NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Blockchain Disruption and Smart Contracts

Lin William Cong, Zhiguo He

NBER Working Paper No. 24399
Issued in March 2018, Revised in April 2018
NBER Program(s):Asset Pricing, Corporate Finance, Industrial Organization, Law and Economics

Blockchain technology provides decentralized consensus and potentially enlarges the contracting space using smart contracts with tamper-proofness and algorithmic executions. Meanwhile, generating decentralized consensus entails distributing information which necessarily alters the informational environment. We analyze how decentralization affects consensus effectiveness, and how the quintessential features of blockchain reshape industrial organization and the landscape of competition. Smart contracts can mitigate informational asymmetry and improve welfare and consumer surplus through enhanced entry and competition, yet the irreducible distribution of information during consensus generation may encourage greater collusion. In general, blockchains can sustain market equilibria with a wider range of economic outcomes. We further discuss anti-trust policy implications targeted to blockchain applications, such as separating consensus record-keepers from users.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24399

 
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