Bitcoin is a Trillion $ Economy
We often hear that we live in an Information Economy. We have an information-based economy, but we don’t have a pure form of “money as information”. Instead we have a hybrid of digital money and paper money with encoded information such as denomination and serial numbers and engraving details.
Money (Money 2.0, ‘paper’ fiat money) today is mostly information, but the modern monetary system was designed long before the Information Economy. Even so, money is mostly held in digital form, on the ledgers of banks, and as monetary reserves at central banks. Physical currency in circulation is a small fraction of the money supply. So today it is a hybrid. One can argue it is not fully suited to our rapidly evolving information economy.
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Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies collectively are Money 3.0, a form of money that is entirely digital, entirely information. Even if you have a physical bitcoin wallet or paper wallet, the money does not reside in the wallet, only the keys! The keys release bitcoin money held on the blockchain.
Trying to separate the blockchain from bitcoin or cryptocurrency is like trying to separate the economy from information in the information economy. The blockchain holds the ledger information, the cryptocurrency powers the economy. The term ‘blockchain’ does not appear even once in Satoshi Nakamoto’s seminal paper for bitcoin and cryptocurrency. See this OrionX.net podcast discussing Nakamoto’s vision and the Nakamoto consensus algorithm: https://youtu.be/ZLS5P7SYcyI
Today, market participants mostly look at the market cap of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as if they were some sort of equity shares. But actually, they are currencies, or perhaps digital gold, and what is somewhat strangely called ‘market cap’ is actually the money supply for that currency. It is simply the price of bitcoin, times the aggregate number of bitcoins in circulation. Here, in circulation means securely committed to the blockchain through a cryptographic hashing algorithm.
The size of the economy for bitcoin is related not only to the money supply, but also how rapidly that turns over. In macroeconomics this is called monetary velocity. In fact GDP = M2*V where the GDP is equal to the M2 money supply and V is the velocity of that money. It reflects how fast money moves through the system per year.
In the US the GDP is about $19.5 Trillion, the M2 money supply is about $13.7 Trillion and the velocity is about V = 1.42. That is, on average, the money supply turns over 1.42 times per year. In fact the Federal Reserve has been worried that the velocity is too low. It has been dropping steadily, which is a symptom of stagnation.
Velocity of M2 Money: Federal Reserve of St. Louis
For bitcoin the velocity is much higher. It turns over about 9 times a year, V = 9. Today the money supply or market cap for bitcoin is about $121 billion. With a velocity of 9, that translates to a bitcoin economy that is over $1 trillion. It amounts to around 5% of US GDP and more than the GDP of the United Kingdom. Bitcoin is not usually described in such terms, but this is a measure of the vibrancy of the economy for the cryptocurrency.
Many cryptocurrencies have even higher velocities. Bitcoin Cash, which has only been in existence a few months, has a velocity of 26 and a total economy of over $500 billion, similar to the GDP of Sweden. The world economy of cryptocurrencies exceeds $2 trillion. This is more than the GDP of Italy.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are enabling the Information Economy 2.0, where whole new forms of efficient exchange of value can be implemented with fewer or even no middlemen and at lower cost.
I agree with your assesment of Bitcoin, and am intrigued by your knowledge (turnover, etc.), but I think that those of us, even wishing to ‘take part’, in what we may well feel to be a quite democratic ‘version’ of money, remain concerned that the ‘bubble’might burst’ and (as usual), we’ll be the ones left to carry the can, whilst the banksters will walk away with the ‘profits’ they’ve acrued. Would you like to argue this?
I think we cannot know unless we try. The technology is here to stay, and with all the efforts to have it scale, whether with Lightning, or various altcoins, its usefulness will only increase. Yes governments and banks will try to control, restrict, and co-opt it. Some restrictions are probably a good thing. Banks will have limited success with nonpublic blockchains. Right now can save much more effectively with BTC and undermine the banking system while doing so. But we cannot predict, only monitor how the overall economy and various cryptocurrencies develop.