by Antonius Aquinas, Market Oracle:
The promoters of crypto currencies have gushingly touted them as the mechanism by which the present central banking cabal and the system of nation states which derive much of their power from will be brought down and replaced by digital money. Despite their meteoric rise as speculative “assets,” there are fundamental economic reasons why they will never act as a general medium of exchange despite the wild enthusiasm for them by the crypto-currency cultists.
Money – a general medium of exchange – is the most marketable (exchangeable) commodity in an economy. As a good, money is not sought after for its direct use – to satisfy individual wants – but to satisfy wants indirectly through exchange for other goods. Over time, one good becomes money since it possesses qualities superior to all other goods as a money. When gold became demanded not for its “use value,” but for its “exchange value,” it became a general medium of exchange – money.
As a consumer good, gold possessed a value or a “price” prior to it becoming a money, as the eminent monetary theorist Murray Rothbard explains:
. . . embedded in the demand for money is knowledge
of the money-prices of the immediate past; in contrast
to directly-used consumers’ or producers’ goods, money
must have pre-existing prices on which to ground a demand.
But the only way this can happen is by beginning with a useful
commodity under barter, and then adding demand for a
medium to the previous demand for direct use (e.g., for
ornaments in the case of gold.)*
Thus, Bitcoin’s “price” is not in terms of its original commodity price, but its price is in terms of dollars, Euros, yuan, etc. In the dollar’s case, it was at one time linked to gold, but has since been severed from it while Bitcoin has had no such relationship.
Once money is established, then prices are expressed in terms of it and thus economic calculation can rationally take place and the division of labor and specialization can be expanded. Rothbard continues:
The establishment of money conveys another great
benefit. Since all exchanges are made in money, all the
exchange-ratios are expressed in money, and so people
can now compare the market worth of each good to that
of every other good.**
Once gold became money, the price of goods became expressed in gold not in other elements – nickel, zinc, lead, etc. With the proliferation of crypto currencies, there will be a myriad of different price ratios for each good. There will be a Bitcoin price for a car, an Ethereum price for a car, a Dogecoin price of a car, and so on. This is the antithesis of the purpose of money – one unit of account that reflect prices for all commodities as Rothbard shows:
Because gold is a general medium it is most marketable,
it can be stored to serve as a medium in the future as well
as the present, and all prices are expressed in its terms.
Because gold is a commodity medium for all exchanges,
it can serve as a unit of account for present, and expected
future, prices. It is important to realize that money cannot
be an abstract unit of account or claim, except insofar as it
serves as a medium of exchange.*** [my emphasis]
Crypto currencies, therefore, directly violate one of the main principles of monetary theory. The vast array of digital money, all with unique price ratios (to say the least of their volatility), would make economic calculation and rational planning next to impossible. In this sense, the current world of fiat dollars would be preferable to a Tower of Monetary Babel that digital currencies would create.
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