Bitcoin Intrinsic Value

One of the main arguments I hear against bitcoin is that “it has no intrinsic value. The thing about money is that it doesn’t need to have intrinsic value. Money has to have a few things to make it “good money”.

It should be scarce. 

It should be divisible.

It should be transmissible.

It should be immutable. 

It should be difficult to counterfeit.

It should be assayable (easy to verify it is what it says it is).

Gold is good at some of these things, for example being scarce and immutable. But it is bad at others, it is not very divisible and it is not very transmissible. It’s very hard to purchase something with $1 worth of gold. It’d be a very tiny spec of gold that you’d have a hard time telling that it was really gold or just a dust flake. 

Fiat money (US dollars or other country dollars) are easier to transmit around the world (although they take a few days to settle international transactions or across borders). They are hard to counterfeit but they are easy for the US government to print more anytime they want.

I’ve collected a few articles and quotes about Bitcoin, money and intrinsic value. 

DOES BITCOIN HAVE INTRINSIC VALUE? – Bob Simon

There is no such thing as “intrinsic value” in the sense of an object having objective value in and of itself. As a thought experiment, think of assets typically assumed to hold intrinsic value such as gold, farmland, stocks and real estate. Now imagine a world where no humans exist. Do these assets still have value? The answer has to be no, because value only makes sense in the context of human existence.

Because of the luxury enjoyed by Americans and citizens of many developed countries, the benefits brought about by Bitcoin may not be as obvious as they are for many people in developing nations. Inflation in the United States has been persistent, but not devastating over the past two generations, and most people haven’t had issues with their banking services being shut down.

Bitcoin Has No Intrinsic Value — and That’s Great. – Conner Brown

The Rai stones used by the Yap people are another example of a store of value without commodity use.

Bitcoin is Not Backed by Nothing -Parker Lewis

“What backs the dollar (or euro or yen, etc.) in the first place? When attempting to answer this question, the retort is most often that the dollar is backed by the government, the military (guys with guns), or taxes. However, the dollar is backed by none of these. Not the government, not the military and not taxes. Governments tax what is valuable; a good is not valuable because it is taxed. Similarly, militaries secure what is valuable, not the other way around. And a government cannot dictate the value of its currency; it can only dictate the supply of its currency.

Venezuela, Argentina, and Turkey all have governments, militaries and the authority to tax, yet the currencies of each have deteriorated significantly over the past five years. While it’s not sufficient to prove the counterfactual, each is an example that contradicts the idea that a currency derives its value as a function of government.”

Bitcoin For Everybody – Saylor Academy

I stumbled upon the Saylor Academy Professional Development course, “PRDV151: Bitcoin for Everybody”. Saylor Academy is associated with Michael Saylor, CEO of Microstrategy, which was the first public company to put Bitcoin on its balance sheet. “Saylor Academy is a nonprofit initiative working since 2008 to offer free and open online courses to all who want to learn. We offer nearly 100 full-length courses at the college and professional levels, each of which is available right now — at your pace, on your schedule, and free of cost.” Saylor Academy has free courses on a lot of things, English as a 2nd Language, Math, Politics, etc. 

While there is some overlap between Michael Saylor and his non-profit and bitcoin, in general it is just a learning website which also happens to have a Bitcoin course. Despite having read many articles about bitcoin for the past 4 years, I decided to take this course. WOW! I learned a lot. The course is free and signing up for Saylor academy is free. I am going to link a few of the articles that I found most interesting from the  courses below as well as some of the most impactful quotes that I got from each article for people who don’t want to read all the articles. Many of the articles are also available from their original sources in spoken format so that would make them easier to listen to while driving instead of taking an hour to read them.
A lot of the information is more about the history of money, how US dollars came to be the World Reserve Currency and other interesting history. Later information gets into the history of bitcoin as well as why it makes good money. I highly recommend taking this course for anyone who is skeptical about Bitcoin. 

Unit 1: Bitcoin Economics

The Bullish Case for Bitcoin -Vijay Boyapati

PoW is Efficient – Dan Held

Everything requires energy (first law of thermodynamics). Claiming that one usage of energy is more or less wasteful than another is completely subjective since all users have paid market rate to utilize that electricity.

Unit 2: Bitcoin Investment

Bitcoin is Not Backed by Nothing -Parker Lewis

“What backs the dollar (or euro or yen, etc.) in the first place? When attempting to answer this question, the retort is most often that the dollar is backed by the government, the military (guys with guns), or taxes. However, the dollar is backed by none of these. Not the government, not the military and not taxes. Governments tax what is valuable; a good is not valuable because it is taxed. Similarly, militaries secure what is valuable, not the other way around. And a government cannot dictate the value of its currency; it can only dictate the supply of its currency.

Venezuela, Argentina, and Turkey all have governments, militaries and the authority to tax, yet the currencies of each have deteriorated significantly over the past five years. While it’s not sufficient to prove the counterfactual, each is an example that contradicts the idea that a currency derives its value as a function of government.”

Bitcoin Cannot be Banned – Parker Lewis

In fact, it posits that bitcoin works so well that it will threaten the incumbent government-run monopolies on money in which case governments will regulate it out of existence to eliminate the threat. Think about the claim that governments will ban bitcoin as conditional logic. Is bitcoin functional as money? If not, governments have nothing to ban. If yes, then governments will attempt to ban bitcoin.

Unit 3: Bitcoin History and Philosophy

Honestly, I didn’t find Unit 3 very interesting. It was full of a lot of history and details that are rather dry reading to me at the moment. While it probably provides useful history, it’s just not very exciting and isn’t completely necessary to understand Bitcoin. 

Unit 4: Bitcoin Technology

THE GREAT PLAGUE OF SHITCOINERY – THIBAUD MARÉCHAL

Under the fiat monetary system, the cost of currency issuance is close to zero, which is very profitable for the national issuers, as there is no longer any limit on the quantity of money that can be created, further shrinking the value of the existing currency in circulation, and annihilating the purchasing power of the currency holders — people like you and me.

Unit 5: Bitcoin in Practice

Unit 5 is relatively short compared to the other units. It is a lot more practical. Here is how Saylor Academy describes unit 5. 

“Now that you have some base awareness of Bitcoin, we will cover basic instruction on putting Bitcoin into practice in this unit. This includes acquiring Bitcoin, using a Bitcoin wallet and the Lightning Network, privacy and security practices, and avoiding common pitfalls, scams, and mistakes.”

This is probably a very useful unit for people who don’t have a lot of familiarity with how Bitcoin works. 

Bitcoin Vs. Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin – Yes as much as you are willing to go to $0. Expect it to fall at least 50%-80% after you buy it. 

All other Cryptocurrencies and NFT’s – Proceed with EXTREME caution (likely scams). Honestly, probably just don’t buy it. 

For an in depth article about Bitcoin vs. All other Crypto I recommend reading the Fidelity Bitcoin First paper. 

Since I’ve started to post about Bitcoin a little, I wanted to make my stance very clear. Bitcoin, while it has potential to cause disruption to payments and fiat currencies, it is still a speculative asset. I personally have a higher than average income and net worth and as such I am willing to risk a small amount of money on speculative assets that I think have a high return potential. Even as such, I am only betting a very small amount of my assets on Bitcoin specifically. For most finances, savings, investing, I still recommend an asset allocation across index funds as advocated by these people.

The Crazy Man in the Pink Wig

JL Collins

Mr. Money Mustache

If you need more recommendations about what books to read about financial independence and investing for low fees please ask. 

Back to Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies.

As I said, bitcoin is quite speculative, but most other cryptocurrencies are even more so. Most crypto currencies are thinly disguised, unregulated securities. In this case a security is something like a stock, where it’s like owning a part of a company. Read more here

Most cryptocurrencies are controlled by a small number of initial developers. Those developers also award themselves some of their cryptocurrency before they allow others to buy them, giving themselves an advantage to “get the crypto while it’s cheap/free”.

Bitcoin is different. Bitcoin is decentralized. No one got a bunch of bitcoin at the start. It is being mined everyday. No one controls Bitcoin. No one person can change Bitcoin. That is what makes Bitcoin very different from 99% of the other cryptocurrencies out there.

Another technology that is getting a lot of press is NFT’s. NFT = Non-Fungible Tokens. 

“NFTs are individual tokens with valuable information stored in them. Because they hold a value primarily set by the market and demand, they can be bought and sold just like other physical types of art. NFTs’ unique data makes it easy to verify and validate their ownership and the transfer of tokens between owners.” – SimpliLearn

Most NFT’s are either a picture of a GIF. Usually you are literally able to take a screenshot to make a copy or just right click to save. While there may be some minor value in these in general I would just advise beginners to stay far far away from NFT’s. 

In conclusion, do a bunch of research yourself before getting into cryptocurrencies.

Only buy as much as you are willing to lose/have to go to $0. 

This is the same advice as any investment.