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Category: Campfire

Around the Campfire: Milan’s example

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I’ve been in Milan for a few days, flying with British Airways, to talk to potential investors in Glint. Traveling anywhere these days is a bit risky – one never knows whether an abrupt rule change will be introduced that would scupper all plans. Happily, the trip was super-easy, even though Italy is on the UK government’s ‘amber’ list, which means I now have to ‘quarantine’ for five days.

The flight to Milan was packed, with everyone masked-up. It was very sad at Heathrow to see lines of planes queued up on the tarmac; the aviation industry is going through very tough times.

I have been ‘double-jabbed’ but like everyone I still found it necessary to take COVID tests before I could step onto the aircraft. It seems crazy to be forced to shell out around £350 (almost $500) to have these tests after being vaccinated to the max, and especially when mask-wearing is mandatory just about everywhere. Who is profiting from this extra ‘tax’ on travel?

In between my meetings I managed to see the Duomo Di Milano, Milan’s Cathedral, construction of which started in 1386. The cathedral has literally stood the test of time – like gold. Wars, civil conflicts, fascism, 66 different governments (and that’s only since 1946) – the cathedral has impassively, monumentally, stood there, a mute observer of humanity’s foibles and frailties.

For me, gold is the monetary equivalent of the Duomo. Always there, through thick and thin, through successive waves of different monetary systems. Cryptocurrencies are just the latest in a long line of substitute-money creations – and they might not have long, given the steady move towards Central Bank Digital Currencies and government determination to exert more authority over private enterprise. People have always resisted the debasement of ‘legal tender’: gold, indestructible, widely held, has always been there and always will be there.

All the best

Jason

Around the Campfire: Summer deferred

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“One can never predict the future with perfect confidence”, the UK government’s Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told the BBC today. He wasn’t interviewing for a job as a financial services’ compliance officer but instead seeking to justify why the government has just announced a postponement of the lifting of all remaining anti-Covid lockdown measures in England, from 21st June to 19th July.

The changing regulations leave many people confused about what is or is not ‘permitted’. I can testify that many more people are out and about than this time last year; trains seem to be full, the London Underground is full, road traffic seems back to ‘normal’. Mask-wearing is ubiquitous.

I’m full of admiration for those who are still planning to travel abroad in the next month – not because they are risking infection but because they might find themselves scrambling for vastly inflated prices to get on a plane home before they are required to ‘quarantine’.

Around 75,000 Brits were in Portugal – the only mainstream destination they could travel to without quarantining on their return – when at the start of June the government took the country off the ‘green’ list, the list of countries to which we can travel without quarantining, a kind of domestic lockdown, on your return. According to the consumer protection body Which less than 1% of travel insurance policies give people full comprehensive cover for COVID-related disruption. People who rushed to Faro or Lisbon airports to buy a pre-quarantine ticket back to Blighty found they had to pay several times what the pre-panic tickets cost.

Such is the quixotic nature of this virus and the government’s rule-making that I don’t think it’s worth the risk.

I had intended to take the family away for some much needed post-Crowdfunding R&R but I am now putting it back until all the mess has sorted itself out. Vacations are about relaxation after all.

But when I do eventually hit foreign beaches I know that one risk – exchange rates’ rip-offs – is just a bad nightmare, thanks to my Glint account. Glint gives you the freedom to use gold as money. But it also gives you the freedom to spend gold (or Dollars, Pounds or Euros) around the world. We’re also up to 6 times cheaper than banks, and there are no hidden or disguised fees. You can use Glint to pay for products and services in shops, restaurants and online, anywhere in the world, at the best available wholesale market rates (no mark-ups here) and with only a small 0.5% transaction fee. You no longer have to worry about the risk of losing significant sums of money from shifts in exchange rates. If you need some extra cash when traveling abroad then you can withdraw up to £300 (or $300) per day from ATMs that accept Mastercard®, with only a small fee of £1.50 / $1.50 / €1.50 per withdrawal from Glint, which just covers our costs.

So, if you do decide to travel, you can minimise one risk, unfair charges – take and use your Glint App and card.

Happy travel planning!

Jason Cozens

Around the Campfire: Bedtime Reading

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The annual In Gold We Trust Incrementum report, the latest of which has just been published, is always essential reading, even at 346 pages. Better still – it’s free! It doesn’t make for comfortable reading, however; one of its concluding remarks states “in our opinion, the financial and monetary system is now in a state of permanent stress, just short of burnout”.

But for anyone who wants to be forewarned and forearmed, it’s a must-read. I’ve made some time this week – in between fielding questions for our now 80% funded, crowdfunding campaign, with Seedrs in the UK and Republic in the US – to sample this compelling report, which goes far beyond gold.

This year’s issue, by Ronald-Peter Stöferle and Mark J. Valek, is no exception – not least because (unlike so many gold commentators) it sticks its neck out and makes a price forecast – the “conservative baseline scenario” gives a price target of $4,800, without “any extraordinary inflationary tendencies”, by the “end of the decade”. Which, if it happened, would be a rise of around 140% from today, or a gain of more than 15% a year. “If the decade was plagued by stronger inflation, a price of $8,900 could be expected by the end of the decade…the risk of inflation is growing visibly”, says the report.

The report reminds us that this year is the 50th anniversary (the ‘golden wedding’) of President Richard Nixon’s decision finally to sever the link of the US Dollar from gold, meaning the greenback was no longer convertible into bullion. The Dollar became a free-floating currency, measurable only by comparing it to other currencies. But only in December 1974, when President Gerald Ford signed new legislation, could Americans freely buy and trade gold, for the first time in more than 40 years.

The gold price exploded by 385% between the end of 1974 and 1980; gold has had in the past 50 years a compound annual growth rate of some 8%.

Since 1971, US government spending has positively exploded, as successive governments have been able to create fiat currency without being limited to how much gold sat in the national coffers. The US national debt is now more than $28 trillion and the national budget deficit greater than $3 trillion. The US now has a debt-based monetary system. As the report says, “central banks can create money without any restrictions and are increasingly making use of this privilege… Ultimately, the public’s trust in unbacked currencies stands or falls on whether central banks do not abuse this money-creation privilege”.

The report argues that “a profound change is taking place before all our eyes, a monetary climate change”. It asserts that “global fiat money is the convention of today. Gold backing is even forbidden in the Articles of Agreement subscribed to by all members of the International Monetary Fund”.

Trust in fiat currencies, including the Dollar, is fading, which is one reason why alternatives like cryptocurrencies and increasing, even with Millennials, gold, have become so popular. But governments know that control over money is the main source of their power.

China has banned cryptocurrency mining; one province has made it possible to ring a telephone hotline that people can use to inform on suspected mining units. In the US, financial authorities are preparing to take a more active role in regulating cryptocurrencies. Governments everywhere are planning to introduce – or in China’s case are introducing – their own Central Bank Digital Currencies, which ultimately aimed at driving private cryptocurrencies into the ground – and maintaining their control over the money we can use.

In Gold We Trust – Glint is putting flesh on those bones. With Glint you have gold-as-money at your fingertips. Gold of course may go down as well as up in value, but governments cannot spin more gold into existence – unlike Dollars, Pounds, Yen, or other fiat money. That gives me some comfort – it enables me to trust something.

Until next week,

Jason

Around the Campfire: Asset or money?

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This week I’ve been heavily involved in our crowdfunding, which I’m happy to report is going fantastically well, with 66% of our target met already, with three weeks still to run! So, thank you to everyone who has invested so far, and to those of you who haven’t yet please click the funding banner in the below article to come and join our movement to make money fairer and safer around the world, using gold as a real, everyday currency.

Whilst speaking to investors and carrying out my daily duties as CEO of an international FinTech, I’ve still found time to ponder the future for cryptocurrencies, a topic that seems to be on everyone’s lips, prompted partly by the recent precipitous collapse in the value/price of Bitcoin, as well as many other altcoins like Ether or Tez… don’t even get me started on Doge.

How can something that swings so wildly make a claim to be money? Bitcoin – the biggest and best-known cryptocurrency – was by Monday this week down by almost 50% from its high this year on 14 April, only one month ago! I would feel uncomfortable about trying to use a Bitcoin to buy anything (even if it was possible), with this kind of rapid rise and fall. The pizza I order could be twice as expensive – or 50% cheaper – by the time I pay for it.

Cryptocurrency supporters like to say that “crypto markets are volatile because they are free. Can you think of a more powerful narrative than that?” Noel Quinn, CEO of the global bank HSBC, obviously can. He said on Monday: “Given the volatility we are not into Bitcoin as an asset class, if our clients want to be there, then of course they are, but we are not promoting it as an asset class within our wealth management business”. He continued: “I view Bitcoin as more of an asset class than a payments vehicle, with very difficult questions about how to value it on the balance sheet of clients because it is so volatile”.

Mind you, HSBC may not be entirely neutral. HSBC has nailed its future to that of China; and last week China gave cryptocurrencies a good kicking, banning financial institutions and payment companies from providing services related to cryptocurrency transactions. The more evidently neutral Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, said in early May that cryptocurrencies “have no intrinsic value” and people who invest in them should be prepared to lose all their money.

In 2008, Bitcoin was nothing more than a PDF with an idea – that PDF traded at a spot price of zero. A rise to around $40,000 in 13 years is pretty impressive. But that very rise inhibits Bitcoin’s claims to be money, even though its fans reiterate that it’s the money of the future and will replace dollars, pounds, euros and yen. Some of the forecasts now around for Bitcoin’s future valuations are astronomical.

What might prevent Bitcoin from becoming money? Lots of things. For one, it’s just the leading cryptocurrency among thousands of others, all of them vying for attention. For another, producing Bitcoins (and other cryptocurrencies) is a “dirty business”, thanks to its massive consumption of energy, according to Professor Brian Lucey of Trinity College, Dublin. That’s why Elon Musk of Tesla fame did a recent U-turn and said Tesla would not accept Bitcoins in payment.

But perhaps the biggest reason why cryptocurrencies – undoubtedly a brilliant idea – will not become money is because the owners of our fiat currencies (the dollars, pounds, etc.) won’t let them. China will increasingly clamp down on cryptocurrency mining and use, and other jurisdictions are already signalling their determination not to cede control over money.

Lael Brainard, who sits on the US Federal Reserve board of governors, gave a speech this week in which she said a US Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) would preserve general access to safe central bank money; promote competition and diversity and lower transactions costs; improve efficiency; reduce cross-border frictions; complement currency and bank deposits; protect privacy and safeguard financial integrity; and increase financial inclusion. Brainard would not have spoken so openly and so emphatically without an OK from the highest level. The US, she said, “is stepping up its research and public engagement on a digital version of the US dollar”.

The widespread yearning for sound money, money that stands a good chance of maintaining its purchasing power, is completely understandable; in that belief, we are aligned with the cryptos, it’s just that I see gold – which can of course fall in value as well as rise – doing that rather better in the long term, than any cryptocurrency.

Until next week,

Jason

Around the Campfire: The Lone Ranger

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Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, product architect of Tesla, and father of the child X Æ A-Xii, likes to joke on Twitter, where he has more than 46 million followers. He has just sent the cryptocurrency Twitterverse nuts by appearing to cast doubts on Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency. Bitcoin lost 24% of its value after Musk’s view became public. It has since then lost even more following a statement from China’s central bank.

The People’s Bank of China has just issued a stern warning to the country’s financial institutions against dealing in cryptocurrencies. All of them immediately collapsed in value.

Some people are very angry at Elon – and one swiftly created a very rude new cryptocurrency in defiance of Musk. This new obscenely-named cryptocurrency joined the almost 10,000 other cryptocurrencies in existence – and that’s just the ones that CoinMarket Cap lists as ‘Actual Serious Established Crypto Coins’.

For a supposed decentralised digital currency Bitcoin is empirically demonstrating some strong centralised characteristics. As a few words from Jerome Powell, the US Federal Reserve chairman, or Janet Yellen, the US Treasury Secretary, can shift the US dollar’s value, so too it seems can a brief statement from Elon Musk have a disproportionate impact on Bitcoin’s value.

This is not how cryptocurrencies are meant to operate. Cryptocurrencies are intended to be anonymous, beyond the reach of governments and/or other would-be manipulators; they are meant to facilitate confidence in transactions, thanks to their decentralised nature. Yet despite being based on supposedly hack-proof computer coding, the financial world is littered with cryptocurrency scams, scandals and cautionary tales – and I am not even talking about the love that fraudsters and crooks have for them.

In February this year the New York District Attorney suspended Tether (originally known as Realcoin) and its sister crypto exchange Bitfinex and fined them $18.5 million on the basis that they deceived clients and the market by over-stating their reserves and hiding about $850 million in losses. This clearly hasn’t much damaged Tether – which supposedly is a ‘stablecoin’, i.e. it claimed that its digital tokens were backed one-to-one by US dollars held in cash reserves. When it was fined in February Tether was worth $35 billion (£24.82 billion) but today it is worth around £58 billion (£41.15 billion). It’s a very odd world where a company fined for fraud not only stays in business but does even better.

I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating. I ‘get’ why cryptocurrencies exist and people are flocking to them – it’s because people have lost/are losing faith in the fiat currencies issued by their governments. But the risks of being manipulated by external loud voices are just as great with cryptocurrencies as they are with dollars, pounds, or euros. Gold is not risk-free; the gold price can and does go up and down, although with rather less velocity than Bitcoin.

But if you want an alternative currency that can be spent readily and which has no Mars’ mission devotee influencing the price from the side-lines, then gold with Glint gives you that.

Have a great week,

Jason

Around the Campfire: Hugging is back!

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In the UK, that is. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that from next Monday pubs and restaurants in England will be allowed to re-open for indoor services – museums, theatres, cinemas and children’s indoor play areas will also reopen. Pretty much the same relaxation of the rules will also be true for Scotland. UK deaths from Covid-19 are now at the lowest level since July last year and England’s Covid-19 alert status has gone down from four – the epidemic is in general circulation and transmission is high – to three, which means the virus is still in general circulation but transmission isn’t high. Things are starting to loosen up everywhere, including the US, where at the height of restrictions in late March and early April more than 310 million Americans were under directives ranging from “shelter in place” to “stay at home”.

I’m giving three cheers for what is starting to look like the final days of Covid-19-caused restraints – being able to hug friends and relations again will be for me, and no doubt for many others, as important as being able to dine out or have a beer inside a pub. Johnson has said England is on an “irreversible” path out of its third nationwide lockdown; but he hasn’t ruled out further restrictions if the virus spreads out of control in the future.

What will you do with this unusual freedom? Those fortunate enough to have escaped unemployment are probably flush with cash – the Bank of England said at the end of March that households put more than £17 billion into the bank in February, well above the monthly average of £15 billion since March 2020 and a monthly average of £4.6 billion in 2019.

Economists are now falling over each other to predict a massive ‘bounce-back’ from last year’s biggest economic contraction in 300 years, fuelled by an assumed consumer pent-up wish to get out and spend. I’m not so sure. The people who will spend will mostly be the ones who need to buy essentials, the have-nots or the approximately one-third of people who last year had less than £600 ($847) in savings. People have got into the habit of saving more of their income, putting aside money for a rainy day or for some big-ticket ‘treat’.

I only wish they would look at the interest rates they are getting from their bank deposits – less than 1% on average, about half what the government would like the inflation rate to be, and much less than what it actually is. In a world where inflation is returning, bank deposits daily lose value.

Get out and hug!

Until next week,

Jason

Around the Campfire: Who’s in control?

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My eye was caught this week by the Bank of England (BoE) posting vacancies for several people for jobs related to Central Bank Digital Currencies, including a ‘Stakeholder Analyst – Central Bank Digital Currency’. Not that I am looking for another job – but the relentless shift towards a cashless society and digital payments is a big part of my life.

It’s going to become a big part of your life too.

In April, the BoE and the UK Treasury created a ‘task force’ to study the establishment of a CBDC. The CBDC idea is spreading like wildfire – the National Bank of Georgia said at the start of this month it’s considering launching its own CBDC by creating a digital version of the Georgian currency, the Lari. The CBDC is no longer just a theoretical concept; it’s already been tried and tested in China. Cash – paper money – is dying on its feet. In the euro area, cash transactions account for around 10% of GDP. In the UK and US it is around 5%. In Sweden, it is less than 1%.

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS – the central bankers’ bank) put out a report last year, a collaborative study from seven central banks (including the US Federal Reserve) on the ‘foundational principles and core features’ of CBDCs. The first sentences of this report say: “central banks have been providing trusted money to the public for hundreds of years as part of their public policy objectives. Trusted money is a public good”.

The problem for central banks – which they hope to redress by developing CBDCs – is that ‘trusted money’ has become a scarce commodity. Declining confidence in fiat currencies has followed the decline in their purchasing power – that essentially explains why privately-created cryptocurrencies have been created. People have lost confidence in governments and understandably want to control their own assets; they hope to do that via cryptocurrencies.

A major fight is looming and there are more questions than answers. Who issues and controls this ‘public good’? Will CBDCs in our country be identity-based rather than token-based? As one commentator says: “the state of the discussion is so specialised and technical, new monetary systems risk being swept in without any democratic oversight at all”.

The issue of public money was on no-one’s agenda in the latest elections in the UK, where some 48 million people on Thursday this week were eligible to vote in the most extensive range of local elections in almost 50 years. In Scotland – still part of the UK – voters chose the 129 MSPs of the Scottish Parliament, with the Scottish National Party, which backs Scotland’s independence, seen as returning with a majority. The ties that have bound Scotland are bound to be tested again soon; those that link Northern Ireland to the UK feel looser, post-Brexit, than for many years.

Against the background of one of the most shattering events in recent history – the pandemic – the world feels poised on the verge of momentous changes. It’s a bit like the W.B. Yeats poem The Second Coming:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”,

Countries divided, monetary systems changing, previous certainties tossed aside, authoritarian creep in many places – the need for control over what one has, has rarely been more important. In the midst of all this gold provides some certainty – some security. If gold is security, then Glint is its key.

Until next week,

Jason

Around the campfire: Timing the market

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When’s a good time to buy gold? It’s a question on many minds at the moment, with the price languishing about $258 an ounce (£274) from its peak of over $2000 per oz last August.

There’s no simple answer. The obvious response is “buy it when it’s cheap and use it when it’s expensive”. But that’s not useful; none of us has a crystal ball to peer into the future. Quite obviously no-one who may have bought their gold at last year’s peak wants to spend it now, and crystallise those ‘losses’.

Maybe ‘experts’ know something you or I don’t? According to the latest Reuters poll of 42 gold analysts and traders, the consensus is for a median (i.e. mid-point) gold price of $1,784 an ounce for 2021 and $1,743 for 2022. But just three months ago the same analysts were forecasting $1,925 and $1,908 an ounce for 2021 and 2022 respectively. What has changed so fundamentally in the past three months? “Most of the drivers (of the rally) are fading”, said one of those polled.

Really? Analysts are like sheep – they don’t like deviating from the herd. They also like to hedge their bets. So Reuters also reported that “interest in gold could be rekindled by events such as a weakening of the US dollar, an inflation surge, falling stock markets or a wave of coronavirus infections big enough to derail economic growth”.

These analysts don’t seem to be taking much notice of the inflation that’s already here, in everything from the price of beach huts in Essex, England (being snapped up at an 80% higher price than this time last year, according to one renter) to basic foodstuffs. The international price of soybeans – China is the world’s biggest soybean buyer, mostly for animal feed; it bought 100 million tonnes of soybeans in 2020 – has gone up by more than 70% since this time last year. Other basic commodities have also increased in cost astronomically.

If you believe, as I do, that the supply of fiat currency – paper money – in the financial system correlates to inflation, then we could be in for a strong inflationary shock later this year. Money supply – M2 in the jargon – is growing at around 27%, the fastest rate ever. The latest US consumer price index (CPI) data from the US showed prices rising by an annualised 2.6% in March – the highest since August 2018. But house prices are not captured by the CPI – and they rose by 17% in March; almost half of homes are getting sold within a week of listing. Officially everything is under control; unofficially I have my doubts. Official inflation figures do not reflect what’s really happening.

Does this give you a clue as to when it is a good time to buy gold? Trust the ‘experts'(who can evidently turn on a dime) or trust your own experience? However you play it, gold remains an inflationary defence par excellence.

Getting the timing right is virtually impossible – it’s probably wiser to follow the trend. Let’s suppose that you bought gold months before that July/August 2020 peak. Had you bought gold on 9 March 2020 for example – when a major dip happened – then you would now be sitting on a ‘gain’ of $281 an ounce. If you had bought gold when Glint was still an infant, say towards the end of November 2016, your ‘gain’ would by now have been more than $1,600.

For me, and all of us at Glint, gold is money, and it should and can, be used as money – it’s your gold and it can be spent or saved as you wish. As the financial system in the US and elsewhere is flooded with paper money and cryptocurrencies remain incredibly volatile, for me any time is a good time to buy gold.

Until next week,

Jason Cozens, CEO and Founder

Around the campfire: Their punches didn’t land

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It was no ‘Thrilla in Manila’, as Muhammad Ali dubbed his fight against “Smokin'” Joe Frazier in 1975. Wednesday’s much-hyped two-hour ‘contest’ between American billionaire Michael Saylor and wealthy Canadian businessman Frank Giustra on Youtube was promoted as a “Great Debate” over Bitcoin versus gold.

I felt as I watched the six ’rounds’ that while Saylor (in Bitcoin’s corner) did some great ducking and weaving, Giustra (in gold’s corner) failed to deliver a knock-out punch. By the end, it felt a bit of a damp squib.

Coming a week after Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange, listed on Nasdaq at a heady $80 billion valuation, coinciding with the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a Treasury/Bank of England taskforce to consider the potential for a central bank digital currency, I expected more sparks to fly than actually happened. Coinbase is now trading around five times its price of six months ago. It’s an unusual IPO – a tech company that has come to market and is showing profitability, which most never manage.

The comments that stacked up on Youtube from spectators of the Saylor/Giustra dance as it happened said it all – the world seems bitterly divided between pro and anti-Bitcoin and gold cult followers. According to them you are either destined for poverty or riches from gold or Bitcoin – neither of which is true – and missed the point about both cryptocurrencies and gold. In fact both Saylor and Giustra missed the point.

Cryptocurrencies were developed and have flooded the popular imagination for a very good reason – people have lost or are losing faith in fiat or government-issued currency. I get that; that’s why I set up Glint. Who knows what the future will bring? Cryptocurrencies may well survive – but they are infants scarcely out of diapers compared to gold. In any case there’s room for both.

Saylor for his part ducked away from Giustra’s sensible punches about risk, throwing some feints along the way, such as his extravagant claim that “Bitcoin’s the most popular investment asset in the history of the world”.

But the contest got bogged down and Giustra failed to land what could have been the most devastating punch – which is that while gold has indeed been used throughout most of recorded history as money, it has once more re-gained that status, thanks to Glint. For with Glint’s App and Mastercard® you can load gold onto it, and then take that shopping and spend gold as money. That’s not easy with cryptocurrencies, which are transactionally slow and cumbersome.

Note to self: contact Giustra and remind him that his pro-gold notes need updating to take account of Glint.

Until next week!

Jason

Big Brother Digital Currencies

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Like most of you, I presume, I strongly feel that how I use my money is my own business. I don’t see why anyone should be able track or control my use of money to gather data about me or my personal tastes, or to extend in any way their surveillance over me.

Not that I have anything to hide – it’s just that how I choose to use my money seems a deeply private affair. Which is one reason for using gold as money – gold is the most universal and private store of value there is, as it owes its creation to no human. Anything made by humans can be corrupted and abused.

So I am watching with some trepidation the onward march of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). Pretty soon governments everywhere will try to foist these cash-substitutes onto their citizens.

Ironically, cryptocurrencies were created to escape the relentless devaluation of fiat currency (cash); yet governments are now going to use the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies – blockchain – to re-assert their power over how we use the money they create, by developing CBDCs.

The world’s central bankers are accelerating their efforts to coordinate and roll-out CBDCs; they are alarmed that China’s own CBDC will leave them standing.

China is often thought of leading the charge on CBDCs but actually the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) last October launched a payment system called Bakong, co-developed with Soramitsu, a Japanese blockchain start-up. The NBC hopes that the Bakong will stem the decline in use of the national currency, the Riel. Most transactions in Cambodia are in US dollars and the Riel is losing its status as money.

More than a dozen countries are in the process of developing their own CBDC. The deputy governor of China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), recently wrote in Yicai Global that China’s CBDC should be used on a “controllably anonymous” basis and that “complete third-party anonymity… may encourage criminal activities”. “Controllably anonymous” sounds like a contradiction in terms. India said earlier this year that it is considering criminalising private cryptocurrencies while building a framework for its own official digital Rupee.

China’s CBDC has already been steadily introduced via the state giving away millions of its currency, the Renminbi (which means “the people’s currency” in Mandarin) in a series of state-run lotteries in various cities. Users have to download an app to receive the currency.

In reality, China’s CBDC will be a “stablecoin”, i.e. pegged to the Renminbi. This, hopes Beijing, will prevent speculators from driving it higher or lower. It will also, hopes the Communist Party, knock privately-generated cryptocurrencies – trading of which is banned in China, even though an estimated 65% of global Bitcoin mining happens in China – for six.

 

 

Stablecoins have other advantages for governments, too. They are programmable; in early testing for instance the Renminbi version had an expiry date, encouraging holders to spend it more quickly. It was also trackable, allowing closer monitoring of Chinese citizens.

With such state control all kinds of things become possible – such as the immediate issuing and collecting of fines.

This kind of stuff gives me the creeps. So when I read (as I did this week) that a senior member of the Bank of Japan says that seven central banks – including the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank – are now jointly looking into setting a common framework for CBDCs, I sniffed Big Brother around the corner.

Money is power. But money and power are in a confusing flux right now. Privately-generated cryptocurrencies (which are extremely difficult to use as money) are facing a steady but relentless challenge by government stablecoins. And as governments everywhere try to push their digital cash on their citizens, the scope for government control over how, when, and where they can use that money will expand willy-nilly.

To avoid even the risk of that kind of supervision and interference I will be using my Glint card, and its gold, even more in the future.

Until next week!

Jason Cozens