Every currency created since the advent of money 2,700 years ago has fit nicely into one of two classifications: Either it was a representative money system, deriving its worth from a link to some physical store of value like gold, silver or gemstones; or it was fiat, deriving its value from the fact that a government or central authority guaranteed it.
Bitcoin, the world’s most successful digital currency, defies this time-tested classification system: It is neither fiat nor representative. It is not fiat, because its supply is actually finite and, more importantly, it lacks any central backing authority. (Click here for a good primer on the tech behind Bitcoin). Nor is it representative, because it is not linked to anything physical. Thus the internet has (once again) spawned a phenomenon that is inexplicable via conventional economic frameworks.
As economists study the attributes of digital money, they are discovering that…
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