There are several features that create the intrinsic value of bitcoin, but the primary one is its production cost. Bitcoin is a commodity money like gold, sliver, or copper which means that the energy cost to extract these raw materials creates their base value. The actual exchange between two people is totally subjective, as the subjective theory of value shows us, but we can assume that practically no one would sell their commodities for a price below what it cost them to extract the commodity. Today, the cost of mining bitcoin is getting to be quite difficult, which is part of the reason for the increase in price we have seen.
The Base Value of Bitcoin
Let us take a moment to think about how mining for bitcoin is similar to mining for gold. If you go into your backyard and try to see how much gold you are going to find, you’ll probably come away empty handed. That’s because you are using a pick and shovel, and it is no longer the 1850s–someone else got that gold (if it was there) long ago.
That just like how bitcoin mining is today–well more like 95 years ago when gold was about $20 to the ounce. Check and see how many bitcoins you could make with this mining calculator. Most likely it’s not a lot. This is because just like with gold mining, someone developed a better way to mine for bitcoins, making mining with a normal computer unprofitable today. This is because the newest bitcoin miners use energy more efficiently to mine bitcoin.
Keep in mind that the commodity value is just the base amount–that is just the production cost. Bitcoin, like gold, is a special commodity–it’s a commodity AND money at the same time. These special commodities are appropriately called commodity money. Commodity monies are special in that they have an inherent value by being a commodity, but because of their traits, they make great money too.
It is this secondary value of being good form of money that creates the secondary social value of bitcoin and other commodity monies. It is both the production cost of bitcoin, along with the properties of good money that it exudes which creates the total value of bitcoin.
Commodity money creates a secondary value as a mode of exchange through the base production value. It is because of this trait of being made from a real commodity that commodity-monies can ‘bootstrap’ their way into becoming a mode of exchange. Once this happens it allows for market mechanisms to decide on the price of the commodity money beyond its production value. This is how commodity monies become more than just commodities, and become modes of exchanges and in some cases a storage of wealth. This is why gold became the most sought after commodity during the mercantilism era: it met the four qualities of good money better than any other object in the world, and was by far the best storage of wealth. This was not because it was shinny, but because it was incredibly rare. This is also why gold and silver have 3,000 years of history as being used as money and a storage of wealth–due to the intrinsic qualities they hold because of their scarcity.
The Value of Fiat Money
So than why is fiat money valued at all? Fiat currencies are not independent, nor is there any value contained in the money itself–it’s just paper. So how do these worthless pieces of paper have value?
Through the governments guarantee that it will accept fiat currency as legal tender, and that all transactions within its economy will meet this basic minimum standard of the law. This is what allows the government to bring violence to anyone who challenges the legitimacy of government’s monopoly on money. The power of fiat money is derived from the government’s legitimacy–that is why they can just make new money up out of thin air.
Statists argue that seigniorage from the state is not only needed, but is desired. For the State is the law, and the law is a means to an end in itself–that is why the state has the legitimacy of violence to decide if a person deserves to live or die. It is through this power of that the State can redistribute, protect, or harm their own citizens–for the benefit of all, or for a few. It is from this base of power that states create the laws to conduct economic transactions within their sphere of influence. This is why fiat money is only valid within particular nation-states own sphere of influence, and not that of other nation-states.
Philosophy of Value
The intrinsic value of bitcoin far beyond its commodity value. What creates its real value is the mathematical assurance that the bitcoin ecosystem cannot be predicated upon force, unlike fiat money. This is because of the cryptography that bitcoin is built on top of allow for two very distinct things:
1. It assures that the vast majority of transactions within the bitcoin economy are based upon voluntary participation, which in turn ensures:
2. Almost all transactions must be non-violent, unlike state-based currencies, where the legitimacy of the currency comes from the state’s ability to bring violence to you for not complying with their laws or legal structure.
These qualities result from the privacy function of Bitcoin. Privacy, within the context of an economy is what allows for a fair, voluntary economic system to be created. Bitcoin exchanges ‘the protection’ of the law, for the mathematical assurance of cryptography.
Bitcoin has made a new economy in which the categorical imperative is not the law; but privacy. We prefer to have no laws, because privacy allows for us to build the voluntarily social contracts without the threat of violence from the state, or anyone else because our true identities are unknown. We understand voluntary transactions ultimately lead to a lower transaction cost for both parties because policing and enforcement does not have to be paid for.
In another age, fiat currencies and national governments were tools that we needed to evolve technologically. This economic mode was an excellent model for the growth and development of an advanced industrialized society, and all that came with it. Today however, both national governments and fiat currencies are anachronism that keeps greater humanity from advancing itself to its next stage of societal evolution: Anarchism.