What is the value of 10 NXTs?, you may ask. This article might give you an answer. Let’s start off with a short dialog though.
“What is the value of $10?”, the teacher asked his class. “$10, of course”, a student responded quickly.
“Try to explain it without using $10”, so the student rethinks and replies with a grin: “10 times $1, right?” But the teacher is still not satisfied: “Well, what is the value of $1 then?”
Another student joins in the discussion: “$10 is worth whatever you can buy with them”.
For one thing, this short conversation illustrates the fallacy which many people fall for when they try to understand what the value of their assets and disposable income is; for another, it succinctly shows the way in which people commonly understand the value of a monetary unit, for example the US Dollar: the value of $1 simply being the amount of goods and services one can get in exchange for $1 (in other words: its purchasing power).
One might then ask: how do you measure the value of a dollar? The simple but unsatisfying answer is: it’s the amount of goods and services you can buy with it. A more complicated, but equally unsatisfying answer (because of its reliance on other artificial constructs), involves exchange rates, Treasury notes and foreign exchange reserves. The value of the US Dollar, like any fiat currency, therefore depends on factors seemingly far removed from people’s lives. For the reasons put forward in the next section, it remains difficult to understand the real everyday value represented by the US Dollar even if one uses it many times each day.
Goods and Services
One big problem with using goods and services to demonstrate the value of a fiat currency is their lack of interchangeability: whereas one dollar bill is entirely interchangeable with any other dollar bill, different goods and services (although they may cost the same) are not of course interchangeable. This lack of interchangeability makes it impossible to ascertain whether, say, 10 bottles of beer (purchased for $10) is a better or worse measure of fiat value than, say, 5 loaves of bread (also purchased for $10). In effect this is the same issue facing government statisticians who have to choose which items to include in the average consumer’s notional shopping basket for the purpose of measuring changes in a country’s consumer prices index.
A related problem is that the precise nature of numbers gives an appearance of certainty to things which don’t actually possess it. Thus, people fail to understand either the real value of $10 or the real value of ‘5 loaves of bread’ which are in practice both as imprecise as each other: dollar bills, although they are interchangeable, have no intrinsic value in themselves, only in terms of what they can buy; however, the things that can be bought with dollar bills, although they do of course have intrinsic value in themselves, are not interchangeable and therefore have no dependable utility as a measure of value.
The lack of preciseness can be ascribed to the lack of a measuring tool which serves in a replicable way to measure the value of something no matter where, when and by whom it is bought and sold. The nearest thing available is the market price expressed in units of fiat currency. However, the market price of something is not necessarily the same as its value. Although an important indicator of value, the market price only tells us the minimum amount that people are prepared to pay, but not the maximum amount (i.e. their willingness to pay). Moreover, due to external factors, under- or overvaluation might occur – i.e. short term prices may be too low or too high compared with the long term average.
The need for a measuring tool, as described above, would quickly become evident were you to go into a grocery shop and
ask the price of something. Such a question would definitely produce different answers depending on whether the shop was located in North America or in Asia (leaving aside the question of conversion rates). Repeating this experiment 10 years from now would also result in different outcomes. Furthermore, businesses adjust the prices of their products to better meet the requirements of their trading partners or customers on a deal to deal basis.
Given that observation, we can ask the question how are prices created and how do they change? That is a field of ongoing study which is outside of the scope of this article. Prices are the result of complex social interactions, political considerations, emotions and even the technological progress. In the remaining part of this article, we will discuss what the value of a NXT is.
When using the Nxt platform, all you need are NXTs. You can buy goods and services on the Nxt Marketplace, you can buy assets on the Asset Exchange, you can buy brands, cast votes and much more and all you need to have are NXTs. Those tokens are the default currency unit of the economy platform: Nxt. With them, you can buy a variety of native Nxt objects as well as user-generated content, products and services. However, we still have the same imprecise definition of the value of 10 NXTs as we have with $10.
There is, though, another element that plays an important part in helping to determine the value of one NXT. NXTs are not only relevant to pricing goods and services but also to paying for transactions. Transactions are the most basic native objects you can buy with your NXTs. They are and will be omnipresent in the Nxt platform. At the time of writing, 1 NXT is worth 1 transaction (in most cases). Thus, the value of 10 NXTs is the ability to buy 10 standard transactions, like those described above. That basically means if you have n NXTs in your wallet, you can buy n transactions from the network.
We can describe an experiment to measure the price of a transaction in Nxt. The price for a transaction – also called a fee – has a minimum at which the network accepts the transaction. It is encoded in the social contract enforced by the Nxt network and its current implementation can be found at the repository. This experiment can be repeated irrespective of who you are or where you are. It can only change over time if the network agrees to change. From this point of view, the minimum transaction fee is the most equal and transparent price we have; independent of your location and yourself.
Given that tool, we can now measure how much a good or a service on the Nxt Markeplace is worth in terms of transactions. When we pay somebody 25 NXTs for his service, we are in effect enabling him to perform 25 further transactions and we can do 25 transactions less than we could before.
When analyzing the calculation of the minimum transaction fee, one can recognize a correlation between the minimum fee and the size of the transaction. However, the correlation does not apply whilst, as is currently the case, the relevant coefficient is set to zero. It is assumed that in future versions of the Nxt protocol, the network will decide to raise this coefficient in order to better reflect the actual expenditure of verifying and propagating transactions of a specific type through the network. Still, the process of price setting is visible and verifiable and equal among all people using Nxt. There are many possibilities regarding how to agree on these coefficients and other constants which make up the minimum fee. However, this is a problem which needs to be addressed in another article.
Each NXT represents the ability to buy exactly one standard transaction which gives us a precise tool to measure how much worth a good or a service would be. Instead of asking how many NXTs does it cost, you might equally well ask: if I buy this good or service how many fewer transactions will I be able to carry out (i.e. how many transaction performances will it cost me)? Similarly, the seller, instead of asking how much NXT can I get for this good or service can just as well ask: if I sell this good or service, how many more transactions will I be able to carry out (i.e. how many transaction performances is my good or service worth)?
Thus, 10 NXTs are worth 10 transaction performances or the goods and services you can get for them in exchange.
This article is also available in French.