Scarcity, Divisibility, Utility, and Transferability
Aside from the question of whether it is a store of value, a successful currency must also meet qualifications related to scarcity, divisibility, utility, transportability, durability, and counterfeitability. Let's look at these qualities one at a time.
The key to the maintenance of a currency's value is its supply. A money supply that is too large could cause prices of goods to spike, resulting in economic collapse. A money supply that is too small can also cause economic problems. Monetarism is the macroeconomic concept which aims to address the role of the money supply in the health and growth (or lack thereof) in an economy.
In the case of fiat currencies, most governments around the world continue to print money as a means of controlling scarcity. Many governments operate with a preset amount of inflation which serves to drive the value of the fiat currency down. In the U.S., for instance, this rate has historically hovered around 2%.4?? This is different from bitcoin, which has a flexible issuance rate that changes over time.5??
Successful currencies are divisible into smaller incremental units. In order for a single currency system to function as a medium of exchange across all types of goods and values within an economy, it must have the flexibility associated with this divisibility. The currency must be sufficiently divisible so as to accurately reflect the value of every good or service available throughout the economy.
El Salvador made Bitcoin legal tender on June 9, 2021.6 It is the first country to do so. The cryptocurrency can be used for any transaction where the business can accept it. The U.S. dollar continues to be El Salvador’s primary currency.
A currency must-have utility in order to be effective. Individuals must be able to reliably trade units of the currency for goods and services. This is a primary reason why currencies developed in the first place: so that participants in a market could avoid having to barter directly for goods. Utility also requires that currencies be easily moved from one location to another. Burdensome precious metals and commodities don't easily meet this stipulation.
Currencies must be easily transferred between participants in an economy in order to be useful. In fiat currency terms, this means that units of currency must be transferable within a particular country's economy as well as between nations via exchange.
To be effective, a currency must be at least reasonably durable. Coins or notes made out of materials that can easily be mutilated, damaged, or destroyed, or which degrade over time to the point of being unusable, are not sufficient.
Just as a currency must be durable, it must also be difficult to counterfeit in order to remain effective. If not, malicious parties could easily disrupt the currency system by flooding it with fake bills, thereby negatively impacting the currency's value.
To assess Bitcoin's value as a currency, we'll compare it against fiat currencies in each of the above categories.
This will be the topic of two of four in a four part series. I hope you enjoyed the blog and learned a few new facts, thank you for reading.