Why Does Bitcoin Have Value?

Bitcoin does not have the backing of government authorities, nor does it have a system of intermediary banks to propagate its use. A decentralized network consisting of independent nodes is responsible for approving consensus-based transactions in the Bitcoin network. There is no fiat authority in the form of a government or other monetary authority to act as a counterparty to risk and make lenders whole, so to speak, if a transaction goes awry.

The cryptocurrency does display some attributes of a fiat currency system, however. It is scarce, and cannot be counterfeited. The only way that one would be able to create a counterfeit bitcoin would be by executing what is known as a double-spend This refers to a situation in which a user “spends” or transfers the same bitcoin in two or more separate settings, effectively creating a duplicate record.
What makes double-spending unlikely, though, is the size of the Bitcoin network. A so-called 51% attack, in which a group of miners theoretically control more than half of all network power, would be necessary. By controlling a majority of all network power, this group could dominate the remainder of the network to falsify records. However, such an attack on Bitcoin would require an overwhelming amount of effort, money, and computing power, thereby rendering the possibility extremely unlikely.

But Bitcoin fails the utility test because people rarely use it for retail transactions. The main source of value for Bitcoin is its scarcity. The argument for Bitcoin’s value is similar to that of gold—a commodity that shares characteristics with the cryptocurrency. The cryptocurrency is limited to a quantity of 21 million.

Bitcoin’s value is a function of this scarcity. As the supply diminishes, demand for cryptocurrency has increased. Investors are clamoring for a slice of the ever-increasing profit pie that results from trading its limited supply.