William Anderson: I say "yes" because Bitcoins are accepted as payment for goods and it also operates as a parallel currency in some countries, such as Argentina. A monetary form does not have to be accepted by a government or officially labeled as "legal tender" in order to become money. Money is a good that facilitates indirect exchange, and Bitcoin fits that profile.
Walter Block: Bitcoin is not (yet) money. Money is properly defined as something generally used to facilitate trade, as an intermediary, so that we do not have to engage in barter. Most restaurants, supermarkets, movies, shoe stores, airlines, car dealerships, drug dealers, massage parlors, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc., will not accept bitcoins for payments for their goods and services. When and if bitcoin is generally accepted for such purposes, it will then become a money.
David Gordon: I don't think that Bitcoin at the present time is money, as it is not now in use as a general medium of exchange. If enough people were to use it in transactions, it could become money.
Guido Hülsmann: Money is a generally accepted medium of exchange. While it is obvious that bitcoins are media of exchange, it is not quite clear whether they are also money. Are they generally accepted? I don’t think that this is presently the case. Most people are not even aware that bitcoins exist, and most of those who have heard of them do not at present consider using them. Things could change, especially if price-inflation rates pick up, but at present we are not yet there.
Trace Mayer: Yes. Bitcoin is money because it is limited in amount by internal characteristics enforced by the laws of mathematics and thermodynamics that is not subject to counter-party risk or anyone's liability and it also functions as a currency because it acts as a medium of exchange.
Pippa Malmgren: The answer is "Yes". Money becomes real when people have faith in it. Governments have no monopoly on that which is why they spend a lot of time putting many symbols of faith and trust on the currency from pictures of sovereigns like the Queen or the President to hidden symbols of power like pyramids and seals. They would not need to if it stood on its own. Faith can be earned and it can be lost. The problem with bitcoin is that people are afraid a power outage or a hacker or bad management could erode or destroy the value of a bit coin. But, then again, governments are doing their best to erode confidence in fiat money too.
Robert P. Murphy: Not yet.
George Reisman: No. Bitcoin is not money. The essential characteristic of money is that it is a generally accepted medium of exchange. Everyone is glad to accept money in exchange for his goods or services. In contrast, only a handful of people are presently willing to accept Bitcoins in exchange, i.e., the handful of people willing to buy bitcoins.
In order for bitcoins to someday become money, a reliable exchange value would have to come into existence for them. This could be achieved if some important country became willing to redeem bitcoins on demand in exchange for its own currency, and do so for some time, or provide a sufficient fund of its own currency to make this possible by others. In that case the money character of that currency mighty be transferred to bitcoins, Such a process took place in 1924, when a new German Mark was introduced on a foundation of dollars and gold, following the destruction of the previous Mark in the hyperinflation of 1923. Perhaps today, if Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, say, combined their resources to support the value of bitcoins for a few years, a similar result might be achieved, but even that is doubtful, because even their resources are probably not sufficient, and, of course, they would have no possible motive to do this.
Otherwise, a process would have to take place similar to that which enabled gold and silver to emerge as money, namely, first, the existence of an exchange value based on use as a commodity, and then an additional and wider exchange value based on use as a store of exchange value. When enough people wanted to acquire gold or silver as a store of value, even those not interested in doing so, became willing to accept gold or silver because they knew that a substantial number of people were ready to accept it from them.
Lew Rockwell: I love Bitcoin. It's a wonderfully creative business. But obviously, it is not the most liquid good in society. Could it ever become money in this fiat world? One cannot rule it out.
Scott Sumner: I would say “no” or at least “not yet.” The most important aspect of money is its role as the medium of account, or numeraire. As long as most wages and prices are denominated in dollars rather than bitcoins, then it is not money. Bitcoins will be money if and when the CPI is reported in terms of bitcoin prices.
Mark Thornton: Bit coin is a medium of exchange and a payment system. It has some economic advantages over government fiat money but at this time it is not money--a generally accepted medium of exchange.
Lawrence H. White: Using the standard criterion for moneyness, to ask whether Bitcoin is money is to ask whether it is a commonly accepted medium of exchange. A medium of exchange (MOE) is a good that is the intermediate link in a transaction chain, a good acquired in one trade for the purpose of being traded away later for something else. Bitcoin is clearly not a commonly accepted MOE in the US economy as a whole, but no doubt some individuals or businesses do use Bitcoin balances as MOE, treating it like ordinary currency or checking account balances. They sell goods or services for Bitcoins, hold the Bitcoins, and later spend them to buy other goods and services. If Bitcoin is commonly accepted as a medium of exchange within a circle of such users, it is money in that circle. But note that nobody, as far as I know, receives their income or buys most of what they consume in Bitcoin. It is not the primary money for many, perhaps not any, of its users.
How big is the circle of Bitcoin MOE users? It would be interesting to know. Annual transaction volume in Bitcoin, at $30 million per day, exceeds the annual purchases of newly produced goods and services (GDP) in Surinamese dollars, to choose one minor money. But not all Bitcoin transactions represent purchases of goods and services, and thus not all use is monetary use. I suspect that purchases of goods and services are only a small fraction of Bitcoin transaction volume, but I don't know how to figure the percentage. (Perhaps someone else can decipher the data available at blockchain.info, or find relevant other data, better than I can.) When John Doe buys Bitcoins with dollars in order to speculate against dollars, and expects to later sell his Bitcoin holdings for dollars, he is not using those Bitcoins as money. When a business sells goods for Bitcoins, then exchanges those Bitcoins at the end of the day for US dollars, it is using Bitcoins only very briefly as money.
Tom Woods: Bitcoin is a medium of exchange but not money. This isn't an insult to or a value judgment about Bitcoin. Austrians sometimes describe money as the most widely accepted medium of exchange in society. Clearly Bitcoin does not satisfy this requirement.
Mises, for his part, describes money as a medium of exchange in common use: "A medium of exchange which is commonly used as such is called money. The notion of money is vague, as its definition refers to the vague term 'commonly used.' There are borderline cases in which it cannot decided whether a medium of exchange is or is not 'commonly' used and should be called money."
I don't think Bitcoin is in common enough use to be called money.
We did reach out to a number of other economists who did not respond. Paul Volcker, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen were among the non-responders.
Alan Greenspan's assistant sent this email reply:
Thanks for your inquiry. Dr. Greenspan’s schedule is heavily committed and he’s unable to respond to your question.
(Special thanks to Chris Rossini, who contacted those queried.)