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Author Topic: On Marxism and the bitcoin energy consumption debate  (Read 199 times)
aliashraf
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September 08, 2018, 08:38:44 PM
Merited by d5000 (1)
 #1

On Marxism and the bitcoin energy consumption debate

What's the value of bitcoin?


As much as his idea about "changing the world instead of interpreting it" that  Nazists in Germany and Communists in the USSR shared to ruin their societies and recently is employed by Neocons in the USA (apparently for a same purpose) is void and dangerous, Marx's contribution to political economy is one of the greatest human theoretical achievements ever:
He was the first who proposed a scientific and quantitative measure for value of a commodity: work.  

Marx's labour theory of value asserts that although the price of a commodity is determined by supply and demand it is nothing more than a concrete presentation of an abstract and essential  property inherent in each commodity: its value that is determined by the average amount of labour necessary for the society to produce it. Value is not volatile say because of market fluctuations.
By labour Marx implies both live(e.g. man hour) and dead labour which is recursively embedded in the resources that should be consumed/depreciated in the process.

Unfortunately, Das Kapital very soon become the bible of Communists and (remained so for more than a century), fueled by "changing the world" discourse and later completed by a package of other fake revolutionary ideas that fooled an important segment of intellectuals all over the world to act in the best interests of a corrupted regime in Russia.

On the other side, capitalists and their mercenary "scientists" in academies counterattacked by forging their own version of political economy: Marginalism.
More precisely: their own version of anti-political economy or simply, anti-Marx economy.

Marginalism is an exemplary for fake human sciences made/supported for sole political purposes in 20th century. It was based on the most ridiculous interpretation of value: utility.

Common sense is aligned with what utilitarians say: a commodity's value depends on its usefulness, desirability, utility, ... which is wrong just like any other assertion of common sense:
The earth is NOT flat,
Objects do NOT naturally stop moving,
There is NOT any universal clock,
... and
Bitcoin is NOT wasting electricity (as we will see later).

Historically the huge investments on Marginalism helped development of mathematical models, etc. that filled the shelfs of libraries and gave birth to a "science" that somehow was applicable in predicting market behavior and how the demand for a commodity would change due to psychological factors full of excuses for not being precise because of "complexities" in models and probabilistic nature of the variables involved.

Academy's primary mission was rather complicated: eliminating political economy from mainstream and replacing it with more applicable neutralized "sciences" like micro and macro economics.  
Being ruled by giants like  Marx, Ricardo, Smith, ... political economy was not a territory to be conquered by mercenary scientists, after all.

This mission was accomplished by investing on utilitarianism, the trick was presenting  and propagating it as an alternative theory of value in political debates but practically using it as an applicable instrument for predicting the demand (somehow useful sometimes).
This way they managed to convince their students firstly that value is a controversial topic and the neutralized utilitarian point of view is something meaningful like Marx's Labour Theory of Value and finally they became so confident to announce Marx's theory and political economy dead.

And now we are here, bitcoin has emerged and mercenary economists are in a deadly impasse. Their "science" is absolutely void and inefficient for understanding such a revolutionary phenomenon because they have been castrated more than a century ago and don't understand what does a political economic revolution look like.

Recently debating Pos/PoW with a PoS enthusiast I asserted PoS coins are made out of thin air (just like fiat) and the energy consumption in PoW is not a waste because it is the source of bitcoin value. My reasoning was naturally based on the established politico economic labour theory of value, Marx's theory.

Surprisingly, few days later I encountered this article. Again, a pos proponent (I suppose) is questioning the value of bitcoin being measurable by the amount of "work" miners do, this time, by directly claiming Marx's theory to be a fallacy!

It is why I'm becoming more and more convinced that the PoW/PoS debate is nothing less than a final debate between true political economists resurrected after bitcoin on one side and fake mercenary economists with their utilitarian interpretation of value that is incapable of understanding why bitcoin has an inherent value not based on a subjective convention or an artificial demand caused by speculation nor even its usefullness as a medium of exchange and a utility.

From a much wider perspective, I would suggest that the whole crypto currency movement would find its theoretical support in political economy as an original decent science rather than fake anti-Marx discourses that belong to a bitter passed period of history named the cold war.
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September 08, 2018, 10:09:41 PM
Merited by d5000 (1)
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Surprisingly, few days later I encountered this article. Again, a pos proponent (I suppose) is questioning the value of bitcoin being measurable by the amount of "work" miners do, this time, by directly claiming Marx's theory to be a fallacy!

For the bolded text, I believe this is incorrect as it is heavily implied the author is a bitcoin supporter in the very last line of the article: "Long may [Bitcoin] remain desirable."

Quote
It is why I'm becoming more and more convinced that the PoW/PoS debate is nothing less than a final debate between true political economists resurrected after bitcoin on one side and fake mercenary economists with their utilitarian interpretation of value that is incapable of understanding why bitcoin has an inherent value not based on a subjective convention or an artificial demand caused by speculation nor even its usefullness as a medium of exchange and a utility.

Your tone seems to imply that you aren't willing to honestly discuss this topic, but I will take a shot anyway.

On at least two points, I don't believe your association of mining costs to value aligns well with Marx's LTV. Firstly, Marx's LTV is not simply about labor being the defining aspect of a product's price - it is "socially necessary" labor. If the socially necessary constraint were not in place, then by that argument all products' prices would be a function of their labor cost, even when there is zero utility (or socially necessary labor). Secondly, the cost to produce any given bitcoin has varied between roughly $0.00 and $5,000.00 even though they are absolutely identical. The cost to produce a new bitcoin (loosely) follows the price. I don't believe that this can be explained by Marx's LTV. It can, however, be explained by marginalism.

Additionally, there are currencies that do not use PoW and yet still have value. Significant amounts of value. A strong case must be made as to why this value is illusory, but you have not broached it. One could make the counter argument that the existence of these "labor free" currencies invalidates your argument as it appears to prove that there is no socially necessary labor cost. i.e. PoW's popularity is only a preference.


This also seems a bit off-topic for D&TD and should probably be in the economics forum.
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September 09, 2018, 05:06:30 AM
 #3

Surprisingly, few days later I encountered this article. Again, a pos proponent (I suppose) is questioning the value of bitcoin being measurable by the amount of "work" miners do, this time, by directly claiming Marx's theory to be a fallacy!

For the bolded text, I believe this is incorrect as it is heavily implied the author is a bitcoin supporter in the very last line of the article: "Long may [Bitcoin] remain desirable."
Nop, "desirable" is not what a bitcoin supporter says about it. In the context of contemporary PoW/fiat-PoS debate this article is not  in support of bitcoin.

Quote
Quote
It is why I'm becoming more and more convinced that the PoW/PoS debate is nothing less than a final debate between true political economists resurrected after bitcoin on one side and fake mercenary economists with their utilitarian interpretation of value that is incapable of understanding why bitcoin has an inherent value not based on a subjective convention or an artificial demand caused by speculation nor even its usefullness as a medium of exchange and a utility.

On at least two points, I don't believe your association of mining costs to value aligns well with Marx's LTV. Firstly, Marx's LTV is not simply about labor being the defining aspect of a product's price - it is "socially necessary" labor. If the socially necessary constraint were not in place, then by that argument all products' prices would be a function of their labor cost, even when there is zero utility (or socially necessary labor).
I've explicitly quoted Marx the same way, what's your objection here? I just didn't get it.

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Secondly, the cost to produce any given bitcoin has varied between roughly $0.00 and $5,000.00 even though they are absolutely identical. The cost to pro, it duce a new bitcoin (loosely) follows the price. I don't believe that this can be explained by Marx's LTV. It can, however, be explained by marginalism.
First of all Marginalism doesn't explain anything. The utility of bitcoin is the same as always but its price is not, the cost is changing due to the changes in social situation so the value has changed and price follows the value. The "loosely" adverb you used is true for all commodities and is aligned wit Marx's theory.

Quote
Additionally, there are currencies that do not use PoW and yet still have value. Significant amounts of value. A strong case must be made as to why this value is illusory, but you have not broached it. One could make the counter argument that the existence of these "labor free" currencies invalidates your argument as it appears to prove that there is no socially necessary labor cost. i.e. PoW's popularity is only a preference.
Fiat money is not an ordinary commodity it started pegged to gold and diverged gradually to become what it is now: a scam. PoS issued currencies are the same as fiat currencies in this respect.

Cryptocurrency axiomatically is a movement for offering an objective gold-like alternative money, an store of value-work. All the features of bitcoin are based on this property. Bitcoin is an ordinary commodity, it is not a credit, a debt, a representation of the reputation it is a product of labour, it is why its owner has rights to keep it safe and secure and use it censor free.

Quote
This also seems a bit off-topic for D&TD and should probably be in the economics forum.
No it is not. We have a lot of threads and debates in this sub-forum regarding bitcoin energy consumption, we needed a theoretical framework for this issue instead of recycling naive arguments ever and ever.
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September 09, 2018, 09:29:22 AM
 #4

First of all Marginalism doesn't explain anything.

Marginalism posits that the cost to produce an item is roughly what you can sell it for, barring a monopoly. It separates the labor from the price which explains why a bitcoin could cost both $0 and $5k to produce. Distorting the issue, however, is that bitcoin (crypto in general) is unique in that it is akin to a decentralized monopoly.

The code is the monopolistic owner of a resource and the code delegates how that resource is produced. Because bitcoin is decentralized, the code must introduce inefficiency (difficulty) to combat the duplication of infrastructure (mining rigs) from pulverizing the price to zero. It is therefore apt to say that bitcoin is "paying people to dig holes and then fill them up" because any miners beyond the first one are completely unnecessary in the economic sense. Ideally, if we could somehow ensure that a single miner would function identically to a decentralized group of miners to the consumer, the single miner is the far superior scenario as the duplicate and wasteful infrastructure is avoided and total profit realized is far greater. (Although this may be undesirable if you are a communist.)

Ironically, arguing for the usefulness of mining (economically) is in a way arguing a Keynesian idea (digging holes).

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The utility of bitcoin is the same as always but its price is not, the cost is changing due to the changes in social situation so the value has changed and price follows the value. The "loosely" adverb you used is true for all commodities and is aligned wit Marx's theory.

The utility of bitcoin is clearly not the same as always. In 2009 I could not buy alpaca socks; in 2011 I could. Therefore in 2011 the utility of bitcoin was higher than in 2009. I think here you are trying to avoid any association with marginal utility so as to make your case, but utility is not the same as marginal utility. If you deny the utility of bitcoin has changed over time, then there is no hope of a productive discussion.

It also appears to me that you are conflating supply and demand with "changes in social situation", if not please clarify because I don't understand this argument. Perhaps you mean subjectivity, but that would be arguing against LTV. As far as the value changing because of it - this can't be correct under LTV because the labor is the value.

Again it is somewhat difficult to peg Bitcoin in here because it is designed solely as a currency and thus has no value in use, and it is a decentralized monopoly which distorts many of the inputs and outputs of the situation. If you are going to make a strong case that bitcoin satisfies LTV, your arguments need work, imo.

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Fiat money is not an ordinary commodity it started pegged to gold and diverged gradually to become what it is now: a scam. PoS issued currencies are the same as fiat currencies in this respect.

A false equivalence. No argument has been presented.
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September 10, 2018, 05:44:40 AM
 #5

First of all Marginalism doesn't explain anything.

Marginalism posits that the cost to produce an item is roughly what you can sell it for, barring a monopoly.
Yes and it is super ridiculous:
Firstly, it is impossible to put monopoly behind bars. I own a commodity, as long as you don't have it and you are not able to produce/obtain it immediately (with any cost) I have monopolized it somehow and you should pay me a fee for it while we both are competing with other sellers/buyers.

Secondly and most importantly it is not a definition for cost saying that the cost of something is its price without monopoly. It is just burying a concept, eliminating it and denying its characteristics.

Commodities are sold for their price which is determined by the momentary equilibrium of supply and demand. It is not an explanation for neither cost nor price and by no means for monopoly. Bringing in the illusion of holly free market won't help a bit to claim price to be identical with value.
 
On the opposite side Labour Theory of Value definitively gives a quantitative and scientific understanding of value as the hidden factor that this equilibrium state (price) functionally depends on.
As I have stated in my article, utilitarian theory of value has been artificially boosted by power as an anti-Marx idea, this has been ended in a situation that an un-efficient framework has been used to describe economic phenomenons in a complex non scientific way.

Science is always simple and elegant and adds value to our cognition process. It is not a tricky and fragile botch of irrelevant concepts presented just to speak loudly about concepts that one has no clue about.

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It separates the labor from the price which explains why a bitcoin could cost both $0 and $5k to produce. Distorting the issue, however, is that bitcoin (crypto in general) is unique in that it is akin to a decentralized monopoly.
See? It is not science! What the hell is a decentralized monopoly? To keep a useless and void interpretation we need to make it more complex and void and  indistinguishable from ravings of an ignorant cave man.

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The code is the monopolistic owner of a resource and the code delegates how that resource is produced. Because bitcoin is decentralized, the code must introduce inefficiency (difficulty) to combat the duplication of infrastructure (mining rigs) from pulverizing the price to zero. It is therefore apt to say that bitcoin is "paying people to dig holes and then fill them up" because any miners beyond the first one are completely unnecessary in the economic sense. Ideally, if we could somehow ensure that a single miner would function identically to a decentralized group of miners to the consumer, the single miner is the far superior scenario as the duplicate and wasteful infrastructure is avoided and total profit realized is far greater. (Although this may be undesirable if you are a communist.)

Ironically, arguing for the usefulness of mining (economically) is in a way arguing a Keynesian idea (digging holes).

You are amazingly wrong. I'm very glad having you here because it is easy to make an example of you to show how false a pro-utilitarian mind is and why it is not capable of understanding what bitcoin is and why it is based on work, instead of reputation or credit or ....

You are absolutely incapable of understanding the mining process from an economical point of view. Your analogy of bitcoin with a hole digging Keynesian practice proves it and I follow your analogy for convenience:
In bitcoin, miners don't "fill up" the holes that they are digging, like what you claim, occasionally they find a piece of diamond: a cryptographic hash and register it to make the ledger hard to forge. This hash needs work to be produced, hence it is a store of value.

Your conclusion about one single miner being more economical(!) is another example of how inefficient your economical school is. I know you are aware of technical aspects of the subject but obviously your economics can't catch-up: One single miner can't produce a bitcoin with the same utility of current bitcoin.

Quote

Quote
The utility of bitcoin is the same as always but its price is not, the cost is changing due to the changes in social situation so the value has changed and price follows the value. The "loosely" adverb you used is true for all commodities and is aligned wit Marx's theory.

The utility of bitcoin is clearly not the same as always. In 2009 I could not buy alpaca socks; in 2011 I could. Therefore in 2011 the utility of bitcoin was higher than in 2009.
The utility of bitcoin is essentially fixed since the beginning untill now.  It is and it has always been:
  • Storing value
  • Portability.
  • Divisibility.
  • Uniformity.
  • Limited supply.
  • fungibility
  • decentralization
  • security
  • ...
it has never changed substantially. What has changed is the amount of work socially needed to produce it.
The society has improved the efficiency of devices as a decreasing factor but at the same time has escalated participation much more which makes it harder to produce bitcoin, the outcome is that now in the current state of our society we need far more resources to produce bitcoin and it has increased its value.

This value finds its voice in bitcoin price somehow and eventually. Price fluctuations due to socio-psychological factors doesn't change anything and is not a direct indicator of its value.
The value of bitcoin acts as the most important factor that keeps the price bouncing around itself, as long as the utility/usefulness of bitcoin is not compromised/degraded.
And Yes, every commodity should have specific qualities to be treated as a commodity but this is not a quantitative property and is out of the scopes of political economy to ask questions about how and why people like and appreciate some object to procure/consume it.

For a pre-fiat form of money like gold, its utility is fixed just like bitcoin and its value is the amount of labour needed to produce it and is a driving force behind its supply but the goods one could buy using a specific amount of this money is determined by the equilibrium state of the market in terms of supply and demand.

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I think here you are trying to avoid any association with marginal utility so as to make your case, but utility is not the same as marginal utility. If you deny the utility of bitcoin has changed over time, then there is no hope of a productive discussion.
Marginal utility is a made-up approximation of a qualitative phenomenon:  how people may feel satisfied if they consume one more unit of a commodity? It is implanted in utilitarian theory of value to turn it to an applied science (prediction of sales) besides its instrumental application in holly war against Communism. How would such an application technique be helpful in a theoretical debate?  
Firstly, I don't buy such garbages as a scientific material at all, approximately and psychologically analysing hypothetical behavior of consumers.
Secondly, We need an anchor  a stable axis for a scientific theory which is to be applicable in general problems. Saying that the utility of a commodity has changed despite its physical characteristics remaining unchanged because its price has increased and hence its demand and hence people feel more comfortable buying it, hence ... it is nothing more than faking knowledge in the darkest corners of ignorance.  

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September 10, 2018, 11:01:24 AM
 #6

This hash needs work to be produced, hence it is a store of value.

These holes need digging!!

Quote
One single miner can't produce a bitcoin with the same utility of current bitcoin.

The utility of bitcoin is essentially fixed since the beginning untill now.

Contradiction between two neighboring sentences.

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Marginal utility is a made-up approximation of a qualitative phenomenon:

I made no argument for marginal utility, only that utility is not marginal utility.


I don't understand the vehement denials nor the completely unnecessary ad homs. I am willing to entertain Marx's LTV. I don't think it fits well, but that doesn't mean I am impossible to persuade. But as I suspected from the beginning, you don't appear willing to have a reasonable discussion, so I will exit the thread.

But I will say again that if you want any of your arguments to hold water, you must explain the value of non-PoW currencies. Unscientifically comparing them to fiat with a false equivalence is not an argument.
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September 10, 2018, 04:16:46 PM
 #7

@aliashraf
I think you are overcomplicating things. PoW is useful because it allows for trustless consensus. PoS needs some kind of "social network" to function, in order to know what the "real" chain is.

As for energy consumption, I don't see it as a problem. What I see as a problem is centralized energy consumption. Without large forces of centralization I don't think it would be possible to damage the environment in a significant way, and maybe even total (global) energy consumption would decrease. Also, merge mining would help to keep energy consumption for efficient, as you can mine multiple blockchains in the same time for the same energy cost.

The uncorrupted Bitmark protocol: https://github.com/bitmark-protocol/bitmark
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September 11, 2018, 01:34:42 AM
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Nice topic. First of all, @aliashraf, I agree that the article you cited, and also the article the writer is referring to (I can't believe that this obscure Forbes contributor is really an economist), are both complete garbage, product of an over-simplistic understanding of Marx's labour theory of value. As Ix correctly points out, these simplistic interpretations take out completely the "demand" (="social necessity") out of the LTOV, which is why they see LTOV as a fallacy (and the reason why this Forbes contributor cites this completely ridiculous "hairball" example).

The article's conclusion also has some circular logic, because the writer thinks that Bitcoin's demand is related to what he calls "desirability". Isn't desirability (in a broader sense that could apply to currencies, too) the same thing as demand? So demand (=which, according to all mainstream economic schools, drives up price) depends on demand. What a novel thought!

However, there are two things I disagree with you, @aliashraf:

First, "socially necessary labour" to produce a Bitcoin today is, in fact, higher than in e.g. 2011. But why? The reason is not only related to the labour put into it before. I believe the reason has, in fact, to do with "utility".

Utility, on the other hand, depends also on security. You won't find a merchant accepting your BTC if you could double-spend attack him with your CPU (or even a small ASIC farm). But I believe security is not the only factor.

For example, take a small "shitcoin" like Feathercoin CHNcoin (Edit: CNC is a better example as FTC preserved at least some of its value) that attracted lots of miners in 2013/14 and then silently disappeared. If value was only dependant on the value that before had put into it, why could that happen? Well, "socially necessary value" decreased, also because utility went almost to zero (e.g. no merchants were accepting it anymore).

We have to get to an "holistic" theory of Bitcoin's value, taking into account several factors - apart of security (=LTOV explanation) also other social needs. Only then we can explain the phenomenon and can try to approach an explanation of the price.

My second disagreement is related to my condition as a "PoS shill" Wink

PoS coins depend, ultimately, also on labour. The labour PoS coins depend on is the labour put into the real economy to buy the coins necessary to mint. Paul Sztorc, in his well-known article "Nothing is cheaper than Proof of Work" has concluded, from this fact, that PoS also "wastes energy". But he ignores that the energy wasted with the labour necessary to buy PoS coins is often necessary to satisfy real needs. It may be not - not all PoS coin buyers are, for example, doctors, nurses or brilliant philosophers, some are also scammers and speculators.

But in general terms a large part of the energy put into that labour is not "wasted", if we agree that PoS provides a security level sufficient to run a cryptocurrency. However, I accept that PoW is superior to PoS because we still don't know if there is no "shortcut" in exploiting the Nothing-at-stake problem which would make PoS coins insecure and thus, useless. (I won't go deeper into that topic, because this doesn't belong into this economics discussion).

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September 12, 2018, 07:30:16 PM
 #9

However, there are two things I disagree with you, @aliashraf:

First, "socially necessary labour" to produce a Bitcoin today is, in fact, higher than in e.g. 2011. But why? The reason is not only related to the labour put into it before. I believe the reason has, in fact, to do with "utility".

Utility, on the other hand, depends also on security. You won't find a merchant accepting your BTC if you could double-spend attack him with your CPU (or even a small ASIC farm). But I believe security is not the only factor.

For example, take a small "shitcoin" like Feathercoin CHNcoin (Edit: CNC is a better example as FTC preserved at least some of its value) that attracted lots of miners in 2013/14 and then silently disappeared. If value was only dependant on the value that before had put into it, why could that happen? Well, "socially necessary value" decreased, also because utility went almost to zero (e.g. no merchants were accepting it anymore).

We have to get to an "holistic" theory of Bitcoin's value, taking into account several factors - apart of security (=LTOV explanation) also other social needs. Only then we can explain the phenomenon and can try to approach an explanation of the price.
As a commodity, bitcoin is a special case and we need a bit more assessment, I do agree, but intuitively speaking, it does not seem to me as a totally new class of commodity and we don't need to invent a new political economic point of view to understand it.

Historically when gold became adopted as a middle of exchange, more people tried to mine it and caused it to become much harder to produce, it increased its value according to LTOV. This increase in value was a direct consequence of the increase in its production cost while the latter was a result of the surge in demand as a result of its increasing adoption as a medium of exchange. For bitcoin we have a same scenario.

In both cases utilitarians eliminate mining process and suggest that the value is increased because of the steam in adoption i.e. gold/bitcoin being more desirable, which is very odd. Why should a scientist choose to eliminate a direct measurable index and go after a socio-psychological qualitative one after all?
It is! They say, it is measurable. Marginalists believe that demand is a quantitative index but nobody can measure the demand for gold or bitcoin or describe it precisely. They just seat and watch the prices and say: Look! People are willingly paying $10K for 1 btc it is now 50 times more desirable than last year! As I have said up thread it is not what scientists do, at least not political economists.

As of your argument regarding the security of bitcoin:
It is very common to consider bitcoin more secure right now compared to say 2012, but is not correct. The way I understand security of a cryptocurrency, bitcoin has not experienced  a meaningful change in security level since its introduction:
Security of bitcoin is not measurable by network hashrate directly, it is based on game theory and rational behavior of attackers and the equilibrium between threats and security measures including (and not limited to)  total hashrate of miners.

A coin with a million times lower hashrate may be considered more secure than bitcoin as long as its total market cap is like $100K. I would suggest something like a market cap/hashrate index for security of bitcoin and I think such an index is somehow more stable and would be more useful to understand how bitcoin is secure and why I don't think the utility of bitcoin has changed considerably through time.

Actually, suggesting that bitcoin is now more secure is confusing by itself. What does such a claim imply?
Bitcoin was not secure and now it is? Why it didn't fail in spite of so much interested and incentivized hackers obsessed to commit a successful attack on it?
What else? Bitcoin was secure enough but now it is more secure? Why should a system spend more than enough resources for security?

It is why I don't agree with your suggestion regarding the security of bitcoin as a utility that has improved and could be used as an index for its value.

Still, I do agree that bitcoin is special and there are so many interesting and unique features to be discussed and discovered but I don't think we need to break the most basic assumptions of Marx's Labor Theory of Value and by no means we would be able to have a more elegant and sharper understanding of existential economics of bitcoin by employing Marginalism or utilitarian interpretations.

Quote
My second disagreement is related to my condition as a "PoS shill" Wink
...
But in general terms a large part of the energy put into that labour is not "wasted", if we agree that PoS provides a security level sufficient to run a cryptocurrency. However, I accept that PoW is superior to PoS because we still don't know if there is no "shortcut" in exploiting the Nothing-at-stake problem which would make PoS coins insecure and thus, useless. (I won't go deeper into that topic, because this doesn't belong into this economics discussion).
I'll come to this later, but for now: PoS is not secure because there will be no mitigation to N@S attack as long as a pure PoS coin has zero value e.g.  it is not somehow "pegged" to an objective store of value.
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September 14, 2018, 01:15:44 AM
 #10

As a commodity, bitcoin is a special case and we need a bit more assessment, I do agree, but intuitively speaking, it does not seem to me as a totally new class of commodity and we don't need to invent a new political economic point of view to understand it.

Historically when gold became adopted as a middle of exchange, more people tried to mine it and caused it to become much harder to produce, it increased its value according to LTOV. This increase in value was a direct consequence of the increase in its production cost while the latter was a result of the surge in demand as a result of its increasing adoption as a medium of exchange. For bitcoin we have a same scenario.
I think here you're basically right, but utility is influencing in the "demand"/"social need" part of the equation. More so if we want to make predictions about the long-term/mid-term price evolution. This was also the reason I mentioned CHNcoin: A production cost increase in one moment (because miners increase hashrate dedicated to that particular coin) does not mean that the coin cannot lose its value almost completely if utility goes to zero.

My favorite approach to quantify and estimate "utility" is "the size of the ecosystem that holds a stake in Bitcoin". That means, basically, to calculate the base of Bitcoin users, with Bitcoin enterprises (exchanges, payment processors, merchants accepting it as a currency for a substantial part of their offers, etc.) and "private" users being the most important sub-groups. From both groups one would have to also estimate the "stake" they hold in Bitcoin.

We can even use LTOV to calculate the estimation:
- socially needed labor in Bitcoin enterprises
- part of the labor used by investors to buy Bitcoin

As the size of the ecosystem and the labor "contained" in it adds more inertia to the equation, I think this approach can be useful to do rough estimations of the mid-to-long term price evolution.

The hard part, however, is to quantify the user base. While we could use market capitalization of the bigger Bitcoin enterprises (Bitpay, Bitmain, Bitfinex etc.) as a base for a part of the estimation, there are several problems with that - one being the fact that some of these companies also "do business" with altcoins, and the other, that there is a big black market accounting for a big part of the Bitcoin ecosystem (Silk Road and successors).

Quote
Security of bitcoin is not measurable by network hashrate directly, it is based on game theory and rational behavior of attackers and the equilibrium between threats and security measures including (and not limited to)  total hashrate of miners.
[...] I would suggest something like a market cap/hashrate index for security of bitcoin and I think such an index is somehow more stable and would be more useful to understand how bitcoin is secure and why I don't think the utility of bitcoin has changed considerably through time.
I think you have a valid point here. However there are two different attacks to consider:

- simple double-spend attack (with the intention to scam a merchant or exchange, like the BTG 51% attack)
- "destructive" big double-spend/short-selling attack (with the intention to bring the price of the coin down)

The cost/possible profit equation of the second kind of attack is clearly related to market cap, because as you say, market cap influences the profit expectations. But the danger arising from the first one, the simple double-spend attack, is basically related to the "majority attack cost", which mean the cost to get, for a short period of time, 51% of the hashrate of the network. We clearly saw some weeks ago that Bitcoin Gold is less secure than Bitcoin, for example, which is, in my opinion, directly related to the hashrate differences.

So the "security index" would have to take into account both attack scenarios. That means basically that, in my opinion, Bitcoin's security is higher when the "51% attack cost" increases, but less steep as expected only taking into account this indicator, as market cap has also an influence.

I disagree also that other "utility" factors have not changed, like merchant acceptance. However, since 2013 merchant acceptance growth has been much less steep than price, and Bitcoin even has lost some merchants in 2017 despite the bull run. On the other hand, a lot of new markets have appeared, like Venezuelan, African and Asian markets.

However, I would be very interested in the "market cap/attack cost" index you've proposed. Maybe I'll find time to calculate it at least for the top-10 PoW coins.

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September 14, 2018, 03:17:11 PM
 #11

As a commodity, bitcoin is a special case and we need a bit more assessment, I do agree, but intuitively speaking, it does not seem to me as a totally new class of commodity and we don't need to invent a new political economic point of view to understand it.

Historically when gold became adopted as a middle of exchange, more people tried to mine it and caused it to become much harder to produce, it increased its value according to LTOV. This increase in value was a direct consequence of the increase in its production cost while the latter was a result of the surge in demand as a result of its increasing adoption as a medium of exchange. For bitcoin we have a same scenario.
I think here you're basically right, but utility is influencing in the "demand"/"social need" part of the equation. More so if we want to make predictions about the long-term/mid-term price evolution. This was also the reason I mentioned CHNcoin: A production cost increase in one moment (because miners increase hashrate dedicated to that particular coin) does not mean that the coin cannot lose its value almost completely if utility goes to zero.
Of course, without utility there is no demand and without demand society needs no work to supply anything so there is no value. In labor theory of value the 'average socially necessary work' term can be interpreted properly to serve this. Society needs something (because of its utility) hence has to produce it by work and it is the source of the value of that thing which is conventionally considered a commodity there after.

Both conditions (demand and work to supply) should hold for a thing to be a commodity with a value . Air is not a commodity, people desperately need it because of its vitaal utilities but it has no value unless it is processed somehow e.g. refined and charged into a capsule to be used in healthcare, etc.

Focusing on the utility and the demand has two bad side effects:
1- It distracts us from the fact that commodities are a product of labor and eventually (few centuries later may be) the current ridiculous distribution of wealth should be addressed somehow.

2- It is just the hard way to describe value by demand or utility. Right, you can describe value anyhow but not all the hypothetical proposals are as simple and useful and efficient as saying : A commodity's value is the socially necessary labor for producing it.


Quote
My favorite approach to quantify and estimate "utility" is "the size of the ecosystem that holds a stake in Bitcoin". That means, basically, to calculate the base of Bitcoin users, with Bitcoin enterprises (exchanges, payment processors, merchants accepting it as a currency for a substantial part of their offers, etc.) and "private" users being the most important sub-groups. From both groups one would have to also estimate the "stake" they hold in Bitcoin.

We can even use LTOV to calculate the estimation:
- socially needed labor in Bitcoin enterprises
- part of the labor used by investors to buy Bitcoin

As the size of the ecosystem and the labor "contained" in it adds more inertia to the equation, I think this approach can be useful to do rough estimations of the mid-to-long term price evolution.

The hard part, however, is to quantify the user base. While we could use market capitalization of the bigger Bitcoin enterprises (Bitpay, Bitmain, Bitfinex etc.) as a base for a part of the estimation, there are several problems with that - one being the fact that some of these companies also "do business" with altcoins, and the other, that there is a big black market accounting for a big part of the Bitcoin ecosystem (Silk Road and successors).
You are right, it is really hard and hence not scientific!
Science is about elegance and simplicity and being straightforward. Estimation of user base and demand is hard and applicable in short term, trading practices. In long term, existential discussions we better focus on work.

We need both, merchants need sales predictions but strategists and designers need existential assessments. I personally don't care about price, not that much. I'm seeking for a rough understanding of bitcoin value to resist PoS temptations Wink and to challenge accusations about bitcoin being a wasteful system, ...


Quote
Quote
Security of bitcoin is not measurable by network hashrate directly, it is based on game theory and rational behavior of attackers and the equilibrium between threats and security measures including (and not limited to)  total hashrate of miners.
[...] I would suggest something like a market cap/hashrate index for security of bitcoin and I think such an index is somehow more stable and would be more useful to understand how bitcoin is secure and why I don't think the utility of bitcoin has changed considerably through time.
I think you have a valid point here. However there are two different attacks to consider:

- simple double-spend attack (with the intention to scam a merchant or exchange, like the BTG 51% attack)
- "destructive" big double-spend/short-selling attack (with the intention to bring the price of the coin down)

The cost/possible profit equation of the second kind of attack is clearly related to market cap, because as you say, market cap influences the profit expectations. But the danger arising from the first one, the simple double-spend attack, is basically related to the "majority attack cost", which mean the cost to get, for a short period of time, 51% of the hashrate of the network. We clearly saw some weeks ago that Bitcoin Gold is less secure than Bitcoin, for example, which is, in my opinion, directly related to the hashrate differences.

So the "security index" would have to take into account both attack scenarios. That means basically that, in my opinion, Bitcoin's security is higher when the "51% attack cost" increases, but less steep as expected only taking into account this indicator, as market cap has also an influence.
Short range attacks can be mitigated by waiting for few more confirmations. Totally ruining a coin by a destructive long run attack that rewrites a longer chain is what we should consider as the most important factor, imo. On the other hand a successful  short range 51% attack on bitcoin destroys it value because it causes sharp drops both in price and network hashrate as a result. So, one might consider a hybrid more sophisticated index.


Quote
I disagree also that other "utility" factors have not changed, like merchant acceptance. However, since 2013 merchant acceptance growth has been much less steep than price, and Bitcoin even has lost some merchants in 2017 despite the bull run. On the other hand, a lot of new markets have appeared, like Venezuelan, African and Asian markets.
I'm aware that they say "acceptance" is a utility for money. I have not come to this subject at all: money. Adopting gold as money, medium of exchange, was simple. Everybody accepted gold, gold's utility was not because of its acceptance, the latter was because of the first! It was hard to mine/produce, easy to keep, transfer, divide, ... so it was accepted as the medium of exchange, money. On the contrary, fiat, the fake money, was about acceptance from the first beginning.

Bitcoin follows gold path but not as a simple store of value (like what some advocates falsely suggest) but as a money, acceptance is not a utility neither for gold nor for bitcoin. Fluctuations in bitcoin acceptance is because of the transient phase we are in. Once this phase has fade out, accepting bitcoin as a medium of exchange is a natural consequence of its utility as a digital gold.


Quote
However, I would be very interested in the "market cap/attack cost" index you've proposed. Maybe I'll find time to calculate it at least for the top-10 PoW coins.
I'd appreciate it and please try a bit more sophisticated options as well. No ideas right now, but I feel my suggestion to be kinda naive in this stage. Wink
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September 14, 2018, 03:59:43 PM
 #12

Labor theory of value is insanely flawed and has absolutely nothing to do with Bitcoin's Proof of Work.

All value is subjective because it only exists in our minds, all people value the same things differently, and the price is just a consensus between the seller and the buyer. Labor theory of value treats value as some sort of objective physical property, and it fails to describe the reality because it totally ignores how economy actually works.

It completely fails in the case of Bitcoin, because the total network hashrate is driven by the price, not vice versa. Miners add more ASICS because they see big profitability, they never add ASICS hoping that this will drive the price higher. This is because the market doesn't see PoW value as linear, if the network is already secure, the security gains will start to diminish (even though the cost of attack scales linearly).

Labor alone is not the source of value, other people need to view it as useful in order to create value, and this is not a binary value, it's a scale. Bitcoin price increased so much since it's launch because more people became aware of it, more people started to want it, while the supply was decreasing.

I'm pretty sure that Satoshi was familiar with Austrian economics and maybe was even inspired by them, because PoW is based on supply and demand, not labor theory. If Bitcoin was based on Marxist ideas, it would have constant difficulty and constant reward and fixed fees (or no fees).

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September 14, 2018, 04:39:54 PM
 #13

Labor theory of value is insanely flawed and has absolutely nothing to do with Bitcoin's Proof of Work.

All value is subjective because it only exists in our minds, all people value the same things differently, and the price is just a consensus between the seller and the buyer. Labor theory of value treats value as some sort of objective physical property, and it fails to describe the reality because it totally ignores how economy actually works.

It completely fails in the case of Bitcoin, because the total network hashrate is driven by the price, not vice versa. Miners add more ASICS because they see big profitability, they never add ASICS hoping that this will drive the price higher. This is because the market doesn't see PoW value as linear, if the network is already secure, the security gains will start to diminish (even though the cost of attack scales linearly).

Labor alone is not the source of value, other people need to view it as useful in order to create value, and this is not a binary value, it's a scale. Bitcoin price increased so much since it's launch because more people became aware of it, more people started to want it, while the supply was decreasing.

I'm pretty sure that Satoshi was familiar with Austrian economics and maybe was even inspired by them, because PoW is based on supply and demand, not labor theory. If Bitcoin was based on Marxist ideas, it would have constant difficulty and constant reward and fixed fees (or no fees).
Multiple false statements. From where do I begin?  Grin

PoW is not based on anything other than game theory and mathematics. Nobody designs any thing based on supply and demand, what the hell are you talking about?

Bitcoin is a socio-economic commodity made by labor and it is why it has value and USD has not. Austrian school can't understand why USD is not a commodity and has no value, LTOV can. If price was an existential index of a commodity it wouldn't fluctuate like a feather in the winds of market. Price is a concrete representation of value but is not the value itself. It eventually and in long run acts like an anchor for price.

Bitcoin is an alternative monetary system you can not fool us by giving a neutralized image of it. Cryptocurrency movement is not understandable by fake economists with their original versions being hired and supported by power to say just something no matter what against Marx!

You have no clue:  the latest  sentence that I quoted from you and bolded above says everything about your naive understanding of bitcoin and Marx and more importantly your biased political point of view that reminds me of cheap anti-Marxist propaganda in the USA in the cold war era.

Half a century is almost passed, there are literally no Marxists for people like you to fight against them and hide your failed economy behind such a holy war.

And now we have bitcoin that is based on work. You like it or not, bitcoin is based on work and it is the source of its value, you understand it or not, LTOV is the only economical framework available that can shed light on why bitcoin consumes energy instead of following stupid Austrian school advices and let governments to continue doing their job by creating money out of thin air.

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September 14, 2018, 06:25:55 PM
 #14

instead of following stupid Austrian school advices and let governments to continue doing their job by creating money out of thin air.

Austrian economists typically have espoused the direct opposite view - certainly the more famous ones at least. A false statement in calling out false statements?
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September 15, 2018, 08:41:03 AM
 #15

instead of following stupid Austrian school advices and let governments to continue doing their job by creating money out of thin air.

Austrian economists typically have espoused the direct opposite view - certainly the more famous ones at least. A false statement in calling out false statements?
Although Austrian economists are at odds with state intervention as libertarian scholars, they are not principally opposed to central banks and fiat based monetary systems.

Austrian economists typically are against using inflation as a leverage for governments to intervene in the market but advocating for gold standard and abandoning central banks is not a common practice among them. They are libertarians not anarcho-capitalists.


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