What Do You Want to Know About Bitcoin? And Do You Really Care?

(Photo: Zach Copley)

(Photo: Zach Copley)

We get a lot of e-mails with requests/suggestions for podcast and writing topics. These days, the most popular request by far is for  Bitcoin. I am still not sure we’ll do it but I’m thinking about it. If so, what do you want to know? Please be specific. Also: do you really care? It strikes me that, at the moment, Bitcoin is one of those things that a small number of people care about hugely but that most people couldn’t care less. (Freakonomics readers aren’t, of course, “most people.”) The rapid spikes and drops in value of course invites lots of news coverage but that is among the least-interesting aspects of a cryptocurrency, isn’t it?


John

What are bitcoins? Not as in what are you talking about, but what do they classify as. Arguments could be made about them being a security, currency, or a commodity. So which is it?

Ricardo Rodriguez

Very interested in hearing about this topic. Whether this is the actual tender of the future or not, paper money will be,obsolete regardless (or will it).

Ankit

Since a fixed number of bit coins will be in circulation, what happens to its value in terms of dollar or any other major currency, due to the restriction when it reaches the limit? Although the time to reach the limit is substantial

john.deatherage

bitcoin and others of it's type are important because they are a viable alternative to the dollar. Currently, the government (Fed & Treasury) are fee to manipulate the dollar to achieve political goals (anything beyond price stability). And we are largely powerless to do anything about it. Sure you can invest in other currencies but they are controlled by some other central bank (sames guys, different language). Bitcoin provides an alternative that (hopefully) is beyond government manipulation.

Or we could return the Fed to the single mandate of price stability. Control the growth in the money supply to closely approximate the growth in the economy.

Mark Horn

I'm curious about how life in a world with competing non-fiat currencies would be different than it was before. I take the experience of "before" from here:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/08/27/216125279/episode-421-the-birth-of-the-dollar-bill

Would new technology be able to overcome this? Would we be better off with the competition or would things be less stable?

Jason Viana

I am curious about Bitcoin, but only because it is getting so much attention. If you did a podcast I would want to know more about other currencies similar to bitcoin in the past, or why this particular currency has some remarkable element to it that will alter our economic behavior. I trust you to determine if there is enough there to teach us about :)

Ryan Isaacs

I'm eager to know an economist's take on Bitcoin. Personally, I think it serves no mainstream purpose. If I want to go to Starbucks, I can't pay for my latte with a Bitcoin. Nor would the average joe in the economy ever care about bitcoins. But from a theoretical perspective and a financial theory perspective, it's definitely interesting.

Wade

Thanks for considering this topic. We've already seen that Bitcoin is being used to pay for illegal things (e.g., illegal drugs), what prevents people that may be predisposed to thwarting authority to steal Bitcoin (e.g., taking it without providing services)? What protections do we have as consumers when this is a completely artificial currency with no real backing (e.g., counterfeiting)?

Jay Cutler

Dooooon't Caaaaaare

Leon

It occurs to me that, while the idea of a non-government source of money is interesting to me, the information regarding the uses of the currency as well as the way in which one can obtain it are well documented. I would see two primary reasons for doing a podcast on Bitcoin. First, for many people, having a centralized and trusted source that explains the totality, or the general totality, of a concept is helpful in that it gives people confidence in their information. The second would be for a purely self-promoting reason. While the podcast is done for free, as evidenced by the necessity to collect funds for its continuance, it does have, presumably in addition to personal gratification, the effect of raising the public awareness of the Freakonomics brand as well as the uniquely economic way of considering issues. Being a popular topic for discussion in certain circles now, it would allow for increased Freakonomics brand awareness.

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TWL

1) How is counterfeiting avoided over the long term as computer speeds increase?

2) Can it handle high volume? What if Amazon goes totally over to bitcoin tomorrow?

Edward

I'm very interested! I want to know about the effects of unregulated currency and if its a good or bad idea to promote it.

David

Only two reasons I can think of: a) how are currencies started and how is this similar/different from the past? And b) if my computer is data is encrypted and held ransom, I may have to pay with Bitcoins.

Saurabh Modi

Hi!

Its very important to give "most people" an insight into how there's a transformation in the world of currency. Introducing people to the latest ideas in the world of economics stimulates there ideas in return and people usually appreciate that first source from where they derived the amazing information. For example the broad area of Freakonomics was a genesis of information for me from where i learnt to think from the other side of perspective and to increase the projection of thoughts in the mind. Bitcoin would surely do the same and this would raise the popularity of Freakonomics podcast.
Also, if people are mailing u often to do a podcast about it, it is evident that there is a broad curiosity amongst the econ peeps.
Introduce the people to something new. Also, often people like Paul Krugman are talking about it loud mouthedly... At the same time talking about it would grab more eyes for Freakonomics. Its a win win on both sides i.e for Freakonomics Podcast and its listners. Thers a perfect equilibrium. Please do it!

Also lastly, i am more then curious to learn about it in a unconventional and using a lateral method.

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Addy

Would be great if you did explain the thing. You seem to have the knack to simplify things.

Jamie

Can bitcoins be called "scarce" if the protocol is easily and commonly copied to make new cryptocurrencies (altcoins)?

If bitcoins aren't scarce, do they have a future?

glenn locke

If PxY=MxV, and they have planned from the start to stop the growth of supply of bitcoins from the start, then someone needs to explain how it was ever anything more than a plan by the creators to create a scam for them to get rich as the currency became more valuable.

michael

I would be interested in the freakonomics take on bitcoin!

Dan

What happens to assets like this which are traded as investments rather than treated as currency? What's the Freako view on this?

DJ

I'm absolutely sick of hearing about Bitcoin in the tech press, but I am interested in what economists have to say about it. Seems like we've got a neat experiment going on - economists, make your predictions!