Rethinking the nature of money is serious stuff. It is, in effect, the re-examination of a concept of value exchange that’s been central to society, certainly every mercantile culture, for thousands of years – from Pacific conch shells, to gold, promissory notes and credit cards.
It’s my contention that, for good or for ill, there is a clear and present threat to the established system – specifically the way in which the nation state, with its centrally controlled fiat currencies, is organised.
Indeed, the modern state has three major levers of control to maintain political stability and the security of power: physical coercion – the military and, more contentiously, the machinery of justice and the penal system; propaganda – media control conveniently outsourced to notionally independent news organisations and their appropriately sympathetic owners; and the financial system – a fiat currency administered by a central bank, with attendant reporting restrictions and regulations, which allows the government to assess our assets and income and, whether we like it or not, demand its share.
The latest resurgence of Bitcoin has provoked a re-think – be it a lofty re-examination of value-exchange systems, or the prehistoric feeling that there’s gold in the digital hills. This is prompting a massive shake-out amongst existing financial systems and a power struggle between corporate institutions as they compete to issue their own digital tokens.
The scrambles include a full-scale battle between the corporate world and governments. A dream team of corporate suppliers and payment specialists jumped ship ahead of Facebook’s proposed launch of its Libra token last year. The precise reason as to why they withdrew, and how the token launch was aborted and subsequently re-packaged and renamed Diem, is fertile territory for conspiracy theorists.
Nevertheless, the fact is that the Facebook token, with its potentially vast monetary value and opportunity for cheap puns – yes, folks, we’re dealing with “Facebucks” – was scuppered. Did international governments act in concert, as they could not allow a transnational value token to take root, depriving them of oversight – and tax income?
There is a major change in sentiment among political and financial institutions about money in a digital form. After years of resistance, comes reluctant acceptance from the establishment. In the interim, the old and the new systems co-exist.