Bitcoin (BTC)–Much debate has been made about whether Bitcoin–or any cryptocurrency–can become a legitimate source of global money. From Nobel Prize winning economists, to investment bankers, the space has raged with argument over what constitutes money, intrinsic value, and everything in between.
Most of the argument seems to center around the price volatility of the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. While BTC shown somewhat higher price resilience through 2018’s prolonged bear cycle than other currencies, it still has posted a 65 percent loss in value from the last all time high. Many have pointed out the obvious: while most people would love to be paid in a currency that appreciates in value, bear cycles and severe drops in BTC pricing have created the conditions for a coin that is repelling to the average user for day-to-day spending. Nearly everyone prefers a currency that offers some form of stability, whether from inflation or deflation, to keep the cost of living consistent.
In addition, economists are quick to point out the flaws with one of Bitcoin’s most attractive features: deflation and price appreciation in the event of another bull run. While deflation may make for a fun currency to hold for the average investors and user, it obliterates the possibility of borrowing BTC for loans. While the market is currently suffering under the crush of an ongoing bear cycle, bullish changes would also bring about difficulties for the currency in terms of adoption as a global money.
Price volatility is a primary concern for economists, but others find fault with the scalability of Bitcoin. In a report published over the weekend, the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), an investment bank and financial services company, found the scalable nature of Bitcoin lacking to meet global demand,
“Bitcoin is still too unstable and limited to become a viable means of payment or a mainstream asset class. Owing to its lack of price stability, bitcoin falls short of criteria that need to be satisfied to be considered money.”
While pointing out the flaws of Bitcoin as a potential global form of money, the firm also felt hesitant to label the currency as an asset class at present. The report cites speculative demand for driving 70 percent of the change in price for Bitcoin, as opposed to long-term value investing in the technology and brand. UBS also put out a figure that BTC would need to eclipse in order to replace the U.S. money supply at $213,000; or find a way to overcome the issues of scale.
In January, just as the cryptomarkets were reaching their widest exposure in the investment frenzy, Bitcoin’s network congestion caused the currency to stall in usability, with transaction fees reaching over $50 and confirmation times making the coin unusable as a form of money. UBS states that Bitcoin has the potential to overcome such problems in the future with more development, but the present systems is inadequate to function as a usable currency. As Bloomberg characterized the situation,
Currently, Bitcoin’s network can only process a fraction of the payment volume that companies like Visa Inc. handle. And that capacity constraint, inherent in the design of Bitcoin’s network, could continue to limit the digital currency’s usefulness, UBS said in its 34-page report out today.