JT Hamrick, Farhang Rouhi, Arghya Mukherjee, Amir Feder, Neil Gandal, Tyler Moore, Marie Vasek, 09 January 2019

The surge of interest in cryptocurrencies has been accompanied by a proliferation of fraud, largely in the form of pump and dump schemes. This column provides the first measure of the scope of such schemes across cryptocurrencies. The results suggest that the phenomenon is widespread and often quite profitable, and highlight the need for concerted efforts from industry and regulators to fight cryptocurrency price manipulation. 

Linda Schilling, Harald Uhlig, 11 October 2018

The Bank for International Settlements has attributed the volatility of the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to the lack of a crypto central bank. This column examines the implications of this and the increasing, but bounded, supply of Bitcoin for the cryptocurrency’s price. It also discusses how the price of Bitcoin interacts with monetary policy for traditional currencies.

Raphael Auer, Stijn Claessens, 09 October 2018

Cryptocurrencies are often thought to operate out of the reach of national regulation. This column argues that in fact their valuations, transaction volumes, and user bases react substantially to news about regulatory actions. Because they rely on regulated financial institutions to operate and markets are (still) segmented across jurisdictions, cryptocurrencies are within the reach of national regulation.

Lin William Cong, Ye Li, Neng Wang, 05 October 2018

Cryptocurrencies, tokens, and the blockchain technology upon which these platforms are built hold considerable potential for financial architectures. This column presents a dynamic asset valuation model of cryptocurrencies and tokens on blockchain-based platforms. Price dynamics in the model feature explosive growth of the user base after an initial period of dormant adoption, accompanied by a run-up of token price volatility, in line with existing evidence. The findings highlight how the value of the tokens depends on user base, the quality of the blockchain platform, and users’ expectations of future token price dynamics. 

Yukun Liu, Aleh Tsyvinski, 06 September 2018

Cryptocurrencies have received a substantial amount of attention over the past year. This column uses textbook asset-pricing methods to explore how cryptocurrency returns compare with those of traditional asset classes. Results show that cryptocurrency returns do not co-move with traditional assets, but that some cryptocurrency-specific factors – namely, momentum and investor attention – strongly predict their performance. 

Markus K Brunnermeier, Joseph Abadi, 17 July 2018

Cryptocurrencies and the underlying distributed ledger technology have exploded into public consciousness over the last few years, with devotees insisting that the technology will revolutionise financial transactions and ownership data. This column identifies a ‘blockchain trilemma’ whereby no ledger can fully satisfy the three desirable properties of decentralisation, correctness, and cost-efficiency. It further explains how distributed ledgers enhance competition but introduce costs above and beyond the well-known electricity costs.

Michael Casey, Jonah Crane, Gary Gensler, Simon Johnson, Neha Narula, 16 July 2018

The idea of a new software system that powers a consensus-driven form of shared record keeping has already had a profound effect, encouraging rapid and substantial investment in what is now commonly referred to as blockchain technology. This column introduces the latest Geneva Report on the World Economy, which assesses the available evidence and likely impact for this technology across a wide range of applications and explores the potential use cases for the financial sector, and the ways in which the organisation of these activities may change over time.

Lin William Cong, Zhiguo He, 05 July 2018

Blockchain technology provides decentralised consensus, which potentially enlarges the contracting space using tamper-proof smart contracts. But this implies distributed information. The column argues that there is a tension between these two features of blockchain. While complete contracts may increase competition, distributed information may also make collusion between incumbents more effective. 

Jon Danielsson, 15 June 2018

Are cryptocurrencies the future of money, Ponzi schemes, speculators’ dreams, or just a prosperity gospel? While there is money to be made in the short run, this column argues that cryptocurrencies are lousy investments and will eventually reach a price of zero.

Peter Bofinger, 12 June 2018

The digitalisation of money has the potential to change traditional structures of the financial system. This column discusses four areas in which it may have an impact, and argues that while digitalisation will not erode the importance of central banks, banks could be massively challenged by new forms of intermediation. 

Jon Danielsson, 01 June 2018

Beat Weber, 21 May 2018

On 10 June 2018, Switzerland will be the first country to have a referendum on the introduction of Sovereign Money ('Vollgeld'). This column argues that the Vollgeld project and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin build on popular fantasies about money that are disconnected from the actual operation of the current monetary system. Unfortunately, the latter’s features remain underexplored even among economists.

Antonio Fatás, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 07 May 2018

Economists have been dismissive of cryptocurrencies, but fintech entrepreneurs and enthusiasts continue to see their disruptive potential. This column considers the theoretical and practical arguments on both sides of the debate. Traditional currencies are overwhelmingly superior as forms of money, and cryptocurrencies’ advantage in terms of lax regulation is unlikely to last. There remains, however, ample potential for innovation in payment systems.

Ousmène Jacques Mandeng, Piroska Nagy-Mohacsi, 15 March 2018

Cryptocurrencies have been the subject of recent attacks by official sector representatives, and the G20 finance ministers will consider regulatory proposals at their next meeting in Buenos Aires. This column argues that while cryptocurrencies present certain risks, they also represent an important innovation that promises to enhance choice and efficiency in monetary transactions. A proportionate, risk-based regulatory approach is required to accommodate differential attitudes and experiences and to avoid stifling innovation and competition. This implies having an open debate before sweeping regulatory action.

Jon Danielsson, 13 February 2018

Cryptocurrencies are supposedly a new and superior form of money and investments – the way of the future. The author of this column, however, does not see the point of cryptocurrencies, finding them no better than existing fiat money or good investments.

Wouter den Haan, Martin Ellison, Ethan Ilzetzki, Michael McMahon, Ricardo Reis, 21 December 2017

Cryptocurrencies have been a staple of news headlines in 2017. The latest Centre for Macroeconomics and CEPR survey suggests that the majority of leading European economists do not believe that these currencies are currently a threat to the stability of the financial system, or will be in the next couple of years. A majority of panel members, however, are in favour of greater regulatory oversight, primarily because of concerns that the anonymity and opacity of cryptocurrencies facilitate tax evasion and other criminal activities.

Gur Huberman, Jacob Leshno, Ciamac C. Moallemi, 16 December 2017

Cryptocurrencies have caught the attention of industry, academia, and the public at large. This column analyses an economic model of a cryptocurrency system featuring user-generated transaction fees, focusing on Bitcoin as the leading example. The Bitcoin system requires significant congestion to raise revenue and fund infrastructure or risk collapse in the long term. Moreover, the current design of the system – specifically the processing of large but infrequent blocks of transactions – makes it less efficient at raising revenue.

Michael Bordo, Andrew Levin, 23 September 2017

Central banks across the world are considering sovereign digital currencies. This column argues that these currencies could transform all aspects of the monetary system and facilitate the systematic and transparent conduct of monetary policy. In particular, a central bank digital currency can serve as a practically costless medium of exchange, a secure store of value, and a stable unit of account. To achieve this, the currency would be account based and interest bearing, and the monetary policy framework would target true price stability.

Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, 03 August 2017

If the share of payments made by cryptocurrencies increases, government-issued money will face market competition from private issuers. The column argues that, even if this system could maintain price stability in an economy, the market would not provide the socially optimum amount of money. A government could still, however, maximise social welfare using monetary policy in response to peg the real value of money. The threat of competition from private monies may therefore impose welcome market discipline on any government that issues currency.

Neil Gandal, JT Hamrick, Tyler Moore, Tali Oberman, 22 June 2017

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has attracted widespread interest, in large part due to wild swings in its valuation. This column considers an earlier rise in the Bitcoin price to investigate what is driving the currency’s price spikes. The 2013 rise was caused by fraudulent trades taking place at the largest Bitcoin currency exchange at the time. This finding has implications for policymakers as they weigh what, if anything, to do about regulating cryptocurrencies in light of the record high Bitcoin valuation that many fear is a bubble.



CEPR Policy Research