UPDATE 8.28.23: At Bitcoin Magazine, Josef Tětek describes the frightening possible future posed by adoption of central banks digital currencies. He writes:
Imagine this: It’s payday but before the money reaches your account, someone else has already decided what you’ll spend your money on — one third of your paycheck on housing, one third on food (only plant and insect protein allowed), 10% on transportation (with little allowance for gas), 10% on a mandatory pension plan (mostly allocated to government bonds) and the remaining 14% on clothing, alcohol and pharmaceuticals in state-licensed shops. Spending outside of these allocations comes with huge markups and, as if this isn’t bad enough, saving is impossible as this money comes with an expiration date: after three months, it simply disappears from your account.
This dystopian world is closer than you think. Central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, could make it a reality. CBDCs are an attempt to duct-tape the failing monetary system back together, and in the process provide the State with nearly unlimited control over the financial system, and thus our spending habits and the way we lead our lives.
UPDATE 5.22.23: In a recent study published by NBER, Cornell graduate student Bineet Mishra and Cornell professor Eswar Prasad (a World Economic Forum presenter) explain how Central Bank Digital Currencies can be used to give and take money from account holders via “helicopter drops” and forced negative interest rates.
In our model, helicopter drops of money (as a countercyclical policy tool) can be implemented directly by affecting the holdings of CBDC rather than through the conventional view of helicopter drops as fiscal policy measures financed by monetary expansion. Similarly, a negative interest rate on CBDC can take the form of a haircut, in which agents face an effective nominal negative rate of return on CBDC as the balances on their accounts at the central bank shrink. The model in this paper does not incorporate endogenous output responses but we can still use it to show how such policies affect the entire portfolio of assets held by agents and their intertemporal allocation decisions.
It’s not hard for Americans to understand why giving the government the explicit ability to arbitrarily create or destroy money in certain people’s bank accounts is a bad idea. Imagine a system in which your social credit score or your vaccine status influenced the reliability of the money in your bank account.
UPDATE 4.4.23: Central bank digital currency programmability is a term that means, at a very basic level, that the government that controls the digital currency can determine what and how much you buy with your money. Anyone who wants to buy a gun, or food considered overly indulgent, or a book the government disagreed with could be prevented from doing so because their CBDC simply wouldn’t allow them to. You can see the dangers in that. Now the Bank of England is attempting to allay the fears of CBDC critics by promising (for now) to not add a programmability function. Ledger Insights reports:
Last week, Katie Fortune, senior manager of the central bank digital currency (CBDC) unit at the Bank of England (BofE), suggested that the digital pound will not include government-enabled programmability functions to avoid misperceptions about government overreach. Ms. Fortune was speaking at Citibank’s 10th Annual Digital Money Symposium.
The issue of programmability is a sensitive one in CBDC discussions. The usual argument is that because any government-issued digital currency would be a de facto legal tender – therefore, anyone would have to accept it – CBDCs should be simple, standardized, and not restricted. However, programmability functions could limit usability and impose rules on how people are allowed to spend their money. The BofE believes that if these functions were introduced by design, they could feed people’s misperceptions and reduce trust in the system.
“What we can’t have with public money is some sense that I might decide you are not allowed to spend that on what you want to spend it on, because the government doesn’t approve of what you’re doing,” said Ms. Fortune.
Like the digital euro, the digital pound would not be programmable at its core but programmability can still be implemented by the private sector. A two-tier model with a private sector layer in the middle could build on the BofE’s infrastructure, Ms Fortune argued. This way, it would be private firms that deal with end users. This would allow the BofE to support innovation while maintaining independence.
UPDATE 8.3.22: Yesterday, the Bank of Japan announced that it was dropping its plans for a central bank digital currency because the public was (rightly so) not interested. The Federal Reserve should follow the BOJ’s example. Investing.com reports:
The BOJ, which began testing the technical viability of issuing a CBDC in April 2021, has concluded that it would not be technically feasible for the government to release a yen-backed CBDC at the present time.
The Central Bank of Japan had completed its first and second phases of CBDC testing, but has since elected to forgo the third phase, which would have seen the release of a pilot program for participation by private businesses and end-users.
According to reports, the BOJ scrapped its CBDC program due to a perceived lack of interest from Japanese citizens. The public did not deem the use of a CBDC attractive enough to consider because of the high adoption of digital payments in the country.
The central bank revealed that much of the country’s population already has widespread access to low-cost, efficient internet banking services and digital payment tools.
Japan has one of the lowest retail deposit interest rates at 0.001%, reinforced by its low volatility currency. In light of this, the government believes that crypto will find it difficult to replace cash as the go-to medium for transactions among Japanese citizens.
UPDATE 5.16.22: In a recent letter to Ann Misback, Secretary of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, Cato Institute analyst, Nicholas Anthony, outlined the threat to American privacy posed by “central bank digital currencies” (CBDCs), aka “digital dollars.” Anthony was responding to a request for comment from the Federal Reserve. He writes (abridged):
In fact, the threat to financial privacy may be the single greatest risk of a CBDC. And it’s due to the significance of this risk that it is particularly disappointing that the discussion paper devoted so little time to the issue. The “intermediated CBDC model”––something which largely appears to be a retail CBDC with extra steps––described in the discussion paper may be able to be designed sufficiently to prevent a direct line between the government and the public by using third parties (i.e., banks and other financial institutions) to interrupt the flow of information. But even here, financial privacy is still at risk. One of the few constraints on the third-party doctrine is whether the information revealed was in the ordinary course of business. While financial institutions do not track down the journey of each dollar bill in the ordinary course of business, a CBDC would likely have a record of its transactions and make that data available to financial institutions. Therefore, that newly available data would likely be added to the existing reporting requirements and thus create a much larger data pool for law enforcement to pull from during investigations. Worse yet, even if that newly available data is not added to reporting requirements initially, it still creates a much larger data pool.
So whether it is done directly or in an “intermediated” fashion, a CBDC poses a significant risk to Americans’ financial privacy. And it’s not just a risk of quiet observance. The use of the Emergencies Act in Canada to freeze the bank accounts of protestors earlier this year showed that Americans should be aware of the extent the government can go to exert control. 6 A CBDC would dramatically increase that risk.
Originally posted on October 6, 2021.
Is the American government aware of a coming economic collapse it will use to usher in a new system of digital currency in order to phase out hard currency? That’s the thesis from Bill Sardi, writing at LewRockwell.com. He explains (abridged):
Imagine you are on a cruise ship and you secured your valuables with the ship’s purser. And later you see the purser hurriedly getting on a lifeboat with canvas bags used for holding valuables. What kind of a signal would that send to you?
It would appear to me the ship is about to sink and the purser is trying to take everybody’s money with him as he rescues himself. Now recognize, the purser could say he was just making sure everyone’s valuables were saved should they survive the sinking or at least preserve passenger valuables for their heirs, in what would be plausible denial. Or who knows, maybe he will say it was just a drill.
Now to assess a real occurrence.
Two top officials at the Federal Reserve bank resigned a few days ago over revelations they were extensively trading stocks in 2020 when the FED was spending trillions of dollars to stabilize financial markets. The investments were permissible under the FED’s rules, but there certainly appears to be a conflict of interest. One of the perpetrators made trades worth over $1 million in 22 stocks and index funds. These are insiders with advance info about market conditions.
You might come to the same conclusion that “the boat is sinking,” as I did in my imaginary story about the purser on a cruise ship. Who is going to penalize these bankers if the ship sinks? They know there isn’t time for them to be penalized. What do they know that we don’t know?
The US economy is primed to fall. The Wall Street Journal is not going to tell you this. A humongous depression far greater than the depression of the 1930s, is planned. And in so doing, the masses will beg for the digital currency as the only way out. A date will be established to turn in paper money, maybe even at less than face value. Notice coins were tagged as carriers of the virus, to be turned back in to banks. Paper money banished as a medium of viral transmission.
Those in power make it appear they are sending Americans free money, they are rescuing you, from the COVID, from joblessness, from the sinking ship. In fact, the citizenry is being set up for a big fall. And most Americans are none the wiser.
By Bill Sardi
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