The End of Monetary Apartheid
Money & the Erosion of Value
Since the early days of civilized commerce, the equitable exchange of value has been under fire. Once societies evolved past man-to-man barter and trading became more complex, experts of the “do less and take more” methodology have systematically worked to centralize the issuance of money, further distancing it from the value it serves.
“Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes it’s laws.” ~ Mayer Amschel Rothschild
But with the convenience of centralization comes control, and all too often this power falls into the hands of those whose goal is to extract wealth from the participants. And with money as the life-blood of a society, the consequences reach further than just commerce.
The Silver Standard
Recognizing silver’s demand from the marketplace, overlords extracted value by debasing the coinage. Privately minted coins, created in response to the market’s demand for quality, began popping up as an alternative to the debased money supply. By the early 1500’s, the finest silver coins known to the world were privately produced near Joachimsthal, a valley regarded for its rich silver deposits. The Joachimsthaler paved the way for the Thaler, Tolar, Daalder and eventually, what was the US Dollar.
The Turning Point
Then, at the height of the Enlightenment, it all went horribly wrong.
As the world got bigger and fortunes more vast, using minted coins as money became increasingly burdensome, ushering in the Day of the Banker. Seemingly overnight, enterprising young goldsmiths, money changers, lenders, scriveners and other financial intermediaries were all too willing to take deposits in exchange for warehouse receipts and promissory notes. The contrast of these “payable on demand” receipts with the goldsmith’s issuance of term loans marked the birth of fractional reserve banking.
This gem of the financial world paved the way for the rapid disappearance of value from exchanges, marked by several notable disappointments: 1913 – after Congress successfully avoids renewing the country’s central bank charter twice, a financial panic orchestrated by the world’s wealthiest men results in passage of the United States Federal Reserve Act. Several years later, the required 20-year term limitation was removed, ensuring its perpetual existence. 1933 – after 20 years of skepticism regarding the Federal Reserve’s purpose, legality & usefulness, President FDR issues the Gold Confiscation Executive Order, mandating circulation of Federal Reserve Notes under threat of fine and/or imprisonment. 1964 – shortly following the assassination of the President who some believe was working to dismantle the Federal Reserve, silver certificates and silver coins are phased out of circulation. Today, not one country’s money supply contains significant amounts of silver.
Fortunately, the erosion of value from money is obvious to anyone paying attention. Some have even attempted to reverse the trend.
Libery Dollar (1998-2007) – Privately minted and issued silver coins & certificates circulated for years as local currencies across the USA until the FBI raided company headquarters in 2007. The founder was charged with counterfeiting and convicted in 2011. He was labeled a “domestic terrorist” for “endangering the economic stability of the country.” Liberty Reserve (2007-2013) – In stark contrast to fractional reserve banking, Costa Rican-based Liberty Reserve conducted a full-reserve banking system independent of any government. Used by millions for billions of dollars in transactions, Liberty Reserve assets were seized in 2013 by US Prosecutors under authority of the Patriot Act, claiming Liberty Reserve was used to fund terrorism and other illicit activities. Strangely, few have questioned how the US is able to charge a Costa Rican national running a Costa Rican business with crimes in the USA. Iraq, Libya & Iran – These Axis of Evil nations all at one point threaten (or continue to threaten) the hegemony of the US Dollar by crafting plans to trade oil for gold. Not surprisingly, two of the three have since undergone violent regime changes in the last dozen years.
Bitcoin & the End of Monetary Apartheid
In 2009, cryptology expert Satoshi Nakamoto introduced a peer-to-peer payment system, relying on internet participants to clear transactions instead of the conventional central authority. Following a short period of obscurity, Bitcoin gained popularity in gray and black markets, eventually thrusting it to the very center of the world’s financial markets.
“[Bitcoin] is the end of financial discrimination and segregation based on nationality and political privilege…there are no artificial barriers to entry, you are not asked for any papers, there are no unnatural restrictions preventing mutually beneficial transactions. Basically, if you’ve got value to offer, you’re in business!”
~ Tuur Demeester
Though it requires several key technological components to operate and participate, Bitcoin has no artificial barrier to entry and can be used by anyone. Relatively speaking, Bitcoin is fast, anonymous & inexpensive. And unlike other recent attempts to reverse the trend towards financial centralization, Bitcoin lacks a central administrative choke-point, making it difficult or impossible to shut down without disrupting the entire internet. Best of all, the growing global gray-market workforce-people that aren’t currently serviced by mainstream finance-are adopting it at a shocking rate.
The money conversation has once again changed; and this time, it’s leaning towards decentralization.
Enter Decentralized: the Currency Evolution
Bitcoin isn’t perfect: even the staunchest supporters will admit the protocol isn’t flawless.
But it’s spawned a shift in the way we – bankers, governments, and ordinary people – think about money. Best of all, a world-wide network of enthusiasts are racing to develop other cryptocurrencies – addressing Bitcoin’s weaknesses of security, scalability, privacy & volatility to name a few. But they’re also hard at work creating 3rd party applications and support services like currency trading platforms, exchanges, payment gateways, mainstream finance interconnections, and offline usage – technologies useful for Bitcoin, similar protocols, and other decentralized monetary systems like Commodity Banks.
In the free market, as good ideas flourish and bad ideas are rendered obsolete, the trend towards decentralization is in motion and will come with both risks and rewards. But in the end, the result just may be, after thousands of years of marching steadily towards darkness –
the return of value to where it belongs:
in the hands of the productive.
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