EIP 1559 And Ethereum As A Deflationary Currency

An issue with Ethereum is about to be addressed regarding its non-capped supply of ETH (Ether) with EIP 1559. The proposal aims to introduce a new protocol for addressing the transaction fees on the network targeted for release in July/August 2021. In the proposed change, during a transaction a small amount of Ether (ETH) is “burned” every time it is used to pay for gas fees. This token burn can somehow control the circulating supply of ETH as well, leading to a more deflationary money supply. The burned tokens are removed from circulation forever but new ones can still be created. Overall, this can add some controls on the amount of ETH being put out in circulation as form of inflation control.

Transaction fees are not consistent on the Ethereum network. They fluctuate every so often, but when there is high network demand the fees surge to sometimes ridiculous levels. For the seasoned trader it may not matter, but for retail and new traders it can be too much for smaller sized transactions. More experienced traders may deal with large transactions where the cost of gas does not matter as much. The prices are still high and there needs to be some improvement in which issues like scaling and layer 2 solutions aim to resolve.

TxFee = Total Gas Used * Gas Price Paid

As of March 7, 2021, the average cost of a transaction is $15.53. Just a few months earlier on January 17, 2021 the transaction fee was only $5.41. That goes to show a sudden increase of 187%, which could have been worth at least 2 transactions back in January or earlier in 2021. The demand for ETH in the DeFi space and hodling portfolios due to the good news coming out about ETH2.0 is helping to drive prices and at the same time increasing network activity. The congestion is expected, as the same thing happened back during the cryptokitties and ICO era. This puts plenty of strain on the network, but it has problems scaling since it can do at most 15 tps (transactions per second). The promise of ETH2.0 is a bring faster consensus with more efficiency through a staking protocol (i.e. Proof-of-Stake) to scale the network.

EIP 1559 is an improvement proposal to help make transaction fees more consistent and prevent it from getting to such high levels that many are not willing to pay. Currently with Proof-of-Work, the miners can determine the fees and increase it in order to prioritize a transaction. Nodes called miners set the price of gas used to process transactions, based on the supply and demand of computational resources available from the network. It is in units called Wei or Gwei, just smaller denominations of ETH. The proposal is to use what is called a BASEFEE, that is set based on the network’s level of transactions. What it aims to provide is a market rate rather than a reference based on prices that users are paying for. This structure eliminates the guess work often involved in calculating the transaction fees.

Some see this as adding deflationary measures because of the token burning feature. As tokens are created, they are also destroyed. That keeps the circulating supply in check and prevents any inflationary pressure, according to some analysts. This form of negative inflation could lead to less ETH in circulation, thus increasing market price. While this looks good to traders and core developers, some miners don’t exactly agree with the proposal. They don’t derive the same benefit as much since the token burn benefits token holders more than miners. The miners lose out on their profits that would have been the burned tokens.

The outcome may push for EIP 1559 despite the protests. Ethereum plans on moving away from mining and into staking, so it does make more sense to implement the protocol rather than continue with the current system. Mining will also become more difficult as specified in the protocol for ETH2.0 (e.g. difficulty bomb), that nodes would rather switch to staking since mining will be less profitable until it is totally no longer possible due to the increase in difficulty level. That leads to questions about whether the miners will hard fork Ethereum, but that may be a horrible idea. If no one supports the fork then the miners have a lot to lose, while the mainnet remains profitable with new nodes entering the network. EIP 1559 will surely be activated with > 50% consensus, but the miners can signal a no to the network and not activate it. What is important that still needs to be addressed are the high transaction fees, The hopeful resolution is that the miners and developers come to some agreement to determine transaction fees which really needs to be addressed to further the momentum of growth on the network.

Why Coin Burn Is Important In Tokenomics

The coin burn in cryptoeconomics, is a mechanism that reduces the total supply of tokens or coins. It forms a part of the tokenomic policies of a cryptocurrency. This is for preventing inflation in the ecosystem as a reasonable means to prevent the over supply of the tokens in circulation. It is much more common among coins or tokens that have a high circulating supply or no fixed supply. The amount of tokens in circulation is generally speaking, the total amount that is available to the public. The supply increases as a result of consensus activity that mints or mines more coins or generates new tokens.

There are 3 main reasons for a coin burn.

  1. Minimizing inflation

The traditional non crypto-economic model allows centralized monetary authorities to regulate and control the supply of money. They can increase the money supply during times of low liquidity in order to boost the market. However, more money leads to inflation and that can affect the cost of goods and services as prices increase. More supply leads to more spending power, and thus that increases demand for public consumption. As a result, prices go up.

We have what is called the inflation rate that determines the price or value of any commodity or asset in the market. The problem with inflation is that it leads to ever increasing prices as simplified in this formula:

V = Inflated Value Of Asset
a = Current Value of Asset

r = Annual Rate of Inflation

t = Time period

V = a(1 + r) t

Thus an asset’s value increases over time as a result of a positive (+) inflation rate, which means its value was not determined by market forces but by a central authority. Interest rates tend to rise with inflation. It is a way the central bank encourages people to  increase savings. Now this is a truly centralized approach that becomes a balancing act for the economy. Cryptocurreny will try not to have an inflationary model which is the primary purpose of the coin burn. With this model it gives more value for the holder and prices never drastically increase due to a central authority. Instead it follows a decentralized and market driven approach to keep the supply in check.
 

  1. Fair token distribution

The fairness in token distribution is that the platform does not keep more supply than what should be sustainable for the ecosystem. The community is given the right to vote for a coin burn when it is announced on network during the process of digital governance. This allows token holders to decide whether it is in their community’s best interest. This uses a form of governance token that allow holders to cast their vote. Majority consensus will always win in the ecosystem.

The system can be effective in maintaining the price and rewarding loyal token holders. Thus the distribution of tokens is not manipulated by a single authority that decides over the rest of the token holders. When the decision goes to a vote, it benefits the greater community.

  1. Incentive to holders

The coin burn incentivizes token holders by increasing its value. Let’s say we have the following scenario of a digital asset Y:

Total Supply = 100,000,000
Circulating Supply = 100,000,000

Market Cap = 1,000,000
Price of Y = 0.01

Assuming a user has 10,000 coins, they are valued at 10,000(0.010) = 100.

A coin burn takes place to reduce the circulating supply by 40,000,000.

Total Supply = 100,000,000
Circulating Supply = 60,000,000

Market Cap = 1,000,000
Price of Y = 0.0167

It cuts the circulating supply by 40%. This then changes the price of Y. Assuming a user has 10,000 coins, they are now valued at 10,000(0.0167) = 166.67. This is what creates what is called digital scarcity so that the value increases over time. The value this creates rewards the community for holding the tokens and encourages their participation.

Some networks have to do a balancing act on their token supply if they consider a coin burn. Tron (TRX) has issued their coin burn on what they call Independence Day. The project burned 1 billion TRX after switching over from the Ethereum mainnet to their own mainnet. This also burned the ERC20 tokens that were issued during Tron’s ICO. This was meant to control inflation of the TRX token itself, but increases its value in terms of fiat. Other projects that mint tokens back into circulating supply will have to coordinate coin burns to check their inflation (i.e. anti-inflationary measures). Overall, it should be consensus driven by the community and cannot be decided by the developers or majority token holders alone.

The Halving Has Arrived

The third Bitcoin Halving has finally occurred on May 11, 2020 at block height 630,000 at 19:23 UTC without any glitches.

This was reported by Coindesk:

“In an homage to Satoshi Nakamoto’s iconic “brink of a second bailout” message in the 2009 genesis block, f2pool, which mined the 629,999th block (the last before the halving), embedded a reference to the current financial crisis: “NYTimes 09/Apr/2020 With $2.3T Injection, Fed’s Plan Far Exceeds 2008 Rescue.”

The reward for miners is now at 6.25 BTC per validated block. This means that although the block subsidy incentive has been reduced, the price remains volatile. Either a miner can earn more due to the appreciation in price value or profit less due to operating inefficiencies (e.g. old ASIC miners, higher costs of electricity, etc.). Miners who stand more to lose than gain should reconsider their configuration to adjust to the difficulty target and network’s hash rate.

Within the next two weeks after the halving occurred, difficulty should adjust (every 2,016 blocks). Miners should keep an eye out for the hash rate as well to see whether it has fallen (takes more time to produce blocks) or increased (more competition). Factor in the market price, and it gives an indication of whether the rewards are better or much worse.

While the Feds have quantitative easing, Bitcoin has quantitative hardening, a principle that has yet to be fully explained. The understanding is that Bitcoin is sound money because it uses an anti-inflationary model that limits the total supply (21 Million Coins). The code does not mint new coins at all and no one can mint more coins on the Bitcoin network. It is fixed at the supply set in code, and it is never created out of thin air.

While that sounds good in theory, in reality it has not been a perfectly deflationary model. While the supply is not reduced over time (it is fixed), there are new BTC still put into the circulating supply. It is when the amount of new BTC in circulation hits zero that it becomes deflationary. At that point, there will be no more rewards to miners but they can still collect transaction fees for their participation.

Right now the current economic landscape will have more influence on the price of BTC post-halving. What investors would like to see are the Fed’s injections into the economy trickling into BTC through stimulus. There are different ways that can happen and have been made available through the largest digital exchanges like Binance and Coinbase. For now, Bitcoin has proven itself once again as a stable and mature blockchain built on sound principles.

Note: While no bugs have been reported at the moment, it seems the halving occurred successfully.