…..Moving on, Townsend took the conversation to the rise of cryptocurrency’s like bitcoin. Contrary to his expectations, Malmgren said she’s been closely following the increasing use of cryptocurrencies, adding that they will likely play a role in determining who dominates the global economy, and therefore determines the monetary framework, after precipitating the next big paradigm shift, which will lead the world away from the dollar-based framework that exists today.
Governments like China and Russia, which are seeking to create their own digital currencies, pose a greater threat to the long-term dominance of the dollar than they, or the US, realize.
Erik: I want to shift gears now to a topic I didn’t used to think of as being geopolitically oriented, which of course is your area of expertise, and that is crypto currencies. In the beginning, Pippa, if you look at what BitCoin was at the very beginning, it was something only interested extreme Libertarians who were very interested in financial privacy.
Nobody else was paying attention to it. It was designed really to usurp the ability of government to interfere with and control people’s finances. It seems that it is almost going through a complete transformation where now we have the Ethereum guy, I forget his name (Vitalik Buterin), meeting with Putin talking about some kind of partnership to create a digital crypto currency that will become a national currency for Russia.Meanwhile, PBOC(People’s Bank of China) is advertising to hire block chain engineers to help to design the digital yuan or digital RMB. So all of a sudden, it seems like what’s going on, and I don’t remember the gentleman’s name. But there was someone from PBOC, a very senior official, saying it was time for central banks to stop ignoring crypto currencies and recognize that we have got to take the lead and we have got to be in charge of these things and design what we want them to be.
Where is this going? It seems like to me this is a game changer if national governments are going to get behind crypto currencies. Where does this take us?
Pippa: Totally. I think it is a massive market and geopolitical issue. I have written a little article about this, which I put up on LinkedIn, where I said you have got to understand if the size of your debt problem is so big that it can’t be paid off and in fact even inflation, which is the usual way you would seek to default on your debt slowly over time, you can’t get enough inflation generated, then there is one further option.
And that is you literally abandon the entire system of money, and accounting. I know that sounds unbelievably radical, but we have seen it happen before. I explained the example of Britain in 1834, when they abandoned the traditional system they had used for 1,000 years at that time, which was called the Tally Stick system. So when we say we tally things up or the word stock market refers to the use of little wooden stocks.
They were little pieces of wood on which you record every transaction during your life, every borrowing, every lending deal, every asset acquisition, every tax payment. The way it worked was it was literally a wooden board. You cracked it half really roughly so the two sides definitely did match and couldn’t be faked. Then the borrower and the lender each marked all their transactions.
The stock end was always the smaller end, so that’s where we get stock market. There was a market in the stocks, these little wooden sticks. Bottom line was why would you abandon a system that has worked perfectly beautifully for 1,000 years.
The answer is you had 200 years of war debts that had accumulated. They were unable to get inflation up enough without causing social unrest, and so the government said hey, let’s take the tally sticks back, and give people this great new innovation called paper money.
You can imagine everyone said I am going to hand over this record, this ledger of my entire net worth, and you are going to give me a piece of paper. Really? This is a joke. In the end, what the government had to do was confiscate the tally sticks, and they took them to parliament to burn them.Hurrah! Parliament’s burning down
They misjudged how much heat the fire would throw off, and that is what caused Parliament to burn to the ground in 1834. It was the destruction of the system of accounting and money. In its place, we adopted what we now use, which is piece of paper we call cash.
Today, we are on the brink of similar step change, and the way you will do it is you move to electronic money in conjunction with blockchain. Blockchain is the new ledger, and e-money is the new currency.
The question is whose e-money. So everybody in government circles have been watching the Indian experience because the prime minister stepped up to the platform in early November and basically said we are going to move all of you, a billion people, off paper money and onto electronic money, and we are going to do it in three months. They did it, and they did it successfully.
Now governments everywhere are saying we want to do that because, guess what happens when you move to e-money. First of all, you really eliminate the black market because you can’t transact anymore without it being seen.
And so, for example, the European Union are talking heavily about moving to electronic money because then all this black market activity that happens in Greece and Italy where there’s no tax, they will be able to get all that tax revenue off it.
That’s one reason. The second reason is with blockchain you have total transparency over every single step of a transaction, complete providence of every single transaction.
The question is who gets to see it. I think this is where governments are suddenly a little schizo because on the one side they think they are going to have the ability to see every transaction that you and I and all the listeners are engaged in, but Ethereum has created this platform where actually they won’t necessarily be in government’s hands, maybe in private hands.
The question is can you trust the private hands who are issuing Ethers as much or more as you trust governments. So governments are being to say let’s create our own version, and that’s where you get the PBOC saying we’ve got to control this.
Because otherwise, you are going to end up with private sector currencies that possibly are trusted more than government currencies, and that will lead to transactions offline that governments can’t see. There was a report going around the Internet recently about some guy who made $200 million bucks trading on Ethereum in a month, and the question was who will tax that. The answer is nobody. That freaks governments out to say the least, particularly given their debt situation. So I think this is a huge, huge thing, and all investors have to think very carefully about it.
I will say one last thing about it. You have got to get familiar with quantum computing, and there is loads of stuff on the net about it. But the reason it matters is because of the speed at which you can process information. We now have quantum computers. The Chinese apparently have the fastest.
There is D-wave out of British Columbia, but basically you can break a block chain password or a Bitcoin password in like less than a minute if you have a quantum computer. The question is who is going to have them, and the answer is mainly governments but big corporations are buying them like crazy. Volkswagen just bought one. We are going to see major corporations buying that computer power.
The question then is who has most transparency over the block chain and e-money, and I would argue it is going to be whoever has the most and fastest processing power, which may be governments at times, it may be private at times, it may be fluid.
Currently, violence spawned by this anti-cash trend can be seen in such countries as Uruguay and India where cash banning on large bills has ignited significant social chaos already. India is in the throes of riots while Uruguay has been hit with a nationwide strike aimed in part at derailing a mandate that all employers must pay employees electronically via a bank account.
You won’t read much about the results of cash banning because the mainstream media won’t cover it, but the moves are doing their job, which is in part to inflict maximum social damage and make people aware that nothing they think they control is really theirs.
The more easily absorbed reason for cash bans has to do with negative interest rates. People prefer to hold cash instead of receiving bank bills and thus cash must be banned. Alternatively, nations are said to require more efficient tax collection that can only be generated if people cannot hold cash.