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Central Bank Digital Currency in Historical Perspective: Another Crossroad in Monetary History

August 23, 2021

Digitalization of Money is a crossroad in monetary history. Advances in technology has led to the development of new forms of money: virtual (crypto) currencies like bitcoin; stable coins like libra/diem; and central bank digital currencies (CBDC) like the Bahamian sand dollar. These innovations in money and finance have resonance to earlier shifts in monetary history: 1) The shift in the eighteenth and nineteenth century from commodity money (gold and silver coins) to convertible fiduciary money and inconvertible fiat money; 2) the shift in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from central bank notes to a central bank monopoly; 3) Then evolution since the seventeenth century of central banks and the tools of monetary policy.

This paper analyzes the arguments for a CBDC through the lens of monetary history. The bottom line is that the history of transformations in monetary systems suggests that technical change in money is inevitably driven by the financial incentives of a market economy. Government has always had a key role in the provision of outside money, which is a public good. Government has also regulated inside money provided by the private sector. This held for fiduciary money and will likely hold for digital money. CBDC could make monetary policy more efficient, and it could transform the international monetary and payments systems.

Click here to read the paper, originally published through the National Bureau of Economic Research.

 


NBER working papers are circulated for discussion and comment purposes. They have not been peer-reviewed or been subject to the review by the NBER Board of Directors that accompanies official NBER publications.

© 2021 by Michael D. Bordo. All rights reserved. Short sections of text, not to exceed two paragraphs, may be quoted without explicit permission provided that full credit, including © notice, is given to the source.

Central Bank Digital Currency in Historical Perspective: Another Crossroad in Monetary History Michael D. Bordo

NBER Working Paper No. 29171 August 2021

JEL No. E42,E52,E58

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