“We’re at the beginning of a massive shift in what money is and how we use it”…
That’s what I wrote in these pages in October 2020.
I was reacting to news that China’s central bank was giving away millions of yuan, the Chinese currency, as digital cash.
It’s all part of a plan to eradicate physical cash and replace it with a new, digital-only currency called a central bank digital currency (“CBDC”).
And I warned that China’s program was “part of a worldwide race among central bankers to issue digital-only currencies.”
And now, that race is heating up.
As colleague Nomi Prins showed folks in her CBDC event last night, 11 countries have already launched a CBDC. These include Nigeria, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and eight countries in the Eastern Caribbean.
And 19 countries other countries are trialing CBDCs. These include Australia, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Russia, South Africa, and Singapore.
In Australia, the government is conducting pilot programs with multiple financial institutions to test CBDC use cases.
And in the U.S, the Fed has been laying the groundwork for a digital-only dollar… what we’ve been calling FedCoin here at the Cut.
As Nomi talked about in depth last night, it’s an “inside attack” on the dollar.
So today, I’ll show you how CBDCs are different from today’s dollars… why they’ll will obliterate what’s left of your financial privacy… and what you can do about it.
The building of a FedCoin prototype is codenamed Project Hamilton….
It’s a joint venture between the Boston Fed and a group at MIT called the Digital Currencies Initiative.
Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it. Most people haven’t…
But the folks working on Project Hamilton are toiling away to create a new version of the U.S. dollar.
Or rather, they’ve been working on a high-performance system that can handle U.S. dollar cash payments at scale.
The prototype can handle 100,000 payments per second and complete each transaction in less than five seconds.
That’s roughly four times the volume of the 24,000 transactions per second online payment processor Visa says it can handle.
We’ve had digital payments for decades…
In the 1950s, Bank of America became the first U.S. bank to use electronic transfers to replace the old, labor-intensive system of balancing written accounts via paper checks.
Today, banks use vast computer networks to automate millions of daily transactions.
And most dollars exist as 1s and 0s in electronic databases at commercial banks.
Spending is largely electronic, too. Think of your own life…
Maybe you use a credit card reader in the grocery store. Or you just tap your phone and use Apple Pay or Google Pay.
Maybe you also use a phone app such as Cash App to send money to friends.
But CBDCs aren’t just digital. They’re also programmable.
Like with cryptocurrencies, you can embed code in each digital dollar…
This code could control how the holder of that dollar can spend it.
It’s like how food stamp payments work.
The feds send folks plastic cards that carry dollar values. But you can’t use these cards to buy liquor or lottery tickets… or to bet on a football game.
Food stamp dollars are spendable only on certain items. And the issuer – Uncle Sam – has the final say.
Programmable money takes this to the next level…
Already in China, the government there gives citizens a social credit score. An app on your phone tracks this.
If your score drops too low, the Chinese government bans you from getting on planes and trains. They stop you from staying in certain hotels. They even stop your kids from going to certain prestigious schools.
The system separates what the Communist Party bosses see as “bad citizens” from “good citizens.”
FedCoin could follow the Chinese model…
The government could say, “You turned up to a protest we don’t like. We’re going to restrict your access.”
It could stop you buying plane tickets and renting cars. It could also restrict access to buying a gun.
A CBDC could even allow the feds freeze you out of the system completely.
And even if you’re being a good citizen in Washington’s eyes, a digital-only dollar is a disaster for your privacy.
Cash is a remnant of the analog age. That makes it mostly safe from digital snooping.
Take a stack of $50 bills from under your mattress… buy something with them… and the feds can’t easily track you.
Cash transactions are nearly fully anonymous. The only people who need to know about them are the people involved in the deal.
CBDCs are different. They run on digital ledgers central banks control. Every transaction you make with a CBDC will be tracked, monitored, and recorded in a government database.
CBDCs will also give central banks tighter control over the money supply…
Today, commercial banks create most of the dollars in circulation. They do that by making loans to credit-worthy customers.
As it stands, the Fed has $8.4 trillion on its balance sheet. That’s a reflection of all the monetary stimulus it’s done. But the overall money supply in the U.S. is closer to $20 trillion.
That’s because of all the bank loans commercial banks have issued.
That’s not a perfect system. But at least it’s somewhat decentralized.
Banks decide who to lend to and how much to lend. This happens thousands of times a day across the country.
In a world of CBDCs, central banks will be able to send cash directly to folks for the first time. Instead of banks creating and allocating money in society… central banks will play that role.
The Fed will paint CBDCs as beneficial…
But as Nomi showed folks at her Countdown to Chaos event last night, they’re all about power and control. Nomi…
Advocates of this new monetary technology say CBDCs will make it easier to receive your funds if, say, you’re applying for an emergency loan from the government.
They also say it could support new business models and provide a foundation to jumpstart innovations in the finance sector.
But don’t be fooled. The main aim is to strengthen central banks’ power over the financial system. And if it replaces physical cash completely, it will end the last shred of financial privacy we have left.
It’s a worrying situation. That’s why Nomi went on camera to show you how to protect – and even grow – your wealth.
You see, last night, she not only lifted the lid on the Fed’s plan for the dollar. She also showed how you can profit from this move. It involves an out-of-favor asset class with the potential to deliver 50x returns as FedCoin moves from the planning stages to reality.
So, if you missed her event, make sure to catch up here. And keep an eye out for more from me as this story develops.
Editor, The Daily Cut