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Noah Smith: Digital currencies won't kill the dollar but still may change the world
By Noah Smith
Friday, September 15, 2017
Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., recently slammed bitcoin in no uncertain terms: It "won't end well," he said, calling the cryptocurrency a "fraud" and "worse than tulip bulbs."
Is Dimon right? It depends. In at least two important ways, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will probably fail to achieve the dreams of their creators and enthusiasts. They are unlikely to usher in a hard-money revolution, and are also unlikely to supplant national fiat currencies as the standard means of payment. But that doesn't mean they won't change the world. ...
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... The number of bitcoins may be limited, but the number of cryptocurrencies is not. People are constantly creating new ones. There are now almost 900 known cryptocurrencies in circulation. That number is likely to continue to climb. And what hard-money folks seem not to realize is that each time a new cryptocurrency is created, it expands the total money supply. ...
... Each new currency adds to the money supply only to the extent that it can be used to buy real goods and services. When was the last time you used Dogecoin to buy a loaf of bread? Cryptocurrency is inflationary, but it isn't very inflationary.
This brings us to the second way that cryptocurrency will disappoint: It almost certainly won't become the standard means of payment in the economy. Bitcoin might be a hot investment property, but people would rather receive their wages in something less volatile -- you don't want a fifth of your paycheck evaporating between payday and grocery day. ...
So while cryptocurrency won’t create a new gold standard, it will move the world toward another libertarian dream -- financial anarchy. If you think regulations are preventing startups from raising the money they need to grow, or if you think laws against drugs are unfair infringements on personal liberty, you should be looking forward to the new, crypto-powered world.
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