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

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

AccessTimeIconApr 17, 2018 at 6:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:50 a.m. UTC
10 Years of Decentralizing the Future
May 29-31, 2024 - Austin, TexasThe biggest and most established global event for everything crypto, blockchain and Web3.Register Now

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:

Math on chalkboard image via Shutterstock

Disclosure

Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.


Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk's longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to consensus.coindesk.com to register and buy your pass now.