with early adopters.)

Let’s say it costs the QuitCoin company $50 in per unit marketing costs for each arbitrage of this nature. (Alternatively you can think of that sum as representing the natural monopoly reserve currency advantage of Bitcoin.) In that case both the company and the buyers of QuitCoin are better off at the initial transfer price of $400 and people will prefer that new medium. Over time the price of Bitcoin will have to fall to about $450 in response to competition.


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