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Clearly this would cause a severe disruption to the Bitcoin economy. There would not be enough bitcoins to go around and bitcoins would be so inconvenient that no one would want to improve the bitcoin infrastructure. That would be a very severe liquidity trap! But because the exchange rate of bitcoins is set by the market rather than fixed, nothing like this has ever been a problem.
Now I let Krugman off the hook for disregarding deregulation as a solution, because that may not have been important to his audience or intentions with the article.
Gobry ought to provide evidence that his theory will apply in the future even though it has not in the past, but the way he deals with this problem is totally inadequate. At the time of this writing, demand for Bitcoin has gone up roughly , times, as measured by its price, since the day that two pizzas were bought for 10, BTC.
Moreover this price increase corresponds to the growth of the Bitcoin economy. Yet there are now only about three times as many bitcoins that have been claimed as in those days. Can that relatively tiny increase really explain economic growth by a factor of ,? These numbers are obviously way out of proportion, and I doubt that any similar multiplier effect has been observed anywhere else. The observed history of Bitcoin is very bizarre from a Keynesian perspective but far less so from that of the Austrian.
Why has no liquidity trap occurred? If Gobry wishes to show they cannot do this, he really ought to provide some evidence. Therefore the newly mined bitcoins should not be expected to have any effect on the Bitcoin economy to prevent liquidity traps. In an economy in which everyone knows that new coins will be released soon, everyone will just try to save more than they would otherwise because they would know that their savings will have less of an effect than they might otherwise expect.
Bitcoin ought to be experiencing a liquidity trap already , yet Bitcoin prices have instead consistently changed to reflect its growth. I close with a side-issue. Would the original babysitting co-op have solved its problems by allowing for market prices? There is an important reason that both the American economy and the Bitcoin economy both differ from the babysitting co-op.
The babysitting co-op is a contractual arrangement and the babysitting scrip is not a currency and it does not function as money. The value of the co-op is enabling people to receive babysitting from within a group of people who already have some trust for one another. However, this is not their only option: they can also leave the co-op and pay teenagers with dollars to babysit. In order to stay competitive, the members of the co-op must agree to some obligations to one another, and I would argue that agreeing to honor the scrip upon certain terms is a necessary part of that obligation.
As long as they have all pledged to accept scrip at a certain rate for babysitting, then they have given some real evidence that the co-op is worth joining and holding its scrip is worthwhile, but without a fixed price, there is effectively no such pledge. It is possible that some system of rules would enable the system to function still, but merely eliminating the fixed price for scrip would transform it into nothing but an appcoin.
Consequently, there would be a self-reinforcing trend of members reducing their holdings of scrip in expectation that others will do the same, and demanding higher prices for the same reason. This in turn would reduce the expected future value of the co-op, thus induing people to leave it, thus, further reducing its value. The co-op would not be able to maintain itself on those terms. But once again, there is no corresponding problem with Bitcoin.
Bitcoin users have no need to make pledges or guarantees to one another because Bitcoin works without requiring a contractual relationship between its users.
Because there are real reasons to expect Bitcoin to be useful as money and for the Bitcoin network to grow, people should be expected to demand continually lower prices in Bitcoin, not higher ones.
Thus, a babysitting co-op is very different from a money economy Bitcoin or otherwise. It is different for reasons that have been noted neither by the Sweenys, nor Krugman, nor Gobry.
I suspect that Krugman did not go back and review the original article when he wrote his column because he makes a few errors that he probably would otherwise have caught. For example, he says that one unit of scrip was worth an hour of babysitting time, when it was really worth one half-hour. He also cites the article incorrectly and gives its year of publication as instead of He does not quote from the original article to support his case or note that his interpretation of the events differs somewhat from that of the authors.
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