Bitcoin: A Primer for Policymakers

This plain language guide describes how the digital currency works and addresses many of the common misconceptions about it.

As the world’s first decentralized digital currency, Bitcoin has the potential to revolutionize online payments systems in a way that benefits consumers and businesses. Instead of using an intermediary such as PayPal or submitting credit card information to a third party for verification—both of which often include transaction fees and other restrictions—Bitcoin allows individuals to pay each other directly for goods or services.

The characteristics that make Bitcoin so innovative have also made it a target for regulators, who fear that the cryptocurrency will aid tax evasion, money laundering, and other crimes. While it is true that it can be used for nefarious purposes, the same can be said of cash. But, unlike cash, Bitcoin transactions are recorded in an online ledger.

In this primer, Jerry Brito and Andrea Castillo describe how the digital currency works and address many of the common misconceptions about it. They also analyze current laws and regulations that may already cover digital currencies and warn against preemptively placing regulatory restrictions on Bitcoin that could stifle the new technology before it has a chance to evolve. In addition, they give several recommendations about how to treat Bitcoin going forward. Here, at the forefront of the debate, Brito and Castillo both support innovation and provide much-needed clarity for policymakers and law enforcement.

Available in paperback or free for Kindle on Amazon.

A direct download of this report is available here

Based in Washington, D.C., Coin Center is the leading non-profit research and advocacy center focused on the public policy issues facing cryptocurrency and decentralized computing technologies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Our mission is to build a better understanding of these technologies and to promote a regulatory climate that preserves the freedom to innovate using permisionless blockchain technologies.