The Economics Behind Stablecoins
A common argument for the value of bitcoin is the hyperinflation of fiat currencies in countries like Venezuela or Zimbabwe, but bitcoin’s high volatility isn’t necessary the answer.
In fact, the high volatility that comes with all the speculation in the area is what scares off a lot of users. These people see the value in the technological innovation, but have no interest in dealing with the massive ups and downs most cryptocurrencies have gone through. This is where the need for a more stable cryptocurrency has spawned from.
Low Volatility Solutions Are Required
Some countries, such as Canada, have been working on their own brand of digital currency, but are missing the fact that although “digital”, the currency doesn’t solve any of the same problems that bitcoin does. Instead, a solution is necessary that is decentralized and trustless, which is where stablecoins come in.
Stablecoins have a massive use case because there are many users who are looking for currencies that present all the benefits and utility of blockchain technology, but without the same market volatility.
Clearly, there is market demand for low volatility cryptocurrencies, and stablecoins are the class of cryptocurrencies attempting to address the problem.
The goal of these companies is to package all the benefits of bitcoin into a cryptocurrency, but avoid all the speculation nonsense that scares off potential users of the technology.
How a Stablecoin Works
A stablecoin essentially works by tying the value of the token to the value of a security. The simplest manifestation of this is having users buy a “digital” version of the USD that is decentralized.
Stablecoins can generally be sorted based on how they are collateralized. This means that the company backing the coins has to have some sort of assets on hand in order to support the value of the cryptocurrency.
There are three types of stablecoins, but the most popular type is fiat-collateralized. These companies hold deposits in fiat currency, and issue tokens at a 1 to 1 ratio. Other pegs are possible, but the simplicity of the USD as a peg is what makes these easy to facilitate.
Aside from those, you have crypto-collateralized coins that hold cryptocurrency in deposits. Because of the heightened risk in holding cryptocurrency, the value of the deposits must be larger than the value of the tokens to mitigate potential losses. Finally, you have non-collateralized stablecoins which work much like a decentralized version of a fiat currency in that they have limited volatility, but depend on the expectation of retaining value.
The Basics of the Stablecoin Market
Tether may be the most well-known example of a stablecoin, but this is mostly because of the controversy surrounding regulators subpoenaing them in regards to their USD reserves. Tether is meant to be “tethered” to the value of a single USD, and is an example of a fiat-collateralized token.
MakerDAO is another project that seems more viable due to its decentralized management and heightened transparency. It is collateralized with Ether and seen as a frontrunner in the industry.
Another popular project is TrueUSD, which is fully collateralized with fiat currency, and is much more transparent than Tether. The Tether controversy raises questions about whether you will need to speculate on the capitalization of a company, which is why transparency is such a key component.
Extrapolating into the Future
Right now, the stablecoin market is mostly focused on backing a few of the major fiat currencies (USD, EUR, etc.) or gold (the original store of value). As the model proves it has viability, it is likely that stablecoins will be devised for the backing of alternative assets.
In a world that is looking for tokenized assets that are provably solvent, stablecoins are the answer, and have the potential to lead us to the “next generation” of the Internet. With low volatility solutions as a viable unit of account, it will become possible to move stable assets like houses or loans to the blockchain. From there, the whole financial world may experience disruption.
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