Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Victor Chen, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Gurpreet Dhillon, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Nancy Stutts, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Myung Jin, Ph.D.


Social media, e-commerce, global peer-to-peer technologies, and the near ubiquity of computers and smartphones allow people to interact, trust, and exchange value across traditional socio-economic control boundaries and over significant distances. Since the creation in 2008 of a new cryptographic currency system called Bitcoin, a financial technology market sector of about 250 billion USD has rapidly emerged, raising questions about the nature of currency in society and whether new types of non-national money are warranted and viable. This debate has pitted heterodox economic interests against orthodox economic interests while it has rekindled interest in theories that view money as a social construct with a multitude of potential forms beyond ‘state’ or fiat money, and in forms that are increasingly predicted to be purely digital in the future. This study seeks to explain the policy, social, and economic factors that underlie perceptions and usage of these new currency types. First, I develop a novel theoretical matrix of trust and control to explain the conditions under which people choose to use any monetary system. Then, I test this theory with a quantitative analysis of policy, trust, socio-economic, and cultural factors affecting the perceptions and usage of the new currency systems of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in 28 countries. This analysis draws on usage metrics recorded from the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency network systems, attitudinal data from the World Values Survey (WVS) and European Values Study (EVS), and a proprietary survey of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency perceptions and usage in 15 countries conducted by Ipsos for the behavioral economics research department at ING Group. I performed principal component analyses (PCA) to reduce factors among collected metrics, and I then integrated the findings of the PCA into a series of ordinary least squares (OLS) regressions along three primary vectors: trust, control, and culture. Based on my empirical findings, I group these new currency system users’ personality perspectives into four categories: Evangelists, Pragmatists, Skeptics, and Speculators. The analysis finds Bitcoin and cryptocurrency perceptions and usage are not correlated with the strictness or laxness of public policies concerning Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. The analysis also finds Bitcoin interest as measured by Google Search Trends is not correlated to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency perceptions and usage but is correlated to several lower socio-economic metrics related to crime and lack of confidence in law enforcement and government control. There is more favorable perception and usage of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in countries with less developed socio-economic profiles, and less favorable perceptions and usage in countries with more developed socio-economic profiles. There is more favorable perception and usage of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in countries with aggregate lower generalized trust and lower democratic tendencies, and less favorable perceptions and usage in countries with aggregate higher generalized trust and higher democratic tendencies. Overall, the findings show the extent to which trends in usage and perception of the emergent currencies of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are associated with basic cultural and attitudinal tendencies that are not necessarily related to public policy or other typical monetary theory-based controls. I conclude that a matrix of trust and control is effective at demonstrating how sociological factors explain the landscape of historical, extant, and emergent currency systems and this matrix predicts where Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies situate in society relative to these other currency systems.


First and foremost, I would like to thank my adviser, Victor Chen, for his guidance, assistance, and support during this research and dissertation development. He is a thoughtful and patient scholar and role model for me, and he dedicated countless hours talking, reading, and helping to refine my ruminations and cogitations into scholarship. I can only repay him by helping others in the future as much as he has helped me. Of the committee members, Gurpreet Dhillon has been a cheerful and inspiring collaborator, Nancy Stutts has been a trusted voice about academia and the dissertation process, and Myung Jin has been an engaging professor and a by-the-book methodologist in the statistical arts for both of my graduate degrees. I am grateful to each for all their contributions to my scholarly maturation and I look forward to working with them as my research, academic, and public service endeavors evolve.

My parents are also quite responsible as enablers for my dissertation’s completion as well as my other achievements in various endeavors in life, many concurrent with both of my graduate degrees. I am paying forward their love and support with my wife Melissa and dear family of Magnolia, Blair, Maya, and Nathan (and canine companions Winston and Violet) who all have been enormously supportive and more patient than I during the process of this dissertation.

Through this dissertation, I believe I have created a useful contribution to the field of public policy and administration and underlying social sciences of economics, sociology, and information science. There are many ways in which this dissertation about socio-economic value and exchange is a culmination of several threads of my life-long personal, professional, political, and academic pursuits and I am thankful to all who have helped me in those areas over the years, so I could blend those vectors now. As I have been helped, I look forward to helping other intellectual pilgrims on their journeys to wherever they are headed.


© Joseph B. Walton

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