Brookings Institute Says the SEC Should Regulate Crypto ...

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A decentralised payment network and stablecoin v0.8 Samuel Brooks, Anton Jurisevic, Michael Spain, Kain Warwick Abstract There is currently no decentralised currency useful for everyday economic purposes. We propose a peer-to-peer payment network and price-stable token that does not rely on a central authority to maintain trust. Prior to Bitcoin, attempts to create digital currencies were centralised, making them vulnerable to censorship and seizure. Bitcoin’s consensus mechanism protected it from interference, but its fixed monetary policy induced extreme price volatility. Havven solves this by issuing tokens against a distributed collateral pool, which derives its value from fees levied on transactions. Growth in transaction volume thus increases the value of the collateral, allowing the token supply to expand to meet demand. The resulting system retains the best features of Bitcoin, while the introduction of price stability results in a superior form of money.
1.1 Payment Networks Payment networks are closed systems within which users can transfer value. Such systems include credit card networks, the SWIFT network, and PayPal. Proprietors of these networks possess absolute control over the value within the network, so any transaction conducted within them may be blocked or reversed at any time. Although this is ostensibly designed to protect users, it introduces systemic risk for all participants. If the network is compromised or its owners cease to behave benevolently, no party can trust that the value in their account is secure or accessible. In a traditional payment network like American Express, participants trust that the fees charged are sufficient to service the expenses incurred. However, were this trust to disappear, merchants would refuse to participate. Thus, the value of the unit of account within this network is derived solely from a single entity and the trust that participants have in that entity. As a result, the viability of any centralised payment network depends on complete trust in a central authority. Bitcoin solved these problems by ensuring that users have sole discretion over the money in their account by producing a trustless, permissionless payment network in which anyone could participate at will. Since users could enter and exit the system at any time without being exposed to the aforementioned risks, adoption was accelerated, and network effects were amplified. Programmable blockchains allow the logic of a payment network to be decentralised in a transparent way, enabling anyone to verify whether the network is solvent. This eliminates systemic risk and reduces the costs associated with centralised networks. 1.2 Cryptocurrency The technology of money has three key functions: to act as a unit of account, a medium of exchange and a store of value. As payment technology has advanced in recent years, money has become increasingly invisible and it is often lost upon its users that, like any technology, it can be improved. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies represent an impressive technological advancement on existing forms of money because they deliver improved durability, portability, and divisibility. Further, they do so without requiring centralised control or sovereign enforcement from which to derive their value. Their fixed monetary policies have protected them from debasement and devaluation, allowing them to outperform other forms of money as a store of value. However, this has created the potential for short-run volatility as they lack mechanisms to dynamically adjust supply to changing demand. Bitcoin has thus tended to be a poor medium of exchange and an even worse unit of account. In order for a token to effectively act as money its purchasing power must remain stable against goods and services over the short to medium term. 1 1.3 Stablecoins Cryptocurrencies exhibit transaction immutability and censorship resistance, and in these ways are a better form of money; but their adoption has been hindered by the volatility inherent in their static monetary policies. Users cannot engage with such systems as a medium of exchange if the purchasing power fluctuates. Stability continues to be one of the most valuable yet elusive characteristics for the technology. Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies designed for price stability. They should ideally be as effective at making payments as fiat currencies like the US Dollar, while retaining their other desirable properties. A decentralised payment network built on a stablecoin would be able to capture all the benefits of a permissionless system, while also eliminating volatility. One approach to achieving price stability is to produce a token whose price targets the value of a fiat currency. Targeting stability against fiat currencies obviates the need to respond to macroeconomic conditions, as the token then benefits from the stabilisation efforts of large institutions acting in fiat markets. Furthermore, if a token’s price can be maintained at $1, then it can serve as an interface between fiat money and cryptocurrency. If such a stablecoin does not require an account in a traditional bank, then it can be effectively used for settlement and purchasing, without the centralisation and counterparty risk involved in fiat transactions. Thus it can be expected that by using stablecoins, exchanges that trade fiat for crypto will be able to rapidly reduce their transactional costs, reducing the barriers for new users to enter the market. 1.4 Distributed Collateral Today’s fiat money is not backed by an asset; its stability is derived from the authority of the governments which issue it. These governments require that tax obligations are denominated in the currencies they control, which are then used to fund active stabilisation efforts. However, with government control comes the risk of tyranny and debasement. Decentralised monetary systems don’t have these powers, and so they must use collateral to provide confidence in the value of their tokens. A decentralised system cannot use collateral assets that exist outside the blockchain, as interfacing with these assets necessitates centralisation with the aforementioned failure modes. Meanwhile, cryptoasset prices have been dominated by speculative volatility. So whether a system uses real-world assets or cryptoassets to back a stable token, if the value of the collateral is uncorrelated with the demand for the token, then the system is vulnerable to external price shocks. Large corrections can destroy the value of collateral without any change in the demand for the token issued against it. Clearly then, in designing an asset-backed stablecoin it is important to select the collateral asset carefully, but no existing asset perfectly serves the purpose. 2 1.5 Havven Havven is a decentralised payment network where users transact directly in a price-stable cryptocurrency. Those who use the stablecoin pay fees to those who collateralise the network, compensating them for the risks of providing collateral and stability. Collateral providers control the money supply, and fees are distributed in proportion with each individual’s stabilisation performance. Thus, Havven rewards suppliers of stability and charges those who demand it. Havven implements two linked tokens to achieve this structure: Nomin The stablecoin, whose supply floats. Its price as measured in fiat currency should be stable. This token is useful insofar as it provides a superior medium of exchange. Thus in addition to price stability, Havven should encourage adequate nomin liquidity. Havven This token provides the collateral for the system and has a static supply. Its market capitalisation reflects the system’s aggregate value. Ownership of havvens grants the right to issue a value of nomins proportional to the dollar value of havvens placed into escrow. If a user wishes to release their escrowed havvens, they must first present the system with the quantity of nomins previously issued1 . The havven token is a novel decentralised asset, whose intrinsic value is derived from the fees generated in the network it collateralises. This enables a form of representative money in which there is no requirement for a physical asset, thus removing the problems of trust and custodianship. Issuance of nomins requires a greater value of havvens to be escrowed in the system, providing confidence that nomins can be redeemed for their face value even if the price of havvens falls. The system incentivises the issuance and destruction of nomins in response to changes in demand, but ultimately the intrinsic value of the havvens will reflect the required nomin supply. Backing a stablecoin in this way provides full transparency over how many tokens have been issued against the available collateral. This provides a solid basis for confidence in the solvency of the payment network built upon it. Denominating the value of the nomin in an external fiat currency means that stability is relative only to that currency. Initially this currency will be the US dollar, and this is the target currency used throughout this paper, but in the future the system will support additional flavours of stablecoin that are denominated in other currencies. 1Following Bitcoin, the Havven system will appear in uppercase and singular; while the havven token will be lowercase and may be plural.
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