With the government’s work on a potential digital dollar accelerating, meaning a digital greenback could soon be a reality in the U.S., the case for Bitcoin is becoming significantly stronger.
Nellie Liang, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for domestic finance, noted that the federal government will start meetings in the “coming months” on a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).
Speaking last week in a speech for the Atlantic Council, Ms. Liang said that U.S. officials are “actively evaluating whether a CBDC is in the national interest,” and highlighted some of the potential benefits of a Federal Reserve-backed digital currency, noting it “could help preserve the dollar's global role” and possibly reduce frictions in cross-border transactions.
This is the clearest sign yet that a digital U.S. dollar could soon become a reality, pending Congressional approval.
With the world’s largest economy now ramping up efforts, the global race to CBDCs is now intensifying.
It’s estimated that more than 80% of central banks around the world are considering launching a central bank digital currency or have already done so. It appears that the U.S. is now determined not to be left behind and is accelerating the project.
It seems to have become a critical matter of global leadership, as China is the most economically powerful country to lead CBDC implementation.
Proponents of CBDCs say digital payments can be processed faster than traditional cash or check payments, reducing transaction times and increasing the speed of commerce.
In addition, transaction costs could be cheaper to process than traditional cash or check payments, potentially reducing costs for businesses and consumers. A digital system could provide greater access to financial services for people who may not have access to traditional banking services.
Whilst CBDCs might have many advantages, including convenience, efficiency and transparency, what they do not have is privacy.
In effect, the digital dollar is Big Brother-style surveillance technology.
These state-backed, programmable digital currencies will provide governments greater oversight of citizens’ transactions in real-time, potentially leading to the collection of sensitive personal information.
This could include information about individuals' spending habits, income, and other financial activities. This has raised concerns about the potential for government abuse of this information, such as the use of financial data to monitor and control individuals' behavior.
It’s an extra lever of control that they’ve never had before.
This is why Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies will become increasingly attractive.
Why? Because they still have all the plusses of being digital — speed, efficiency and convenience — but they are fundamentally different as they run on an open, immutable blockchain.
They are global, decentralized — with no one authority able to control — borderless, tamper-proof and censorship-resistant.”
Despite the Treasury appearing to prepare for the launch of a digital dollar, there are a growing number of voices in opposition.
Representative Tom Emmer has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that could limit the Federal Reserve from issuing a central bank digital currency, or CBDC.
Last month, Emmer affirmed that he had introduced the “CBDC Anti-Surveillance State Act” in order to protect Americans’ right to financial privacy.
According to the lawmaker, the bill would prevent the Fed from issuing a digital dollar “directly to anyone,” bar the central bank from implementing monetary policy based on a CBDC and require transparency for initiatives related to a digital dollar.
“Any digital version of the dollar must uphold our American values of privacy, individual sovereignty, and free market competitiveness,” he said. “Anything less opens the door to the development of a dangerous surveillance tool.”
The U.S. joining the CBDC race more fully underscores that digital is inevitably the future of money.
It’s increasingly clear that in the not-too-distant future, we will have a multi-faceted system of currencies, including fiat, CBDCs, and crypto.
Whilst there are pros and cons to all, for many people programmable, trackable CBDCs will be unattractive due to the privacy and government monitoring concerns.
What’s urgently needed is sensible, informed public conversation.
London-born Nigel Green is founder and CEO of deVere Group. Following in his father’s footstep, he entered the financial services industry as a young adult. After working in the sector for 15 years in London, he subsequently spent several years operating within the international space, before launching deVere in 2002 with a single office in Hong Kong. Today, deVere is one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organizations, doing business in 100 countries and with more than $12bn under advisement. It specializes global financial solutions to international, local mass affluent, and high-net-worth clients. In early 2017, it was announced that deVere would launch its own private bank. In addition, deVere also confirmed it has received its own investment banking license.
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