In essence, Bitcoin is similar to the "gold standard," the monetary system in force before modern central banking started to take root in the 1930s.
Under the gold standard, each unit of currency was worth a certain amount of gold, leaving governments few means to increase the amount of currency in circulation.
No country uses the gold standard today, but some libertarians want to revive it, and see Bitcoin as a modern-day alternative or complement.
"If you wipe away the misguided economics courses that we have, deflation doesn't have to be a negative," says Jon Matonis, a board member of the non-profit Bitcoin Foundation, created last year to foster and protect the system. "It's not a bad thing when a citizen's purchasing power increases."