The Economics of Digital Currencies

Ever since Bitcoin was first mined in January of 2009, we’ve seen an ever-growing interest in the phenomenon of blockchain—the technology upon which Bitcoin is based. Blockchain is one specific form of an innovation known as Distributed Ledger Technology (or DLT). DLT triggered a new phase of financial innovation and is already proving to be a disruptive economic force. DLT is fundamentally transforming the way we think about monetary systems. This talk on the economics of digital currencies and distributed ledger technologies provides some fundamental tools for understanding how digital currencies and DLTs will impact the monetary system in light of several of the Acton Institute’s core principles.


Recommended Readings

Birch, David G. W.  The Currency Cold War: Cash and Cryptography, Hash Rates and Hegemony.  London: London Publishing Partnership, 2020.

Catalini, Christian and Joshua Gans.  “Some Simple Economics of the Blockchain,” April 20, 2019.  Some Simple Economics of the Blockchain (

“Distributed Ledger Technology: Implications of Blockchain for the Securities Industry,” January 2017, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.  FINRA_Blockchain_Report.pdf.

Friedman, Milton.  Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History.  San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994.

Hines, Baxter.  Digital Finance: Security Tokens and Unlocking the Real Potential of Blockchain.  Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2021.

“Money and Payments: The U.S. Dollar in the Age of Digital Transformation,” January 2022, Federal Reserve Board, Money and Payments: The U.S. Dollar in the Age of Digital Transformation (

Prasad, Eswar S.  The Future of Money: How the Digital Revolution is Transforming Currencies and Finance. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2021.

Download course materials:

Course Years: