decentralized digital currency created by the pseudonymous entity Satoshi Nakamoto. It is subdivided into 100-million smaller units called satoshis.It is the most widely used alternative currency, with the total money supply valued at over 100 million US dollars.Bitcoin has no central issuer; instead, the peer-to-peer network regulates Bitcoins' balances, transactions and issuance according to consensus in network software. Bitcoins are issued to various nodes that verify transactions through computing power; it is established that there will be a limited and scheduled release of no more than 21 million coins, which will be fully issued by the year 2140.Internationally, Bitcoins can be exchanged and managed through various websites and software along with physical banknotes and coins.
The theoretical roots of Bitcoin can be found in the Austrian school of economics and its criticism of the current fiat money system and interventions undertaken by governments and other agencies, which, in their view, result in exacerbated business cycles and massive inflation.One of the topics upon which the Austrian School of economics, led by Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich A. Hayek, has focused is business cycles.In short, according to the Austrian theory, business cycles are the inevitable consequence of monetary interventions in the market, whereby an excessive expansion of bank credit causes an increase in the supply of money through the money creation process in a fractional-reserve banking system, which in turn leads to artificially low interest rates.In this situation, the entrepreneurs, guided by distorted interest rate signals, embark on overly ambitious investment projects that do not match consumers’ preferences at that time relating to intertemporal consumption (i.e. their decisions regarding near-term and future consumption). Sooner or later, this widespread imbalance can no longer be sustained and leads to a recession, during which firms need to liquidate any failed investment projects and readapt (restructure) their production structures in line with consumers’ intertemporal preferences. As a result, many Austrian School economists call for this process to be abandoned by abolishing the fractional-reserve banking system and returning to money based on the gold standard, which cannot be easily manipulated by any authority.
Another related area in which Austrian economists have been very active is monetary theory. One of the foremost names in this field is Friedrich A. Hayek. He wrote some very influential publications, such as Denationalisation of Money (1976), in which he posits that governments should not have a monopoly over the issuance of money. He instead suggests that private banks should be allowed to issue non-interest-bearing certificates based on their own registered trademarks. These certificates (i.e. currencies) should be open to competition and would be traded at variable exchange rates. Any currencies able to guarantee a stable purchasing power would eliminate other less stable currencies from the market.The result of this process of competition and profit maximisation would be a highly efficient monetary system where only stable currencies would coexist.The following ideas are generally shared by Bitcoin and its supporters:– They see Bitcoin as a good starting point to end the monopoly central banks have in the issuance of money.– They strongly criticise the current fractional-reserve banking system whereby banks can extend their credit supply above their actual reserves and, simultaneously, depositors can withdraw their funds in their current accounts at any time.– The scheme is inspired by the former gold standard.
Although the theoretical roots of the scheme can be found in the Austrian School of economics, Bitcoin has raised serious concerns among some of today’s Austrian economists. Their criticism covers two general aspects:a) Bitcoins have no intrinsic value like gold; they are mere bits stored in a computer; andb) the system fails to satisfy the “Misean Regression Theorem”, which explains that money becomes accepted not because of a government decree or social convention, but because it has its roots in a commodity expressing a certain purchasing power.