Sabrina Howell, Marina Niessner, David Yermack, 23 July 2018

Initial coin offerings, whereby a blockchain-based venture raises capital by selling cryptographically secured digital assets (or ‘tokens’), may represent a significant innovation in entrepreneurial finance. This column studies a sample of 453 tokens that completed ICOs to investigate what types of issuer and token are successful. Tokens that offer voluntary disclosure, credibly commit to the project, and signal quality or potential to create substantial value tend to be more successful, and a founder or CEO with an entrepreneurial professional background is also beneficial.

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.

Simon Johnson, 16 July 2018

Blockchain technology has the potential to be a catalyst for change to incumbent financial sector firms. In this Vox Talk, Tim Phillips talks to Simon Johnson, one of the authors of the latest Geneva Report on the World Economy which looks at the technology and its possible applications. 

Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 06 July 2018

Central banks are concerned about the impact of cryptocurrencies. In this Vox Talk, Tim Phillips talks to Beatrice Weder di Mauro about the sources of this concern, and whether the disappearance of cash and a desire to escape the zero lower bound will lead to central banks issuing their own digital currencies.   

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. 

Stephen Cecchetti, 25 June 2018

Though central banks do not seem concerned about being driven obsolete by cryptocurrencies, some are considering issuing digital currencies with similar technology. Stephen Cecchetti discusses three policy implications this might have, namely for restricting the illegal use of cash, allowing for negative interest rates, and improving financial access. All three are possible, but come with risk.

Biagio Bossone, Massimo Costa, 25 June 2018

A correct application of the general principles of accounting raises fundamental doubts about the current conceptions of money. This column argues that such an application allows the inconsistency whereby cryptocurrencies are not a debt liability if they are issued by private-sector entities, but become so if they are issued by central banks, to be resolved. In both cases, cryptocurrencies actually represent equity capital of the issuing entities, a conclusion that should greatly assist national monetary and financial authorities in shaping regulations.  

Jon Danielsson, 01 June 2018

Antonio Fatás, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 14 May 2018

Central banks are alert to the challenge of cryptocurrencies, and are contemplating reactions ranging from prohibiting private issuance to embracing such currencies. This column argues that the risks of introducing a central bank digital currency are high while the efficiency gains do not seem large. A more efficient system can be achieved via innovation in current payment infrastructure.

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.

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.

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