Full Faith and Credit

A common criticism made against market based currencies (for example, precious metals and cryptocurrencies) by advocates of fiat is that market based currencies aren’t backed by the full faith and credit of any notable governments. The implication is that governments are the best shepherds of currency. Is this really true though? A quick look at the historical performance of government fiat indicates that it isn’t.

The dollar is currently experiencing a high rate of inflation. While official numbers state an inflation rate of approximately eight percent, the real rate is likely significantly higher. Compounding this issue is the fact that these numbers aren’t unprecedented. The linked article notes that this is the highest rate of inflation since 1982, which wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things. If you look at the performance of the dollar since 1800, you’ll find that 22.52 2022 dollars are needed to equal the purchasing power of a single 1800 dollar.

When people think of Bitcoin, they often think of its short term ups and downs. Critics use its sometimes wild short term fluctuation in value as an argument against it. But if you look past its short term performance and instead look at its long term performance, you’ll notice that it has increased in value dramatically. When Mt. Gox (remember them) came onto the scene in 2010, one Bitcoin was worth $0.07. As of this writing, not quite twelve years later, one Bitcoin is trading at approximately $44,428.81. Meanwhile, in the same span of time a single dollar has inflated to $1.30. Had you invested in dollars in 2010, you would have lost almost a third of your purchasing power. Had you invested in Bitcoin in 2010, you would have gained a tremendous amount of purchasing power.

Bitcoin isn’t the only market based currency that increased in value over the last 12 years. Let’s take a look at gold. At the beginning of 2010 a troy ounce of gold was worth approximately $1136.40. As of this writing a troy ounce of gold is worth $1,934.43. That’s nowhere near the same increase in value as Bitcoin, but it’s still a sizable increase. As with Bitcoin, had you invested in gold in 2010, you would have gained purchasing power.

The dollar isn’t the only government backed currency that sucks. Since 2010 a single euro has inflated to €1.20 , a single ruble has inflated to ₽2.09, and a single Canadian dollar has inflated to $1.24. Even the Swiss franc has inflated, albeit only to fr.1.01 (making it the least terrible fiat store of value on this list).

It seems that the full faith and credit of a notable government is actually detrimental to a currency. Unless, of course, you like losing purchasing power over time. But if that’s your thing, I suggest just sending your unwanted purchasing power to me. I’ll happily take it.