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Articles by Danielsson

What if bitcoin succeeded?

March 26, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]What would the world look like if Bitcoin completely displaced fiat currency? Jon Danielsson tells Tim Phillips that it wouldn’t be a society that he would like to live in.

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What happens if bitcoin succeeds?

February 26, 2021

In a week when bitcoin is setting records with a market value exceeding a trillion dollars, what would it mean if cryptocurrencies succeed? 
The only reason all the bitcoins are worth a trillion dollars is the expectation of success, as they are not very useful today. Cryptocurrencies must provide some valuable service if they are to justify their high valuation, otherwise holding bitcoin is just like collecting stamps or beanie babies – a minority activity that does not justify the current $51,000 price.
But what is the valuable service that makes bitcoin successful? 
To the vast majority of bitcoin investors, success means its price continues to rise. But if that is all there is to it, someday a little boy will yell, "the Emperor has no clothes", and the price will come

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Central banks and reputation risk

August 6, 2019

Central banks have continued to accumulate new job functions since the crisis of 2008. Recent events in Iceland point to the risk of such domain expansion.
On 30 April 2019, the largest exporter in Iceland filed a complaint with the police against current and former senior central bank staff, including the sitting governor, alleging criminal misconduct in the execution of their duties – the latest step in a long and acrimonious saga.
Any regulatory agency will make decisions that some consider to be mistakes, and when it does, the legal and political domains can step in, smoothing feathers and enforcing resolution. Mistakes are inevitable and expected, so we have tolerance against those mistakes and reputation risk is usually contained.  
Here, however, the institution under

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Cryptocurrencies: Financial stability and fairness

November 9, 2018

Cryptocurrencies are controversial.  Advocates see them as a better form of money that imparts freedom, useful economic functions, fabulous riches and hedges against bad government policies. The sceptics worry about investor protection and environmental impact.
Cryptocurrencies today do not pose much threat to financial stability, as noted by den Haan et al. (2017) and a recent Financial Stability Board report (Financial Stability Board 2018).
That will change if cryptocurrencies find widespread economic use, either coexisting with or fully displacing fiat money.  They will then have a strong and negative impact on financial stability, equality and social cohesion, as I discuss in Danielsson (2018c).
Financial stability
Some cryptocurrencies promise to replace fiat money with

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Cryptocurrencies are lousy investments

June 15, 2018

Cryptocurrencies have been a fabulous investment for early investors. A Bitcoin was worth $0.06 in 2010, and $6,500 now, an 11 million percent return. Does it make sense to invest in cryptocurrencies today? It depends. 
Any asset can get into a bubble state. People buy it because they expect others to pay a higher price in the future, creating a positive feedback between buying and prices. Someone who invests early and sells in time makes money, just like an early investor in a Ponzi scheme profits, provided she gets out early.
This leaves two questions:
What sort of investments are cryptocurrencies?
Does it make sense to invest in them?
The price of stocks and bonds follows from expectations of future income. Other assets have value simply because we hope people will buy them

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Cryptocurrencies: (Non)sense and sensibility

May 25, 2018

The advent of cryptocurrencies has captured the imaginations of consumers, businesses, and investors alike. Policymakers are grappling to regulate them, while economists are still working out the potential that cryptos have to disrupt financial markets. In this Vox Talks, Jon Danielsson takes a different view, explaining why cryptos "just don’t make sense", and why they should be treated with some scepticism.

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Cryptocurrencies don’t make sense

February 13, 2018

I have been trying to understand what the point of cryptocurrencies is, without success. They may not be an immediate financial stability concern (den Haan et al. 2017), but I just don’t get them.
As far as I can tell, they are supposed to be some combination of:
a type of money;
an investment;
something that provides privacy and security and efficiency;
something else, new and magical and mystical that I am too stupid or old to understand.
Are cryptocurrencies money?
What do we need money for? Three things:
facilitating transactions;
a store of value;
lending of last resort.
Any form of money should be evaluated according to those criteria.
We have used many things throughout history as money, like seashells, cigarettes, silver and gold. These are all scarce real assets with

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Artificial intelligence and the stability of markets

November 15, 2017

Artificial intelligence (AI) is useful for optimally controlling an existing system, one with clearly understood risks. It excels at pattern matching and control mechanisms. Given enough observations and a strong signal, it can identify deep dynamic structures much more robustly than any human can and is far superior in areas that require the statistical evaluation of large quantities of data. It can do so without human intervention.
We can leave an AI machine in the day-to-day charge of such a system, automatically self-correcting and learning from mistakes and meeting the objectives of its human masters.
This means that risk management and micro-prudential supervision are well suited for AI. The underlying technical issues are clearly defined, as are both the high- and

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