National currency, world currency, cryptocurrency: A Fichtean approach to the Ethics of Bitcoin

Business and Society Review 124 (2):219-238 (2019)
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I investigate ethical questions concerning a novel cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, using a Fichtean account of the ethics of currency. Fichte holds that currencies should fulfill an ethical purpose: providing access, in perpetuity, to the material welfare that underwrites citizens' basic rights. In his nineteenth‐century context, Fichte argues that currencies fulfill this purpose better when nations control them (i.e., when they are “national currencies”) than when foreigners freely trade them (as “world currencies”). After exploring conditions in which national currencies fail to secure material stability over time, e.g., in corrupt regimes, I develop a Fichtean model for ethically evaluating currencies and evaluate the extent to which Bitcoin meets its standards for ethical currency. I argue that Bitcoin undermines the (monetary) power of nations and, as such, threatens their ability to provide access to necessary material goods. While offering citizens a means of defending themselves against corrupt regimes, Bitcoin forsakes the general welfare and is, as such, unethical by Fichtean lights.



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Tobey Scharding
Stanford University (PhD)

Citations of this work

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