Bitcoin is a fascinating technology and a welcome stage in the evolutionary development of free monetary systems, but will it ever be the world’s reserve currency or even a common currency across the U.S.? The jury is still out, but the price of a Bitcoin in dollars seems to have bottomed in January, and a new speculative bubble could drive the value much higher.

I’m as tempted as the next person to ride this wave hoping for quick riches, but I would be riding the wave expecting it inevitably to break and hoping to profit at the expense of buyers cashing out later. I expect this outcome ultimately for several reasons, but the most significant reason seems the least discussed and also the most relevant to the libertarian ideal, so I’ll focus on it here.

I can’t imagine a single private currency replacing the U.S. dollar, either as the common currency of the U.S. or as a global reserve currency, and I don’t want a single currency to replace the dollar.

Right now, Amazon.com accepts 80 different currencies, from the Argentine Peso to the Vietnamese Dong. If I bought everything at Amazon, I could do all of my personal accounting in any of these currencies (except for the dollars I need to pay taxes), and I could switch from one currency to another with a mouse click. This diversity of choice seems more libertarian than any single cryptocurrency could be.

More significantly, I can use the Uzbekistan Sum at Amazon while you use the Macau Pataca, and we can both assume that Amazon uses our currency even if it accounts internally with U.S. dollars. We can also sell things to each other through Amazon without even knowing that we use different currencies. I offer a price in Sum, and you see a price in Pataca. You offer a price in Pataca, and I see a price in Sum.

Amazon doesn’t accept Bitcoin yet, and it doesn’t accept eGold or Liberty Dollars (unfortunately crushed by states), but it could easily accept any number of privately issued currencies. The cost of doing so is declining rapidly. Almost anyone can now accept credit cards with a smart phone, and soon almost anyone will be able to accept dozens of different currencies as easily as Amazon.

Bitcoin has thus far survived where eGold perished, and its survival bodes well for decentralized systems beyond the reach of a single state. The global hegemony of the dollar is ending regardless, but I’m not betting on its replacement, because I don’t expect it to be replaced. At least, I don’t want it to be replaced. The world doesn’t need a common currency anymore, if it ever did, so if it has one, states must be imposing a monopoly.

Bitcoin could persist much longer, even indefinitely, without becoming widely held or widely used as a medium of exchange and unit of account … or orders of magnitude more valuable than it is now. Bitcoin is not only the latest tulip mania. The currency has real value in a real market, but its persistence seems unlikely to me, because technological progress is evolutionary.

Improved variations on the Bitcoin theme already exist, and further improvements are possible and will always be possible. At least, they should always be possible. If a state accepts Bitcoin or a similar cryptocurrency in payment of taxes, particularly if it declares Bitcoin an exclusive legal tender, libertarians have no reason to celebrate. If many states do so, we have every reason to mourn.