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  • Author: Charles W. Calomiris
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: What we use as our medium of exchange is subject to dramatic change over time, and sometimes bank regulation has accelerated such changes. The national banking system, founded in 1863, envisioned the creation of a uniform medium of exchange in the form of national bank notes, which replaced the preexisting system of state bank note issuance. But the creation of the national banking system soon resulted in the diminished importance of bank notes as a medium of exchange. Under the new system, state banks faced a prohibitive tax of 10 percent per year on any notes they issued, and national banks had to maintain collateral at the Treasury for their outstanding national bank notes equal to 111 percent of their outstanding notes, and also had to maintain an additional 5 percent in required government‐​currency (“greenback”) cash reserves on hand. That meant that if a bank wanted to make loans, it had to find an alternative to bank notes as a funding source for those loans. Deposits had been growing in importance leading up to the National Banking Act of 1863, but the act accelerated the growth of deposits markedly, and they became the primary funding vehicle for loans. As Comptroller Eckels remarked in 1896: “And thus it has come about that deposit taking is now the feature, and the issuing of circulating notes but the incident, in national banking, instead of, as in the early history of the system, the note‐​issuing function being the feature and deposit banking but the incident” (Eckels 1896: 565; emphasis added).
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Finance, Banks, Loans
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael J. Casey
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: For all the upheaval of 2020, it’s perhaps not surprising that the 50‐​year anniversary of a major piece of financial legislation came and went with little fanfare. But the 1970 U.S. Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) deserves much scrutiny.1 In mandating that financial institutions maintain customer identity records and report illicit activity to government agencies, the BSA was a landmark statute by any measure. It paved the way to an ever‐​expanding system of international surveillance that’s a cornerstone of U.S. economic power.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Finance, Surveillance
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Dong He
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The globalized economy now moves at the speed of electrons — and the future of money is inexorably going digital, too. New forms of digital money, such as central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and so‐​called global stablecoins, are shaping the future of money and payments. CBDCs are a digital form of fiat currency issued by a central bank. Some central banks started exploring CBDCs a few years ago, and those explorations have gathered momentum since Facebook and its partners announced their intention to launch the Libra stablecoin in June 2019. Because the stablecoins issued by large technological companies or platforms (Big Techs) have the potential to be adopted by businesses and households everywhere, they are called “global stablecoins,” or GSCs, in shorthand.
  • Topic: Geopolitics, Global Political Economy, Money, Currency, Trade
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: David Andolfatto
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The literature examining the question of central bank digital currency (CBDC) has grown immensely in a very short time. Much progress has been made since I first learned of the idea in a blogpost authored by J. P. Koning in 2014. That modest article soon led me to openly speculate on the merits of a central bank cryptocurrency in a talk I delivered at the International Workshop on P2P Financial Systems in Frankfurt (Andolfatto 2015). My audience, which consisted mainly of entrepreneurs, seemed to receive my talk with a polite mixture of bemusement and anxiety. Surely, I couldn’t be serious? To be honest, I’m not sure that I was. But then the threat of Facebook’s Libra came along, and central bankers around the world suddenly began to take the idea very seriously indeed.
  • Topic: Finance, Social Media, Central Bank, Currency, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: George Selgin
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Various proposals for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) involve different technical solutions to as many distinct problems. My concern is with the monetary policy implications of those (e.g., Bordo and Levin 2019; Ricks 2020) that would allow anyone to place deposits in a Fed Master Account, directly or using ordinary banks as brokers.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Banks, Central Bank, Financial Stability, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jesús Fernández‐​Villaverde
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The monetary arrangements of societies are the result of the interplay of technology and ideas. Technology determines, for example, which coins can be minted and at what cost. For centuries, minting small‐​denomination coinage was too costly to induce Western European governments to supply enough small change (Sargent and Velde 2002). Only the arrival of steam‐​driven presses fixed this problem (Doty 1998). Simultaneously, ideas about private property and the scope of government determined whether private entrepreneurs were allowed to compete with governments in the supply of small change (Selgin 2008). Technology and ideas about money engage dialectically. Technological advances shape our ideas about money by making new monetary arrangements feasible. Ideas about desirable outcomes direct innovators to develop new technologies.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Monetary Policy, Cryptocurrencies
  • Political Geography: Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Caitlin Long
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Stablecoins are financial obligations issued on a blockchain. They are generally fully collateralized with either fiat currency deposits at a bank, or with short‐​term government bonds held at a custodian. They’re issued only by nonbanks, although FINMA in Switzerland does allow Swiss banks to issue Swiss franc–denominated stablecoins. Usually stablecoins do not pay interest, and they are designed to trade at par with the fiat currency. Because they are issued on a blockchain, they usually settle in minutes, with irreversibility, and — critically — they are “programmable,” which means users can build their own software applications to interact with them.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Banks, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Martin Chorzempa
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Digital currency and fintech have been some of the most powerful forces for freedom and personal liberty in China for the past decade, but their future influence is uncertain. Starting as a disruptive force that gave Chinese unprecedented autonomy in their financial lives, connected either to global cryptocurrency networks or local tech ecosystems built by private firms, a new chapter is beginning. In this new era, one speech urging an emphasis on innovation instead of regulation can seemingly bring the full force of the Chinese state to bear onto a firm that once disrupted state banks with impunity. Technologies like blockchain first embraced by libertarians and cryptography enthusiasts as freeing money from dependence on the state look poised to become tools for governments to increase their ability to monitor and shape financial transactions. Meanwhile, disruptive fintech tools have become symbiotic with the major state banks, which will retain their role as the core of the financial system.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Finance, Digital Currency , Transactions
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Alex Gladstein
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The future of currency is digital. The majority of transactions made every day are already electronic and controlled by banks or tech companies. These payments are easily surveillable, confiscatable, and censorable. Physical cash still functions as an essential savings mechanism and privacy tool for millions of people worldwide. With cash, individuals can buy goods and services or save without sharing their identity with a third‐​party merchant or custodian. But as banknotes fade from daily use, the future of financial freedom and privacy comes into serious jeopardy.
  • Topic: Finance, Privacy, Freedom, Digital Currency , Cash
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jill Carlson
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Possessions, or property, have been reiterated as a human right over the course of the centuries since Locke first wrote — enshrined in everything from the U.S. Declaration of Independence to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (1948: 217, A III). Nevertheless, executives, judiciaries, legislative bodies, and central banks around the world have continually broken their social contract on this front: not only failing to defend the natural rights of possessions and property, but often actively harming individuals’ ability to hold value and to freely transfer and exchange assets. Access to a free, open, and functional financial system is a fundamental human right. One that is continuously violated by states and policymakers globally.
  • Topic: Economics, Finance, Money, Economic Rights
  • Political Geography: South America, Venezuela