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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/19/16

Central Bank Digital Currencies: A Revolution in Banking?

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To reiterate: this is what banks do now. Banks are not intermediaries taking in deposits and lending them out. When a bank issues a loan for a mortgage, it simply writes the sum into the borrower's account. The borrower writes a check to his seller, which is deposited in the seller's bank, where it is called a "new" deposit and added to that bank's "excess reserves." The issuing bank then borrows this money back from the banking system overnight if necessary to balance its books, returning the funds the next morning. The whole rigmarole is repeated the next night, and the next and the next.

In a public blockchain system, this shell game could be dispensed with. The borrower would be his own banker, turning his own promise to repay into money. "Smart contracts" coded into the blockchain could make these transactions subject to terms and conditions similar to those for loans now. Creditworthiness could be established online, just as it is with online credit applications now. Penalties could be assessed for nonpayment just as they are now. If the borrower did not qualify for a loan from the public credit facility, he could still borrow on the private market, from private banks or venture capitalists or mutual funds. Favoritism and corruption could be eliminated, by eliminating the need for a banker middleman who serves as gatekeeper to the public credit machine. The fees extracted by an army of service providers could also be eliminated, because blockchain has no transaction costs.

In a blog for Bank of England staff titled "Central Bank Digital Currency: The End of Monetary Policy As We Know It?", Marilyne Tolle suggests that the need to manipulate interest rates might also be eliminated. The central bank would not need this indirect tool for managing inflation because it would have direct control of the money supply.

A CBDC on a distributed ledger could be used for direct economic stimulus in another way: through facilitating payment of a universal national dividend. Rather than sending out millions of dividend checks, blockchain technology could add money to consumer bank accounts with a few keystrokes.

Hyperinflationary? No.

The objection might be raised that if everyone had access to the central bank's credit facilities, credit bubbles would result; but that would actually be less likely than under the current system. The central bank would be creating money on its books in response to demand by borrowers, just as private banks do now. But loans for speculation would be harder to come by, since the leveraging of credit through the "rehypothecation" of collateral in the repo market would be largely eliminated. As explained by blockchain software technologist Caitlin Long:

Rehypothecation is conceptually similar to fractional reserve banking because a dollar of base money is responsible for several different dollars of debt issued against that same dollar of base money. In the repo market, collateral (such as U.S Treasury securities) functions as base money. . . .

Through rehypothecation, multiple parties report that they own the same asset at the same time when in reality only one of them does--because, after all, only one such asset exists. One of the most important benefits of blockchains for regulators is gaining a tool to see how much double-counting is happening (specifically, how long "collateral chains" really are).

Blockchain eliminates this shell game by eliminating the settlement time between trades. Blockchain trades occur in "real-time," meaning collateral can be in only one place at a time.

A Sea Change in Banking

Martin Hiesboeck concludes:

[B]lockchain won't just kill banks, brokers and credit card companies. It will change every transactional process you know. Simply put, blockchain eliminates the need for clearinghouse entities of any kind. And that means a revolution is coming, a fundamental sea change in the way we do business.

Changes of that magnitude usually take a couple of decades. But the UK did surprise the world with its revolutionary Brexit vote to leave the EU. Perhaps a new breed of economists at the Bank of England will surprise us with a revolutionary new model for banking and credit.

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Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling WEB OF DEBT. In THE PUBLIC BANK SOLUTION, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and (more...)
 

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