Skip to main content

Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

Share
Commentary

The problem with central bank digital currencies

Aug 31, 2023

Share

Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

Share

Central banks have spent years investigating how to launch their own digital currencies by creating an electronic version of cash that can be stored in a digital wallet. As many as 93% of these banks are involved in various initiatives related to central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). However, the question remains: Is this widespread excitement justified?

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan dissects the challenges associated with central bank currencies and offers insights into an imminent Federal Reserve service that could potentially disrupt the entire fintech industry.

Excerpted from Peter’s Aug. 31 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

With all the buzz around central banks starting digital currencies, and one of these entities controlling all transactions, I think it’s about time I burst everyone’s bubble…

Fintech has blown up because it slims down the traditional money transfer process and removes some of the associated fees, meaning you can transfer money faster and cheaper. However, the Federal Reserve will wipe out most fintech startups within the next five years with their service, FedNow.

FedNow allows for the instantaneous clearing of funds when transferred using the Fed as the intermediary. Oh, and it’s functionally free. Put the hype for this or that financial product – whether crypto or otherwise – to the side for a minute, and dwell on how said systems might compete with free, immediate, and from the source. Queue the gnashing of teeth.

What we’re seeing in China is different from this. They’ve married digital currency to social currency scores, making Orwell look alright. This could never happen in the U.S., but if China continues down this road, its entire financial space will be under the government’s thumb. Any dynamism left in the Chinese economy will be stamped out fairly quickly if this continues.

Hello everybody from the cliff band above horse shoe mountain have Sherman shared into the rest of the West End mosquito reverse to the north behind me split the video in half. So you can see the view to the south to this is one of my favorite places, Colorado all of a sudden, first time up here.
Anyway, above 12,000 feet pretty much all day. Today. After so many of you have asked, I’m talking a little bit about Central Bank digital currencies. It’s not nearly as exciting or revolutionary as a topic as you think a lot of people are thinking that this is a way that a central bank can control all transactions in the western model that is absolutely know how it goes. And you just need to understand how financial transactions work today. Right now, if your money is in a bank account, you can use your debit card to like throw it in retailer pretty easily, or to transfer it to another financial institution or another account. And as you do that you’re introducing steps and intermediaries, and at each of those intermediaries, there is a party who charges a fee. And one of the reasons that FinTech financial technology stuff has become so interesting in the last 10 years, is new technologies are allowing for faster transfers of information. And so therefore faster transfers of funds between multiple parties. And in that sort of environment, there is room for a new technology, a new player to basically cut out the middleman or replace them with something that’s smoother or faster. Based on how you’re doing this with a wire transfer with
like Halibel transfer, it can cost you anywhere from a few dozen dollars to a certain percentage than credit cards in order to get it done. And so there’s room to slim it down. As the cost of information transfer goes down and speed of information transfer goes up. To be continued. Now we’re looking south towards Western paths. And some guy decided that 13,900 feet was the place to set them open his cabin in the mansion. Anyway, a lot of this Fintech is basically trying to slim down the process and therefore take the secret of three of the 3% transfer fee, they only charge 1%, they drive the other people out. This is even happening in things like real estate. Now, a central bank digital currency as classically envisioned existed alongside your your paper currency or your coin currency. And it’s managed much the same way. It’s not independent, it doesn’t trade independent, it’s functionally pegged, it is the same thing and one is exchangeable for the other. And because of that, there’s no additional government control from a government going digital. In fact, if you look at Europe, paper checks were basically wiped out of existence over 10 years ago, the United States is only now finally getting to that point. So there’s room here to take some technology that’s not even all that new and apply it forward. But what we’re going to see in the next five years is going to be truly dramatic in comparison, and it’s going to largely wipe out the FinTech space, what the US Federal Reserve right now is doing is something called set now, which allows instantaneous clearing of any funds transfer using the Fed itself as an intermediary for free. And in that sort of environment, it doesn’t really matter what the competition is, and sell Bitcoin or anything else. You can’t compete with free and instantaneous with the Fed. So we’re probably going to see the overall finance tech space go from being really exciting as people are playing all these two technologies, to all of the sudden the Fed just going pink, you just deal with me directly. If you go on your way. There, it’s building the infrastructure right now. And as soon as that is done, all clearing houses between all corporations, unless they’ve got something to hide are just going to use the fat because it’s cheaper, and faster, and safer. And when that happens, a lot of this discussion over other currencies or alternate currencies is simply going to go away, because there aren’t a lot of base cases or use cases for them anyway. But if the Fitbit, the Fed makes everything free, even some of those that are kind of a bit of a reach, but you can kind of see it, even those can go away. So it’s not nearly as sexy of a topic from a conspiracy or a government control point of view, as you might think the Federal Reserve only has a staff of a few 100. If they’re going to manage transactions, they would need at least 10, probably 100 times as many staff. So that’s not going to happen here. Now, that’s cool. We got fog coming up.
That is not the same thing that is going on in China. China is marrying their digital currency to their social currency store. And it has been a hit and miss experiments and so far, but it’s definitely Orwellian. And they do have the intention and they do have the legal structure and they do have the staff to monitor each individual transaction and allow and deny them based on whether or not you are sufficiently loyal for that to go down.
In the United States, you would have to have multiple acts of Congress, get adopted, get through the court system, and then massively build out the Federal Reserve System to have some sort of oversight and enforcement mechanism. There is no hint of conversation within the Federal Reserve Congress of anyone wanting to do that. If anything, Congress might take some preemptive steps to make sure that that doesn’t happen. But if we do go down that road, there will be plenty and plenty and plenty and plenty of road signs between here and there. Back to the Chinese for a second, if this system works in China, I mean, the place is already an Orwellian hellscape. But basically, this would take the entire financial space and put it under the government’s thumb. And in that sort of environment, if you think small businesses can exist at all.
You don’t know where well, very well. So while this might give Chairman GE what he wants control, it’ll come at the cost of what’s left of the most dynamic portion of the Chinese economy. So will they do it? Don’t know. They’re certainly going to try though. All right. That’s it. Bye.

Video Library

Latest Commentary

We know it is important to hear from a diverse range of observers on the complex topics we face and believe our commentary partners will help you reach your own conclusions.

The commentaries published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.


Latest Opinions

In addition to the facts, we believe it’s vital to hear perspectives from all sides of the political spectrum. We hope these different voices will help you reach your own conclusions.

The opinions published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.

Weekly Voices

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Tuesday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Wednesday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Thursday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Friday

Left Opinion Right Opinion