Economists Explore Bitcoin's 'Equilibrium Price' in New Paper

David Floyd
Apr 17, 2018 at 06:00 UTC

Two economists have developed a model for pricing bitcoin and other assets in decentralized financial networks.

Emiliano Pagnotta and Andrea Buraschi, professors of finance at Imperial College Business School in London, have proposed a theoretical structure for networks based on proof of work, which include bitcoin and ethereum. Their paper is dated March 21 of this year.

Their analysis focuses on two main variables: the number of users - who represent the demand side - and the hash rate provided by miners, who represent the supply side.

The authors point out that decentralized financial networks are unique in that tokens "simultaneously serve two functions." In addition to functioning as an asset, they incentivize miners to maintain the network. The equilibrium price of the token, then, is the solution to "a fixed-point problem that characterizes the interaction between consumers and miners," according to the paper.

There are two solutions to this problem for any set of conditions, the paper says, one of which is $0.

Buraschi and Pagnotta wrote:

"Indeed, if the price of bitcoin were zero, miners would not provide any resource to the network, and its trust would be zero. Consumers would derive no utility from the system and would not pay a positive price for bitcoins."

But there is also a positive equilibrium price, according to this model. What that figure is depends on the network's hash rate, the expected number of future network users, and the value users place on the network's resistance to censorship, they argue.

This framework sheds light on some recent adjustments in bitcoin's price. According to Pagnotta and Buraschi's model, regulatory changes in China would matter more than such changes in Britain. Even though both countries have similar numbers of bitcoin users, China has more miners - meaning a crackdown there would have a greater effect on the hashrate and, therefore, the price.

One factor the authors did not take into account is "pure speculative motives," which arguably affected the price of bitcoin more than any other development in 2017.

The full research paper can be found below:

SSRN-id3142022 by CoinDesk on Scribd

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