Monetizing Privacy with Central Bank Digital Currencies (November 23, 2020)

In prior research, we documented evidence suggesting that digital payment adoptions have accelerated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While digitalization of payment activity improves data utilization by firms, it can also infringe upon consumers’ right to privacy. Drawing from a recent paper, this blog post explains how payment data acquired by firms impacts market structure and consumer welfare. Then, we discuss the implications of introducing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) that offers consumers a low-cost, privacy-preserving electronic means of payment—essentially, digital cash. 

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COVID-19 and the Search for Digital Alternatives to Cash (September 28, 2020)

Today, the majority of retail payments in the United States are digital. Practically all digital payments are tracked, collected, and aggregated by financial institutions, payment providers, and vendors. This trend has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic as payments that require physical contact, such as cash, have been discouraged. As cash gradually becomes obsolete, consumers are left with fewer alternatives for making private transactions. In this post, we outline some evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on consumer payment behavior and follow up in the second post in this Liberty Street Economics series with a look at the implications of cash obsolescence for privacy. 

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Token- or Account-Based? A Digital Currency Can Be Both (August 12, 2020)

Digital currencies, including potential central bank digital currencies (CBDC), have generated a lot of interest over the past decade, since the emergence of Bitcoin. The interest has only grown in recent months because of a desire for contactless payment methods, stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. In this post, we discuss a common distinction made between “token-based” and “account-based” digital currencies. We show that this distinction is problematic because Bitcoin and many other digital currencies satisfy both definitions. 

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A Distributed Version of Repugnance as a Constraint on Markets (September 1, 2015)

The 2012 Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley for their work on matching problems. Two-sided matching problems, like assigning jobs to workers or dorm rooms to students, can be complicated enough. But sometimes the matching problem can be even more difficult. It may be that…

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Entry and Exit Leads to Zero Profit for Bitcoin Miners (August 28, 2015)

In a previous post, we discussed bitcoin miners’ incentives to undertake a 51 percent attack given the current condition of the bitcoin market. We also speculated that high profits and free entry would cause more miners to enter the market, driving marginal mining profits to zero in the long run. Since then, the price of a bitcoin has declined over 40 percent and both the hash rate and the difficulty level of the bitcoin mining problem, which adjusts automatically to changes in the hash rate, appear to have leveled off. Our most recent calculations suggest the long run may have arrived.

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