Cryptoeconomic systems are often said to lack intermediaries and to facilitate the peer-to-peer transfer of digital assets. This view of them undergirds much legal, policy, and risk analysis, as systems without intermediaries are said to lack the risks posed by intermediaries. In this paper, I critique the common view, and argue that crypto miners function as intermediaries in cryptoeconomic systems, providing examples from real-world events and computer science research to support the claim. I then present a research agenda to explore the ways miners act as intermediaries, and the legal, policy, and risk questions that arise.
Angela Walch is a Professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas, and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Blockchain Technologies at University College London. Walch’s research focuses on money and the law, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain technologies. She has presented her research at Stanford University, MIT Media Lab, the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at UC Berkeley, and the London School of Economics. Her work has been cited by the BIS, the Financial Stability Board, and the OECD. Walch has been featured in The New York Times, The Economist, and WIRED.