Political Economy Seminar | Cryptocurrencies as units of account: possibilities for a postcapitalist, distributed mode of measurement
Political Economy Seminar
Cryptocurrencies as units of account: possibilities for a postcapitalist, distributed mode of measurement
Presenter: Dick Bryan
A02, Room 650 and Zoom
There is, as yet, relatively little debate about how blockchains and cryptotokens might be innovatively and effectively applied to the economic potential for post-capitalism. Unfortunately, most of the economic debate to date has been about whether Bitcoin is, or might become, a challenge to the state’s fiat currency as a means of exchange and store of value (essentially a Hayekian question).
In contrast, this paper puts the focus on the role of money as unit of account and hence on the definition of what constitutes ‘Value’ (as that term is understood in political economy) and its measurement. It re-frames the conventional, state-centred depiction of ‘unit of account‘ to make it crypto-compatible, and then explores the potential for cryptocurrencies to build the conditions for a distributed, scalable network determination of what constitutes ‘Value’, distinct from capital’s (state-endorsed) criterion of profit.
Such an alternative unit could be centrally defined and imposed hierarchically, but the objective considered here is a distributed process in which ‘Value’, and debates about what should count as ‘Value creation’, are expressed in ledger-based network relations. The goal is not to define what that post-capitalist unit of account should be, but to offer a perspective on the procedures by which it might be determined as an organic expression of network relations.
The presentation will be conceptually focussed but will also, by way of illustration, consider a range of environment-focussed tokens, and their limitations as units of account, as a way to clarify the sorts of protocols that might enable a coherent unit of account.
Dick Bryan is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney and Chief Economist at the Economic Space Agency (ECSA)