Should Bitcoin Be Classified as Money?
Keywords:money, bitcoin, virtual currency, law, finance, social ontology
The advent of virtual currencies such as bitcoin raises a pressing question for lawmakers, regulators, and judges: should bitcoin and other virtual currencies be classified as money or currency for legal and regulatory purposes? I examine two different approaches to answering this question—a descriptive approach and a normative approach. The descriptive approach says that bitcoin and other virtual currencies should be classified as money or currency just in case they really are money or currency, whereas the normative approach says that this question of classification should be answered on the basis of substantive normative considerations. I argue against the descriptive approach and in favor of the normative approach.
Almäng, J. 2016. “Legal Facts and Dependence on Representations.” Journal of Social Ontology 2: 1–15, https://doi.org/10.1515/jso-2014-0027.
Council of the European Union. 2002. “Council Directive 2001/113/EC of 20 December 2001 Relating to Fruit Jams, Jellies and Marmalades and Sweetened Chestnut Purée Intended for Human Consumption.” Official Journal of the European Communities L10, 12.1.2002: 67–72. Available at: https://data.europa.eu/eli/dir/2001/113/oj.
Dworkin, R. 1982. “Law as Interpretation.” Critical Inquiry 9: 179–200, https://doi.org/10.1086/448194.
Guala, F. 2016. Understanding Institutions: The Science and Philosophy of Living Together. Princeton: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400880911
Haslanger, S. 2000. “Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?” Noûs 34: 31–55, https://doi.org/10.1111/0029-4624.00201.
Hazlett, P., and W. Luther. 2020. “Is Bitcoin Money? And What That Means.” The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance 77: 144–9, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.qref.2019.10.003.
Hilpinen, R. 1993. “Authors and Artifacts.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 93: 155–78, https://doi.org/10.1093/aristotelian/93.1.155.
Hindriks, F. 2006. “Acceptance-Dependence: A Social Kind of Response-Dependence.” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87: 481–98, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0114.2006.00272.x.
Hindriks, F. 2020. “How Social Objects (Fail to) Function.” Journal of Social Philosophy 51: 483–99, https://doi.org/10.1111/josp.12334.
Hindriks, F., and F. Guala. Forthcoming. “The Functions of Institutions: Etiology and Teleology.” Synthese, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-019-02188-8.
Internal Revenue Service. 2014. IRS Virtual Currency Guidance (Notice 2014–21). Also available at https://www.irs.gov/irb/2014-16_IRB#NOT-2014-21.
Investopedia. 2021. “Legal Tender.” https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/legal-tender.asp.
Marotta, D. J. 2018. “The Tax Treatment of Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidmarotta/2018/09/27/the-tax-treatment-of-bitcoin-and-other-cryptocurrencies.
Mercier, A. 2007. “Meaning and Necessity: Can Semantics Stop Same-Sex Marriage?” Essays in Philosophy 8: 142–81. https://doi.org/10.5840/eip20078122.
Nix, v. Hedden. 1893. 149 U.S. 304 (1893). Available at: https://casetext.com/case/nix-v-hedden.
Passinsky, A. 2020. “Social Objects, Response-Dependence, and Realism.” Journal of the American Philosophical Association 6: 431–43. https://doi.org/10.1017/apa.2019.51.
Ramasastry, A. 2014. “Is Bitcoin Money? Lawmakers, Regulators and Judges Don’t Agree.” Verdict. https://verdict.justia.com/2014/09/09/bitcoin-money.
Rizzo, P. 2014. “Dutch Court Declares Bitcoin Isn’t Money in Civil Trial.” CoinDesk. https://www.coindesk.com/dutch-court-declares-bitcoin-isnt-money-in-civil-trial.
Searle, J. R. 1995. The Construction of Social Reality. New York: The Free Press.
Searle, J. R. 2010. Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization. New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195396171.001.0001
SEC, v. Shavers. 2013. No. 4:13-cv-416 (E.D. Tex. Aug. 6, 2013). Available at: https://casetext.com/case/sec-exch-commn-v-shavers-1.
Thomasson, A. L. 2003a. “Foundations for a Social Ontology.” ProtoSociology 18–19: 269–90, https://doi.org/10.5840/protosociology200318/199.
Thomasson, A. L. 2003b. “Realism and Human Kinds.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67: 580–609, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1933-1592.2003.tb00309.x.
Thomasson, A. L. 2009. “Artifacts in Metaphysics.” In Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences, edited by A. Meijers, 191–212. Amsterdam: Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-51667-1.50012-4
United States, v. Ulbricht. 2014. 31 F. Supp. 3d 540 (S.D.N.Y. 2014). Available at: https://casetext.com/case/united-states-v-ulbricht-11.
Yermack, D. 2015. “Is Bitcoin a Real Currency? An Economic Appraisal.” In Handbook of Digital Currency: Bitcoin, Innovation, Financial Instruments, and Big Data, edited by D.L.K. Chuen, 31–43. Boston: Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-802117-0.00002-3
Zeldin, W. 2014. “Netherlands: Local Court Ruling on Bitcoin Transaction.” Global Legal Monitor. https://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/netherlands-local-court-ruling-on-bitcoin-transaction.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.