Bitcoin ain’t a stock

The most common criticism of Bitcoin is that it has no intrinsic value. That is entirely true, but neither does the US dollar or a bar of gold. These same critics then begin to buttress their argument by comparing Bitcoin’s market cap against the equity value of some large blue-chip companies. Surely Bitcoin is in a bubble if it is worth $250 billion and company X is worth slightly less.

A share of stock in a company is the net present value of all future dividends, which implies that stocks have intrinsic value. It is intellectually lazy to compare Bitcoin, which possesses no income stream, against a stock that does.

This leads me to believe that most financial journalists do not fundamentally understand any of the financial assets they write about daily. The mischaracterisation of Bitcoin and its value proposition further illustrates their ignorance.

The second facet of Bitcoin in the market that pains me is that many people don’t understand exchange rates. If Bitcoin has no intrinsic value, its value comes from the market’s perception of its moneyness — which means that Bitcoin has a price only versus another asset, crypto coin, or fiat currency. Therefore, either Bitcoin can be in a bubble now or the asset it is valued against was previously.

Take the above weekly log graph of the Bitstamp USD/Bitcoin price since 2012. Viewing this chart would lead you to believe that the dollar was in a bubble, which then burst. Hard-money folks have been labelled modern-day Cassandras because the hyperinflationary fiat doomsday collapse has yet to manifest itself. The inflation, which government statistics expertly conceal, rears its ugly head through crypto-coin pumps and Hong Kong cage homes worth millions of USD.

My pet peeves do not prove that Bitcoin deserves its current market-clearing price against fiat currencies. Rather, if one wants to dismiss Bitcoin as a fad for the young’uns and financially stupid, the arguments used must make financial sense.