Controlled Supply


“A fixed money supply, or a supply altered only in accord with objective and calculable criteria, is a necessary condition to a meaningful just price of money.”

Fr. Bernard W. Dempsey, S.J. (1903-1960)

In a centralized economy, currency is issued by a central bank at a rate that is supposed to match the growth of the amount of goods that are exchanged so that these goods can be traded with stable prices. The monetary base is controlled by a central bank. In the United States, the Fed increases the monetary base by issuing currency, increasing the amount banks have on reserve or by a process called Quantitative Easing.

In a fully decentralized monetary system, there is no central authority that regulates the monetary base. Instead, currency is created by the nodes of a peer-to-peer network.

The Bitcoin generation algorithm defines, in advance, how currency will be created and at what rate. Any currency that is generated by a malicious user that does not follow the rules will be rejected by the network and thus is worthless.

Currency with Finite Supply

Block reward halving
Controlled supply

Bitcoins are created each time a user discovers a new block. The rate of block creation is adjusted every 2016 blocks to aim for a constant two week adjustment period (equivalent to 6 per hour.)

The number of bitcoins generated per block is set to decrease geometrically, with a 50% reduction every 210,000 blocks, or approximately four years. The result is that the number of bitcoins in existence will not exceed slightly less than 21 million.

Speculated justifications for the unintuitive value “21 million” are that it matches a 4-year reward halving schedule; or the ultimate total number of Satoshis that will be mined is close to the maximum capacity of a 64-bit floating point number. Satoshi has never really justified or explained many of these constants.

Cumulated bitcoin supply

This decreasing-supply algorithm was chosen because it approximates the rate at which commodities like gold are mined. Users who use their computers to perform calculations to try and discover a block are thus called Miners.

Blockchain Spectrum

The Blockchain Spectrum

Now, even if someone does not have the drawbacks of decades-long experience and mental models with a specific asset class, it is still very hard to understand Bitcoin.

Why? Because Bitcoin is the intersection of many, many different fields.

To truly understand Bitcoin, there is no other way than being a polymath.

Even if one has made it as far to (a) realize Bitcoin is something completely new and solely using existing heuristics and mental models will not work and (b) with Bitcoin, more than anything else, we do not know what we do not know — understanding still requires a very broad set of competences.

The correct approach to understand when one starts going down the Bitcoin rabbit hole is therefore to assume one knows nothing and any experience and insight one has from previous aspects of life brings
very little to the table.

First principles thinking is required.
We can, however, try to define a little deeper what Bitcoin is. Below is listed some different ways of wrapping one’s head around Bitcoin.

Not an exhaustive list.

A living organism

Bitcoin is Free and Open Source software. It is not a piece of IP owned by a centralized joint-stock company that needs to optimize for the bottom line of the next quarter and is incapable of cannibalizing itself. Since the Bitcoin whitepaper was released and the
genesis block was mined, we have seen an explosion of experiments, ideas and creative geniuses get involved in Bitcoin and crypto as a whole. To think of Bitcoin as a living, technological organism that adjusts, develops and constantly changes to survive can be useful.

A religion.

Money, as many have learned and realized in recent decade, is just a social
construction we are all part of. The value therefore comes from the amount of true believers.

Continuing this line of thinking, one could describe the religion as consisting of:

  • Prophet: Satoshi. No longer present. Impossible to ask questions.
  • Convictions: Decentralization.
  • Rituals: Running nodes. Mining. Hodling.
  • Holy scriptures: Bitcoin whitepaper. As with all holy scriptures, people interpret them in their own way.
  • Sacred objects: Genesis block, lowercase bitcoin
  • Sects: Different interpretations resulting in different factions/sects: small blockers, big blockers, etc.

An emerging economy

  • The consensus protocol can be thought of as the constitution
  • The society as the constituency (users on the demand-side; miners on the supply-side)
  • Core developers as the executive department who write the code and execute on the strategy, but amendments to the protocol (i.e., constitution) require approval from the constituency)
  • The native token is the internal currency
  • The investors underwrite the currency

Additionally, many one-liners and memes exist to describe Bitcoin. Not an exhaustive list.

  • Sound money
  • Digital gold
  • “An insurance policy against an Orwellian future”
  • “A tool for freeing humanity from oligarchs and tyrants, dressed up as a get-rich-quick scheme”
  • Censorship- judgment & seizure-resistant money
  • Peer to peer digital cash
  • Swiss Bank account in your pocket
  • Unstoppable and uncensorable hard money


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