The Federal Reserve Is Looking Very Closely At Issuing Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)

In Brief

  • The Facts:
    • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell explained Tuesday during a panel discussion on digital finance hosted by The Bank of France that they are looking a CBDC very carefully.

    • China has already begun a large trial with millions of people already using their CBDC.

    • Opponents of CBDC, like Snowden, say it takes away more of our rights and freedoms, and puts more power and control over our lives in the hands of the elite in several different ways.

  • Reflect On:
    • Will CBDCs be ushered in to increase the power and control the financial elite already have over the people?

    • Are ethics, morality and service to others guiding our technological development, or is greed and the lust for power and control the guiding factor?

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Although no decisions have been made, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell explained Tuesday during a panel discussion on digital finance hosted by The Bank of France that they are “looking at it very carefully.” He’s of course talking about a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

He expressed that the Federal Reserve is currently evaluating both “the policy issues and the technology issues, and we are doing that with a very broad scope.”

Earlier this year, The Federal Reserve Board issued a discussion paper that examines the pros and cons of a U.S. CBDC.

“CBDC is generally defined as a digital liability of a central bank that is widely available to the general public. Today in the United States, Federal Reserve notes (i.e., physical currency) are the only type of central bank money available to the general public. Like existing forms of money, a CBDC would enable the general public to make digital payments. As a liability of the Federal Reserve, however, a CBDC would be the safest digital asset available to the general public, with no associated credit or liquidity risk.”

The Federal Reserve

In September, the White House Released its First-Ever Comprehensive Framework for Responsible Development of Digital Assets. Banking elites atop the World Bank and the Bank of International Settlements have also been quite outspoken about the potential move to CBDCs.

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It’s most likely on its way, despite the fact that these institutions still only claim to be considering it. It may take a few years, but the groundwork seems to be paving the path to a cashless future, and it’s already making an appearance in some regions in China.

Although there still has been no full-scale launch of China’s digital renminbi (also known as the digital yuan, or e-CNY), a trial launch of the currency has been underway since for a few years, and will continue in to 2023. More than 20 million people have been regularly using the digital dollar there.

To be clear, a digital currency like Bitcoin is not a privately owned currency. It’s not part of the “system.” Your wealth in Bitcoin cannot be frozen, controlled, or seized by governments (yet). In fact, governments don’t have any “power” over these cryptocurrencies (yet) as they do with modern day currency – the type of control government would have over CBDC would increase their ability to control people in the end.

For example, if you are not compliant with something the government wants, or in the future if you have a bad social credit score (if that becomes a thing), or you donate to a cause like the “Freedom Convoy”, you may lose access to all of your money. Perhaps one day if you’re not vaccinated, the same could happen, but I’d like to think humanity is better than that.

It can be frightening to think what humans can be manipulated to accept and even agree with sometimes.

What’s Not Being Discussed

Like we’ve seen with many other initiatives and responses to global crisis’, there seems to be a constant theme that these initiatives are designed to take away more citizen rights, freedoms and privacy. This sentiment is often ignored within the mainstream, and if it is acknowledged it’s usually put in the “conspiracy theory” category.

These days, the transition from conspiracy to reality doesn’t seem as long as it used to be. One moment something like mass surveillance is considered the stuff of ‘tin foil hat wearing nutters’ and moves to fact quite quickly. We of course learned this through NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and several others. Yet the national security state justified this activity, saying that it’s for our protection. We will probably see the same reasoning with CBDC, and the further condemnation of other non-regulated crypto-currencies.

Cryptocurrency platforms allow people to trade anonymously and without any restrictions from a central authority. The untraceable nature of these transactions, according to governments, raises security concerns. Policymakers fear that this kind of financial transaction makes countries vulnerable to a threat of financing terrorism and other criminal activities. This is an issue that CBDC won’t face, because everything will be traceable and trackable.

Naysayers of current cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin claim that it incentivizes criminal activity. Bitcoin has be heavily criticized for simply making the world a more dangerous place. But are our modern day financial and other various systems any different? Can we honestly say criminals do what they do because of the tools they have to hide actions? Or are they doing it because perhaps our unfair systems and way of life incentivize people to take ‘short cuts’ i.e. illegal activity?

So, what are the concerns with CBDC? The biggest one seems to be the following, explained by Snowden,

“A CBDC is something closer to being a perversion of cryptocurrencyor at least of the founding principles and protocols of cryptocurrency—a cryptofascist currency, an evil twin entered into the ledgers on Opposite Day, expressly designed to deny its users the basic ownership of their money and to install the State at the mediating center of every transaction.”

Edward Snowden

People like Snowden aren’t buying the national security issue excuse. To them, and they obviously know a thing or two, banning Bitcoin along with the release of CBDC, especially in China, is according to Snowden, “clearly intended to increase the ability of the State to “intermediate” – to impose itself in the middle of – every last transaction.”

guest essay published in the New York Times by Dr. Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University and the author of a forthcoming book on digital currencies, outlines a number of pros and cons of digital currencies. One of the cons is as follows,

“If cash were replaced with a digital dollar, however, the Fed could impose a negative interest rate by gradually shrinking the electronic balanced in everyone’s digital currency accounts, creating an incentive for consumers to spend and for companies to invest.”

Dr. Eswar Prasad

The thought of banks depleting the savings of every wage worker if they don’t spend it is quite concerning to say the least.

At this point, who knows what’s going to happen. But one cannot deny that more power and control will be put in the hands of the government with the issuing of CBDC. Given governments’ track record of truth, honesty and transparency, it’s nearly impossible to trust them and their motives when it comes to big initiatives like this.

As new technological solutions arise we see human life becoming simpler and more expansive. But what type of thinking and paradigm backs the way that technology is used? In our current world, it is a paradigm of control, disconnection, and domination. Perhaps the most important takeaway here is that as the world evolves technologically we are still not solving real problems because we are stuck in old ways of thinking. Are ethics, morality and service to others guiding or technological development, or is greed and the lust for power and control the guiding factor?

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