之前说的塔勒布关于比特币的论述多少有点隔靴搔痒,因为推特也都只是只言片语,要理解他完整的意思不可避免的还是要回到他那个论文《Bitcoin, Currencies, and Fragility》。这文章很长,我时间精力有限,粗糙的翻译一下。因为里面涉及到不少专业内容,我会写点注释和导读。到一个阶段的最末尾,我才会说我自己的看法。







Bitcoin, Currencies, and Fragility


A technology should be judged in how it solves recognized problems, not by its technical appeal.




This discussion applies quantitative finance methods and economic arguments to cryptocurrencies in general and bitcoin in particular —as there are about 10, 000 cryptocurrencies, we focus (unless otherwise specified) on the most discussed crypto of those that claim to hew to the original protocol [1] and the one with, by far, the largest market capitalization.


In its current version, in spite of the hype, bitcoin failed to satisfy the notion of “currency without government” (it proved to not even be a currency at all), can be neither a short nor long term store of value (its expected value is no higher than 0), cannot operate as a reliable inflation hedge, and, worst of all, does not constitute, not even remotely, a safe haven for one’s investments, a shield against government tyranny, or a tail protection vehicle for catastrophic episodes.



Furthermore, bitcoin promoters appear to conflate the success of a payment mechanism (as a decentralized mode of exchange), which so far has failed, with the speculative variations in the price of a zero-sum maximally fragile asset with massive negative externalities




Going through monetary history, we show how a true numeraire must be one of minimum variance with respect to an arbitrary basket of goods and services, how gold and silver lost their inflation hedge status during the Hunt brothers squeeze in the late 1970s and what would be required from a true inflation hedged store of value.




First, let us consider what cryptocurrencies do by examining the notion of blockchain and its intellectual and mathematical appeal.


(*)关于比特币原理的简介,网上有很多,这里说的实在是不够清晰,强烈推荐 3blue1brown 比特币原理简介;了解了比特币的原理后关于原理部分的描述可以扫一眼跳着看

The concept behind such a chain is quite intuitive to early practitioners of quantitative finance. Consider that before efficient software for Monte Carlo simulations became widely available, some of us were using methods to generate pseudorandom variables via some forms of chained nonlinear transformations, in the spirit of Von Neumann’s original idea [2].


Indexing sequences by �=1,2,…� , with a seed at � , a variable �� on the real line generates via nonlinear transformations �:�→� , an output variable �(��) . This output variable can serve as a pseudorandom seed to generate another pseudorandom variable, �(��+1) . For all � , knowledge of �(��) allows knowledge of all subsequent variables �(��)τ>� and replication of the entire sequence, thus probabilistically mimicking the arrow of time. It is also crucial that the same seed produces exactly the same pseudorandom variable, allowing verification of sequence, but disallowing easy reverse engineering.

(*)如果你看着头晕,确保你知道哈希函数是什么的情况下可以跳过,如果还不知道,但能看点简单的代码,推荐参考 关于哈希算法

一个有序的序列 �=1,2,…� 上取一个种子 � ,一个变量 �� 在实数轴上做一个非线性的变化 �:�→� , 生成一个输出变量 �(��) .这个输出的变量可以用来作为一个伪随机种子来生成另外一个伪随机变量 �(��+1) .

对于所有 � , 已知的 �(��) 可以推导出后续的变量 �(��)τ>� 以推导出整个序列,从而构造出一个时间上的箭头来。至关重要的是,同样的种子能产生完全相同的伪随机变量,是便于验证的,但没法进行逆向工程。

What the blockchain added, thanks to the hash function, is the condition that �(.) must be functionally and probabilistically bijective: no two seeds should produce the same output (or should produce a vanishingly low probability of that happening), what, in computer science terminology, is called collision.

感谢哈希函数的特性,区块链增加了一个特性,在 �(.) 在功能和概率上都必须满足双射(bijective)的条件下:没有两个不同的种子能产生一个相同的结果(或者在概率上几乎不可能),在计算机科学的术语里,这种情况成为冲突(collision)。

(*)如果你知道哈希函数是啥,可以直接跳过。不知道的再看一遍 关于哈希算法

This hard-wired attribute and absence of supervision of the blockchain allow the storage of activities on a public ledger to facilitate peer-to-peer commerce, transactions, and settlements. The blockchain concept also allows for serial record keeping. This is supposed to help create what the original white paper [1] described as:

A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.



From that paper, bitcoin makes use of three existing technologies: 1) the hash function, 2) the Merkle tree (to chain blocks of transactions tagged by the hash function), and 3) the concept of proof of work (used to deter spam by forcing agents to use computer time in order to qualify for a transaction) — technologies that, ironically, all came out of the academic literature[3]1 . The idea provides a game theoretic approach to mitigate the effects of the absence of custodian and lack of trust between participants in the maintenance of a permanent shared public ledger — attenuating or circumventing the coordination quandary known as the “Byzantine general problem”.

在中本聪的这篇论文里,比特币使用了三项已经存在的技术:1)哈希函数,2)默克尔树(把一个个由哈希标记的记录数据块链接起来),和3)POW的概念(曾经用来阻止垃圾邮件的一个办法让计算机的工作时长来验证方法)。讽刺的是,所有这些技术都并不新,都是学术界早已有之的文献里[3] 1 。这个主意(指区块链技术)提供了一种博弈论层面上的方法,以缓解在维护永久公共账簿时缺乏托管人和参与者之间缺乏信任的问题。减弱或者绕过一种名叫「拜占庭将军问题」的协调困境。


1 As this discussion is focused on proof of work, we exclude from it Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies.

1 这里专注在讨论纯POW上,我们排斥类似以太坊或者其他加密数字货币


The bitcoin transactional currency (BTC) system establishes an adversarial collaboration between the so-called “miners” who validate transactions by getting them on a public ledger; as a reward they get coins plus a fee from the underlying transactions, transfers of coins between parties. The proof of work method has an adjustable degree of difficulty based on the speed of blocks, which aims, in theory, to keep the incentive sufficiently high for miners to keep operating the system. Such adjustments lead to an exponential increase in computer power requirements, making at the time of writing onerous energy demands on the system — energy that could find alternatives in other computational and scientific uses.


Miners derive their compensation from both seignorage (the market value of a bitcoin minus its mining costs) and transaction fees upon validation — with the plan to switch to transaction fees as the sole revenues upon the eventual depletion of the coins, which are limited to a fixed number.

A central attribute is that bitcoin depends on the existence of such miners for perpetuity.

Note that the entire ideological basis behind bitcoin is complete distrust of other operators — there are no partial custodians; the system is fully distributed, though prone to concentration 2 . Furthermore, by the very nature of the blockchain, transactions are irreversible, no matter the reason.





注意一下比特币背后的整个意识形态是对任何运营商性质的东西彻头彻尾的不信任,这里没有任何托管的概念;整个体系是彻底分布式的,虽然比特币有强烈的集中化的倾向 2 。还有,比特币无论如何交易是不能逆转的,无论什么原因它就是不能。

2From public data, we were able to verify that the distribution of holdings of bitcoin follows a powerlaw with tail index ≈54 , no different from the distribution of wealth in the U.S.



Finally, note that bitcoins are zero-sum by virtue of the numerus clausus.

最后,注意一下比特币是一个零和游戏在一个numerus clausus 数里不断转手而已。

(*)这里的numerus clausus 是拉丁语,意思是「closed number」,意思是比特币就在一个封闭的小圈子里互相搞一个零和的游戏而已。四个人打麻将永远创造不出价值的。

As we will see, mathematical and combinatorial qualities do not necessarily translate into financial benefits at either individual or systemic levels.


Comment 1: Why BTC is worth exactly 0

Gold and other precious metals are largely maintenance free, do not degrade over an historical horizon, and do not require maintenance to refresh their physical properties over time. Cryptocurrencies require a sustained amount of interest in them.





A central result (even principle) in the rational expectations and securities pricing literature is that, thanks to the law of iterated expectations, if we expect now that we will expect the price to vary at some point in the future, then by backward induction such a variation must be incorporated in the price now. When there are no dividends, as with growth companies, there is still an expectation of future earnings, and a future expected reward to stockholders — directly via dividends, or indirectly via reverse dilutions and buybacks. It remains that a stock is a claim on accumulated assets and their residual value.





(*)双重期望值定律: �(�)=�(�(�|�))





Earnings-free assets with no residual value are problematic.

The implication is that, owing to the absence of any explicit yield benefitting the holder of bitcoin, if we expect that at any point in the future the value will be zero when miners are extinct, the technology becomes obsolete, or future generations get into other such “assets” and bitcoin loses its appeal for them, then the value must be zero now 3 .





3Using a traditional rational bubble model (see [4] and the review by [5]), we get the following conditions. Let �� be a discount rate and � be a probability of absorption over a period. To escape the barrier, bitcoin must grow at ��+� forever, but no more, without remission, and with total certainty.Should it grow then stabilize, it still would be prone to extinction. We note that traditionally, models rule out any continuous growth at an exponential rate faster than �+� because the security or asset would then represent the entire economy. Bitcoin distinguishes itself from other assets because of its fragility as a mere book entry on a virtual ledger that requires constant refreshing ad infinitum.

3用一个传统的泡沫模型(参考文献[4]和文献[5]),我们需要满足如下的条件,令 �� 为贴现率并且令 � 作为一个周期内的逃逸速度的概率。如果要逃离泡沫崩盘,比特币必须永远以 ��+� 的速度上涨才能逃逸,且不能有任何一丝丝衰退,且100%肯定在增长。就算它稳住在一个水平,它也会有毁灭的倾向。我们注意到传统的这个泡沫模型排斥力任何连续增长速度快于 �+� 的情况因为证券或者资产是反应经济的。而比特币完全把自己排除在这之外,因为它仅仅是一个公共账本里的一个值,是很脆弱的,必须无穷无尽的增长。



The typical comparison of bitcoin to gold is lacking in elementary financial rigor 4 . We will see below how precious metals lost their quality as a medium of exchange; gold and other dividend-free precious items (such as other metals or stones) have held some financial status for more than 6, 000 years, and their physical status for several orders of magnitude longer (i.e., they did not degrade or mutate into some other alloy or mineral). So one can expect one’s gold or silver possessions to be around physically for at least the next millennium, as well as having some residual economic value by iteration, for the same reason. Metals have ample industrial uses with demand elasticity (and substitution for other raw materials). Currently, about half of gold production goes to jewelry (for which there are often no storage costs), one tenth to industry, and a quarter to central bank reserves.

经常拿黄金和比特币作比较这个是在金融问题上一个很幼稚的错误 4 。我们下面会看到贵金属是怎么失去它们的交易媒介属性的;黄金和其他非生息的贵重物(比如其他的金属或宝石)的金融属性有保持了超过6000多年,他们的物理属性能保持超过这个时间好几个数量级(他们不会衰变或者降解成其他物质)。所以我们能期望自己的黄金或者白银财产至少在下一个千年依然保持相同的物质形态,并且还有一些残存的经济价值。金属还会有很多工业价值,且有需求弹性(由其他金属的替代效应)。目前,黄金的产量一半用于珠宝业(一般这个行业不会有折旧损耗),十分之一用于工业,四分之一用于央行储备。



4 It is also a reasoning error to claim that an innovation, bitcoin, can become the “new gold” ab ovo, when gold wasn’t decided to be so by fiat thanks to a white paper; it organically became a reserve asset ex post, through centuries of competitive selection against other modes of storage, payment, and collectibles. Gold elicited an aesthetic fascination and had been used as jewelry and store of value for more than two millennia before it became, literally, a currency or before there was such a thing as a currency. The Phoenicians used it as store of value because there was demand for it, and it was not until the 6 th C. BCE that coins from Sardis became a widespread means of exchange [6].








Path dependence is a problem. We cannot expect a book entry on a ledger that requires active maintenance by interested and incentivized people to keep its physical presence, a condition for monetary value, for any period of time — and of course we are not sure of the interests, mindsets, and preferences of future generations.

Once bitcoin drops below a certain threshold, it may hit an absorbing barrier and stays at 0 — gold on the other hand is not path dependent in its physical properties 5 . As discussed in [7], technologies tend to be supplanted by other technologies with a vulnerability in proportion to their past survival duration (>99% of the new is replaced by something newer), whereas items such as gold and silver have proved resistant to extinction.





(*)但区块链需要一刻不停的以高成本维护确实是一个脆弱点,触及「吸收壁」效应的话,可能就会发生比较大的问题。相比于贵金属等而言需要高维护成本是一个实打实的弱点和劣势,这是不可否认的。下面的注释 5 会进一步解释「吸收壁」效应。

(*)硬分叉或许是一个保持动态升级的办法,虽然其有负面效应,一刻不能停确实是一个很严苛的要求,很难想象长期到千年的级别,区块链能保持 always online。笔者更加相信在链在技术上撞到脆弱性的时间要晚于有比目前区块链技术更好的新技术的出现的时间。比区块链更优的新技术让挖矿成为不经济行为的可能性更大。

5 The absorbing barrier does not have to be 0 for the price to spiral to 0 upon hitting the barrier. This is similar to saying “if the heart rate drops below ten beats per minutes, it will be 0 (death)” — nor does it necessarily have to be caused by a drop in price.



Furthermore bitcoin is supposed to be hacker-proof and is based on total infallibility in the future, not just at present. It is crucial that bitcoin is based on perfect immortality; unlike conventional assets, the slightest mortality rate puts its value at 0 6 .



6 To counter the effect of the absorbing barrier, the asset must grow at an exponential rate forever, without remission, and with total certainty. Belief in such an immortality for BTC — and its total infallibility — is in line with the common observation that its enthusiastic investors have the attributes of a religious cult.



Principle 1: Cumulative ruin


If any non-dividend yielding asset has the tiniest probability of hitting an absorbing barrier (causing its value to become 0), then its present value must be 0.



We exclude collectibles from that category, as they have an aesthetic utility as if one were, in a way, renting them for an expense that maps to a dividend — and thus are no different from perishable consumer goods. The same applies to the jewelry side of gold: my gold necklace may be worth 0 in thirty years, but then I would have been wearing it for six decades.





The difference between the current bitcoin bubble and past recent ones, such as the dot-com episode spanning the period over 1995-2000, is that shell companies were at least promising some type of future revenue stream. Bitcoin would be allowed to escape a valuation methodology had it proven to be a medium of exchange or satisfied the condition for a numeraire from which other goods could be priced. But currently it is not, as we will see next.





More generally, the fundamental flaw and contradiction at the base of most cryptocurrencies is, as we saw, that the originators, miners, and maintainers of the system currently make their money from the inflation of their currencies rather than just from the volume of underlying transactions in them. Hence the total failure of bitcoin to become a currency has been masked by the inflation of the currency value, generating (paper) profits for a large enough number of people to enter the discourse well ahead of its utility.


(*)这里说的是比特币作为货币属性的失败,如果是一个货币那么应该根据利用该货币清算的交易来得出它的媒介价值,也就是 ��=�� ,当使用一个货币清算的商品数量和价格足够多的时候,货币是有价值的。但比特币并没用来清算什么贸易,而是一个通胀里的纸面富贵的游戏而已。

(*)人们沉迷于这个账面盈利的游戏,以至于不关心它有没有真的当货币用,这个是币圈里的现实。之前有尝试过比特币作为支付工具的创业公司,无一例外的都没成功,比特币在交易媒介领域并不成功。最初用比特币买披萨的反而是一个正途,而后期比特币虽然市值很高,但作为货币的尝试是失败的。但是 Who cares,币圈的人都盯着某某某发财了我也想要,比特币是不是货币确实没人关心。

Comment 2: Success for a digital currency


There is a mistaken conflation between success for a “digital currency”, which requires some stability and usability, and speculative price appreciation.


Transactions in bitcoin are considerably more expensive than wire services or other modes of transfers, or ones in other cryptocurrencies 7 . They are order of magnitudes slower than standard commercial systems used by credit card companies —anecdotally, while you can instantly buy a cup of coffee with your cell phone, you would need to wait ten minutes if you used bitcoin 8 . They cannot compete with African mobile money. 9 . Nor can the system outlined above —as per its very structure —accommodate a large volume of transactions — which is something central for such an ambitious payment system.



7 Transactions in bitcoin are orders of magnitude more expensive than those done using African mobile phones.


8 “As it grew in popularity, Bitcoin became cumbersome, slow, and expensive to use. It takes about 10 minutes to validate most transactions using the cryptocurrency and the transaction fee has been at a median of about $20 this year.” By Eswar Prasad, New York Times, Jun 15, 2021.

比特币的交易支付体系又笨重又慢而且很贵,用了10分钟才验证了一笔交易而且这个交易的平均费用高达20美元,Eswar Prasad,纽约时报,2021年6月15报道

9 There appear to be other protocols issued from the original white paper that claim to be more transaction focused; as with Ethereum, we exclude them from this analysis.



To date, twelve years into its life, in spite of all the fanfare, but with the possible exception of the price tag of Salvadoran permanent residence (3 bitcoins), there are currently no prices fixed in bitcoin floating in fiat currencies in the economy.





First, let’s discuss the demonetization of gold. In 1971, the U.S. government terminated the Bretton Woods Agreement, ending the convertibility of the U.S. dollar into gold. Gold stocks were growing too slowly, and, as mentioned earlier, much of it went to jewelry and industry — the most robust theory is that there was not enough gold to keep up with economic growth 10 . Furthermore, there had been long debates over the hampering of monetary policy by sticking to metals, as witnessed by the bullionist controversy 11 .It appears that developed economies have trouble hooking their currencies to a commodity.

首先我们来讨论一下黄金的去货币化过程。在1971年美国政府决定终止布雷顿森林体系,结束了美元与黄金之间的挂钩。黄金的总储备增长太慢了,并且上面也提到了很多黄金流向了珠宝业和工业——目前最完备的理论认为黄金的增长速度是没办法满足经济的增长的 10 。另外,金银本位主义的争论旷日持久 11 。似乎,用一种商品来锚定的办法来发型货币对于发展经济来说是有问题的。


10 Ironically the U.S. deficit caused the dollar to be more widely available and used, in stable supply, by what is called the Triffin paradox



11 Even Ricardo got drawn in, see Ricardo’s 1811-1816 arguments [8],[9], and commentary by Jevons [10].



In the early 1970s, the Hunt brothers started to hoard silver (when they started, U.S. citizens were banned from directly owning gold), and accelerated their hoarding in the late 1970s, turning it into a squeeze. It lead to a speculative explosion in the price of silver, as shown in Fig 3, leading by contagion to between a fivefold and tenfold increase in the price of precious metals. Then, upon the deflation of the bubble, metals gave back more than half of their gains and languished for more than two decades. At the time of writing, 41 years later, neither gold nor silver have, inflation adjusted, reached their previous peak. The same effect took place in 2008-2009 in the wake of the banking crisis: gold and silver jumped upwards between 80 and 120 % then subsequently lost most of their gains.


Gold and silver proved then that they could neither be a reliable numeraire, nor an inflation hedge. The world had become too sophisticated for precious metals. If we consider the most effective numeraire, it must be the one in which the bulk of salaries are paid, as we will show next.


Comment 3: Payment system


There is a conflation between “accepting bitcoin for payments” and pricing goods in bitcoin. To “price” in bitcoin, bitcoin the price must be fixed, with a conversion into fiat floating, rather than the reverse


(*)意思和上面那个萨尔瓦多的公民身份开价3比特币是一个意思。比特币从7万刀左右跌到2万刀,那个公民资格还是卖3BTC,没有变成10.5 BTC保持21万美元的价格才叫以比特币定价,区别于「接受比特币支付」。

Let us go deeper into how a currency can come about. No transaction between two persons is analytically pairwise in an open economy. The root of the confusion lies in the prevalent naïve-libertarian illusion that a transaction between two consenting adults, when devoid of coercion, is effectively just a transaction between two consenting adults and can be isolated and discussed as such 12 . But one must consider the ensemble of transactions and the interactions between agents: people happen to engage in contractual agreements with others; for them a specific transaction is just one piece. To be able to regularly buy goods denominated in bitcoin (whose prices fixed in bitcoin but floating in U.S.$ or some other fiat currency), one must have an income that is fixed in bitcoin. Such an income must come from somewhere, say, an employer. For an employer to pay a salary fixed in bitcoin, she or he must be getting revenues fixed in bitcoin. Furthermore, for the vendor to offer a can of beer in fixed bitcoins, she or he must be paying for the raw material, and have the overhead fixed in bitcoin. The same applies to the mismatch of assets and obligations on a balance sheet. All this requires a parity in bitcoin-USD of low enough volatility to be tolerable and for variations to remain inconsequential.

让我们更深入的来看一看货币是怎么来的。在一个开放的经济体内,没有两个人之间的交易是如同经济学分析里说的那样完美的匹配且成对的出现。这个谎言的根基是来自于普遍的自由主义的臆想:两个独立自由意志的成年人在不受强迫的情况下可以被单独提出来像理论分析那样就能以最高效的形成交易 12 。






There are also arbitrage bounds present in any sufficiently efficient economy with relatively free markets. Furthermore, if a vendor prices goods in bitcoin, and the value fluctuates from the initial fixing, the price will be directly or indirectly arbitraged: when the conversion rate to fiat is favorable, customers will buy from the bitcoiner; when it is unfavorable they will either buy elsewhere (indirect arbitrage), or if possible, return previously purchased goods (direct arbitrage). For the price to not be arbitrageable requires the good to be unique and unavailable elsewhere at a price fixed in another currency –in this case it becomes, simply, a proxy for bitcoin. The only items that currently appear to be somewhat priced in bitcoin are other cryptocurrencies, even then not always.





Bimetalism did not last long [11], nor could commodities last as currencies in developed economies[12]. More generally, the reasons multiple currencies exist (in the absence of pegs) is because there is not enough globalization and markets are not entirely free between currency zones. And some goods and services, “such as haircuts and auto repair cannot be traded internationally” [13] ; they are not, to use the language of quantitative finance, arbitrageable.




In 2021, the governments (central and local) share of GDP in Western economies is around 30-60%, one order of magnitude higher than it was in the 1900s. Government employees and contractors get paid in fiat currency; taxes are collected similarly 13

在2021年,西方主要发达经济体的政府(包括中央和地方)占据了GDP大概30%~60%的经济活动总量。这个比1900年代那时候比整整高出了一个数量级。政府雇员和承包商们是以法币形式被支付工资和报酬的,交税也会变得很简单容易 13 。

13The use of the designation “fiat” may be a misleading stretch of language: money is not created by edict but largely via credit, by governments or the private sectors — and both lenders and borrowers need the least volatile currency.


(*)这里其实主要讲的是货币场景的争夺,倘若真的有一天有一种货币要和法币竞争,那作为货币属性的竞争本质上是在竞争使用场景。也就是要把 ��=�� 右边的用于支付的商品服务的量给提上来。现在政府已经占据了GDP活动的三成到六成了,那么政府只要坚持用法币支付报酬和收税,又有什么东西能和政府法定的法币来竞争呢?用更币圈的话术阐述:政府已经掌握了货币使用场景的51%攻击了。


Finally, while within a modern currency zone a bimetallic style dual currency cannot easily exist, the same limitations exist between currency zones; parity between currencies tend to be subjected to volatility bounds. An observation we currency option traders made while doing cross-currency volatility arbitrages is that the volatility of a currency pair is inversely proportional to the trade between the two currency zones — countries heavy into trade such as Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Singapore (at some point) have maintained explicit pegs to the U.S. dollar or some basket. There could be an interactive relationship between trade and volatility: one can argue that the stability of a currency-pair (adjusted for the yield curve) encourages trade and trade in turn brings stability to the pair 14 15 .





14Currency pairs often show fake volatility as the spot price can be fluctuating, but forward contracts do less so, owing to interest rate adjustments in the weak currency: interest rates rise to compensate holders for the devaluation.



15 .We note here that quantitative finance operates along the lines of neoclassical economic theory in that both share a central principle: absence of arbitrage, which maps to the law of one price — the former, a concept initially aimed at goods and services, may be broadened to include asset valuation [14]. When we apply the law of one price to currencies, we realize using basic arbitrage arguments that the recent globalization does not allow for different currencies to coexist in the same marke: one must win



Now bitcoin, as seen in Fig.1 has maintained extremely high volatility throughout its life (between 60% and 100% annualized) and, what is worse, at higher prices, which makes it’s capitalization considerably more volatile, rising in price as shown in Fig. 2 — is it too volatile to fail?





This does not mean that a cryptocurrency cannot displace fiat –it is indeed desirable to have at least one real currency without a government. But the new currency just needs to be more appealing as a store of value by tracking a weighted basket of goods and services with minimum error.


Displacing fiat is not easy, and has been done locally — though no single item has proved to be permanent and the difficulty is best represented in the following example. During the 1970s, the Italian national telephone tokens, the gettoni, were considered acceptable tender, almost always accepted as payment. The price of the espresso when expressed in lira varied over time, but it remained sticky to the gettone. For a while the gettone proved the closest money to track the Fisher Index across 12 communes[15] 16 . And while the gettoni worked for daily purchases such as espresso, it is doubtful that they could have been used as payment for an Alfa Romeo [17].

取代法币不是一个容易的事情,哪怕就是在局部地区而言也是——目前没有一个例子可以证明永久性的法币的替代品。我们现在下面的例子里可以很好的体现出来。在1970年代,意大利国际通话公司发行的token,叫gettoni,被认为是可接受的类货币,几乎都已经是可以用来做日常支付了。以里拉计价的浓咖啡的价格一直在波动,不过以gettoni来定价倒是物价很稳定。一度gettoni被认为 最接近追踪12个社区里的费雪指数的货币。虽然大家都在一段时间里认可gettoni能买到咖啡,不过对于能不能用于买一台阿尔法.罗密欧车表示怀疑。

(*)这里指的不是代金券,比如星巴克发的以人民币计价的礼品券和这里完全是两个概念。这个gettoni 币和里拉没有固定的兑换关系。而它在一定情况下追踪物价要比里拉好,那居民就更乐意拿它做货币使用(买卖双方都希望获得和物价最小的误差方差)。

Considering that communications get cheaper over time, the notion of a telephone call is today, in the Zoom days, obsolete. So the gettone story illustrates the fact that, owing to technological changes, in the long term, no single item, such a telephone call, will permanently track inflation indices and act as a store of value. Even categories have their weights naturally revised over time: the share of food and clothing declined by almost threefold as a proportion of Western consumers expenditure since the great recession.

Thus we can look at an inflation hedge as the analog of a minimum variance numeraire.

考虑到通讯的成本越来越低,在有了Zoom的日子里,打电话的概念都过时了。所以这个gettone 的故事说明了一个事实:由于技术变革,在长期来看,没有一个单独的品类比如电话业服务能长期的追踪通胀指数且作为一个价值存储。哪怕是不断的调整指数里各品类的权重也不行,食物和衣物在消费者中的占比自从大萧条以来已经下降了10倍了。



Let us assume that there exists an efficient inflation hedge for period [�0,�] for an index methodology, the one in which the index, constantly revised, is the most stable when it is as a numeraire (adjusting for interest and dividend payments).



Can one find her or his own hedge?

In the parable of the Christ in the temple, Jesus kicked the money changers out of the temple of Jerusalem… Now one wonders why were there were money changers in a place of worship? The answer is that the temple took for currency only the shekel of Tyre, known for its 90% silver content and its ancestral quality control [18] 17 .

Simply, there is a free market for fiat currencies, with the most reliable at the time used by third parties. Before the Euro, there were plenty of currencies in Europe. But long term contracts, investments, and commitments were evaluated in deutschmarks or Swiss francs, sometimes the U.S. dollar; drachmas, liras, and pesetas were there mostly for petty expenditures. So what we had was competition between fiat currencies just as with the shekel-of-Tyre!

This competition provides for a vastly more convenient monetary store of value. For practitioners of quant finance, the most effective inflation hedge can be a combination of bets which includes the short bond.









1) Fallacy of libertarianism: The belief that bitcoin is an offshoot of libertarian and Austrian economics has no solid backing — it has the same lack of rigor as the one behind the belief that cryptos represent a “hedge for inflation”. Spitznagel [19] had already, in 2017, debunked the notion that bitcoin can be a safe haven (as discussed next) or that the principles of Austrian economics can be invoked in support of cryptocurrencies.

1)对于比特币是自由主义和奥地利学派的分支是完全没有支撑的看法——就好像那些相信加密数字货币能对冲通胀一样不严谨。Spitznagel [文献19]在2017年已经揭穿了比特币是避险天堂的谎言(下文会讨论),也证伪了加密数字货币是被奥地利学派支持的看法。

Comment 4: Law vs. Regulations vs. Rules


Libertarianism is about the rule of law in place of the rule of regulation. It is not about the rule of rules.

Libertarianism is fundamentally about the rule of law in place of the rule of regulation. It is not about the rule of rules — mechanistic, automated rules with irreversible outcomes. The real world is fraught with ambiguities and even Napoleonic law (far less mechanistic than crypto rules) cannot keep up — to wit, as a risk management directive, most commercial contracts traditionally prefer forums of dispute resolution to be under the more flexible Anglo Saxon common law (London, NY, Hong Kong) that rules on balance, intent, and symmetry in contracts. This applies of course to quantitative finance products such as complex derivatives contracts for which one needs to minimize the legal risk. Nor is libertarianism about total distrust.


2) Fallacy of safe haven, I (protection for financial tail risk): The experience of March 2020, during the market panic upon the onset of the pandemic, when bitcoin dropped farther than the stock market —and subsequently recovered with it upon the massive injection of liquidity is sufficient evidence that it cannot remotely be used as a tail hedge against systemic risk. Furthermore, bitcoin appears to respond to liquidity, exactly like other bubble items. It is also uncertain what could happen should the internet experience a general, or an even a regional, outage — particularly if it takes place during a financial collapse.

2)关于避险天堂的谎言 I(对于尾部风险的保护):从2020年3月的经验来看,当市场陷入恐慌的时候,比特币跌的甚至比股市还要多——以及随后在大规模注入流动性后的复苏,足以证明它根本不能被用作尾部对冲系统性风险。并且,比特币表现出的性质是对流动性的正比反应,就和其他泡沫资产是一模一样的。很难想象当互联网出现大问题的时候,甚至是区域性质的大停电会不会出现大问题——尤其是这个时候恰好发生金融危机。

3) Fallacy of safe haven, II (protection from tyrannical regimes): To many paranoid antigovernment individuals and of others distrustful of institutions, bitcoin has been marketed as a safe haven — also with an open invitation to fall for the fallacy that a volatile electronic token in a public setting is a place for your hidden treasure.

By its very nature, bitcoin is open for all to see. The belief in one’s ability to hide one’s assets from the government with a public blockchain easily triangularizable at endpoints, and not just read by the FBI but also by people in their living rooms, requires a certain lack of financial seasoning and statistical understanding — perhaps even a lack of minimal common sense. For instance a Wolfram Research specialist was able to statistically detect and triangularize “anonymous” ransom payments made by Colonial Pipeline on May 8 in 2021 [20] — and it did not take long for the FBI to restore the funds.

3)关于避险天堂的谎言 II(对抗专制暴政):太多过于敏感的反政府主义者和不信任机构的人表示比特币是一个安全的避险天堂,它能帮你隐匿你的财产。

不过就其性质而言,比特币对所有人都是开放的。就政府层面而言其实用技术手段很容易找到一个人,不用FBI出手,所有人在自己家客厅里就可以做到,只需要一些财务和统计学上的知识。举个例子,Wolfram 的一个研究员就能用统计学的办法来把2021年5月8日的赎金的幕后匿名者给抓出来。FBI去追还失款都没用多久。

We can safely assume that government structures and computational power will remain stronger than those of distributed operators who, while distrusting one another, can fall prey to simple hoaxes.

In the cyber world, connections are with people one has never met in real life; infiltration by government agents has proven to be extremely easy18. By comparison, the mafia required a Sicilian lineage for “friends of ours” for security clearance. One never knows the degree of governmental surveillance and its real capabilities.

The slogan “Escape government tyranny hence bitcoin” is similar to advertisements in the 1960s extolling the health benefits of cigarettes.



4) Fallacy of the Agency problem: One might have the impression that, by being distributed, Bitcoin would be democratic and reduce the agency problem perceived to be present among civil servants and bankers. Unfortunately, there appears to be a worse agency problem: a concentration of insiders hoarding what they think will be the world currency, so others would have to go to them later on for supply. They would be cumulatively earning trillions, with many billionaire “Hodlers” — in comparison the “evil civil servants” behind fiat money make, at best, lower middle class wages. This situation represents a wealth transfer to the cartel of early bitcoin accumulators.




We have presented the attributes of the blockchain in general and bitcoin in particular. Few assets in financial history have been more fragile than bitcoin.


The customary standard argument is that “bitcoin has its flaws but we are getting a great technology; we will do wonders with the blockchain”. No, there is no evidence that we are getting a great technology — unless “great technology” doesn’t mean “useful”. And at the time of writing —in spite of all the fanfare — we have done still close to nothing with the blockchain.


So we close with a Damascus joke. One vendor was selling the exact same variety of cucumbers at two different prices. “Why is this one twice the price?”, the merchant was asked. “They came on higher quality mules” was the answer.

We only judge a technology by how it solves problems, not by what technological attributes it has.




[1] S. Nakamoto, “Bitcoin: A peer-to-peer electronic cash system,” Tech. Rep., 2008.

[2] J. Von Neumann, “Various techniques used in connection with random digits,” Appl. Math Ser, vol. 12, no. 36-38, p. 3, 1951.

[3] A. Narayanan and J. Clark, “Bitcoin’s academic pedigree,” Communications of the ACM, vol. 60, no. 12, pp. 36–45, 2017.

[4] O. J. Blanchard and M. W. Watson, “Bubbles, rational expectations and financial markets,” NBER working paper, no. w0945, 1982.

[5] M. K. Brunnermeier, “Bubbles,” in Banking Crises. Springer, 2016, pp. 28–36.

[6] D. Graeber, Debt: The first 5000 years. Penguin UK, 2012.

[7] N. N. Taleb, Antifragile: things that gain from disorder. Random House and Penguin, 2012.

[8] D. Ricardo, Reply to Mr. Bosanquet’s practical observations on the report of the Bullion Committee. J. Murray, 1811, vol. 10.

[9] ——, Proposals for an economical and secure currency, 1816.

[10] W. S. Jevons, A Serious Fall in the Value of Gold Ascertained: And Its Social Effects Set Forth. E. Stanford, 1863.

[11] F. R. Velde and W. E. Weber, “A model of bimetallism,” Journal of Political Economy, vol. 108, no. 6, pp. 1210–1234, 2000.

[12] T. J. Sargent and M. Wallace, “A model of commodity money,” Journal of Monetary Economics, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 163–187, 1983.

[13] P. Krugman, M. Obstfeld, and M. Melitz, “International economics: Theory and policy,” 2017.

[14] S. A. Ross, Neoclassical finance. Princeton University Press, 2009, vol. 4.

[15] L. Campiglio, “Un’analisi comparata del sistema dei prezzi nei venti comuni capoluogo di regione,” Rivista Internazionale di Scienze Sociali, vol. 94, no. 3, pp. 329–377, 1986.

[16] M. Nair and R. Emozozo, “Electronic currency in africa: M-pesa as private inside money,” Economic Affairs, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 197–206, 2018.

[17] K. Colucci and C. Moiso, “Il fenomeno delle monete virtuali: opportunità per telecom italia,” Notiziaro Tecnico /Telecom Italia, vol. 1, pp. 76–89, 2014.

[18] J. Murphy-O’Connor, “Jesus and the money changers (mark 11: 15-17; john 2: 13-17),” Revue Biblique (1946-), pp. 42–55, 2000.

[19] M. W. Spitznagel, “Why cryptocurrencies will never be safe havens,” Von Mises Institute, 2017. [20] D. Porechna, “Darkside update: The fbi hacks the hackers?” Wolfram Research, June 2021.




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