There has been a lot of debate about what Bitcoins are — i.e. currency vs. commodity. Also there has been a lot of debate about inflation vs. deflation with respect to Bitcoins, whether people would lend them, at what rates, etc.
I think the most apt description of Bitcoins is that they are shares of stock in this communal Bitcoin enterprise we are undertaking. It is a lot like being part of a company (right now a very small company) and being paid in stock shares. There are a fixed number of Bitcoins, as there are a fixed number of shares in a company (barring new issues/etc.).
The primary value of Bitcoins right now is the hope that they will someday be worth significantly more than they are right now. For that to happen, the Bitcoin enterprise as a whole needs to gain collective value. We, as employee/owners of Bitcoin need to generate that added value. The most obvious way is to facilitate internet commerce by bartering shares of Bitcoin for other goods. The collective computational effort of all the employee/owners helps ensure that the barter is fair by keeping a record of each transaction. The individual efforts of some Bitcoiners are helping to make the barter of Bitcoins easier or more useful.
Regarding lending/borrowing of Bitcoins, to me it is analogous to lending/borrowing stock. The primary reason to borrow Bitcoins would be because you think they are overvalued and will be worth less when you have to return them. When you borrow the Bitcoins, you can sell them now (barter them now) and hopefully it will cost you less to buy them back at a later date so that you can return them to your lender (probably plus a fee).
In essence, Bitcoins are like a “direct public offering” of stock in the Bitcoin enterprise.
Bitcoins have no dividend or potential future dividend, therefore not like a stock.
More like a collectible or commodity.
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