Frontier was launched with a default gas price of 0.05e12 wei. In Homestead, the default was reduced to 0.02e12 wei.

If this gas price is too low and operations on Ethereum are too cheap, for example, if a single ether can run all the dApps and contracts a user could ever want in their lifetime, then demand for ether will be low and there is little rational reason for its price to increase.

If the price is too high and operations are expensive, people will not use dApps, and also little reason for the price to increase.

What assumptions and analyses suggest what an optimal gas price is, and how much does the current gas price deviate from it?

I suspect that the question about the price discovery mechanism of gas/Ether was not studied very deeply by the Ethereum developers. The mechanism that currently exists must work by miners adaptively changing the lower bound of Ether per gas (asking price), and creators of transactions - offering certain prices and watching if the transactions get mined.

Number 0.05e12 wei, or its order of magnitude, most probably came out these sort of calculations: we have 5 ether per block mining reward, or 5e18 wei. One transaction costs at least 21000 gas. If every miner, after receiving the reward, spent all the ether on sending transaction, how many should they be able to send per second? If we allow around 3000 per second, then we can arrive at the right order magnitude for the current gas price.

Let me now make a little diversion.

Since miners do not current have a way to advertise what their current asking prices are, the transaction creators are effectively making 'blind' bids in hope that they will be equal or higher than the asking price (but not much higher). Also, the miner do not have a way of explicitly rejecting the bids when they are too low. So the bidders have to assume rejections implicitly, seeing that their transaction did not make it into the next block. That, of course, does not mean that all miners would reject the bid, only the one that happened to mine that block.

From above it should be obvious, that the current state of the gas price discovery is very inconvenient and inefficient. Therefore, some explicit market mechanisms would need to be added either to the protocol, or in a form of contract. This is probably easier to do post Proof-Of-Stake, because offer prices can be signed and relayed as ordinary transactions. But even now it would be possible to create such a contract, 'gas market' :)

  • Do you mean 3e3*21e3 is close to 5e18/0.05e12 ? I see it is close, thanks, I'm upvoting but would like to see other answers before accepting. – eth Feb 5 '16 at 10:05

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