Hanna Halaburda, Guillaume Haeringer, Neil Gandal, Joshua Gans, 29 July 2020

Since its launch in 2009, there has been increasing interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Initially mostly discussed in popular media, more recently a growing body of academic research has emerged on the topic, spanning many fields such as macroeconomics, law and economics, and computer science. This column focuses on the microeconomics of cryptocurrencies, specifically on their supply, demand, trading price, and the competition amongst different cryptocurrencies. It summarises the main findings in this literature over the past decade and establishes a base for future research.

Itai Agur, Anil Ari, Giovanni Dell'Ariccia, 19 May 2020

Various central banks are currently weighing up the introduction of central bank digital currency. This column proposes a framework that captures the key features and studies the implications of such a payment system. Central bank digital currency can be designed with attributes similar to cash or deposits. Currency that closely competes with deposits would likely depress bank credit, while cash-like currency could lead to the disappearance of cash. The optimal central bank digital currency design hence trades off bank intermediation against the social value of maintaining diverse payment instruments. The currency could be interest-bearing, which may help alleviate this trade-off.

Raphael Auer, 27 April 2020

The rise of stablecoins and asset-backed tokens could drive the development of financial markets via new forms of transparency and data credibility. This column uses the revised proposal for the Libra global stablecoin as an example to illustrate possibilities for supervisors to harness information in distributed ledger based-finance via ‘embedded supervision’. The aim is to increase the quality of data available to supervisors and to reduce administrative costs for firms. 

Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, Daniel Sanches, Linda Schilling, Harald Uhlig, 25 April 2020

The possibility and logistics of developing a central bank digital currency for the general public has attracted significant attention. Such an initiative would require central banks to be involved in financial intermediation and maturity transformation. This column explores the implications of such a venture by central banks using a classic banking model. With sufficient competition, a central bank digital currency can be beneficial and achieve the optimal allocation of funds. However, it also risks giving central banks excessive monopoly power, which could result in inferior outcomes.

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.

Events

CEPR Policy Research