This election will be decisive for the world’s reserve currency

I am not alone, I’m sure, in thinking that the upcoming presidential election will be decisive for many issues.  With the election looming, the Senate is focusing on the federal courts, and the media are prioritizing health care and immigration. Oddly, though, the media barely discuss our monetary system’s future, other than acknowledging that, in response to the panic, most developed nations have ramped up their “quantitative easing,” the bizarre euphemism for printing money. In fact, this election will decide our monetary system going forward.  And truly, I cannot think of any other issue (aside, perhaps, from health care) that affects every single person’s daily reality, well-being, and existence more than money.

So far, as of this writing, the following nation-states have already implemented a digital currency pilot project: 

  • Sweden – e-Krona
  • Uruguay – e-Peso
  • Ukraine – e-Hryvnia
  • China – e-Yuan

On October 20th, Bahama is set to circulate the Sand Dollar and DXCD Caribe Network’s Digital Eastern Caribbean Dollar is poised for launch.

The following are countries that have studies and research projects in place to launch a Central Bank Digital Currency (“CBDC”):

  • Project Stella – the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan
  • Project Ubin/ Jasper – Monetary Authority of Singapore and Bank of Canada
  • Project Inthanon/ Lion Rock – The Hong Kong Monetary Authority and Bank of Thailand

Additionally, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is working with the MIT Digital Currency Initiative, and Japan, Canada, the UK, and Europe have all recently announced they seriously plan, in future, to stop issuing fiat currencies (that is, money only backed by the government’s reputation) and replace them with CBDCs. None, though have yet announced a launch date.

(All of the above issues are discussed in more detail on the  KPMG CBDC Report, Aug. 2020)

Before I make any predictions, I want to thoroughly underscore that I am not an economist or a finance whiz, nor am I learned about fiscal policy.  However, I am a concerned citizen and worried about people’s inattention. For example, when I try to discuss with my 74-year-old mother the eventual disappearance of American currency (i.e., $1, $5, or $20 bills), she quickly shuts down the conversation saying it makes her “uncomfortable.”  I suspect that this is how most people feel when confronted with the notion that one day soon they may be criminalized for trying to pay for groceries with any paper currency still remaining in their wallets.

Criminalized?! Am I exaggerating? No, because it’s happened before.

In 1933, in the middle of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102, prohibiting “hoarding of gold coins.”  The order mandated that U.S. Citizens give up all of their gold at a price the government set.

Could something like this happen in the 21st century for U.S. coins and paper money?

It could.

The risk that the government will make fiat currency illegal is one reason, say Bitcoin proponents, to invest in cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin, often described as the hardest of hard currencies. However, Bitcoin is also described by respected analysts such as Tom Dyson of Rogue Economics as “just a cluster of electrons,” and ones, moreover, that will be worthless one day.  That day will be hastened, deriders insist, when programmers crack the Bitcoin code or when some governments prove unwilling to relinquish their central authority over our monetary systems.

According to Raoul Pal and Vijay Boyapati, Bitcoin will prevail unless a strong nation-state steps in soon to stop it.  The emphasis here is on “soon.”  If governments delay addressing the problem, crypto-anarchists’ monetary takeover will be complete. This worries me.

My leanings are towards libertarianism, and I strongly believe that people are entitled to privacy when spending their hard-earned money. I do not applaud cash’s eventual disappearance only to give rise to central authoritarian government control over the medium of exchange. We’ve seen this under China’s Communist Party (“CCP”), which is exerting total control over what its citizens can buy, when they can buy it, and how much they’re allowed to own.

Perversely, even as government-issued paper currency fades in value, the rise of Bitcoin and other crypto and digital currencies raises the risk that we, too, CCP-style will lose control over the medium of exchange and, therefore, over our lives.

It always comes down to a question of control.  Who is going to be the ultimate authority on who issues our money and who controls monetary policy?  Will it be a pseudonymous network of computers that a loose confederation of crypto miners maintains?  Or will it be a government whose representatives we ostensibly (theoretically) elect?

History warns us that idealism always gives way to cynicism, often bloody in nature. An example is the Reign of Terror following the French Revolution. The bloodlust for power that the usurpers brought to the government after the monarchy toppled soon vanquished the idealism that first propelled the revolutionaries. If that plays out here, the idealism behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will soon yield to grasping government authoritarianism, whether by the government as we know it today, or by some other kind of federation of self-appointed power-grabbers. It’s difficult, from this vantage point, to say. Neither, however, seems too pleasant a scenario. 

So, here’s my prediction:

If Trump wins, it will be business as usual, at least for a while.  Cash will still be in circulation for some years before gradually being phased out.  Eventually, the federal government will mint a CBDC (e.g., “Fed Coin”). Then, both the federal government and the states will use this to pay all employees and contractors. Doing so will hasten the transition from fiat to digital currency.

At the same time, our government will mount a campaign to eradicate Bitcoin.  Control of the world’s reserve currency that is used to settle debts is not something the U.S. will give up without a fight, and certainly not after “quantitatively easing” ourselves into trillion-dollar-debt oblivion. It won’t be pretty, but it will be a gradual transition that allows society to adjust and, one hopes, for the system to have safeguards in place to maintain individual liberty.

If Biden wins, we will transition to a cashless society as quickly as you have seen it happen in China. Under the guise of “socialism,” a central authoritarian government in cahoots with Big Tech will impose fines and penalties on anyone who does not comply.  The elderly, the undocumented, and the tech illiterate will be left behind, driven to using illegal tender, i.e. cash.

Additionally, as in China, the government will use digital currency to award “good citizens” -- that is, people who support them politically and ideologically -- and punish “bad citizens,” i.e. the rest of us. This already occurs in China where people are refused train travel, prohibited from buying certain items, and are otherwise marginalized based on their government-ascribed “ranking.”

Orwellian? 

You bet.

It’s time to decide which way you’d like the future to go. As they say in the cryptocurrency world, we are at a “hard fork.”

Paige Donner is an entrepreneur focused on enterprise solutions that blockchain technology offers small businesses, in particular smart contracts. She is also a regular contributor to Newsmax.

Image: Various cryptocurrency logos. CC0 1.0.