ZIMBABWE ACCIDENTALLY LEAVES DOOR OPEN FOR CRYPTO. Here’s a recipe for creating a fertile environment for alternative payment systems: outlaw the system everyone is currently using. When the Zimbabwean government made the nutty step of banning digital payments – used for 85% of transactions by individuals, due to severe shortage of cash – it clearly wasn’t trying to promote bitcoin. In forcing people to go to a local bank to redeem funds locked in popular payments apps such as Ecocash, its goal was to protect the embattled Zimbabwean dollar. In a statement, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, said the move was “necessitated by the need to protect consumers on mobile money platforms which have been abused by unscrupulous and unpatriotic individuals and entities to create instability and inefficiencies in the economy.” The thinking is that Ecocash, which enables currency trading, is making it easier for people to dump the local currency. But here’s the thing: Ecocash, which said it suspended cash-in-cash-out functions (presumably because its banking lines will be cut) is still keeping in-app payment facilities open. And it said nothing about stopping its fairly popular service allowing people to buy cryptocurrency. Not surprisingly, since the ban “demand for bitcoin has skyrocketed,” according to African crypto news site, bitcoinke, with “sources claiming bitcoin is now selling at at 18% premium above the market rate.”
I like POW (proof of work) crypto currencies where the system is ruled on the basis of how much computing power you can apply to maintaining the system. I’ve steered clear of Ethereum because it is heading towards POS (proof of stake,) a system where oligarch-sized owners of the coin get to call the shots and likely do what oligarchs do best, poop on the little people and fight to the death amongst themselves. Crypto is politics in software form, so to me the political framework of cryptocurrencies is all important. The POS future for Ethereum is a killer for me long term, but right now it is not that “in the long term we are all dead” that is the key, it is that visibility of the long term itself is all but dead.
Decenter continued the push for more information on the issue and clarification from Google Ads in an appeal through Reddit’s dedicated Ethereum board, asking users to open queries as to any policy changes that could have led to the sudden banning of the key word. In addition, Decenter posted an update stating that their previous ad campaigns feature “ethereum” have been removed, furthering the implication that there is some form of censorship going on,
Though it’s too early to know who the eventual winners will be, I believe this trend captures the early beginnings of a new, decentralized global financial system. So to describe it, an analogy for the existing one is useful: bitcoin is the dollar, and Ethereum is SWIFT, the international network that coordinates cross-border payments among banks. (Since Ethereum is trying to do much more than payments, we could also cite a number of other organizations in this analogy, such as the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) or the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC).)
For comparison, Decenter reports that similar phrasing in ad campaigns that replace “ethereum” with “eos” such as “eos smart contract audits” are still available for use through Google Ads and being featured in campaigns. While it’s unclear how broadly the ban has been applied to cryptocurrency, or whether it extends to any coins outside of Ethereum, Reddit users and Ethereum enthusiasts have begun an uproar over the selective censorship. The top comment by user u/ThePlague lambasts Google for promoting an agenda, stating that the company has been far from neutral in handling various forms of advertising on its platform, including cryptocurrency,
The yield cap policy would be new for the Fed, but it’s really an extension of an ongoing effort to do one thing: get the market to believe its intentions. The way monetary policy works these days, it’s meaningless unless the market behaves according to what the Fed wants. It’s not about what the central bank does per se; it’s about what it says and whether those words are incorporated into investor behavior. But the more it doubles down on this, the more the Fed creates situations in which it risks having its words held against it. And that puts it at risk of losing its most important currency: the public’s trust. Commitments to price targets are always especially risky – ask Norman Lamont, the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had to abandon the pound’s currency peg in 1993 because the market didn’t believe the U.K. would back its promises. The Fed has unlimited power to buy bonds, but whether it always has the will to do so will depend on politics and other factors. Once it’s locked into a commitment, the stakes go up. For now, the markets – most importantly, foreign exchange markets – still trust the Fed. But, as the saying goes, trust is hard to earn, easy to lose.
Bitcoin might be a reserve asset for the crypto community but its recent price trajectory, with gains and losses tracking equities, suggest the non-crypto “normies” don’t (yet) see it that way. Given the COVID-19 crisis’ extreme test of the global financial system and central banks’ massive “quantitative easing” response to it, that price performance poses a challenge to those of us who see bitcoin’s core use case as an internet era hedge against centralized monetary instability. Far from complying with that “digital gold” narrative, bitcoin has performed like any other “risk-off” asset. Meanwhile, actual gold has shaken off its own early-crisis stock market correlation to chart an upward course. While bitcoin has repeatedly failed to sustainably break through $10,000, bullion has rallied sharply to close in on $1,800, levels it hasn’t seen since September 2012. Some analysts are predicting it will breach its all-time intraday high of $1,917, hit in the aftermath of the last global financial crisis in 2011. To add insult to injury, one Forbes contributor even stole from the crypto lexicon to describe the state of play, telling his readers that gold prices are “soaring to the moon.”
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BIS Plans New Central Banking Fintech Research Hubs in Europe, North America. The Bank of International Settlements – the central bank to the world’s central banks – is getting serious about its money tech R&D centers, opening innovation hubs in Toronto, Stockholm, London, Paris and Frankfurt. A coordinated, standardized approach to developing central bank digital currencies? Danny Nelson reports.